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Walmart,Sears Portrait Studios Go Out of Business

As I have made clear many times, I am a photographer and it is my primary business. When photography related issues make news I certainly like to comment on them. One major issue that came across my feed today relates to the closing of the ‘Portrait Studios’ within the stores of Sears and Walmart2700 stores closing overnight.

Considering the rapidness with which they closed their storefronts and operations, it is definitely a blessing that they never attempted to persuade anyone to use them as a wedding photographer.

One Word to describe why the PictureMe model did not work: cheap.  You’ve seen the ads, walked past the studio, perhaps even utilized the studio for a quick portrait need. Pay a $30. session fee then fork over all of $3.99 for a 11×14 wall portrait, 25 8×10 sheets, and 48wallets. Once you received ‘what you paid for’ you weren’t happy and you weren’t satisfied, but for $33.99 it wasn’t worth fighting. And even more so to CPI, it wasn’t worth making better. This is the danger of working to service the masses. Prices must be absurdly low, so profit is always in danger. Easiest expenses to cut are the people hired to service the clients. Customers wanted an artist and they got a shift worker. Creating beautiful portraits of a person requires more than a camera, a cheesy set, and lights permanently set in position.

They had cheap prices, cheap labor, and they set out to cheapen professional photography.

Paying customers will always want art of their family and children, this is how my family has prospered, through creating art of families and children, but also by being of service.

Just because you called employees clicking a button ‘photographers’ doesn’t make them such. Just because you called bad expressions and poor printing a ‘Portrait’, doesn’t make it such. Just because your employees are dealing with customers, doesn’t mean they understand customer service. CPI learned this the hard way, it just took too long for the customers to realize it.  Cheaply trying to create ‘art’ to satisfy crowds of people for mass profit leads to a $20million dollar loss and 2700 people unemployed.

How many professional photographers who dedicated their life and money to the art of photography for decades were put out of business by PictureMe,CPI?

In a free America, CPI had every right to do their business their way, I have no problem with the effort, but I am not surprised by the result.  It proves the system is working.

Kevin Redford Business Speaker,Author,Consultant


Kevin Redford is a speaker and author on the subjects of leadership, motivation, social media marketing, and customer service. He is available to speak at your next event, contact him at me@kevinredford.com.

Next up, the school picture providers who suffer the same epidemic that brought down CPI,PictureMe. Hourly workers made photographers servicing the masses leads to disaster eventually.

These providers of K-11th Grade school pictures, mass hire people and gives a simple training to ‘be a professional photographer’.
Immediately following their training, they are sent into your kids schools to take your hard earned money in exchange for cattle call photography wherein no real effort is made to garner genuine expression, nor an attempt to utilize flattering posing and lighting.

Therefore, in today’s world, everyone assumes school pictures are just going to be awful anyway…but WHY?!?!?!?! Because they have trained you this way?

Photography is not about equipment or clicking a button, it’s about relating to people, and finding their best expression, their best light.  This takes YEARS to master and see, not a week-long training course.

My company has had a great deal of success in the K-11th Grade field because we bring, on average, 20 years of photographic experience in each photographer. We DEEPLY care about the happiness of every family, and we take pride in what we do. We move faster than the national providers as well because we know how to quickly relate to each child, find their best side, and capture their best expression in a timely manner. This can’t be taught over night.  Its what we do year round.

Kevin Redford is a speaker and author on the subjects of leadership, motivation, social media marketing, and customer service. He is available to speak at your next event, contact him at me@kevinredford.com. Kevin is also available for small business consulting.

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Defining a Clear Mission for your Company or Personal Brand

The most important element to any business is a palpable desire in the marketplace for its services. Beyond this, there are many things that should be considered prior to either starting a new business or making a major change within an existing endeavor. Planning is the wing man for success. Planning is the game. Talent and ideas are wonderful; a successful day can be achieved on these things. Careers and longstanding, profitable, and fun businesses require more.

Longstanding success begins with a solid mission statement. A clear, concise explanation of just what the company is going to be about. Defining the mission should trump all other immediate concerns in your pre-planning meetings. It is the most important step in the planning process.

Your company’s mission statement should be on the lips and in the hearts of everyone of your representatives in the market arena as well as the minds of your stake holders, share holders, and every member of the brain-trust entrusted to propel your company forward. The equation for determining one’s mission is simple: Values+Vision=Mission.

