Creating a Simple Business Plan - What To Know And What To Skip
Business and marketing. Marketing plan is part of your business plan. A business plan is something that can be really convoluted. Like if you're trying to get funds from investors, you're trying to sell your business, trying to set up some sort of exit strategy, a business plan can be really dense and more effort than one might think you need. Here, as a photographer, all I care about is a simple business plan which does include what you need and skips what you don't. So it's much smaller. It's much smaller, but it's more direct, and it's more helpful, in my opinion. And as creatives who don't want to get bogged down in line after line of legalese and extra verbiage, it's very, very helpful. I'd like you to take notes and write some of this down. But creating a simple, realistic plan of what you most need to know, is what's gonna set you up for maximum success. And if you're feeling resistance to doing anything like this, because you're feeling maybe overwhelmed with how much you've go...
t to think about here, don't worry about it. Just get something down. It's like Anne Lamott--what was her...? She had this great quote about--oh, it's got a bad word in it (laughing). It's a great quote about just getting down your crappy first draft, because that's all you need, right? And then you go from there. All right, so this is the basics. We're gonna also step through these, but these are the basics of what you want to get answers to when you're writing a simple business plan. What do you want your business to be known for? How are you gonna sell that? How are you gonna be able to run your business, and how are you gonna make money? So, what do you want your business to be known for? This is very much like yourself. What do you want to be known for? I think a lot of people can go through life and give other people ideas of how they want to be thought of, unconsciously. Like if I come in and my body language is like this, and I'm just kind of talking to you, you might think I'm insecure, or I really have to pee or something, like you're not sure what I'm doing. But if I'm thinking I want to give you direction of how to think about me, I'm gonna change my body language, I'm gonna change the way I interact with you, I'm gonna change the messaging about me to you. I'm not gonna sit here and constantly disparage myself if I want you to think well of me. It's just the way--I tell my kids that all the time. Why do you go around telling everybody what's wrong with you, because it's the way to talk with all the friends right now. Like, why do you go around informing people how to treat you, and why would you want them to treat you that way? It's the same thing about your business, what do you want your business to be known for? When people talk about you, what do you want them to say? You get to lead this. You get to set the direction. You get to be the reason people are saying these things about you, because you've informed them that's how you want to be known. And you can answer that, by the way, how you want to be known as a business. For me, I knew that when I finally had my figure-it-out moments, I wanted my business to be known for a high value. And I mean I did my job really well and I really cared about the end results. I wanted that value to be reflected in the price, and I felt okay having a higher price than I'd had before, knowing, by the way, I knew when I raised my prices, that I was going to absolutely lose a chunk of my current clients. And that's something will hold a lot of people back. It's like well if I raise my prices, I'm gonna lose my clients. You probably will lose some, if not most. However, these people up here, who would have never looked at you because they just had a decision about what your value must be, based on your price, are now gonna look at you again, and say ah, if she's priced up here, if he's priced up here, that must mean they're better than I thought they were. So you're gonna lose people, but you're gonna get people you never had access to before, that then tell their people, and so on and so forth. So getting afraid of that first part is like missing the whole part of it. Yeah, but yeah. So what do you want your business to be known for, and how do you structure that? I wanted to have a high quality product, a high quality customer experience, and that means I convey it. I don't just say it, but I have to convey it. So when a client calls me and they've had a print up on the wall, a framed piece for like a month, little Bobby knocked it off the wall and it fell down and cracked, they're gonna call us, and I'm gonna say "Let us replace that for you. "Let's just get that framed up for you." What I'm doing is I'm saying I'm gonna take responsibility for something that's not my responsibility, but it's because I want you to realize this is a high quality service, and we're gonna cover this. And I also know that this isn't just a transactional relationship, you're gonna come back to me time and time again, and you're gonna tell so many people how cool it was that I did that, and I'm gonna have that kind of marketing stretch from that one move. And that's a big deal. It's not just cash out of hand, you're marketing, you're building a long term customer that's way more valuable to you than nearly anything else. A long term repeatable customer is gold. 