Thursday, February 26, 2009

Business Day Thursday: It's Training Day Today - 7 Steps To Less Expensive, More Effective Employee Training

Good Morning Everybody,
Today is work on the "B&H Program Day". I hear the program is packed solid. Rumors are they are going to move my presentation to Central Park for the over flow crowd - just kidding;~) I'm hitting the "do not disturb" button and keeping my nose to the grid-stone. I'm fired up about getting it together because it's a lot of brand new content I'm adding to the presentation. There will be lots of tips and techniques on Lightroom 2, cool business building and marketing ideas and lighting, lighting, lighting. It's always fun to see how it all comes together.

So what else is happening today? Well, late last night Snoop, the newshound, my source for all things news worthy gave me a tip about something very cool happening for Nikon shooters. Now there is a place to hang for all the latest, greatest things happening Nikon - it's called Nikon D-Town. Here is the deal - my buddies Scott Kelby and Matt Kloskowski have put together a weekly presentation to show tips and tricks of all the current Nikon models. Nikon D-Town is also the place to hang if you want to get up to speed on Nikon NX too.

Snoop told me where I could preview the first episode which I viewed last under the cover of a moonless night. Nikon D-Town is live today. You've got to check it out. It's just like Photoshop TV but Nikon centric this time around.

As I watched the first episode I felt like a forlorn little Canon puppy standing in the cold on the outside looking in. I watched Scott demonstrate a very cool light balance trick using Live View. I thought, "Would it work on my Canon?" I grabbed my camera and tried it - it worked like a charm! So folks, the bottom line is this - whether you shoot Nikon or Canon, there is some darn good cross-platform tips and tricks to be found at Nikon's D-Town. Check it out right here. Of course, be sure to catch the Joe McNally commercial about 1/2 way through - it had me rolling on the floor. All great stuff.

I think I've got some good ideas in today's post, "It's Training Day Today." It's a fairly long read, but worth your time. Give it a read a let me know what you think. Just hit the "Read More..." link below for the whole story.

It's Training Day Today
It is amazing to me to see how successful company's run their businesses and how that differs in so many ways from those on the other side of the fence. One of the important differences between successful companies and their less than successful counterparts always seems to come down to training.

Now, I know what you are thinking - "Hold on one second, David. I'm a small one/two person shop - I'm already trained!" But how trained are you? Are you an expert at Lightroom, Photoshop, Lighting, etc? I know I'm not - that's why I spend time soaking up as much info so I can polish up the weaker areas of my expertise in photography, Photoshop, lighting, Lightroom, or whatever it might be.

Heck, being a blogger is pretty good medicine for that. I'm always looking for the latest, greatest, most interesting things to share with you guys and girls and in the process find some pretty darn good resources for "sharpening the ax" which, of course I share with you. When you do this on a daily basis, you cover a lot of ground.

But in today's post, I want to talk about training in a little different light. How do you train new or even temporary staff in your business. Maybe you outsource some duties like Photoshop to a third party. How do you guarantee consistency from that person to the next?

Here is where I'm going with this. We had a restaurant open up not too far away from us not too long ago. I remember the sign on the the door, "Two week training going on now. We'll be open on..." Two weeks training - to work at a restaurant! How hard can it be? But that's the point - they wanted well trained, well rehearsed employees who could handle a wide range of customer service and customer challenges BEFORE the customers started showing up.

What can we learn from this example. It's simple. We can set up our own training program for our self, our employees, or our third party help. How many times have you spent time figuring something - a new process or new procedure with a new piece of software that you only need to know once a year.

A good example for me is when I have this one semi-problematic NAS (network attached storage) device become "lost" on our studio network after a big lightning storm and we lose power. It just won't reset itself. Now once I figure it out, it's a piece of cake to get back up and running. The problem is that it takes me forever to figure it out. Had I created a short training session on how to do it, I could easily refer to it and be back up and running in no time. That drive has been down for months now because I haven't had the time to figure out how to get it up and running again.

