Thursday, September 01, 2011

Business Day Thursday: You Have One Choice - Innovate Or Die!

Good Morning Everybody,

We’re getting closer to Photoshop World and I’m putting finishing touches on all my presentations.  Whew! It’s going to be a  busy show.  I’m really looking forward to trying out a few new pieces of gear for the show.  I had a conversation and extensive demonstration with our good friends at DataColor

SyderCheckrMost everyone thinks that those are the Spyder 3 color calibration monitor guys but the company offers plenty more digital solutions than that.  Anyway, I’ll get an opportunity to try out their new SpyderCube™ and SpyderCheckr™ during my Tuesday wedding pre-con shoot.  These two products look like the quickest short cut to easy and fast perfect color.

Expo Im Rogue GridI also received Expo Imaging’s latest product, the Rogue Grid.  I have to tell you, this item looks really cool, especially for some of my Hollywood lighting situations.  It’s just a very compact accessory for your shoe mount flash that creates a very small round cone of light – great for keeping light from spilling on surrounding surfaces.  I see this as being a welcome addition to my gear bag.

I’ll keep you posted to how well my trials and  experiences as we go thru next week.  I’m really looking forward to it.

Let’s get on with today’s post.

You Have One Choice - Innovate Or Fail!

Does anyone other than me think our world, our profession, how we communicate, how we need to compete – is moving at about a million miles per hour?  Young or old or in between, I think most of us feel the same way.  The difference between success and failure seems to lie in the fact that those who are quick on their feet, and can manage this constantly changing environment will be the winners.

Change At Rocket Speed In Our Digital Age

Now having said that let me also say that this success can be short lived as My Space discovered with the advent and rapid rise of Facebook.  Who ever would have thought that Justine Timberlake would one day own My Space!? [link]

And now in a blink of an eye we have Google+ on a growth rampage unequalled by any other social media innovation! Are Facebook’s days numbered???

The point is this, sure these are the BIG guys out there – we NEVER think of their challenges having anything to do with little ol’ me.  The reality is this – whether you’re one of the monster players  or a small fish in the sea, you better innovate or die.  Unfortunately, that is the true reality these days.

Big or Small - Innovation Is Key

InnovationJust look at  how many of the studios who have been in business for many years have simple dried up and blown away.  Who are the “heirs apparent'” these days? It’s successful studios like Lynn Michele Photography who after only 6 years in business is now grossing into 6 figures.  It’s Blair Phillips Photography in Charlotte, NC running one of the most innovative studio operations in the state.  It’s Zack and Jody Gray who began their business just 4 years ago are completely paid off all their bills, opened a brand new studio and run a very successful operation in Atlanta, GA.

How’s an aspiring (struggling) photographer or ol’ pro compete in the face of these rapid success stories?  Once again, the answer is simply. It’s what these three photography studios are doing – Innovate Or Die!

At Year End, All The Dials Go Back To Zero

Every year I’ve been in business, this is how I felt about my business.  “We’re about the wrap up the old year, sales have been great, but the minute New Year’s Day rolls around, all the revenue dials are turned back to zero and we begin anew.”  And you know what, that always made me run scared to be sure I could at least repeat and hopefully grow and improve on the new year!

What did we do about this situation each year?  We sat down, caught our breath, put things in perspective, brainstormed and proceeded to plan for the next  year.  Planning included how the competition had changed, who was new in town, are they doing anything new, innovative or different from us?  It has always been a constant goal of mine to analyze our sameness's in comparison with the competition and change as many of those sameness's into differences in order to distance ourselves from our competitors. It is an ongoing process.  In today’s business climate it is imperative that we go through that process every single year and maybe more often thru-out the year.

Really, It’s Time To Get Moving NOW!

