The Business Plan
So what is a business plan? Ah, business plan is a written expression of your creative ideas, a written expression of your creative ideas uh we have to write it down so when we write it down it's gonna help us know who we are, what we face where we're going so we're going to do an abbreviated one remember it's a process? It doesn't just happen once it's an on going process it's a process that never stops it's a process that's going to continue from year to year you're going to find that your business is going to change the way that you do work is going to change your competition is going to change your need for cash is going to change so it's a process it's a process where we write down all of the challenges, all of the weaknesses, all of the opportunities that we have, we're going to write that all down and we're gonna use it to help forecast how we're going to get to our goals. We have two lists, the strengths and weaknesses both of our industry of ourselves, of our product and we ha...
ve to again be honest about it if you list your strength is on the greatest photographer ever, and I know I hope to make a lot of my money by giving clinics tio uh sue bryce and bambi cantrell if that's my strength and I'm not honest with myself. My business plan isn't worth much more in the paper it's printed on, right? So I have to be you have to be honest about where you are in your career, my strength is I'm a new photographer, and I'm hungry, and I don't have a lot of experience, but I'm willing to work really hard, and I'm willing to do what it takes to get the work, and I'm willing to deliver a quality product that might be a way to identify a strength. But then, at the same time, there's some weaknesses that go along with that was weaknesses might include I don't have a lot of experience, or I don't have ah, secondary education in the area of graphic designer photography, but I'm really creative. So it's it's having a conversation with yourself that you're going to write down and in, and ultimately, you're gonna want to share it with your mentor. Now I talk about that and photography, and the creative industry is, is a business built on mentor protege relationship. I mean, you really need to find somebody that you can come alongside in your market. You go have lunch with, and you could talk about were your successes and failures, and they can share their successes and failures with you and photographers are a wonderful group that are willing to give back and to share their experience don't be afraid to call someone up and say I want to learn um and then don't go tell him everything that you know and how smart we are go learn from them right and you won't be disappointed and you know what it's free uh but you have to step out of your comfort zone perhaps to do that the business plan is going to organize you so myself being relatively disorganized my personality type it's kind of working on the fly that's that's kind of my personality type I need to become organized and biz my business plan helps keep me focused on what I do I deliver fun fresh fabulous wedding photography and southwest missouri that's what I do because I've written it down um so your your basic components of your business plan are going to describe your business so let's start well let's give it a name first what you want to call it jim you have any ideas? How about how about a blue steel photography oh like that all right we're gonna write it down but no e just blu yeah way way our way have a name yes and we have a face we havin a so what do we do we can we can we can be a specific or is general is we want our business plan we are eh photography company a photography studio so you look like you have a thought do do you have any opinions or thoughts on what would make a business name stand out? Would you caution against just using your name like everything? Well, I mean, that isn't excellent question and I will give you my answer it's not necessarily the right answer. My wife told me when we were forming our business in southwest missouri years ago you know, do I want to call it craig heidemann photography do I want to call it heidemann photography? We decided apple studios in that um I can sell apple studios when I want to retire it's difficult for me to sell craig heidemann photography to bob and get my cheque for two hundred fifty thousand dollars because he's buying my name and I can certainly sell in my name. But now when bob market's his business what's the marketing craig heidemann photography well if apple studios developed a reputation for great customer service and elegant wedding images and always showing up on time and guaranteeing their work and never losing an image, then if bob comes to shoot their wedding with apple studios, bob has bought my brand if you're gonna create a brand um you might consider using something other than your name also you can't trademark your name, you can't trademark craig high demand you can't, you know uh trademark sales in kata you can't trademark names but you khun trademark uh I can't trademark apple studios because apple um well they own everything uh, so as long as I don't confuse my business with apple, you'd I don't infringe on their mark, but I can't claim any exclusive right to use that so that might be one of your thoughts now blue steal b l u s t e l that probably would qualify for trademark protection because it especially if it acquires secondary meaning in the market where it means something other than steal that is blue that's secondary meaning oh blue steel will blue steel it's it's got it's got a feel to it it's got a vibe to it so it would probably qualify um you can't trademark ideas you khun trademark names and