Good morning! Today is our first update interview of the year, and it’s going to be mainly updates this year as I now have more than 60 interviewees, so not much room for new ones. As we go into the second, third and even fourth interviews with these enterprising people running small businesses, we’re going to learn so much about what it means to run a mature, as well as a new business. That’s something that seems lacking in current resources (which is why I’m writing a new book on the subject, too) and I’m sure we’re all going to find it fascinating, as readers.
So, Andy runs A.S. Photography, a photography business in Milton Keynes. I first interviewed him in 2011 and ran an update in 2012 (because of the Christmas rush, this update got a little delayed). In his last interview, he spoke about what he had planned for the upcoming year: “This year is going to be spent improving on what we have. We have always aimed to grow slowly and sensibly and with such a big leap as taking on premises, we really want to get grounded before we set our sights on anything bigger. If in 12 months I have a steady client base in the studio while still maintaining my current success in the wedding industry I will be more than happy”.
Did he achieve these aims and ground the business while maintaining his steady customer base? Read on to find out …
Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?
I would say so, yes. Maybe working a few extra hours than I would like but that is business. Christmas 2013 brought with it a massive amount of business in the studio with portrait gifts. We have also been spending time and money upgrading everything, and the studio really is what we want it to be now.
What has changed and what has stayed the same?
How we operate from a customer’s perspective has pretty much stayed the same in the past year, and we have just been working to improve on what we already have and keep providing quality and service.
Our marketing approach has changed and been scaled back to a few key areas such as social media and online deals. The aim for us now is to produce a natural flow of referrals from happy clients as opposed to aggressive marketing. With a quality product and great service, we have continued to stay ahead of much of the competition which remains extremely varied.
We have also really invested in the studio and equipment making to whole process smoother and making it easier to provide high standards.
Oh, and I almost forgot we have had a total revamp of our website, making it more user-friendly and I think more visually attractive. We also changed to a content management system, meaning that it is quicker and easier to update and make changes, saving me loads of time in terms of web work.
What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?
I have learned that I will never know everything – this goes for my photography and business. I am forever learning, although sometimes it’s easy to get stuck in your ways. I have really pushed myself to improve this year, and with a willingness to learn more, this has really paid off.
Any more hints and tips for people?
This has not changed since last year: I am going to say it again. You get out what you put in. You are the only person who can make things succeed, so do it. Wait for things to happen and they never will.
One more thing is that if you do not love what you are doing, then don’t do it. I am so lucky to have a job that I can truly say I love doing and, I could not imagine it any other way.
And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?
Our aim for the next year is to get back to pushing our wedding photography forward. With so much emphasis on the studio in 2013, we need to get back to showing people what we are truly best at, and that is creative wedding photography. We are doing some great wedding shows in 2014, which is a chance for people who are getting married to meet me and see my work, so hopefully this, along with our social media presence, will keep us up as one of the leading wedding photographers in Milton Keynes.
All positive stuff and I fully echo the idea of pushing yourself to keep on learning, even when your business is in its mature stage. I’m learning how to use other social media tools (like Storify) and how to use different kinds of software, and I also learned a lot about keyboards when researching my new one. Well done to Andy and let’s hope 2014 brings him closer to his aims!
AS Photography is still going strong but Andy has chosen not to participate in the interview series further. We wish him all the best for the future!
If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured. If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my book, Going It Alone At 40: How I Survived my First Year of Full-Time Self-Employment.