Thursday, May 24, 2012

Business Day Thursday: It's Always The Difference That Makes The Difference!

Good Morning Everybody,

DAZ with Mike and JoeIt was such a nice day yesterday, and since LaDawn reminded me that we were on vacation, I decided to take the day off from blogging. But, you guessed it, I’m back at it today. But as you see, pretty late in the day. I got a call from local, and very talented photographer, Michael Slear [link] on the left who invited us out to lunch with his friend Joe Carr [link] on the right, one of the leading portrait photographers in Myrtle Beach, SC.  Be sure to check out their websites for some pretty inspirational images. 

Lunch turned into a very nice, leisurely visit we all enjoyed.  Next it was off to Brooktree Gardens one of the most amazing parks and statuaries in the world.  Be sure to hit that link too – amazing!!!   In fact, it IS the largest in America. Needless to say, I didn’t get back to my earlier started blog post until this evening.

BrooktreeThis evening we’re planning a walk down the mile long pier into downtown Myrtle Beach where I’m planning a little HDR photography just to see what I capture – it should be fun.  After some much needed R&R and a couple of rainy day afternoons, we've had a wonderful, relaxing time visiting the Myrtle Beach area. The balcony of our room overlooks the beautiful Atlantic Ocean and the sound of the waves is forever peaceful.

But, it's time to head for home and go back to work. Come next Tuesday I begin putting down the first actual words of my book onto paper, or actually into the computer.  I'm really looking forward to getting into the guts of each chapter over the next couple months. In addition to writing the book I’ll also be working on our PhotoPro Network Summer School coming up July 13 and 14th. Check my blog for all the details which should pop sometime next week. I hope you mark your calendars now then find the opportunity to make it to Louisville, KY and be part of the weekend festivities.

And finally, we have one busy shooting schedule for the month of June. I'm shooting every single weekend – a couple weddings, a Bar Mitzvah or two, and a high school graduation. I've been telling most of my friends that I'm trying to slow things down at this stage in my career but most of them laugh at me and tell me I'll never do it ;~)  I guess the fact of the matter is; that if you enjoy what you're doing you always want to keep doing it.

In any event, we've got a full summer ahead of us and have some great plans coming up in the fall. We’re looking forward to experiencing every one of our summer moments and I  hope you get a chance to do the same. Hey, enough of me waxing fantastic over our summer plans. I’ve got an important post - so let’s get right on with today's Business Day Thursday.

It's Always The Difference That Makes The Difference!

I don't care if you just starting a business or you’ve been in business for a hundred years, I think today's advice is important for anybody trying to be successful. I have tried to live these opening words for most of my photographic career.

Last week, while visiting New York City, this mantra was aspired over and over again – great companies achieving that greatness because they chose to do things differently. My daughter’s graduation commencement address was given by Danny Meyer . Danny MeyerDanny always thought he would enter college and be an attorney according to his family wishes.  But he never really felt that this was the course he wanted for his life. He always enjoyed cooking and had a love of food. Danny was encouraged by the career changing advice of one of his uncles. He decided to go into the restaurant business instead – and for anyone in the business – he knew it was going to be challenging to say the least, especially in NYC! 

For anyone who’s ever visited the Big Apple, you know there about a gazillion restaurants on every block within that giant metropolis. After looking at what the competition was doing, Danny decided to take a different approach, and as a result opened what has since become one of the most respected restaurants in the city – Union Square Café. Danny’s Union Square Café Hospitality Group in now one of the most successful in the city.  He has also received several culinary awards over these many years.

The interesting fact is that Danny didn't stop after creating this signature restaurant – Union Square Cafe. He also noticed the sea of mediocrity among all the burger and fry joints around the city. He worked on a different concept. After studying all the other burger establishments he discovered they all seemed to be doing things pretty much the same. Danny decided to break the mold with high-quality ingredients, a well run,  well trained and knowledgeable staff, burger restaurant.

Shake ShackShake Shack was born and has become the definitive burger and fries place to go throughout the city. It was voted best place for a burger by New York Magazine in 2005!  In fact, many store locations have a web-cam set up showing the lines to the counter so you know just how long a wait is before you arrive on your hurried lunch hour. What this shows is that Danny knows how to do things right. Wait, more importantly, he knows how to do things that are different from the competition.

Now How About YOU!

Now let’s start looking at other companies that we're all familiar with – Amazon, Facebook, Pinterest, Groupon, and the most notable company in recent years Apple. Each of these companies looked at the niche in which they wanted to compete – books, social marketing, coupon sales, and life style products. And each of these companies soared to the top of their field.

Okay, you might be thinking to yourself, "Ziser, I'm not an Amazon or Facebook or Apple brand. I'm a small business trying to do business Small-ville, Suburbia America. How does that advice help me grow my business and be successful?"  The answer lies not in trying to become the next Apple or Amazon. The answer lies within you. For the last several years of lecturing and training I've always began my program by offering the best business advice I could to all the attendees – that advice is echoed in today’s post title.