things, but that might be one of the reasons that we picked that name so back to the business plan it needs to describe our product and service so what's our business photography describe it, lorenzo business is off photography oh you asking like this description is for what type of photography would do? Well, I don't know your business tell me describe it for me you've got I'm an art buyer for supposed to talk sports photography and I want to know whether I should hire you to do the team coverage for the seattle seahawks for the two thousand fourteen season yes you should why what tell me about your business my business itself we take a cutting is on going or getting sports photography different from any other team that's out there we're going to actually make your players on staff look larger than life that will give your team itself the confidence to go and push forward towards the superbowl next year and the years to come so just by asking you that general question you told me that you are you create larger than life cutting edge sports photography yes in your business plan if you were going to tell somebody about who you are and what you do have we not just kind of summarize the core essence of your business just in a sentence or so yes, you could expand on that we're not gonna drill down too far into how to do that but we have to describe your product and service so you're a service based business that creates a product so you maybe you're selling the prince or you're just selling your time but we know that larger than life cutting at sports photography that may change over time but it certainly gets you started doesn't it? So what next we're going to do next? We have to describe our market now uh lorenzo where are you going to market your work initially I will market it to sports teams that are in the greater seattle area um and then after I can secure the seahawks and I'm going after, uh on earth yes, mariners and then see out of storm and then the minor league hockey team that they have here in the now store branching out you are out of the states now, listen, describe the market tell me what the sports photography markets like in the pacific northwest it is extremely competitive now. It's ah it's ah it's, a professional sports hub because you guys have a lot of, um, professional sports team in a small sports teams in a small area, right? Yes, and so around this area we've got what very tall trees if sports teams and very tall trees and everybody comes in from the very tall trees to see the sports teams right and there's a lot of sports teams on dh, so the sports photography market would probably be fairly competitive, so this would be the section of your business plan where you'd spend some time and do some research you could get on the bureau of labor statistics website you could go to your local chamber of commerce. You could look into some of your local of professional photography groups in the area and find out how this market is being served and you're going to write it down because now you're having this conversation with yourself and you're describing your market that's important don't you think because if it's a market that's concentrated it's going to affect your advertising budget if it's a market that spread out where you have to advertise over the whole state that's gonna cost a lot more money so describing the market is of course pretty important. So describing the staffing needs what are your staffing needs? So if I'm a graphic design firm in my going to do everything myself I'm gonna be my cfo ceo human resource manager marketing director friends again needs some help yes, I am going to need some help how you going to get your work done? Um initially I will be probably the primary initially I will be the primary shooter but I'm going to need office personnel I'm going to need ah re toucher or to someone that is, you know, doing any type of post editing for images that I'm sending in, um a lawyer such as yourself I want to be that lawyer for you. Uh okay, accountant, etcetera. Maybe you need an agent because we're going to take such fantastic pic pictures of these celebrities are going to need an agent to help you market them so that's all great um we have to describe our staffing needs let's see what else we can do we have ah, staffing needs very important we're going to work moving back into. Oh, financing needs. So is it going to cost us a little bit of money to get started when we describe our financing needs? Maybe we've got some cash that we're bringing to the table, right? How much cash you got to start up your business, lorenzo. Currently, right now, I am thirty cents short of a quarter, so I have absolutely no money whatsoever. College student. So, um, all right, well, listen, this is important. Understand? We're gonna talk about it later. When we talk about borrowing money, it is difficult, if not impossible, for a creative business to borrow money unless you guarantee the loan personally. So you all have credit cards and even take cash. Advance on your credit cards. That's a concept of you borrowing money, your new business that we're gonna create control, borrow money. The man will probably be happy alone. It's it money, but it's going to depend on your personal credit worthiness. So if you don't have the personal ability to borrow money, chances are your business is not going to be able to borrow a lot. In addition, if it does loan you money, it's going to want to see an investment by you, lorenzo, to show that you've got some skin in the game, right the bank isn't gonna want to go all in with you and say we'll give you twenty thousand dollars loan unless they see that maybe you've got twenty thousand dollars in