Shrewd business is good business. A company is best served when there is a healthy profit. This does not, however, suggest that one must ignore moral clarity and consciousness to obtain profit or success. There is much to be said of what one can do on the energy gained by a night’s sleep when one’s mind is clear of guilt and regret. Values are the reflection your company makes in the proverbial waters of the marketplace. How will your reflection appear?

Will you have a reputation for your ability to find loopholes and technicalities to justify your company policies in spite of your clients? Or will you go to the end of the world to make sure your customers have only good things to say about you?

Will you be known for ‘Nickel and Diming’ customers to squeeze every last penny of profit? Or do you know that you are more likely to reap significant rewards from leaving a little extra money on the table to assure your customers shout your praises from the rooftops?

Will you be privately charitable to your local organizations and churches? Or will you rely on the umbrella of your taxes to take care of your fellow man?

Your values will answer these questions and in turn determine how the market, and your potential buyers, will perceive you.

Kevin Redford Business Speaker,Author,Consultant


Kevin Redford is a speaker and author on the subjects of leadership, motivation, social media marketing, and customer service. He is available to speak at your next event, contact him at me@kevinredford.com.

The values that drive your business ethics and customer service make up a little more than half of your mission. Without a personal sense of what they are, and an employee understanding and commitment to them, it will be incredibly difficult to usher in changes or get your company off the ground. It’s easy to dream of fancy logos, glowing signs, and big sales- but breaking down your role and projected reputation in the marketplace will set the table for the long term success you truly desire.

Vision is not simply about setting goals or setting the stage for a big splash, its about a genuine review of the situation and projecting forward what is expected. While I am a big proponent of competent goal setting, vision must be more than a few hopes and dreams.Vision must be concise and definable. Whether it is your vision to be the best wedding photographer to work with or the most honest car dealer, a clear definable vision will ultimately light your path to your desired position.

The vision must be set at the top and enforced all the way to the bottom. A great leader, whether at a start up or leading an established company through a big change, should be known for being able to gauge just how far or close the company is to the destination.

Without vision everyone suffers. Employees strain to understand if they’re doing enough. Leadership struggles to assess the progress of their subordinates. A haze will consume the company and little genuine progress can be made. Employees will slow, leadership will become frustrated, and those at the very top will likely blame everyone on the ladder, despite the truth that it is likely the leader who never set forth the vision,values, and mission.

Define your values. Establish the vision. Promote the mission.

Kevin Redford is a speaker and author on the subjects of leadership, motivation, social media marketing, and customer service. He is available to speak at your next event, contact him at me@kevinredford.com. Kevin is also available for small business consulting.

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Baseball’s Disparity is NOT the Fault of Capitalism.

There are plenty of small market baseball fans, who also happen to be communists, who believe that the difference in the Houston Astros ($25m Payroll) and the New York Yankees (25m per back up catcher) is the fault of capitalisms cruelty. It is not. Baseball’s woes are the fault of their collective owners and league leadership.

Here are 3 reasons why capitalism is not the problem.

1. Despite the difference in the payroll, the ‘other half’ of baseball has been represented often in the playoffs throughout the years. The Yankees, who spend more than most teams combined, have actually only won the World Series once in 13 years. So if the argument is that capitalism chooses winners and losers it’s doing a terrible job for the highest bidder.The teams with less capital find ways to win through other means than money. This is capitalism at it’s best.

New York Yankees

2. Capitalism teaches that we are not to simply defeat competition, but eliminate it. In the event that the Baltimore Orioles, Tampa Rays, and Toronto Blue Jays were not simply beaten but eliminated, the Yankees would have no one to play and therefore they would cease to exist. If Walmart eliminated it’s competition it would thrive. Capitalism does not demand that our best 29 competitors remain relevant. Baseball is an industry unto itself. The teams are like company divisions fighting for the right to be employee of the month. Sure one gets budgeted more money, tough, play the cards you’re dealt.

3. Finally, capitalism is about the consumer having a choice. As a Pittsburgher, I am without a choice on which team to support. I was raised here and I will die here. I will support the Pirates regardless, simply due to my birth. That’s not choice! In a capitalistic society I would have moved on to another team following the first or second time that they failed to provide the service or product I would like. But, since there is no ‘choice’ but to be a Pirate fan I am obligated to retain their services as my team, despite their annual shortcomings and failures. Were the marketplace given any option we would have moved to change the ownership, demanded new employees and services, and kept the prices at a level equal to their product through traditional means like withholding support. This is a sports town, we don’t withhold support, we consider our fandom a right of passage. We don’t simply cast our fandom away. We have no choice. AND…even if we tried, Baseball would have come to the rescue of it’s franchise through the shared wealth from other clubs to keep it afloat. Ask Ames how it felt when Major League Department Stores came to it’s rescue…oh, it didn’t happen < That’s Capitalism!

