I recently discovered an article entitled, Business Strategies For The Design Industry. It was posted online by the Interior Designer, Terri Maurier, FASID. In it she shared business strategies she felt were important to her peers in the design industry. Being a part of that industry, I feel that some of her thinking is relevant for us photographers, especially those for whom this industry is a source of clients and assignments. So I share them here:
Being aware of what is happening around you – and your small business – on a regular basis is critical to your success
Far too many small businesses get blindsided by changes coming their way. They may not be paying attention or fail to ‘read the tea leaves’ correctly. Or, they may have a smug feeling of invincibility, believing nothing can take them down. Those who fall into one or more of these categories, soon find themselves out of business. Trends and changes are important to the success or failure of your small business. They can help you move forward or hurt your chances of growth and success
Remember the story about the guy who made excellent buggy whips
He failed to recognize he was really in the ‘transportation’ industry and that automobiles would soon replace horse-drawn buggies and carriages. Eastman Kodak and Polaroid both missed major changes coming in photography. The need for film and film developing disappeared, as did the need for instant, mediocre quality photographs. Digital imaging took over, leaving them in the dust, struggling to get back their share of the market. Blockbuster Video used to charge membership fees to rent video tapes. Changes in technology and rapid growth of the Internet knocked Blockbuster out of the running with new online video delivery services. Not keeping up with technological changes in their industry hurt them in a big way.
Just how much influence these external changes can have depends on several factors.
The industry you practice in, the products or services you offer, and your customer base are a few. Any business, in any industry, needs to remain keenly aware of external changes that can – and will – affect their ability to operate a successful small business. Internal changes are easier to see and control as they are right in front of our eyes. External changes are outside and come from different categories. They can sneak up on you if you aren’t paying attention.
Influences like a really bad economy can, and do, bury quite a few small and even large businesses in a short period of time.
Think about how the US economy was affected in the time frame following September 11, 2001. After the World Trade Center buildings fell, people just stopped spending money. They were in shock. Suddenly, adding unnecessary ‘things’ became unimportant to Americans. Things previously considered important suddenly were shelved or pushed to a back burner.
One of my astute interior design clients not only managed to stay afloat during the recession, she was able to actually grow her small business.
What did she do? Actually, she switched to a pretty simple strategy: she went where the money was. During the economic downturn in the US and other global markets, the Japanese market remained in pretty good shape. She opened a second office on the West Coast to place them strategically closer to Japan. She cut the time required for multi-stop flights from her main office to Japan, saving time and money. She focused on the overseas market where spending was still relatively strong
A second strategy was to expand their customer base and seek government work.
We all know that even when taxpayers don’t have money to spend the government always seems to have plenty of ours to use. While she was not thrilled having to act as the ‘banker’ for government projects – only being paid when entire projects were completed – she was able to keep her staff working. When several of her staff had to quit, she did not replace them. These three strategies led her firm to more than doubling their revenues from before the Recession hit