the business or ten thousand dollars in the business, and you can show him on a little balance sheet, which we're going to print out. It takes literally twelve seconds. Um, as far as what you've invested in your business so you're financing needs are you need to be able to finance all of your startup costs and your operations for the first year into your cash flowing, right? Can you imagine yourself sitting down and writing that out? I came, but I'm pretty sure I'm not as knowledgeable in that area, so I'm probably going to need a little bit of assistance from someone who has more knowledge in that area that okay? So you're you're being honest with yourself, you're saying, I don't know this, I'm going to go find out the answer I'm going to write that down, we talked about a mentor. So do you know a sports photographer in the seattle area? I know of a couple of live like sent emails out, and I've got a couple of responses, but I didn't want to just like, you know, just jump on their back and say, hey, you know, I want to do this that and the other so I'm kind of maybe you should I mean, uh you know, one of my, um one of my, uh photo assistance that I've had for years when he was sixteen years old his dad brought in my house and said my son wants to be a photographer uh is there anything he can do for you? And I met with him oh in is his name and um uh owen's I mean, golly, I don't know he's twenty four five six now I don't know and I said yeah, you know, income care my bag on some gigs so he starts carrying my bag and then I started letting him shoot and then he was shooting well and then he shooting weddings on his own and these adding stuff for me and it also rose out of that mentor relationship where I didn't expect a lot out of him he just expected to be ableto learn and watch for me hey, didn't you know, ultimately we got to the point where he could you know, I remember it like it was yesterday the can and five d twenty four to seventy was on it standing over concrete heo and hand me my camera, you know, there it goes scheduling across the floor so we developed a bond that's where your your mentor protege bond is put to the test is when he drops your rig on the concrete did not hurt it so we have to describe our financing needs the business plan is going to help you determine if you're making a mistake right so let's say lorenzo's got his business plan he's written it out it looks great it looks pretty and I'm gonna tell you how to do that in a minute and all of a sudden he realizes that he's getting pulled in the direction of doing a lot of um maternity photos lorenzo now you're doing maternity photos and you notice I'm spending all my time doing these maternity photos and I hate it I keep doing it because they keep paying me but you know I just hate it I'm really dissatisfied with where a man in my business why is that? Are you a maternity photographer no, but I guess I'm doing a pretty good job at you know doing maternity photos so I mean that's what these air all your girlfriends uh nancy I do not have any girlfriends you are the only one that I have then that's why I'm doing maternity photo s o my wife reminds me I should not try to be funny while doing public sorry lawrence and answer but anyway you know I did five maturity photo yes yes I do have five kids so, yes, I have gotten experience doing the time to listen. The business plan is reality check when we find out that something's going wrong and the train looks like it's coming off the tracks, we go back to our business plan and we see where we're at. It is a reality check. You have to have a business plan to borrow money and we'll talk a little bit more about how difficult it might be. But there's, no bank is gonna loan you money without a business plan. Um, and after you're in business, it's a detailed plan for your success, for your management, for monitoring your growth and for setting your course for the future. So this is true across all creative endeavors, but that's, why it's super important there's a couple of great business plan resource is that everybody should write down the us small business administration. Is there one from the government? And I'm here to help you? They're here to help you succeed. They've got a lot of great online resource is at s p a dot, gov, and in addition, a lot of retired executives give back through score, which is the service corps of retired executives scored out or ge, and if you can't find a photography mentor, you just want a business mentor. What would be great better than getting a retired executive from microsoft, for instance that participates and score that would meet with you once a month to kind of go over where you're at and teach you how to have a successful, uh, business so that's score dot or ge there's a lot of business plan software out there that you can take advantage of um and it comes in many forms you've got business plan pro plan, right, etcetera? I'll give you a minute to look at that slide and jot some of those down biz plan is also cloud based, so I'm taking away all your excuses. Jim there's no excuse for not doing a business plan you can you can get this software, you can do it online, it'll help chart your course for your future success and it's really at the end of the day about answering questions that I really have the answers to and just putting it into one place. Is that correct? Yes, well, you might have to, for instance, what do we find talking to lorenzo? He didn't know what the market for sports photography looked like in seattle he knows he really wants to do it he kind of knows perhaps what it pays, but he doesn't know much about his competition so he might have to go do a little competitive research and