A more important reason for setting up a training program for your studio is because of employee turnover. How much time does it take to train a new Photoshop artist to get your images to look like how you want them to look - lots of time. Remember this - It always takes two people to train one person - the trainer and the trainee. Folks it's time consuming and expensive if we go through the whole process of retraining the new person.

Is there any way we can leverage the training process so that we can alleviate a lot of the time and expense the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th time the need rolls around? Yes, Yes, Yes!!! Let me count the ways. Here how we do it at my studio and what we are planning to do in the future.

7 Steps To Less Expensive, More Effective Employee Training

Our training tools: Camtasia 6, PowerPoint, and Canon 5D Mark II

1. Retouching: We have set up many tutorials on how to retouch and enhance the images that run through our production process. These tutorials include a set of images that the trainee can use to follow along with the exercises. This alleviates anyone needing to sit with the new trainee for several hours showing them what the we've shown to past new employees and recorded on the tutorials. We set up the training once for the new hires who now work on the retouching exercises which my studio manager checking the trainees progress periodically instead of having to sit with them constantly- teaching. Setting up training on Camtasia 6 is a great training time-saver and targets the learning for your studio needs specifically.

2. Lightroom: Yes ,we do the same thing. My "Technique Tuesday" lessons for the the DPT blog are a great source for training someone on Lightroom if they have limited experience. These exercises are also targeted specifically to the needs of a wedding/portrait studio. They have become another great training time-saver for us at my studio.

3. Album design: We use a combination of my PowerPoint presentation on album design which point out what I'm looking for in good album design. It shows the good, bad, and ugly of album design. Using my PowerPoint with all it's examples sets the bar for what we do here at the studio. With Camtasia tutorials on how to use our album design software I can show how to get the job done.

4. Answering the phone: Something as simple as a tape recording of how you want your employees to answer the phone for new inquiries, setting up appointments, handling customer service issues, etc. is super easy to develop. With everyone trained in your studio with exactly what to say and how to say it, you bring consistency to your employees' responses across the broad range of customer interaction. Now everyone working in your studio is "ON message" with exactly what YOU want to communicate to your clients.

5. Production processes: How many of you know how to frame a print? It's more than just popping a print in a frame and adding the wire on the back. You've got vapor seals to add, a specific location for the wire hangers, etc. Why not use the new video capabilities of the Canon 5D Mark II or Nikon D 90 to record the entire production process. Both cameras record in easy to use movie formats - Quicktime .MOV files for the Canon and easy to play AVI files for the Nikon. I use the lower res mode to produce my videos because I get longer running time - 20 minutes. It works great in these instances.

6. Booking the client: This is really important. I have a sales video I produced years ago which goes through the exact process on what to say and how to say it to a client. It covers all the bases. I'll still use the same words today. Put one together for your studio using staff, friends, family to play the part of the client. This video taped role-playing exercise could be the most important training tool you develop. Again, it gets all your employees "on message" with exactly what you want them to cover in the interview and how to say it.

7. Training associates: OK, this is pretty easy for me since I have developed so many training videos. But you can too. Just set up any video inexpensive recording device. Now record what and how you want you associates to learn. Cover several aspects of equipment usage, lighting, shooting the job, etc. Folks, this is not "brain surgery". It just takes your time ONCE and then you are set to go.

Sure it takes time to set these training resources up - about the same amount of time it takes to train one employee, but once completed, you have a tremendous training resource for everyone you hire from this point on! The possibilities are endless, the financial savings are significant, and your time saved can be used productively running your business instead of having your business constantly running you.

Hey gang, that's it for me today. Oh, I almost forgot - my 4th video at Kelby Training goes live next week. I'll let you know exactly when next week. Hey, Don't forget to come on by tomorrow and visit a while - it's F-Stop Friday again. See ya' then. -David


  1. what day and time is your B&H presentation?

  2. I would LOVE to hear your Booking a Client video.

  3. These tutorial videos would be great for you to post over a month of time. what do you think, David?