What Worked in Our Business
(and What Totally Didn’t)
When it comes to vision-planning, reflecting and goal setting, you gotta get REAL! When Jeff and I were wrapping up our revenue numbers at the turn of this year, we were SO stinkin' proud of what we accomplished in 2016! We couldn't believe that we actually achieved some big things that we set out to do!! But the HONEST truth is that I can't say the same thing about previous years... Last year was so different in a LOT of ways for us! These past twelve months were a huge time of growth and changing things up. We FINALLY accomplished some big dreams - launching our Discover Your Ideal Client course and speaking at WPPI (which we're speaking at again - woohoo!) - and we also reached some pretty ambitious financial goals. Goals that made both of us really excited - but also crazy nervous!! So I wanted to understand what it was that made such a big difference for us in 2016 so I can pass these lessons on to you:
- What things did we do that really moved the needle?
- And what things did we try that really didn't work?
What's really cool is that the most surprising changes had more to do with the WAY we worked instead of WHAT we did.Our mindsets, our goals, and our discipline were BIG factors for us! So first, let's start with the things we did well, and then I'll talk about the things that didn't work so well.
What Worked in 2016
#1: Setting Concrete Revenue GoalsYou might find this surprising - Jeff and I had never set revenue goals for our businesses until 2016. We would certainly set goals, but the goals were to book a certain number of weddings or shoots at certain price points. We had a running count of how many weddings, headshots, corporate events, and products we did each month and how much profit we were making on each one. So the goals were based on the number of shoots + profit versus how much overall gross revenue we were bringing in. At the end of 2015, Jeff and I knew we needed to increase our financial numbers, so we sat down in January and created a yearly revenue goal for 2016. We then broke that number down into a monthly revenue goal for each brand. So I needed to book a certain amount of sales revenue every month for The Youngrens, and Kelsey (our studio manager) needed to book a certain amount of sales revenue each month for Clove & Kin and Bauman Photographers. Plus, she made commission bonuses based on how well she did (and she did AWESOME).
Setting this simple yearly revenue goal was KEY for 2016. It guided our decision making, kept us motivated, and helped us think strategically and creatively on how to increase our sales.And did we meet our yearly goal??? Our goal was SUPER ambitious and so much higher than anything we had ever done before, and when we finalized our 2016 revenue numbers this week, we were only $1,997 short of our mark!!! For us, this was an ENORMOUS win!! Why? Well, we had been keeping up with our monthly tracking for the entire year, but we fell dramatically short of meeting our November numbers. This meant we had to make up a deficit of almost $50,000 for November, and then book ANOTHER $50,000 for our regular monthly goal in December. #NAILBITER But the entire studio pulled together to not only make up for our November goals, but we pulled within 2k of our yearly mark! WIN WIN WIN. I’m so proud of our team!
#2: by The Youngrens Vendor Party + Updated Wedding GuidesBecause we wanted to grow our revenue numbers by so much in 2016, Jeff and I knew that we needed to be strategic about where we spent our time and money. The first problem we identified in our studio was that local vendors were confused by our different wedding brands - they weren’t sure what the relationship was between The Youngrens, Clove & Kin, and Bauman Photographers (Did we own them? Just manage them? Were we just buddies?). Plus, they hadn’t met our newest team of photographers face to face, and they didn’t know what brides to send over based on style and budget. So we created a website called By The Youngrens that explains what Jeff and I are involved in, and we had our designer create three new beautiful pricing magazines for each brand. Then we threw a party for our favorite vendors where we invited them into our studio to meet our photographers and learn all about the brands. By updating our branding materials and investing in our local vendor network, we were able to build momentum for Clove & Kin and Bauman Photographers, and we booked more Dreamie weddings for each brand than we anticipated!
#3: Committing to Disciplined Productivity HabitsThis year was all about making progress and meeting goals, so in the spring, I began investing in five major productivity habits that you can read all about here!
Being intentional and disciplined with my time was SO BIG for me this year.I was able to re-write and launch our Discover Your Ideal Client course in July (with great success - woohoo!) as well as start our free Photographer-Only Facebook Group, which has grown to nearly 1,000 creatives in less than a year! (Request to join the free group here if you’re not a part of it yet!)
#4: Implementing Intentional Rest
(Taking Mondays Off + Date Nights)In the middle of 2016, Jeff and I decided to start leaving work at 4pm every Monday to go to happy hour for tacos and margaritas for a date night. No work allowed. Just talking about us and our life! Then in the middle of wedding season, we decided take Mondays off altogether if we shot a wedding over the weekend. We had a lot of ambitious projects going on all year, and we could have easily spent every waking hour working our hearts out, but we were feeling the physical strain of shooting, traveling, and running the studios. We knew that we needed to implement some intentional rest which wasn’t easy when we had so many amazing things we were doing! As soon as we took our first Monday off, we knew it was the best decision ever! Our productivity and energy immediately reignited, and we were getting just as much done as before because we were rested and focused. Implementing intentional rest has been so life-giving for us and our marriage in the middle of a busy year, and we’ll keep it going in 2017!
#5: Investing in Mastermind Groups + CoachingFor the past few years, Jeff and I have been really heads down in our businesses in San Diego, investing our time and energy in launching and building our studios and team. So this year we were ready to look up and dream about what could be!