see what the market looks like who's buying the work who else is doing the work? How much does it pay how fast you have to deliver it? What kinds of legal issues air involved photographing celebrities you know? So no those kinds of those kinds of questions would have to be answered in the business plan software will walk you through it again this isn't a marketing seminar per se, but one of the sections of the business plan is a marketing analysis section and that's where we're gonna think about pricing that's where we're going to think about who are likely customers are we need to know our customers right? If their brides you better know what bride's want if they're sports buyers, you better know what that that's like if you're doing editorial work, you better know what that's like if it's fashion you better know how to sell you know who the fashion buyers are those air your customers you have to know the specific market that you're going to target is it local, regional, national where do you wanna be wanna be worldwide worldwide when you're trying to figure out that specific market that you're going target is that for today? Is that for tomorrow or do you build out an entire plan of potential? You may want to be worldwide at the in five years or can you address I know there's ah there's any strategic planning there's tactical planning, which is kind of how you deal with what I'm going to do to get what I want today, your strategy is goingto help you achieve your long term goals. Um, I think it's it's really what you're going to do now that your immediate strategic plan, then maybe over the next year, in three years, I think knowing where you want to be in the business planning software, walking through that, targeting some goals, you know, maybe my goal, I'll know I'm successful this year if I could do ten local weddings or eighty local portrait sessions and then next year, I'm going to say, am I spread out tio I'm serving all of king county, him in seattle, and then maybe the next year I want to be serving the whole state, or maybe I want to be traveling, or maybe my goal is to do to destination weddings a year. Writing that down is super important because if you don't write it down, you know many destination weddings you'll do about zero, so we tend to make things happen. What's oprah say the post it note system if you put it on a post it note and put it up in front of you so that you see it every day, you're much statistically, much more likely to do it and obviously oprah says it it is true. Okay, so I know what your markets are. Are they are they study or they declining? What did we learn about photographer salaries nationally, bob, but the beginning of the episode what did we learn from two thousand ten to two thousand twelve? They they're decreasing, so photographer salaries are decreasing. What does that say? That's. That means we've got some challenges out there. I want my salary to go up. So if salaries were decreasing, what do I have to do to combat that? I'm gonna be better than the next guy. Is your market share growing steady or declining? Because remember, the business plan grows with you over time. Um, how are you gonna increase your market share? What you going to do to get more money in the door? How are you going to do that? What would be a strategy, zoe? To get more money in the door? Well, there's always marketing and promo materials and networking with other vendors in your arena. Okay, you're writing it down. I can feel you writing it down right now. What else would you write down? Um doing really well at what you are doing, making sure you deliver to the customers you do have and make sure they love you so that they don't know talk about she got to love you because we are all so wonderful you need to write down how you're going to promote your business so we need to talk about how we're going to get the word out that you're there we have to talk about your pricing you know it's your pricing is always super important and that's where you really need to invest in time because you could kill yourself by underpricing yourself are over pricing yourself and I said at the beginning the strategy of pick me on the cheapest that is a proven strategy that will fail it might work for you today to get a job or two but you will be known as the cheapest and uh I'll tell you what uh who remembers jim how many you goes did you own I did not thankfully only you who remembers the yugo I remember everybody remembers that you go why do you remember the yugo famous failure famous failure was there a car cheaper than the yugo? There was not the cheapest is obviously not the best. So for help with a commercial pricing ifyou're doing commercial work um lorenzo you might look at photo quote it will help you quote your your commercial work against other competent artists in the commercial field it's not necessarily for portrait or the photographers but it's great you should check it out um for a package pricing uh you might look to the people a there's great national surveys that air done of portrait of wedding photographers through the peep a and you can see in real time where you're stacking up with other professional photographers and if you're not a pee pee a member and you're doing portrait, wedding event photography or even commercial, you really need to think about joining the other one that I think is important for small creative businesses is, uh the american society of media photographers snp they have some great resource is and they've been around for a long time uh, again for wedding pricing, you might check out w p p I but probably is much so on peep a s w p p I for where pricing is going right now you know you're you're playing your