'Cause they already know you, they already trust you, they're already ordering well, and more and more and more, telling people about you. That one thing where I reframed that one piece, was a great investment for me. You have to start thinking that way. How do I want to convey to you how I want you to think about me? Because all of this affects sales. How do you sell a defined business offering? So great, you know what you want to be, you know what you want people to think about you, but what's different about you? How do you stand out? That same question. Well, it's a few different ways, it's a few different ways. It's one, deciding who you want to be means also deciding what you want to show. If you want people to think a certain thing about you, you have to not only communicate it in terms of your relationships, and how you do that, but it's also what you show in terms of the work you put out there. Pricing has got a lot to do with this, but also, I mentioned earlier that I do a lot of one-on-one sessions with--mentoring sessions--during my workshops. And one of the things I see all of the time is people will show me their portfolio, and again, so often, it's really good work, but they show all the things they do. Like all the things they do. I photograph floors, here's my floor gallery, et cetera. And it's not that those are bad photographs, but I want to know specifically what you do, so I can figure out how you stand out. I want to know how you price it so you stand out. And we'll talk more about that when I get to websites, but when it comes to pricing, how do you stand out? Do you do high volume, lower dollar amount? And do a lot of it, and get known for that? Do you do high dollar, and lower volume amount? And then there's this whole middle pack. So it's up to you how you decide to price yourself, but let me give you something to think about. If you're in that middle pack, how on Earth are you gonna stand out? You're in the middle. They don't know you as this, they don't know you as this, you're part of this amoeba glob. You're in the middle. And I don't know how you're gonna be able to make a name for yourself there, 'cause if you're doing everything and you're selling everything, you're not gonna stand out in your market, you're just not. You're too generic and too forgettable. And if that sounds harsh, it's also true. I hear that from so many people, like I want to stand out in my market. Great. Show me your work. Great, you do everything. How can they--what are they gonna know you for? Okay, how are you pricing? Like everybody else, got it. Tell me more about how you want to stand out. If you're doing what everybody else is doing, how could you? How are you gonna run your business to be able to provide for that-- all the things that you want to do, how you want to stand out? Are you gonna have a partner? Are you gonna outsource help with vendors? Are you gonna pare it down so you're just doing the one thing and you're doing a lot of it, just getting help here and there, with assistants, maybe? Do you plan to do this all by yourself? When I went into it initially, I was doing it all by myself, and then finally I got an assistant. That assistance was with me for eight hours a week, for $8.00 an hour, 'cause that's all I could do. And I wanted to maximize her time, poor thing. Erica, if you hear this, I'm sorry. Eria Arc. She worked with me, she's so great, but I was trying to squeeze every ounce of her, 'cause I didn't have a lot of budget, but I knew I couldn't do it all myself. But I kinda ramped up from there. I then had associates come in and help, and then I got another assistant, and then I got another assistant, and finally I had a studio manager at 15 hours a week, and I went kind of next level, in terms of an experienced person. So they were now $15 an hour. And then it ramped up. By the time I did that whole exercise, where I figured everything out, I was at the point of having a full-time studio manager, and I've had one ever since. I have a full time studio director, and it's been really helpful, because she's very good at the opposite things of me. So my studio director who's been working with me for, gosh, almost seven years now, something about the word seven--letter? number? color? So basically if you look at my skills and the things I'm really interested in, they're almost the opposite. And I have a whole really great exercise that will take awhile, but that kind of helps nail this down. But what I want is somebody that, if we're walking into a room, I see these things, and she sees these things. Like here, I'm gonna see your energy, I'm gonna see your eye contact, I'm gonna see your expressiveness, she's gonna be like, that should be over there, that's kind of a mess, let's put some slotted things right here, we're just gonna look for different things. Like when I look at her kind of doing detailed line item work, for getting prepared for our tax check, I'm like, oh, that's painful just to watch. (audience