Lately I have been thinking about and working on my business. How can I make it better? What does the future look like? How do I know if my business is successful?
What makes a successful business?
I started my business 5 years ago when my sister got a new camera and wanted me to take some family pictures. I agreed and the pictures came out pretty darn good (if I do say so myself). A few weeks later I ran into a woman who mentored me when I was in Jr. High and we reconnected. She was (is) a great photographer. We got to chatting and I mentioned that I wanted to get into photography. She was currently looking for an assistant to help her with her equipment at weddings and the rest is history. She mentored me (again), let me borrow cameras and lenses and helped me along the way. Thanks Rene for taking me under your wing and helping me get started in a career that I LOVE!
Here are a few things that I have learned along the way that have helped me run a successful business. Hopefully these will help anyone starting out (or those who might be struggling). These don’t necessarily have to do with photography. My business is photography, but I spend just as much (or more) time doing other business “stuff”.
The number one way to make yourself (and your business) successful is COMMUNICATION. We have a friend who is an electrician and owns his own company. He is hugely successful. He said to me once “do you know why I am so successful? Because I answer my phone and I show up when I say I am going to show up”. Can it really be that simple? YES!!!! Frequently I hear from my customers that they are surprised that I answered their email so quickly. What??? It is my job to answer my email in a timely fashion (for me that is within 24 hours if possible). That means that there are other people out there not answering their emails and therefore, losing business. Don’t lose business just because you are lazy about your email and phone calls.
Be a hard worker. This takes discipline and doesn’t come easily to most people. If you are going to have your own business, you don’t have a boss to tell you when and how to do things. It is a blessing and a curse. YOU have to be the responsible one to make sure that you are tracking your miles, keeping track of your expenses and keeping up on all of the not-so-fun tasks related to business. My hint is, when you see the email, answer it. Don’t wait for another time or you will forget. That means that you don’t look at your email if you don’t have time to answer it! However, the flip side is that sometimes we can work TOO much. Make sure you don’t kill yourself or ignore your family. You need a good balance (which is tough to maintain)!
Be nice. This is another no-brainer, but some people have a hard time with this. Treat people with kindness and respect. Go above and beyond to meet your clients/customers expectations. For me this means that I tell my clients that my sessions are 45 minutes. However, I almost always shoot for an hour. I under-promise and over-deliver.
Get educated. Be a life-long learner. Don’t assume that you are best at something and that you know everything about your business/job. Go to seminars and conferences. Read book or blogs about your business. The world is changing so quickly there is always something new to learn. I promise it will make you a better professional.
Network and surround yourself with like-minded people or other business owners. It is so nice to have someone who understands what you are dealing with and help you along the way. Find a mentor/be a mentor.
Give back. It feels good. It is our duty. We are called to love and help others. Whether it is donating your time, your product or helping a new business owner, just do it. It doesn’t have to be huge. It just needs to be done.
I am sure there are a million other hints to help small business owners be successful. These are just a few that I have found to be helpful to me. What hints do you have for making a successful business?