marketing plan needs to be unique giving you ah competitive edge getting it down on paper is super important, but it needs to be your work. You can go find a cookie cutter business, plan online and say I've done it that's phone and an end folks run your business is a little bit of work don't use the cookie cutter plan, otherwise you get cookie cutter results and you'll be average and how much does the average photographer make in two thousand twelve? Dario, do you remember thirty six thousand? If you want to be average that will help you be there using the cookie cutter business plan. Lorenzo were going to say something. I have of course just just think about the different organizations was talking about snp w p p and p p a now I just remember looking and looking at I think it was peep a and then there's a seattle seattle I guess that's section of people face is sure what I mean is that if this that's going to put you the seattle section of the people is going to put you into contact with those folks that would be willing to be your mentor, okay, that's where they're going to get back, so join the pba, then you can get the seattle section like we're just having our meeting in the ozarks in missouri it's the ozark section of the people a they're having a meeting this weekend, I think, but that's great, you need to do that that's going to put you in contact with your local folks to start developing relationships and other photographers send other photographers business. One of my greatest sources of wedding referrals is referrals from other wedding photographers because we only work on saturday and when we're booked the dudes and ladies that I have great relationships with refer me money and I give them this cute little piece of paper with a picture of benjamin franklin on it see how that works right? You want to refer me business, don't you? Lorenzo? Because you're going to get this hundred dollar bill now your business plan is going to enable you to articulate your vision now think about this james trying to get some work okay? And he goes into ah media buyer and he wants some you do graphic graphic art jam what do yu photography photography and graphic art okay what's a graphic art he's gonna go pitch himself to corporation a inc a needs an ad campaign for widgets and and uh and I'm photographer be ora graphic artist b and it would go like this. Um hey, jim, we need this ad campaign done for our widgets and jim says you know what? I've got some great ideas I'm going what you gonna do, jim? I'm gonna start with a creative brief for you guys I'm gonna tell you what my visuals can do for you in that creative brief andi, I'm going to follow up with a few sketches and we'll kind of go from there. What ideas do you have today, jim? Oh, great ideas were goingto as far as my visuals, I'm going to give you some great cutting edge images things that don't look like nineteen, ninety some amazing fonts, amazing colors I'm going to build a whole color scheme for you then they come to me. Um hey, craig, we want to market these widgets. Uh what? What? Uh, looking to you for us, what's your budget. What do you need? Well, obviously jim is differentiated himself because of how he pitched it, right? He's been able, he was able to express his creative vision succinctly. Articulately he was energetic. Think about your business plan. You remember lorenzo telling me he's gonna be larger than life cutting edge sports photography he's got a vision for what he's going to do, right? When I know I can see him he's gonna be getting down low camera angles. You gonna have some off camera lighting he's going to have a little hdr going on he's gonna be all michael jordan home the basketball out, right? That's you innit, it's in my brain because you said you're gonna be larger than life cutting at sports photography. Maybe you're gonna do something different than the michael jordan approach of the basketballs and the side lights. But I get it. You can express that vision. And if you could do that and your business plan yeah. That's, that's, that's you're ahead of the game. Great question from the chat rooms and people are really curious about managing the practicalities and kind of the I don't know needs that are right in front of them and their vision as a business center so all over ass as we need to put food on the table, do you think that we should se nota business not related to our core vision? Example? I want to photograph hyeon weddings and next where I live should I say no to cheap weddings? Um in my area are far from my location no, I hate don't tell people to turn down work, but the answer to that question ninety percent of the time is yes, because I can tell you after twenty years of experience um the cheap bride is gonna complain the most be hardest to please and if she's unhappy, she'll trash you the loudest in the farthest the high end person knows what she wants they hired you for a reason chances are they're going to be happy with your work they're going to treat you professionally and pay you what you need to be paid so yes, turning you you might be sad that you turned away work, but you'll never regret it remember we're going to have to plan to spend some time with our business it's not always gonna be part time sometimes it's going to be over time, okay? We picked this so I'm assuming that everybody that's tune in today whether you're a hobbyist thinking about going pro whether you're thinking about leaving your day job, etcetera, you're ready to do this and you're serious about it. You're accepting the risks going in, you're going in with your eyes open and you want to do it right and you want to be around for a long time. Go worldwide, jim worldwide, we're gonna