As a small business owner, I am always reevaluating the priority and focus of my business. Last year I looked at all of the processes that go into creating a visual content production and automated many of them. In January of this year, I had the opportunity to watch “Design Disruptors,” and began thinking about at the UX or User Experience I create for my clients. This film challenged me to provide world-class service to my clients.
A few weeks ago, I was hired as a director of photography and first cameraman to cover the leadership conference of a medical company. The keynote speaker, Horst Schulze, talked all about providing world-class service. (You can read “What I learned from a wise hotelier.”) Even though his keynote speech was tailored to a medical company, his words focused the ideas and concepts, that are swirling around my mind for the last few months. That evening I ordered a book called “The new Gold Standard,” which describes the philosophy behind the world-class service at the Ritz-Carlton.
Listening to Mr. Schulze passionately speak about the four priorities every excellent company focuses on, clarified much of where I had to begin, but I wanted to experience this service for myself.
My family and I had found a super-affordable airfare to Aruba.When I saw that the island had a Ritz, I knew what I needed to do. A few hours after we’ve checked into our beach cabana, two of the gentlemen at the Ritz approach us:
“Mr. Depuhl, we’d like to give you and your family a gift, courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton,” Jason says. He’s been the gentleman, who’s been providing us with excellent service at the Ritz. It’s been a few hours since we’ve settled into our Beach Cabana, here in Aruba and the ladies and gentlemen are more fabulous than I expected (and I came here with very high expectations).
The green and white stripped branded tote bag, Roel is holding in his hands isn’t something we expected. However, before letting you take a peek inside the bag with me, let me tell you how we got onto the beach.
After listening to Mr. Schulze and reading the book, I’ve tried to figure out how to adapt the concepts that the Ritz-Carlton has engrained into their culture, into my business.
I started emailing the Ritz-Carlton in Aruba 2 days before we left for Aruba. Actually, it ended up getting sent to the wrong email address. Turns out the email I had found belongs the former hotel manager. He hasn’t worked in Aruba since 2013. Nevertheless, I get an answer from Justine, the Executive Administrative Assistant, who’s already reserved a Beach Cabana for me. Normally a guest has to make the reservation the day of the visit. She’s also copied Milli, the front desk manager into this email since Justine won’t be on the property the day that we’re coming.
Saturday morning, we drive up to the Ritz-Carlton. I get to chat with Milli about some of the things I’ve learned about the brand, and she’s kind enough to give me one of the credo cards, that every employee at the Ritz-Carlton carries on their person. These cards begin with the credo, contain the 12 service values – one of which is reinforced daily in the morning lineup, the three steps of service and the motto of the Ritz-Carlton:
We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.
OK. Back to the Beach Cabana in Aruba, with Jason standing by our day bed, green striped tote in hand. I’ve come to the Ritz-Carlton in Aruba, to experience their world-renowned service. Mind you we’re not staying here. We’re renting a Beach Cabana for the day. But you wouldn’t know it if you are observing the way the staff is treating us. Jason hands my wife and I the canvas bag. It contains (…)
94% of small business focus on the wrong priority. It’s a pretty big mistake to make if you want to take your business up to the next level, but the vast majority of small businesses are making it today. So was I.
I’ve been making this mistake for the past 25 years. At first, I felt pretty bad about that, but then I wanted to see if other small businesses are making the same mistake. So I created a poll on SurveyMonkey and asked other entrepreneurs to rate their business priorities. The pie chart on the right shows the answer over 200 small businesses. Surprisingly less than 10% got this right.
I’ve been thinking about the UX (User Experience) I create for my clients in 2017. And I really got challenged by Horst Schulze, when I was fortunate enough to film the former CEO of Ritz-Carlton at a keynote speech a few weeks ago.
(You can read a bit more about that talk on my blog post: What I learned about service from a wise hotelier).
Mr. Schulze talked about the four priorities that every successful company needs to have in the right order to excel. Here they are in no particular order:
When I looked at my company’s priorities, I was surprised to learn that I’ve focused on the wrong priority for over 20+ years. Don’t get me wrong all four are vital to a company, but one is more essential than the other three.
You can take the poll “What’s the number One priority of your business” here and see how you stack up against other small businesses. Then let me know – are you in the 94% that get it wrong or in the 6% that are doing it right?
I for one intend to shift my company to focus on the one most important priority and that change will take place over the course of the next few months.
UPDATE: Strictly Business, the blog of the American Society of Media Photographers just reposted this article. I’m thrilled to see that their readers are selecting the most important priority of an excellent business by a 2 to 1 margin.