PIttsburgh Pirates Blown Call in 2011

So before you suggest that the Pirates having 21 straight losing seasons is somehow the fault of capitalism and not the responsibility of ownership, management, and poor decisions over two decades, think again. Take away 2009 and the Yankees have the exact same number of rings as the Pirates over the past 13 years. The system doesn’t favor Pittsburgh, but it’s not capitalism either.

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Generation Y Vs. Customer Service

America is FAST becoming a service based economy again and Generation Y’ers, right there in the middle of it, are going to find themselves in over their heads. Gen Y has been sold a unique bill of goods regarding technology and communication. Taught that traditional communication such as Face to Face and Telephone communication are likely on the way out, Generation Y has focused on digital communication such as Social Networking, Email, and HTML Code.

To succeed in the next economy it’s believed that if one cannot build the perfect website and write html code for searchability then they might as well prepare for minimal pay and scarce work. However, those who wrote that curriculum didn’t fully understand the power of the new economy and what TRULY drives the dollars within it.

The true force of the economy, in any capitalistic free economy, is that people have wants, needs, and desires and people looking for income position themselves as best they can to fill these needs. The money exchanged is what grows the economy and makes life livable for everyone.

It’s no surprise that Bachelor Degrees,Doctorates, and PhDs are specifically in demand. Skilled people who know how to use these degrees as qualifications to gain entrance to the workforce will always be the ones who succeed and prosper. However, what is truly scary is that this element is not at the forefront of the education system. It would seem that the general consensus of those entering college today is:’Get Degree, Job will Follow.’ But, the degree is nothing more than a stepping stone. (Personal reference coming)  I decided to pursue a bachelors degree later in life (30) for my own personal growth, not as a means to obtain a job. What I found astonishing is that little effort was made to show students how to actually use this degree. The thinking exists that suggests the degree is what gets hired, not the man or woman. This is far from the truth. A degree is a qualification needed for entrance into the corporate world, but it is not a definable skill set. Degrees are akin to being able to ice skate. Simply having that one qualification does not make one NHL ready. It’s a necessary step but a player must also have stick handling ability and the instincts to think on the ice in the midst of fast paced hockey action. Degree, like skating, may get you on the ice but once there you’re going to be expected to do more.

Kevin Redford Business Speaker,Author,Consultant


Kevin Redford is a speaker and author on the subjects of leadership, motivation, social media marketing, and customer service. He is available to speak at your next event, contact him at me@kevinredford.com.

When attending college, students are taught getting good grades, which is simply an extension of the reading, writing, arithmetic model they had mastered in high school, will prepare them for the rigors of creative marketing strategy meetings, meeting payroll, securing a profit, and annual budgeting. The sad fact of the matter is that a degree is worth nothing more than the person who holds it.  Even sadder is that the degree holders are not taught the necessary deductive logic to blame their own shortcomings when they fail to impress those doing the hiring. In fact, the popular response is to blame the economy, politicians, corporate executives, HR departments, and their post-graduate career services.

The greatest neglect made by the generations in, and just recently out of, college is in personal interaction. I know it’s shocking that the first generation to have Twitter and Facebook as a primary communication medium during what should be the most interactive time of their life (High School) might be rough around the edges socially, but it’s true. Unfortunately, through all the advancement made by the past generations away from basic social skills the next generation has been sabotaged and set up to fail.

So now we, as every generation does, expect the next generation to pick up their mantle and give the economy a boost. In the meantime we get less patient and  more and more disappointed.  Generation Y’ers who are raised to work only on computers, quietly without hand to hand communication, are now expected to successfully Negotiate, Sell, and Service? Convinced for so long that they would never need to pick up a phone, respond to a timely email, or actually speak with a customer? Here comes the boom!

While the world is connected via social networking and websites, forgotten is the need for human interaction and communication. This presents a unique opportunity for some wise entrepreneurial members of generation y. The skills that have kept their traditional social powers at bay have made them terribly intelligent technically. It would behoove the motivated within Gen Y to apply themselves to the ‘old school’ style of communication so as to diversify their value and stand head and shoulders about their peers. This is not hard, it is simply done by refusing to accept those practices which are considered the social norm. Picking up the phone to call rather than texting, making small trips to do some face-to-face interaction with those in power, leadership, or are simply older would take a few moments and go a long way in personal growth.