be there again. The p p a is ah, great resource now, here's what's to come in the next section. This is why you're gonna tune back in after our break. You ready? We're gonna learn how to set up our business legally and we're actually going to do it, and we're going to do it in such a way that you're not going to feel like my my friend and my stock photo over here all confused and disorganized, doing everything at the same time we're going to write a business plan, we're going think about our business location, we're going to learn how to finance this business. We're going to pick our legal structure, we're going to register our business name or if you're going to use your own name, doria doing business as we're going to get a tax I d number, we're going to open separate bank accounts and credit cards, we won't do that live. Unless uh jim can I get your security number uh thinks we're going to register for some state and local taxes and we're going to talk about getting some business licenses and permits we're not actually going to do the state and local text registration cause that varies throughout the country but I'm going to talk about it so all of this is coming up and mme or in the next section so with that I'll kick it back to you jim and we'll be ready to go do we have any other questions you know clean up we sure do that and that is a great time so ellis grey asks I'm an absolute newbie at this so this might be a silly question there is no such thing as a silly question around here and here we go is there a better time of the year to get yourself legal with the government or maybe not teo like if you have a baby at the end of the year you get the same tax write off is having a baby at the beginning without all the expense is there a better time of year to set up a business or to start things off it's awfully pretty in the spring but no I mean there's you need to do it now the sooner the better is I think the the answer to that question there there would really be no reason to put it off when you think about depreciating assets you do get some advantages if you have assets that are going to be have to be depreciated over the whole year if you put those assets into service at the end of the year you know sometimes don't get a full deduction but I'm going to show you how to get the full deduction at the beginning of any time in the year using section one seventy nine so do it now simple answer all right do it now yeah bob do you have questions but if if you start a business or in the first quarter of the year can't you take it back to january one you can't and you started in the second quarter you can't that's true well the start date is important for a couple of reasons relating to depreciation and you can pick up some amour you can advertise some startup costs from the earlier tax year um but generally unless you're investing a ton of money it's not going to make much difference in the bottom line you know if you were going to invest one hundred grand and that we might sit down and have a conversation about it but if you're gonna go out and buy a computer and some cameras and maybe rent some space it won't matter a perfect target for ass after you complete your business plan do you suggest constantly updating it as your business progresses like daily you know, I think you would be ahead of the game if you did it quarterly you know every time you go to pay your sales tax payment or every time you pay your unemployment tax payment maybe you're just reading it if you did it every year semi annually uh that would probably be good I'd be happy if you did it once a year great I don't ask too much okay so cayenne asks if you already have a company non photo related do you see a problem in creating a subsidiary for the new business pursuits versus starting and establishing a whole new separate company? Good question that's really fact specific I can think of a lot of ways that that would make a really good sense and I can think of a lot of ways that that would be a horrible idea um number way so I will differ on that my answer to that is a definite maybe okay awesome and you mentioned this briefly earlier but will you be covering? Stanley asked how should I prepare for growth setting up the business to be sold slash merged setting up an umbrella corporation for legal protection of assets were going to do all of those times in the best way to be able to sell your business is to have if you're going to sell your business the first thing if I'm buying it I'm going to come in and look for is what I'm gonna ask for bob what I want to see show me your books I want to see your books show your books show your balance sheet show me your statement of accounts I want to see your accounts receivable I want to see your sales over the last five years. Well, I got a drawer over here that's got some invoices in it. I give that to you. You take that home and look at it. Well, that sales going nowhere, but when I walk over to my computer and I print out a balance she last year this year year before I print out a list, all of my sales go walk over to the printer and I'm ready to sell this business in fifteen minutes. It's simple. This is the on ly reason that people aren't doing this is because they're scared it's not that they don't have enough time if you get enough time to watch my wife isn't watching the, uh the, uh, real housewives of new york city if you got enough time to do that, you've got enough time to keep your business healthy and enter your stuff every day or every two days or three days into your accounting software, so I think that's probably the the best advice to get it set up right is to be enable being able to effectively use your accounting system