The studios had stretched us so much that we were ready for guidance, accountability, and fresh ideas from other brilliant business owners to move us forward.So we formed two mastermind groups with some friends and colleagues that we admire, and then attended two mastermind retreats in 2016 that were huge for us. SIDE NOTE: Mastermind groups are a small group of like-minded business owners that come together on a regular basis to help each other achieve their goals. It’s the idea that when you bring a bunch of smart minds together, you create one big amazing “master” mind to learn from! I also invested in personal coaching this year, which was AMAZING for me. I have grown by leaps and bounds as a person, leader, boss, and creative, so coaching was a huge win! I highly encourage everyone to seek out or start a mastermind group of your own, and then attend creative conferences, retreats, and local meetups. Then if you're able, hire a business coach or mentor that you love and trust. It will pay dividends in your business! It definitely has for us!
What DIDN'T Work in 2016:
#1: Jeff and I Working on Projects SeparatelyJeff and I had so many things that we wanted to accomplish in 2016, that we decided to “divide and conquer” in order to move multiple projects forward at once.
We thought we could be TWICE as productive! Woohoo!Ambitious much?? So Jeff took over any projects that had to do with the commercial side of the business (like redoing the Bauman Photographers website), and I took over everything that had to do with online photographer education (like launching our Discover Your Ideal Client course). By May, however, we were both floundering. I almost immediately got overwhelmed trying to figure out all of the new software and technology that had to be worked out with doing online education, and Jeff was reeling with writing copy and picking design layouts on a project like the Bauman Photographers website. Instead of getting twice as much done, we were both totally stuck! #ugh This made us realize that we had been so successful for the last ten years not because we’re two people that can do twice as much work, but because we have such complementary strengths.
Jeff is the Dreamer and I’m the Doer. We lost sight of that.Once we realized that we were better together, we began collaborating on every project and executing like we were used to! But it also meant that we had to re-prioritize our line-up of projects and push certain things back, like the Bauman Photographers website, which we revamped in October instead of the summer. It was hard to wait on important projects, and set things aside (I always want to do everything at once!) but we learned a lot about how to plan ahead for 2017 and get things done together.
2. Our Facebook Group for Our TY CouplesAt the same time that we launched our Facebook group for photographers, we also launched a Facebook group for all of our wedding couples for The Youngrens. This was a great idea that we were so excited about, but it got lost in the shuffle of everything else that we were doing. I would love to re-invest in this group in 2017 because it lines up with our vision and hearts, but I also am feeling the strain of too many things going on all at once!
3. Writing Blog Posts for PhotographersIn 2016, I came to the realization that I really don’t enjoy writing educational content! It’s not fun for me AT ALL, so I would always put off writing a blog post with tips and tricks for other photographers. BUT I love teaching!! In fact, I had so much fun speaking at conferences and recording our Discover Your Ideal Client lessons, that I’ve decided to launch a podcast as a way to deliver valuable content.
I find it so much more interesting, fun, and engaging to teach by SPEAKING than to teach by WRITING!So in 2016, I didn’t write nearly as many blog posts as I wanted, but that’s why our podcast is coming soon in 2017! Stay tuned!
Still Deciding if it Works:
Shooting FilmWe LOVE shooting medium format film - the look, the process, the feel! It’s so perfect for our timeless, traditional couples and fits our values and hearts perfectly! What DOESN’T work is the cost and the complication! While we’re at a wedding, I can easily get distracted by our film camera because it’s another piece of equipment to hold and manage, and I would much rather be totally invested in the moments with our couples. Also, the cost of shooting film is VERY high, and it’s hard to justify the time and effort when the profit margin is so small. So for 2017, we will shoot film for our couples that choose to add it to their collection with us, but it will otherwise be a fun investment in our creativity on the side.
What We’re MOST Excited About in 2017:
#1: Launching our Podcast - Creative Rising!!!Our podcast is launching at the beginning of 2017 and we’ve officially named it… CREATIVE RISING!! This name came to me while I was in the shower listening to Hillsong United’s song, “Touch the Sky” and I heard the lyrics:
Upward falling, spirit soaring I touch the sky when my knees hit the groundImmediately, I knew that Creative Rising was the right fit for our vision with other creatives! My heart is to pull back the curtain on what it really means to be a creative that is wrestling with running a business that rises towards your vision. It will take a lot of honesty and humility to share the real stuff, but I can’t wait!
#2: Our Business Coach - Beautiful OutcomeJeff and I have hired a long-term business coach for the first time ever, and we are just over-the-moon excited to have a mentor stand with us in this journey! It’s going to be an incredible 2017!
#3: Re-launching Discover Your Ideal Client!We opened the doors for the first time on this master course back in July 2016, and after walking with our students through the process, we’re ready to open the doors again for another round of enrollment! It's been such a life-giving journey for me to see our students finally understand what makes them so uniquely different from everyone else in the industry. To see them define their styles, create their positioning statements, build really effective social media strategies, and come alive when they book their Dreamies! We can’t wait to welcome in another set of photographers and teach them how to build a dream-worthy brand by finding and booking life-giving clients they absolutely adore!!
#4: YOU!I am so excited to walk through 2017 with you! I know we're all separated by distance and computer screens, but we're all connected in our passions. We're all connected together by our pursuit for something better in our businesses. And I love that! So stay tuned over these next twelve months when I'll be delivering valuable knowledge, wisdom, comic relief, and inspiration into your earbuds, inboxes, the Facebook Group and your Instagram feed!! Cheers to the new year my friends! Hugs, Erin
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