For the past 25 years, I’ve done it wrong. Thankfully I heard an expert talk about service and I’m going to course correct my small business focus starting today.
12 years ago, I started using a CRM (Customer Relationship Management system) to efficiently combine all client data in one place. Their contact info, calendar, tasks, documents and the process lives in the cloud and is easily accessible.
One of the aspects that I love about my job as a cinematographer and photographer is that I’m often in interesting places that are not accessible to everyone. I had the same honor last week, although I did not know that this video shoot would have such a profound impact on my business.
It started out simple enough, I got hired as a Director of Photography to oversee the filming of a leadership conference for a local medical company. It’s always fun to work with a group of skilled operators, and the company itself was fascinating, but it was the keynote that hit me between the eyes.
The speaker was former Ritz-Carlton President Horst Schulze, who is known for creating hotels with impeccable service and customer loyalty. If you haven’t heard about Mr. Schulze and you run a service company (like I do), you need to check out what he’s accomplished at Ritz-Carlton and now is doing at the Capella Hotel Group.
Schulze says “Great companies do four things: They keep their current customers, they find new ones, hopefully through the recommendation of existing customers, they make as much money as they can, and they are efficient.”
OK, granted it’s not rocket science, but this CEO is vehemently fixated on service. And that’s where I had my epiphany. I haphazardly focus on these 4 core principles as well:
Did you catch the mistake I’m making? It’s subtle – read the two lists again and see if you can spot it. Don’t feel bad if you can’t – I’ve done it wrong for a quarter century.
Let me walk through the four things every great company does
I’m good at that. Number one on page one in the organic search on Google for years. Many of my new customers find me online. Others find me through the local creative community, events and workshops I put on, etc. (Here’s how I get clients).
Last year was my best year that my business ever had. This year is on that track as well. I keep my overhead low and run a tight ship when it comes to the business framework I need to produce visual content.
Check. From the integration of my website and my CRM to automation of my business processes, efficiency and productivity are the names of the game. Not wasting resources in the creation of the video and photography productions I work on, goes right back into #2.
For crying out loud, I’m the guy that takes a picture of a Post-It note and have it create a bunch of digital assets as if by magic.
The majority of my client love the final product I create for them. The secret is simple: under promise and over deliver. Charge a fair price. Come in on budget and on time. And give something unexpected. Check out this video testimonial from Armpocket – a local company who found me online:
It’s so simple (actually that’s another quote from Horst Schulze) I have all the parts right.
But I’ve gotten it backward and that’s where listening to Horst Schulze by accident, made all the difference in my world. Here’s the way he sees these priorities:
He puts current costumers first (and probably second, third, fourth and fifth). Schulze is fanatic when it comes to serving his current customers. He says that service begins with the correct greeting, then it’s complying to your customer’s wishes and does not end until you say farewell. Where do I have my current clients? Dead last. Please don’t misunderstand me, I don’t ignore my current clients, and I have many that do repeat business with me, but I can learn a lot from the gentleman who builds the most luxurious hotel brand in the world. I’m just often taking them for granted (If you’re one of my current clients, let me say this: “I’m sorry for not putting you first and I promise you that I will do better. Starting now.)
Then I’m focused on making money – granted an incredibly important part of any business, since without running a profitable company, you’re gonna be out of business. What Schulze’s second focus? New clients. More accurately making your current customers so fiercely loyal, that his current customers will recommend his hotels to new customers.
Money is Mr. Schulze’s third point, which makes sense since your clients are the people who are paying you for, your service. Naturally, they should come before the money portion. However, he takes it a (big) step further. The former CEO of Ritz-Carlton said:
“Make as much money as you can. People see it as a contradiction between being a caring organization with integrity and making money. That’s ludicrous. Why should that be a contradiction? I wouldn’t be able to be that company that cares and has integrity if I wouldn’t make any profit. The two go together.“
So often I see creative professionals and small business owners, who have no idea of what they need to charge to run a profitable shop, because they don’t know the cost of doing business.
Last but not least comes efficiency. That’s the framework you need to run a prosperous business. Efficiency is the ability to create a product or provide a service, without wasting your resources. Being the freelance that talks a lot about how he uses efficiency, I am currently revamping my business system.
I have followed the workflow that my CRM has in place: people find me online (searchers), they find my website, like my work and contact me (leads). We start talking about the potential collaborations (opportunities), I get hired to do the job and deliver my videos and/or photos to my clients (deliverables). If you read my blog post on Post-It notes, you know that pink notes are leads, yellow notes are opportunities, green notes are jobs and blue notes are my deliverables.
