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Studio Management

A Visit to Molly Purvines New Home Studio

I’m an ardent advocate of residential studios because of their inherent profit potential. And if you live in a part of the world where it is practical to build a home with a daylight basement, I believe that such an arrangement represents an optimal home-based business structure. So I was most interested when I heard from Georgia photographer Molly Purvines that she and her husband had purchased a lake-side home with a daylight basement in the Atlanta suburb of McDonough. I had written about Molly’s tiny home studio in an earlier blog post; you can read it by clicking here.

After seeing photos of the new property shortly after it was purchased in January, I asked Molly to send snapshots when the business renovations were completed. I’ve never had an example that illustrates the features of a daylight basement, and I wanted to be able to show them to students who might be looking for home studio options. Molly not only sent me the picture, she also invited me for dinner and a visit when I was in Atlanta last month. As I expected, the new studio is wonderful; it provides a clean separation between the home and the business, and it makes possible a dedicated entrance for studio clients. Here’s the exterior of the house before the family moved in.

The next two illustrations are the snapshots Molly originally sent to map out her plans for the studio. The first is taken from a secondary driveway and parking area for the lower level, looking toward the door that is ideally located for a dedicated studio entrance.

This is Molly’s sketch that shows where new entrance lobby walls would be built as well as the location of various studio rooms. The area to the left provides Molly with a spacious camera room that includes several windows for natural-light portraits.

And here is the completed lobby area . . .

. . . the studio’s projection sales room . . .

. . . and the bathroom/dressing room where Molly came up with a very clever way to deal with a bath tub: she covered it over and draped the area behind it to create a baby-changing station. Great idea!

Finally, here’s the spacious camera room, complete with a north-light window and room for backgrounds and studio lights at the end to the left of the fireplace.

Both Molly and her clients are thrilled with the new space: “The best part is that I don’t have to break down the shooting area every time I finish a session,” she says. Molly’s not the only one who loves it. Charlie, the family dog, who is a cross between a border collie and a saluki, is crazy about the new floor, which was clearly evident when he showed off his keen ball-catching ability during my visit. So to Charlie and the entire Purvines family: Enjoy!


Molly Purvines: Hooked on Management

I have received several updates from Molly Purvines, of Stockbridge, GA, since she attended last May's Guerrilla Management Workshop. It's been a busy year for Molly, who more than doubled her 2006 sales as well as surpassing her 2007 sales goal with two-and-a-half months left in the year. That's the kind of performance I love to hear about! Molly's financial progress was due in part to a price increase, better monitoring of her financial using SuccessWare, and also to the fact that she really "gets" the management side of photography.

Molly operates her home studio out of only 350 square feet, but she truly makes the most of this space. After the Workshop, she reported making the following changes, which you can see in the photos below: "I redecorated with expensive-looking fabrics and chairs, installed hardwood floors, purchased a new coffee table, began serving cheese, crackers and fruit at every sales session (a huge hit!), and hung three 24x36 framed canvas portraits with my tag line featured overhead." Simple changes, but such a great result!

Recently Molly told me about her a clever buzz-creating event she hosed for the most recent class of 5 grads from Bebe Nouveau, the studio's baby's-first-year program. As is typical with any group of 1-year-olds, everything was fine until the group photo!

You can see other less chaotic images of the darling grads in their Bebe Diplome t-shirts by visiting Molly's Blog. While you're at it, take a look at Molly's website; it's a really lovely presentation of her terrific work.

I've truly enjoyed watching Molly dig into the management side of photography. She keeps her ears up and relishes the opportunity to interact with clients. In another recent email, she wrote the following: "Next month I am taking 10 of my best clients out for brunch. I want to pick their brains about my business. What they like, what would they like to see changed, what keeps them coming back, etc. — I plan to use their responses for new marketing pieces. The restaurant we are going to is very beautiful and has the best brunch ever. Hopefully they will love the experience!" What a great way to keep the your business focused on the client . . . certainly one of the best management techniques there is.
Finally, I want to share some words of wisdom that I just received from Molly:
My best client was here this morning. She was asking me for her third stack of referral cards. In just two weeks, she has handed out about 10 of them and I have already received three phone calls. The card entitles the new client to $50 worth of portrait art. The existing client receives a $100 gift certificate to use on new sessions when a friend books with me. She said to me this morning, 'Wow this is such a great program, I hope you will be doing it more often.' I told her that this has always been my referral program. She couldn’t believe it. She said she had no idea. I have always verbalized this program to my clients, but never put it in writing. And I have always wondered why my referrals were so few and far between. DUH! If you want your clients to do something . . . put it in writing!"

Great advice, Molly. Keep those management insights coming!

Oh My Word!

I just heard a news report about a peeping Tom, who snuck into a woman's home and hid a video camera in her bedroom so that he could spy on and record her and her husband. What does this have to do with the business of photography? The news story went on to say that the intruder had been stalking the woman, stealing "unmentionables" from her bedroom, and he even went so far as to purchase photos of her from her wedding photographer. Yikes!! I wouldn't like to be in that photographer's shoes!

Because you are in the business of selling photography, it would seem perfectly natural to take an order for a few 8x10s from a fellow who showed up stating that he is "the bride's brother," or "the bride's cousin." When it comes to taking orders from strangers, the best policy, in my opinion, is always to work with, or through, the primary client. Otherwise, you are likely to find yourself in the middle of a domestic dispute or worse . . . as is the case here.

Early in my own business, a sweet grandmother visited the studio to order portraits of her high school senior grandson. Something didn't seem quite right, so we placed a call to the senior's mom, and I'm so glad we did. Turns out that Granny wanted the portraits for her son, from whom the mom and the senior were both estranged. Even if you feel sorry that a dad is being denied the opportunity of having a portrait of his son, don't get in the middle, where you'll surely become the next victim of an already bad situation. Make it a hard-and-fast policy to sell images only to the client directly, unless you have her approval to do otherwise.