The fact remains that, at least for a while, generations who are not entirely understanding of social media, who prefer to work in a more traditional sense, those who own businesses that need to update to the times, these should be their target employers. Help them along in the new economy, by being a child of both worlds. Connecting the past to the present will find generation y’ers employed and valuable.

Kevin Redford is a speaker and author on the subjects of leadership, motivation, social media marketing, and customer service. He is available to speak at your next event, contact him at me@kevinredford.com. Kevin is also available for small business consulting.

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Creating Raving Fans

In any economy, in any business, the best marketing cannot be written or strategized.  The best marketing is simply the unbridled enthusiasm of past clients. We call them raving fans. These are customers who, after experiencing your product or service, become unapologetic in their love for the work that you do. Willing to broadcast on Facebook and Twitter, excited to scream in every coffee shop all of your praises.

        The good news is that these happy clients are created not born. 

 Here are 3 new ways to create raving fans:

 Boundless Customer Service                                                                            

        The extra mile is old news, everyone should go that far anyway. Taking it a step further beyond that extra mile, is a good start. If you want people to bend over backwards to sing your praises, you’re going to have to give them something to sing about. Thinking outside the box is important here. Consider the exceptional service you already provide to be the box, now explore the region out around the box. 

Deliver great products and service as your standard. Consider that doing more, and with creativity, sends a clear message that you are worthy of endorsing.   Delivering an order by hand rather than fedex, and with delicious chocolates or a fruit flower bouquet, will leave a lasting impression. Your regular efforts should keep them coming back regularly, what you do beyond that is what gets them to sing. 

 

Using your best clients in your marketing

   There is something to learn from the Jersey Shore and Toddlers/Tiaras television  shows: People enjoy being a celebrity. Even if that celebrity leads to a life of shame. Give the gift of celebrity without the shame.  As you’re putting together your next marketing campaign and considering pictures for the piece, why not contact your best clients, or long overdue regular clients, and use them for the marketing. 

In the least, they can enjoy your services while you create the piece.The best case scenario they’ll place a new order and ask for a 1000 copies of your advertisement to hand out to their friends and family. 

 

Give Your Best Clients the Power to Discount 

One quick lesson my wife taught me in our marriage is that she LOVES a good coupon. I learned on my own that she really loves ANY coupon. Imagine giving your favorite clients the power to give the gift of discount to all of their friends?

If your client loves you, its quite possible that her friends will love you too.Give her the green light to not only brag about you and your services, but also give the gift of discount to her friends to enjoy you. 

  In my industries,I am on the higher end of the price spectrum. I’ve been told on a few occasions that some great clients hesitate to refer me because they fear that they don’t know enough about their friends’ finances to suggest me. I tell them that if they refer their friends, they can enjoy a XX% discount. It makes the referral that much easier to give. More often than not, Good money people hang with good money people.I am not suggesting that you give a 50% discount, in fact, a 15% coupon is enough to get some serious attention these days.

Easy and Inexpensive ways to get your best clients to become raving fans are not hard to come by. Provide incredible, above and beyond service on a regular basis. Use your best clients in your marketing. Give your best clients the power to discount your services to close friends. Doing business is fun. 

 

Hope you enjoyed this

 

Kevin Redford

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MLB Hall of Fame Class of 2013

I have been bothered by recent news stories, but the baseball hall of fame has opened some wounds. I happen to be a huge sports fan, I love baseball. But the things I love about it are under attack by a bunch of self indulgent writers who have an absurd delusion of grandeur.
Baseball is as much about history as it is about numbers and personal accomplishment. The story of the day is that Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens did not make the hall of fame, in fact no one did. Sad. Take a moment to look at these two players’ numbers against the competition of their day…it won’t take long to find their names on lists as they are firmly at the top of most categories. 20060825_Barry_Bonds_follow_through
They owned the game and their contemporary competition. The term ‘first ballot’ is written for guys like bonds and Clemens. They should be in the hall. But they aren’t and probably wont be for a while. Because the writers have taken this opportunity to make themselves bigger than the game. la-sp-sn-roger-clemens-20120820-001

Babe Ruth was the best of his era. Hank Aaron the best of his. Cy Young the best pitcher. But did these players all play against each other? No. So is it possible that their numbers are simply better due to s lack of competition in their days? RuthAaronYoung
Someone must pitch a ball before its hit, right? So other players of the day matter toward individual legacy.
They were the giants of their times. That’s what the hall is and what it should be. Barry Bonds did steroids. So did almost every player of his era. It was the game and time in which he played. Not every player on juice had the numbers he had (or even came close). A rising tide lifts all boats, but Barrys boat was always the highest. That is based on skill, talent, and natural ability. Bonds is a one of a kind player.