Here’s where that system is going to shift to:
My primary focus will swing to serving my current clients, becoming the main focus of my business and pushing the current focus of generating new customers into second place. I love leads, really I get a kick out of the notifications I get on my phone, that let me know someone new has just filled out my contact form, but I need to realign my strategy with making my current clients the heroes of my company. Fortunately, Mr. Schulze spoke about the way to make your current clients fiercely loyal. He says it’s really easy, and if you do this one little thing, you own your industry.
All you have to do is to care a little more than the other guys.
As a freelancer, we trade time for money. Plain and simple: I have the talent to produce the visual content, my clients need for their business, and they have the money to pay me for my time and skill. Figuring out what to charge for a project then largely depends on your cost of doing business and how much your time is worth. ZEIº can help.
Time is the great equalizer – everybody gets 24 hours in a day. Doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, male or female, young or old. You get 1,440 minutes in a day – that’s it. So how do you know how much your time is worth? I think you’d first have to figure out where your spending your time, but keeping track of your day seems like a waste of time, because – well it takes too long to log your hours. Freelancers resort to estimating how long they’ve been working on or you guess at whatever task of your small business you’re working on – so most of us don’t bother.
We’ll just go ahead and guess. I’ve dived into productivity and efficiency lately. You can define efficiency as the ability to successfully use resources without wasting them and the most critical and limited resource we have is time.
Wouldn’t it be great to get an accurate account of how you spend your time, without wasting time to record the time you spend? I mean that would be great not just for yourself to see where your time ends up going, but especially for entrepreneurs who bill by the hour.
Enter ZEIº – a little device that keeps your time in check. It’s an eight-sided cube that links to your phone or computer via Bluetooth. ZEIº by Timeular keeps track of your time effortlessly, once you’ve set it up. Then all you have to do is rotate the ZEIº to the activity, or client, or project you want to track – you get to define as many ZEI activities as you want in the software, and the time tracker can handle 8 activities, which are easily interchangeable.
ZEIº even integrates with Toggl and Jirra at this time, and there are more in the works. Imagine what you could do with a Zapier or IFTTT integration …
ZEIº is a blank slate (literally, it comes in white) and you can write on its surface or use the enclosed stickers to define which each tracked activity. ZEIº looks like two four-sided pyramids stacked on top of each other.
I got my ZEIº today, but I’m currently tracking the following activities:
In my case, the first three activities correlate with my workflow and will have the same color coded sides as the Post-It note system I’m already using. The other ones pertain to all the hats we wear to run out small businesses that make it possible for me create as a visual content creator and for you to sell your freelance skill.
ZEIº tracks all activities and reported in real-time and sync to all your devices. I’m hoping the guys at Timeular integrate tags so that one could keep track of all activities related to a specific job number, but you’ll always be able to extract that out of the reports to get a summary of all the time ZEIº tracks on client X or project Y.
You can play with the app or software, it’s a free download from Timeular.
To stop tracking time, just stand the ZEIº in its cradle. To record, flip it onto the relevant side. Add a note, so you know what this particular activity was about and voilá! You’ve just tracked time.
You’ve just tracked time.
How would you use an automatic time tracking device like ZEIº?
Do you see a need in your small business for Timulars time tracking tool.
Which 8 activities would you pick on your ZEIº?
Younger generations of workers are now choosing to steer clear from the traditional employer/employee work environment, to a less traditional, freelance career or what some call “micro-entrepreneur”. This trend seems to be a lot more common for the millennial generation. According to research commissioned by the Freelancers Union, 53 million Americans now freelance in some capacity. Of that, 38 percent are millennials, compared to 32 percent of non-millennials (i.e., people over 35).
This choice was the subject of a recent workshop, The Business of Freelancing that took place at Miami International University of Art & Design in collaboration with CollabMiami featuring six panelists from different industries discussing their experiences in making freelance a career choice. The panelists included:
• David Verjano, Social Media Consultant, Verjano Communications, www.verjanocommunications.com
• Amanda Abella – Millenial Financial Expert and Blogger, Make Money Your Honey, www.makemoneyyourhoney.com
• Julio Galindez – DJ and Musician, AtellaGali, www.atellagali.com
• Pascal Depuhl – Photographer and Cinematographer, Photography by Depuhl, www.depuhl.com
• Friks 84 – Callingrapher and Illustrator, www.friks84.com
• George Cuevas – Graphic Designer, Creative Director and CollabMiami Founder, www.georgecuevas.com
Top 10 Freelancing Tips
Read the top freelancing tips we shared on Marcia’s post: “Freelance as a Career Choice“
This article was published on the Miami International University of Art and Design website and is written by Marcia Gomez.