In addition to all the dials being reset to zero we must also rethink our product/service mix from the ground up.  We need to decide what’s working/selling and what's not.  For the things that aren’t working either ditch them or change them.  This is where the most important process of your business activity comes into play and must be kicked into high gear.  As Spencer Johnson pointed out in his best selling book “Who Moved My Cheese?” [link], the “cheese has moved'” for too many photographers these days and it’s our job, it we want to continue to stay in  business to find where the cheese has disappeared to, OR, even better, find a  new source of cheese!

So how does a small business go about the process of innovating for continued success?  The first step is to realize that innovation needs to be an integral part of your future success.  It’s like dieting, it’s only when you know you are fat that you begin to do something about it.  Think of complacency as FAT, and innovation as LEAN!  Are you/your company FAT; is it time for an innovation diet so you can get lean and mean and really start growing your business.  Successful business owners know it is ALWAYS time to do just that.

7 – Steps To Innovation; Start The Process Now!

Hey, anyone can do a quick Google search on the word “innovation” and find all sorts of resources on the subject – and that just might be a great place to start.  But for today let me give you five points to kick start your innovation process.

1. Plan to meet with all members of your team, or maybe your family and friends to brainstorm/bounce new ideas for new products, different ways to photograph your clients, customer service improvements, package your product, etc.  Write every suggestion down – it’s important!

2. Create a “brain trust” of like minded photographers in your area.  Meet with them regularly and actively go through the same process as you did with your team(s) above.

3. Let all these new ideas “percolate” among everyone for a short time, say a day or two but no longer than a week.  Feel the urgency of the process.  Waiting too long will let all the hard work “get cold” and forgotten.

4. Meet with your team and “brain trust” again to fine tune and refine all the good ideas presented.  Now it’s time to help them take shape.  Be pro-active – waiting, procrastinating, making excuses, placing road blocks will be the “death knell” to all those good ideas and the end of the innovation process.

5. Decide how and when to implement and move forward with your favorite marketing plans, new products and implementation of services resulting from your brainstorming session above.

6. Got the innovations nailed down - Put a fuse on it – don’t delay – set a concrete deadline for the launch of your innovative ideas, products, and services.

7. Monitor your metrics/numbers closely.  Know what the real sales are and what the real costs are.  Also “Objectify” client reaction – How much did they like/accept your new innovations/ideas/new products on a scale from 1 –10? Steve Jobs and Apple are legendary in knowing and measuring the “Client Experience”. And I quote Mr. Jobs,Don't be obsessed with technical details, but do be obsessed with the details of the customer experience.”

Measure everything! And know what to measure. Hey, if it also worked for Andrew Carnegie, one of the most successful entrepreneurs of our age,  it will work for you.

I’m going to leave you with a few words of a advice – more food for thought, from Sir Ken Robison in his 2006 TED talk [link]

Here are some quotes from his talk [link]:

"Creativity is an operational idea.  You can plan for it and make it happen systematically"
"We need to make innovation a habit"
"Politician's say the trouble is you can't define creativity, and I say the trouble is YOU can't!  That's the problem"
"We need to teach creativity in education just like numeracy and literacy"
"It's a key operating principle for the next phase of development in the 21st century"
"Creativity Is a step on from imagination"
"it's applied imagination"
"Creativity is the process of having original ideas that have value"
"It's a process, not an event"
"Creativity is a real process.  Like a strand of DNA where critical judgment wraps itself around the process of hypothesizing - you're constantly testing out whether this is a good idea or not."
We need more of this thinking applied inside every one of our large corporations and small businesses. Like I said, “Innovate Or Die!” 


--Rant # 47

p.s. So haw many of you got this far? Food for thought ;~)


Hey gang, that’s it for me today.  I’m jumping over to a few projects before the end of the day. I’m getting caught up…. slowly but surely.  Have a great rest of the day and I‘ll see you tomorrow. 

Hope to see you then,  David

1 comment:

  1. David,
    Can't wait to see what you have in store for next years Photoshop World Tour!

    Michael Cook- professional photographer Tampa,Fl