When my oldest sister first got her driver’s license, my three sisters and I used to try to get lost. We thought it sounded so fun and adventurous. We would give Kristin (my oldest sister) all kinds of direction, “left, right, right, left, right”. …Most of the time though, we just ended up driving in circles.
When it comes to a business (and gasoline efficiency) circles are a bad thing. If a business is going in circles, it means that no (or very little) growth is taking place. Without a map, every road looks promising and all too often photographers find themselves chasing down road after road to see if “this” was the thing they were missing; often at great expense. But with a map… with a clear vision and determined goals, the right road becomes obvious.
HOW TO FIND YOUR MAP. In order to be able to use your map you have to know what it looks like.
1. THE ROAD BEHIND YOU. The first step in creating your personal map is to know what is in your rearview mirror. This step is the foundation for your entire map, it is the ‘express lane’ to an accelerated success route.
In order to be able to get that rearview mirror attached to the windshield, you’re going to have to carve out a nice chunk of time. Make yourself a delicious pot of hot chocolate and give yourself some easy listening music to set as your backdrop, hang the ‘do not disturb’ sign and settle in to crack the case.
- Pull all of last years’ client files.
- Have paper (or excel spread sheets) ready and write the last 12 months across the top of your lengthwise paper.
- Determine how many shoots you did each month.
- Write down where each client came from. (Create categories and subcategories. For example, Referrals may have ’15’, you would need a subcategory for who referred. 3 Referred by Smith, 1 Referred by Jones, Tate and Chang).
- How much cash was brought in each month. (Determine how much came in and how much product cost you had). Ex; for the month of January 10K came in with product cost of $1500. COGS is 15%. (Formula: PRODUCT COST / REVENUE = % of COGS
- Expenses for each month. (Utilities, Props, Gear: Where is your money going?)
- You can get more data but this will be enough to start.
2. PLANNING YOUR COURSE. Now that you’ve collected this information you will start to get a clear picture of where you’ve been. This information is invaluable! With it, you will be able to see a clear picture of which months may need heavier marketing, which avenue brought in the most clients and where you may need to have savings established to create a cushion for slow times. You can also see if your spending is in line with your profits which is critical for any sort of long term viability.
- Based on the number you collected in step 1, create a forcast for the following year.
- Make notes for what worked well and not so well in your marketing efforts.
- Assess your pricing structure and determine if it is in line with your long term goals.
- You will have clarity on where to best invest your money.
- You will be able to see clearly which areas need refining through education or investing and which road should be avoided like illegal U-turns.
- You will be able to see which efforts resulted in profit and which efforts should be abandoned.
- You’ll have the confidence to move forward because you know exactly what you’re trying to reach!
Have you had time lately to work on your business? As small business owners we’re wearing hats of all different sizes and shapes. It’s so easy to get caught up working in the business and seeming to find little if any time to work on your business. The problem is that when you’re working in the business, what you’re ultimately doing is just keep’n the wheel turning, but in order to build a successful company, you must do more than turn the wheel… You’ve got to build the tunnel too!