Let's get back to that sea of mediocrity in products and services so prevalent around the world today.  The same is obviously true, and especially true, in our digital age when it comes to photography. Everybody and their mother, brother, father, aunt and uncle thinks he or she is a photographer. We have cameras in cell phones, Facebook’s 900,000,000 members sharing photos, the free cost of capturing a photograph all making it easy for everyone to look through a viewfinder from one personal device or the other, frame up their image, and start shooting away. We all know, that these photographs elicits a certain thrill in each of us as we look at our final results. But even my statement above speaks to the fact that everybody is doing pretty much the same old thing.

Don’t Let SAMENESS Rule!

SAmenessHere's the deal:  To do the same old thing – do the same thing everyone else is doing – means that we produce work that for ourselves and for our clients all looks pretty much the same. As photographers try to compete, and professional photography is a very competitive field, it's not about being the same as everyone else that will lead to your success. In fact striving to be the same means that you have only one criteria to compete on. And, it's NOT your photography….. It’s price alone!

This fact is born out very clearly by the number of Craigslist photographers on line. They post their services on Craigslist at rock-bottom prices and hope to book a few events because of those low prices. Sure, but the Craigslist photographer will get the booking, but to expect to build a career by offering your services at the rock-bottom price is no road to success. In fact it's a road to financial doom.

Now don't get me wrong. I know everybody needs to start somewhere. I too was the cheapest guy in town when I opened my business over 30 years ago. Luckily, I learned the lesson very early  that low prices were no way a foundation to the road of success. I had the opportunity to attend several lectures by some of the top wedding photographers working at the time. In fact, I continue to attend seminars and workshops even today. Why? Because I continually want to differentiate my work from the competition and the competition is particularly fierce today. Yes, I said I’m continually working to differentiate my work. Before I go much further let me spell out for you the secret of success in any business.

The BIG Secret – Drum Roll Please!

Top SecretThe BIG secret: It’s The Difference That Makes The Difference! Here's my advice to you. Analyze exactly what you're doing in your business right now. I don't care if you’re a part-time business or full time enterprise, the process is the same for everybody. Take a look at every aspect of your business – how you answer the telephone, how you phrase your emails, look at the line of products that you offer, the level of service that you give, the style of your photographs, the look of your albums, the packaging on your DVDs that you offer your clients…etc. Make sure that your list is long and inclusive of everything that you do in your day-to-day business.

Now, this next point is most important. After you've compiled that long and comprehensive list of what you doing in your own business operation, compare each and every one of those line items on your list with your competition in your local photographic community. Analyze each item on your list and determine whether it's a “sameness” or “difference” when compared with the competition. For each item on your list that is pretty much the same as the competition’s, give yourself a big S. Give yourself a score of “D” for anything that is “different” from the competition.

Time To Go To Work

At the end of the process, and be honest with yourself as you work through this process, and analyze your scores. Most business owners will find that they have a lot more S’s than D’s. This is common within the business world today – everyone does pretty much the same old thing, the same way, which explains why we see such mediocrity in too many companies. Weather it be restaurants, burger and fry joints, or photography – when compared with each other's market niche – sadly there's a lot more S’s among these businesses than there are D’s or differences.

You need to proactively work on changing as many of your Sameness's into Differences as possible. You're not going to do it overnight but you definitely need to do it if you plan to walk down that road of success. At the end of the day, the end of the week, the end of the month – you should've determined which of the items on your list you can change easily and which ones are going to take a little more work.

Wait, There’s More: Corollary To Success Secret #1

Money2Another lesson to learn to is that once you make the changes you will see that the number of Differences will eventually outweigh your Samenesses. And guess what? Your clients will notice too. And guess what again – drum roll please…. You can charge a heck of a lot more for Differences then you can for Samenesses.

Let me caution you about one thing. Regardless of how successful you become, regardless of how successful you are at creating the new list of Differences eventually they too will fall back into the Sameness category. It’s important that you recognize the trend early.  Then get back to work revisiting your list and go to work again. The bottom line is; you can never become complacent. 

You Can Do It Too – And Must, Over And Over

That's why it's important for you to revisit your list at least every six months – the goal is to stay ahead of the competition – don’t let them catch up! Always stay ahead of the crowd. As I said, I've been in this business a long time and unless I went through this process many, many times myself I could not have maintained our business success over all these years.  I wish each of you the same level of success, but remember, success takes, work, effort, diligence, and perseverance.


Whew!  that's it for me today (finally). So, have a great rest of the day and I'll see you  back in Cincinnati, Ohio. The good news for me is that after we arrive, we need to get ready for big wedding on Sunday with another one of my past clients and I’m really looking forward to hanging with them this weekend. 

See you soon, David

1 comment:

  1. i love brookgreen gardens, you should see it when the tulips are in bloom, it's really breathtaking!