Working Smarter

by Kathryn Woestendiek   |   Photo Imaging Entrepreneur magazine

Christopher Yates tried at least half a dozen software programs in an effort to get a better handle on managing the business end of his photography studio in Winter Park, Fla., before he finally found one that lived up to the hype on the packaging.

Sometimes photographers are more interested in taking a beautiful picture than the business side of things. SuccessWare makes it easy for us to look at our businesses and see how we're doing.
Christopher Yates
Christopher Yates Photography
Winter Park FL

"I've tried programs on everything from pricing to mailing lists to running your own business," said Yates, who specializes in family portraits, children and weddings. "Then I finally found one that entails everything from pricing your products to tracking your orders.

Many photographers ask Yates about this software, called SuccessWare, since his studio was a beta test site for the product before it was released to the general public in 1997.

"I tell them it's worth the price," he said, "no matter what it costs these days."

At a recent state convention, Yates bumped into a woman who asked him about the benefits of using SuccessWare. Later that day, the same woman, apparently not satisfied that Yates had only good things to say about the software, asked him to tell her what was negative about it. "I told her the negative thing about SuccessWare was that it wasn't available 15 years ago when I started my business. If it had been, I'd be a much richer person today."

One of many benefits Yates said the SuccessWare package has offered is assistance in determining the actual cost of his own products.

Christopher Yates Photograhy

"This program helps you make sure you're selling your products at the right price," he said, "as well as incorporates all the accounting things you need to run a business. It has helped us fine tune our business and make sure we're making a profit. Sometimes photographers are more interested in taking a beautiful picture than the business side of things. SuccessWare makes it easy for us to look at our businesses and see how we're doing.

"We can, for example, compare the number of family portraits done on location in the month of June in 2009 with the number done in June of 2010. It might tell us we are doing three less sessions this year than last year — but making a lot more money — because our pricing is right and we're making more per sale."

Yates said another advantage to the SuccessWare system is that it will show him what his financial situation is at any time during the month.

"We used to have to wait until we heard from our accountant to know how we were doing," he said. "Now, when we need to make adjustments, we can see it right away without having to wait to make important decisions. SuccessWare has given us a clearer understanding of how the business end works.

"I'd like to just be creative and be out there taking pretty pictures all the time, but the business side is important too. There are so many aspects to SuccessWare that strengthen your business sense that I've often wondered if this system, with just a few modifications, might be successful for a lot of other businesses."

Yates said SuccessWare has helped him create a five-year plan for his business, set goals for his personal and business life, and create a marketing plan and marketing calendar.

It has also allowed him to determine what the products he offers actually cost and the price he needs to set to make a profit. "This," he said, "is where photographers can get really surprised when they see the difference between what the product is costing them to produce and what they're actually selling it for. When one lady photographer discovered she was losing $100 per wedding, her first reaction was to think she needed to do more weddings! A lot of photographers think that way," he laughed. "They think all they need to do is work harder, but SuccessWare teaches you that what you need to do is work smarter."

Yates calls SuccessWare the life blood of his studio. "We use this program on a daily basis," he said. "When that phone rings, we are able to track all of our inquiries, how they heard about us, who took the phone call, and even whether or not they were able to book a design session or an appointment. This generates a report that tells us what percentage of people are booking with whom, lets us know who's calling and which of our sales people is making the most sales.

"Once we have the client, SuccessWare also enables us to track every stage of their order. Whenever a client calls to check on an order, we can access complete information on the status of that order and tell them precisely where it stands." 

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