Ya know, these writers have spent more time and effort writing about this steroid stuff than Bonds and Clemens did taking them. Amazing the stories that came out after the rumors were out in the open. In my opinion, the writers knew about the steroids long before the public knew. This makes them culpable. And therefore their writing was as effected by steroids as the players. This makes them guilty. This being the case their votes should be voided and the fans should decide who should be in the hall. I vote yes on bonds, Clemens, Piazza, McGuire, and Sosa. They were the best players of my youth. They get my vote.

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5 Steps to Better Results When Answering Sales Calls

Had a great conversation with a fellow entrepreneur today. Brand new to a certain aspect of a similar industry, she expressed her frustration with a blown sales call. There’s nothing worse than doing everything right to make that phone ring only for something to go wrong on the line. You can feel it instantly. You’ve misspoke, stuttered, or completely botched a sales pitch; the buyer on the other end loses his trust in you. Time to pick up the pieces and move on..

There are plenty of books on cold calling, let’s spend time on how to answer a sales call. Lets discuss the 4 things every sales consultant must know before answering the phone.

Before we take another step, however, a quick note on procedure: That ringing sound a phone makes is sweet honey to the lips of the marketer at your company. His/her job is to make that phone make that noise. Answer that phone as quickly as you can. Don’t screen calls, don’t wait a few rings, answer it quickly, then try this advice.

1.Respect Your Position. By answering a sales phonecall, you are essentially taking the entire reputation of your company on your shoulders. Every person who speaks on behalf of the company is the de facto voice of the company. There is no difference in the mind of the caller as to whether you are an employee, owner, investor, etc. She or He who answers, is the company. Personality, Frustration, Irritation, Pride…They all shine through on a phone call. Respect the company by knowing that every word you say is considered the gospel of your company when you are on the company phone.

2. Know your stuff. Most companies have a few reasons why customers and prospects call. If your job is to answer the phone, your job is to know the answers. Whether your company sells oil changes or trips to the caribbean, if a client is calling for information, make it your mission to familiarize yourself with the potential questions and the best possible answers.
You will find that most of the questions asked during an initial sales call come from the same direction. Once the question has been asked 5 times, the marketing/ website should move to address this more consistently, in the interim, the sales consultant should have a ready, effective, benefit driven answer prepared.

3. Ask Many Questions. People are talkers and many, for the most part, enjoy talking about themselves or their ‘situation.’ Allowing a prospective client to talk will change so much of your success rate. Don’t assume that every client wants the same thing. I can’t tell you how many times a bride has called ready to book and I’ve almost talked them out of booking by assuming. Find out who they are and what they want, then lead them down the path to what you think will be best for them.
I find myself enjoying sales calls when the conversation is relaxed and the prospect feels she can talk to me as a friend. I’d much prefer to be a friend than a sales person to them anyway. Additionally, there are many good things in life that can come from a great conversation with a new person. Ask questions to best answer their needs and you may be surprised where that leads beyond a sale.

4. Be a Sales Consultant, Not a Sales Person
Studies show that when one is labeled a sales person their chances of being well received drop dramatically, however, consultants are adored members of our society. I mean, who doesn’t like someone offering free advice? Steps 2 and 3 relate well to step 4 as learning about their needs, and having great information about your product or service, will make you an incredible ally in their search for that which you offer. Be the expert they need and they’ll happily do business with you.

5. Speak in Benefits, Not Features
As exciting as it is for you to have the ‘Number 1 Product in the State’ or ‘Industry Leading for the past 6 years’ gadget, your prospect doesn’t need your worthless accolades. He or she wants to know how it’s going to improve his or her life, event, or business. Speak, when called, in terms of benefits to the customer rather than bragging about dimensions and awards. No one likes a bragger, but everyone loves someone who can do something for them. Everything you say about your product is one or the other, a feature (Biggest and Coolest) or Benefit (will save you $50 a year). Lead with the benefit, they’re calling you, so they already know the features.

Happy Answering!