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You Can't Keep A Good Woman Down!

I closed out the month of January in Atlanta, teaching a three-day SMS Workshop with my great friend, Carol Andrews, who had been battling a stubborn cold for a while. Talk about coming prepared . . . I watched Carol rummage through her purse for something she was struggling to find. When she finally dumped the contents, she had a veritable pharmacy with her, so I grabbed this shot.

In spite of her suffering, Carol was her usual brilliant self during her teaching and consulting segments. We had 12 really wonderful studio owners on hand for this workshop, and I expect big things in 2008 for this group!

Carol and I will be back in Atlanta for another SMS workshop on February 25-27. A few seats remain, so if you want more information, click

What I Learned During the NFL Playoffs

Once it became clear that the Pittsburgh Steelers would be out of the running for the Super Bowl, I stopped feeling guilty about rooting for New England to go all the way. Back in 1972, I had cheered on the Miami Dolphins when they broke they league record by racking up 16 consecutive wins in a single season; so it was just delicious to savor the excitement of a possible 17-win season. As was the case with the Dolphin's record-setting game, I got so nervous with the Patriot's twists and turns that I had to calm myself down by working on a slide show for Marathon's new Strategic Marketing Workshop series while I kept one eye on the game.

I couldn't help but notice the Wendy's ads that punctuated the action. Although certainly not aimed at my age demographic, something fascinated me about them. So I went to the Wendy's website and did some surfing. It was a serendipitous move, as I got lots of good examples to illustrate a point I wanted to make in the upcoming workshop program: You need to clearly define the Core Values of your business before you start to market.

Well, the longer I stayed on the site, the hungrier I got for a hamburger. It was hard not to, because I kept being drawn back to this rhythmical message: "Burgers made to order so they're always hot and juicy." Wow! What a great job of looking at a product from the consumer's point of view. The promise Wendy's was making was to give me EXACTLY what I want when I'm hungry for a hamburger. It was all I could do to keep from getting in the car. On several sections of the site, I found the company's Core Values clearly articulated. Here they are:

>At Wendy's, we're unrivaled in our passion for giving people what they want - and uncompromising in giving people what they deserve.

>At Wendy's, we won't cut corners on anything. Not on fresh, quality ingredients. Not on how we treat people. Not on giving back. And certainly not on being the defender of good taste for people everywhere.

If you take the time to dissect Wendy's current ad campaign (you can see videos of them on the site), you'll see how these Core Values run through the entire campaign.

Another part of the site that I really loved is the
About Us section. When you go there, you'll find some great business advice from Wendy's Founder, the late Dave Thomas. You can read Dave's values by clicking on the graphic below, then find the "In His Values" link on mini-site tribute to Dave.

Then, get some real words of business wisdom by clicking on the "In His Words" link found on the mini-site.

My favorite Dave quote is this: "You can't have a clean floor with a dirty mop bucket. To be successful, you need to take care of the basics of your business - and that means making sure you don't overlook the little details."

Well . . . the Patriots won the game, I finished my slide show, and I confirmed that photographers can learn a lot about marketing from "the big boys." The next day I stopped at Wendy's and had a really good burger. I'm pleased to report that it was indeed made to order and definitely qualified as hot and juicy. Making promises and keeping them . . . what a great way to build a brand.

Summing up Tampa: Fun, Fellowship and LEARNING!

I hope you were one of the more than 8,500 photographers who attended PPA's ImagingUSA convention in Tampa this week. "The best convention ever!" was the buzz, and no wonder: picture-perfect weather, a comfortable and spacious convention center, great places to hang out with friends, and the quality of education was spectacular! As you can see from my night-time photo of the convention center above, I hardly had a chance to enjoy the wonderful weather during the day, but that was O.K., because what was going on inside the convention was so awesome.

Just to prove that I did get out in the sun a couple of times, here's a photo of me having a little timeout with friends Carrie and Phil Viohl, who attended last May's Guerrilla Management Class in Deep Creek. Seated with us, at left, is their so-talended designer, Haley. I've mentioned Carrie several times here, because she has one of the best blogs anywhere. If you haven't already visited her blog
click here for a treat. And while you're visiting, check out Haley's fantastic stick figures, one of the blog's most popular features.

A real high point for me was the PPA Charities Celebration, where Charities President Mary Fisk-Taylor presented a check for $52,000 to Operation Smile, PPACH's charitable partner. I'm so proud of all the studios who raised this money for such a worthy cause, and I'm excited that photographers are really taking this magnificent charity to their hearts. Fellow Charities Trustee Angie Weedon and I will be heading up this year's Family Portrait Month promotion, so I'll keep you filled in on what's planned for 2008.

Because I was involved in two platform presentations, I didn't have much time to see the incredible array of talent at the convention, but I did make it a point to stop in to see Frank Donnino's program on the baby plan for which he has become so well known. It was wonderful to witness a packed room learn the inspirational story of how Frank overcame adversity and went from a dead-end job to a profession where he brings such joy to families in his community. Along the way he has given back to countless photographers who have benefitted from his generosity of spirit.

I'm going to email Frank a copy of the photo below. It's the sign outside his huge program room directing attendees to a nearby overflow venue that was set up with a live video feed. I know he was thrilled to draw such a crowd.

I'm happy to say that my program on "The Boutique Studio Revolution" and the the Roundtable panel, "The Art of Success," also filled up both the meeting room and the overflow room. It was so exciting to see how this new business model has caught fire with photographers who are seeking to establish their reputation for artful photography and exceptional customer service. I was so honored to moderate the panel, which I called the boutique studio "dream team": Beverly and Tim Walden; Sandy (Sam) Puc'; Jed and Vicki Taufer; Sarah Petty; Jeff and Julia Woods; and Lori Nordstrom.

Interest in boutique studios also was clearly evident by the mob scene at the BellaGrafica trade show booth.
BellaGrafica, as you probably know, is the company formed this year by Marathon Press for the specific purpose of helping boutique studios market their photography to upscale clients . . . particularly women, who are the primary focus of this emerging business model. Marathon chose the IUSA trade show to be the debut of their BellaGrafica line, and it was the talk of the show among photographers interested in boutique studios.

It was fun to visit SuccessWare's beautiful new booth, where they were handing out great new t-shirts. I got a real kick out of listening to studio owners tell how grateful they are to this incredible software for helping them make more money and simplify their business lives. Here's the SuccessWare crew, from left: Diane, Tracy and Judy.

The final night of IUSA was a real treat for me, as Sarah Petty did me the honor of asking me to sponsor her at the Awards Ceremony, where she received her Craftsman Degree. Thanks to Helen Yancy for recording the moment with my point-and-shoot camera.

If you didn't make it to IUSA, you can get a little of the flavor of this incredible event by visiting IUSA TV. Even though I was there, you can't be everywhere, so I found the features to be very interesting.

One of the most interesting features of IUSA TV is IUSA Expo Spotlight , which highlighted some really neat products. It's worth your while to take a look. One of the items on this video shows Vicki Taufer discussing how she sells Wild Sorbet frames . . . a wonderful boutique product.

It will really be hard to top this year's IUSA, but what I'm hearing about next year's event in Phoenix sound like it just might do the trick. It's a brand-new convention facility, and with all the fun things to do in the area, I can't wait! So mark your 2009 calendar now for January 11-13.