laughing) And when she sees me running around a tree with a toddler, she's like oh, my Lord, I'll be in the bar. It's just that idea of connecting with somebody else who's excited about the things you're not, and vice versa. How are you gonna run this? Do you have a studio management software? Do you have a way to put all this in one space so you can get it out of your head? How are you going to make money after all these costs and expenses? And there's a lot of costs. Photography's expensive, right? And I don't just mean the gear. I mean it's expensive, and it's so, so important to realize what your profit margins are. You can be banking the highest sales revenue in your market, but you could still be making the least. Easily. I see it all the time. I see articles when people say their sales revenues are $100,000 a year, or $500,000 a year. I'm like, I'm actually a lot more interested in their margins. What is their profit margin? That's gonna tell me a lot more about how their business is doing. You guys understand that, right? 'Cause you're paying not just for gear, but you're paying for the products that you sell, and you're also paying for the people that you have to hire to help you sell them, and also the amount of time it takes, that's on you, too. It's just--it adds up quite a lot. So in summary, your simple business plan, those things, if you just did all those things we talked about, and you really put a lot of attention just to that, and you've formed some genuine, concrete decisions about how you want this to go, you are far and away ahead of most people in your market. You just are. You are not middle of the pack anymore. So your simple business plan should include a definition of what your business is, a decision about what it could be, and that 'could be' part's important. People ask all the time, what do you want to be in one year, three years, five years? Where do you see your business? The reason you're asked that is 'cause it's not just a generic question, you have completely different trajectories based on where you want to be in one year, three years, five years. Whole different plans. One year I do this, this, and this. Three years, I start here. I go here, et cetera. Anybody see Shalane Flannagan win the New York City Marathon? It was so awesome, like so emotional. I photographed her for Endurance Magazine a few years ago, got the tour of her house, her hypoxic tent, all that sort of stuff. And then I watched her event after event go out and try. And I saw her just slip, at Boston, the Boston Marathon, she was right there. And the plan, like she was so trained up, she was so good, she's so talented, she runs so fast, but they have to have a strategy to get her to 26.2 miles. And that strategy means at this mile, you're here, that's your speed. At this mile, you're gonna kick it up here, here you're gonna slow a little bit down to reserve. When you get to the finish chute, this is where you are. And having a little bit of disruption there kills the whole race. And I watched her in Boston get all the way in and then lose the steam right towards the end where she really needed it. And it was heartbreaking to watch her lose, 'cause she fought so hard. This time around, she had the plan, she had the talent. She put in all kinds of exact steps to get to where she wanted to be, and you know what else she had that was probably the most important thing of all? Patience. It took her forever to get there, to win the New York City Marathon, to be the first American in 40 years to win the women's division. It's insane. She ran that marathon in as long as it takes me to take a shower. It's stunning. But she had all this, she had the business structure, she had the talent, she got the right people in the right places to do things, and she had patience. She was on an X year plan. The plan you choose makes a big difference because then you know how to get there, how long it's gonna take. And that idea of getting from here to there, that's the idea of how long it's gonna take. And lastly Is the breakdown of all the tangible steps. So it's one thing to say right now I am working a full time job and doing this kind of on the weekends and after work, but I want to do it full time. In three years, I want to have my own studio, I want to be shooting X amount of portrait sessions, I want to be making this much in revenue and this much in profit. So now that you're there, that part, the breakdown, great, so what are you gonna do in two months to move you farther along? What are you gonna do in six months? Where are you gonna be at in one year? Hold yourself accountable. These are the tangible steps that get you there. And finally, that 'when I get there' part. I think what's really, really critical to keep in mind is you are alive today. I mean that sounds... You are alive right here and right now, and if all of this is set up to finally be happy when you get there, that's insane. You have to set it up so you love the process of getting there. Those steps you take those three to five years are ones that you're enjoying as you go. They're not set at such a pace that you hate everything around you until you get to where you want to go.