Thursday, July 24, 2008

[B]Business Day Thursday: Run Your Business Like The Naval Academy - The 7-Step Annapolis Plan

You know, taking the US Naval Academy tour yesterday was not only a great experience visually and historically - it offered some provocative insights on how we might run our businesses. The Naval Academy is first and foremost a character builder for the young men and women entering this renown engineering university. It has a rich history steeped in tradition, excellence, discipline and honor.

As we were out on our morning stroll yesterday, be could see the midshipmen going through their rigorous hour and half workout routine at 6 A.M. Later in the tour of the facility we heard how they mark milestones and celebrate accomplishments, and honor their achievements. We learned how staff and students together support the entire learning experience. All of this came together for me late yesterday when I was considering today's post. It seems to me that these were the same factors we need to incorporate into any successful business.

What makes a business success - here is the 7-Step Annapolis Plan. Hit the "Read More..." link below for the rest of the story - well worth the read.

1. First of all, it takes hard work. How many of us spend time practicing our craft - our profession? How well do we understand our equipment, cameras and flashes? How well do we understand the basic rules of composition? How often do we pick up a book and study any of these aspects of photography, our chosen profession? It's easy to verify that not too many people in the profession understand these concepts. Just hit the Internet and check out the oceans of mediocrity available and being touted as professional bodies of work. Sure, you may indeed discover some really great photography. This work being done by the photographers who are taking their craft seriously and are practicing it daily. The midshipmen here at Annapolis are practicing daily to be the best they can be - we should do the same. If we don't want to be the best of the worst and the worst of the best.... it takes effort. Remember, as John Wooden said, "Activity is not a substitute for accomplishment."

2. Next, it takes learning something new everyday. That's what these midshipmen are doing for four years of college- making new discoveries, learning something new, building on that knowledge to build a brighter future for themselves and our country. Those same principals come into play in every successful business. Look at the monies that are thrown at research and development in places like P&G, Google and Microsoft. We may be tiny fish in the big blue sea of business, but that doesn't mean we can't play by the same rules to grow our business. We need to throw a little effort into our own R&D (research and development) departments. It's simple - learn some new aspect of Photoshop or Lightroom, research other programs that may make life and production easier or faster at your studio. Continue to be curious about how to do what you do and spend time proactively seeking new solutions to creating your finished product.

3. Mark "milestones" in your business. That's what the Naval Academy does. As the recruits move through their experience in Annapolis, they mark the milestones of the individual, the class, and the school. We need to do the same in our own businesses. When and employee has been six months with your company, mark that milestone. When you shoot your first 5 figure wedding, mark that milestone. When your business has been in business 5 years, mark that milestone. You ask, "What is the big deal?" The big deal folks, is that you are keeping the eye of the tiger on your businesses success. You are noticing what makes your business tick. You are keeping the pulse on your businesses success. To run from one crises to another is no way to build a future, it is the surest way to frustration, anger, despair, and failure.

4. We need to celebrate our successes. When the Naval academy beats Army, they head back to Annapolis and ring the Japanese bell on the steps of Bancroft Hall. It's a big deal, it instills pride with each ring of the bell. What do we do in our studios to build a sense of pride among ourselves and our employees? When you shoot your second 5 figure wedding - ring a bell, any bell. Feel good about your successes and celebrate them with your team members. Just won an award for one of your images at a print competition, your image made the local newspaper, or your article was just published in a trade journal, or you were praised in your community for your outstanding charitable works, or maybe an employee just received some type of honor - celebrate the accomplishment. Celebrate the WIN! Celebration of success builds pride in your organization, adds strength to the ties that bond it together, and a sense of loyalty for all involved in your business.

5. Honor those who have helped you. This is profoundly evident in the Naval Academy, from the hallowed resting place of John Paul Jones, to the campus buildings named after their most notable graduates, to Memorial Hall where the names are inscribed for all those fellow Naval Academy graduates who have fallen in the service of our country defending our freedoms. We can even make this part of our business plan. How?? By honoring those who have taught us and led us to success. Share some of your resources, some of your knowledge, maybe a book, an instructional DVD from one of your mentors to your staff or maybe an assistant or even an aspiring photographer in your community. Such a practice honors those who have lead the way for you - pass it on. Play it forward.

6. Support each other. That was paramount in the short film we watched about the Navel Academy. It's about the support the midshipmen offer to each other together along with the instructor support as well. Everyone in attendance at the Academy is supported to succeed. It's not a handout. It's work and each member is expected to push themselves mentally, physically, emotionally. This is easy to make part of the day-to-day operations of our own business. Create your own support system among the photographers in your community. Sure we make friends at that once a year convention and maybe see them at a workshop/convention or two throughout the year. But why not create a small group of like minded photographers in your area that meet once a week, or maybe once a month to discuss and practice new lighting or new camera techniques, review new gear one of team members may have acquired, set up a Photoshop challenge and work though it together, discuss and demonstrate a new software program that is allowing you to create a more exciting image. The possibilities are endless - the learning potential unlimited.

7. Give back to your community. Two days ago, we had the honor of being present for a community concert presented by several members of the Naval Academy Orchestra. The experience was inspirational. The Naval Academy young men and women were giving back to the community and we need to do the same. If you get a chance to volunteer for a local charity, fundraiser, etc. say yes and participate. It is a rich and rewarding experience and by the way, although this is secondary, it's good for business, because of the notoriety received by all the sponsors involved. I have a policy at my studio, that for any of my clients involved in charities within the our community, I will offer my services at cost or at no charge depending on our involvement. I think it's a great way to give back to the communities/clients that support us and our businesses.

These ideas are the type of things that build the heart and soul of our businesses. They create it's character that gives us the ability to endure in these tough business times. These ideas are the compass needle that point the way to our continued success in this wonderful profession.

Hey gang, that's it for me today. LaDawn and I are going to check out a few more of the sights around here today, so don't forget to check back tomorrow for a very unusual Inspiration Friday. See you then, -David

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your continual support and teachings. I appreciate the extremely hard work of producing so endlessly on this blog. Your efforts do not go unseen. Your experience is incredible. Those of you who are new to this business, THIS is how it's done.