Over the last few weeks I’ve hosted a couple discussions in various LinkedIn Groups asking “does personal work matter?” Predictably many of the photographers, who chimed in, answered a resounding YES! We get to show our capabilities without the constraints of a client brief, art buyers love to see personal work, it’s satisfying, ect.
The answers that surprised me though came from the other side of the desk, from art directors, creative professionals, designers and editors from around the world:
“I can see how personal projects can become an obstacle.“ – Creative Director, Serbia
“All personal work could seriously affect your commercial success.“ – Marketing President, USA
“I have not hired someone, because of their personal work.“ – Designer, Netherlands
“No personal work to me is an indication of stagnation.“ – Magazine editor, Germany
Wait, what? I thought personal work was always a good thing. Something that would always benefit your career. “Be careful” warns the US Marketing exec. “If your personal work is too provocative, it may leave the wrong or negative impression in a client’s mind.” Another US branding director echoes this sentiment: “If [the personal work is] very offensive I would reconsider hiring the [artist].” I hear it again and again: Have two sites. What about the case that someone has done pro-bono work for a certain cause, that you feel strongly against?
Now to be fair each one of these people who hire us also said that personal work is vital, critically important and that they love seeing it. Just remember that the assumption is you had unlimited time and resources to craft this piece of personal work into the perfect calling card for your brand. “To me [personal work] matters quite a bit. (…) that’s where we most often have the chance to stretch our abilities, research new methods and test them” says a US director of marketing “pet projects may very well become tomorrow’s next big service!”
“Your personal work shows me what you’re really passionate about, and how creatively and independently you tackle such a self-chosen project. It tells me how you work conceptually. I also get a good idea about the style you prefer and you feel comfortable with.” says the german magazine editor “Or how versatile you really are.”
Personal work is a must for today’s creative. The fastest (and scariest) way to revamp your career is to throw out the images that show what you have shot and only show those images and projects that you would like to shoot. Christina Force a folio consultant wrote a great blog post called 4 reasons to throw out your babies. Personal work is what your passionate about, stand behind it whole heartedly. Personal work must be excellent, award winning, your highest caliber work. Personal work must set you apart from the pack–take risks, be willing to fail. If you don’t go for the impossible, your results will be mediocre and average at best.
This article was first published on the American Society of Media Photographers blog Strictly Business.
Workflow is about as individual as your small business. It’s a series of processes that begin the first time a potential client contacts you to the point where you delivered your goods or services and are on to the next job. Actually it starts a bit earlier, if you want to including marketing and branding. Or maybe you’re running a couple of jobs concurrent, in which case it’s even more important to understand your workflow. A plan on how all your business processes work together makes your work flow smoothly.
work·flow ˈwərkflō/ noun
the sequence of industrial, administrative, or other processes through which a piece of work passes from initiation to completion.
There are more than one way to skin a cat and the same is true for your workflow. There’s really not only one right way that workflow works. They are as personal to you as many other decisions you make in your small business.
In my mind there are two schools of thought when it comes to working with a workflow solution:
Solutions like Shoot Flow fall under the first. They are solutions specific to one type of photography. In the case of Shoot Flow, it’s for wedding photographers. Zach and Jody Grey took their experience at shooting weddings and built a workflow solution around it. They basically let you duplicate the way they work a wedding.
The upside – especially for the inexperienced wedding shooter – is that you get a step by step roadmap to how to work a bride and grooms day. Zach and Judy do a fantastic job, not just on shooting weddings, but also in how they work with their client before and after that day.
In my mind the downside is that you are going to workflow weddings just like they do. I’ve never used shootflow (I don’t shoot weddings) and I know you can customize some of the way it works, but it’s not like what I use.
[Please don’t misunderstand me here. I am not dissing shootflow or other solutions like it. In fact I believe it’s vital that we all have a well-integrated solution of our own.]
My customized solution follows my business processes. This doesn’t make it necessarily more expensive, but it does make my workflow solution match my workflow. I use a Customer Relationship Management system as the backbone of my workflow solution. It’s called SalesForce and is one of the largest CRMs in the world. SalesForce aggregates all information I have about a clients, accounts, jobs, ect into one place and since it’s this huge service it integrates with pretty much everything. For instance I use Evernote to …