Success Stories

Carol Andrews Jensen   |   Carol Andrews Fine Art   |   Fairhope AL

It would be grossly inaccurate to view Houston portrait photographer Carol Andrews as being a victim of circumstances, in spite of the fact that fate has dealt both her life and career some exceedingly harsh blows. With resolute optimism, Carol has met changing fortunes with a determination to make the most of her considerable talent with whatever resources were available to her at each of life's junctures. In the process she has become a role model and mentor to scores of photographers and friends who treasure the personal warmth and wisdom that she shares so freely.

"I see so many photographers who are unhappy and so stressed out because their business is interfering with their personal life. One of the first things I suggest to them is SuccessWare."
Carol Andrews Jensen

Getting Started

Carol married Bob Andrews in 1975, and in 1989 daughter Molly joined the family. By that time, she had ventured into a third career as a portrait photographer. Carol had become interested in photography while working part time in Bob's wedding photography business, handling marketing and sales, something she was well-equipped to do because of her previous employment experience. As a former housewares buyer for 22 retail stores, she had mastered the fundamentals of marketing, becoming especially adept at knowing how to determine what appeals to consumers. As a caterer for a four-star restaurant, she had learned that "platinum customer service" was a vital ingredient for successful selling.

"Talk about timing," she says. "I signed the lease, then promptly found out I was pregnant!"

Tragic Turning Points

By 1994, Carol's reputation as an artistic photographer was growing, and her business and family life were flourishing. But her entire world turned upside down when Bob suddenly died of a heart attack at age 41, leaving Carol with 5-year-old Molly to raise and a business to run. With the help of loving photographer friends, she began adjusting to these new circumstances. Then, a year later, just as she was getting back on her feet and settled in to a new condo, Carol was nearly killed in an automobile accident on her way to a wedding. A driver who jumped a signal light broadsided her car. It flipped several times in the air and landed on its roof, severely injuring her shoulder and nearly destroying her dominant left hand, which had to be surgically rebuilt from her own skin and muscle.

Getting Back On Track

After more than a year of painful rehabilitation, Carol was back on track in a rental space closer to home, and she was making alterations in her business to reflect shifts in the market, as well as changes that were needed to help her function as a single parent. "I couldn't have done this without gaining an understanding of financial management," she says, so she got started in the right direction by attending a PPA Marketing and Management Conference workshop taught by Ann Monteith and Judy Grann. At that class she was introduced to SuccessWare.

"I was absolutely blown away by what I saw about my business using SuccessWare's pricing and planning features," she recalls. "Working with SuccessWare gave me complete confidence that I could price my work profitably. For the first time I could see ways to bundle images, knowing how to price them so that I would have at least as much profit or even more than when selling large wall sizes. Immediately I could be much more creative with my product offerings, because I knew where my profits were built. This knowledge has allowed me to custom tailor products and finishes for each individual client, which creates a win-win situation that hits the client's budget bull's-eye, while providing me with the profit I need to earn a good living."

Taking Control

With this knowledge firmly in hand, Carol became an expert at creating custom-designed galleries for her clients, and soon she was in demand as an instructor and platform speaker on the subjects of marketing and sales. Today she serves as a board member of PPA and as a Studio Management Services (SMS) consultant who works as a mentor to SMS clients.

In her teaching, Carol stresses how important planning is to sustaining a business over time, noting that this is another management function in which she relies upon SuccessWare. "The planning side of SuccessWare is so valuable," she explains, "because it puts everything in one place — from my monthly financial goals and the number of sessions I need to achieve them to the marketing that I must do to drive those sessions. I can see at a glance whether I am on or off track, and I know where to make corrections with confidence."

Making a Bold Move

Over the years Carol truly has practiced what she teaches: When the Houston economy took a serious hit because of the closing of the Enron Corporation, she quickly decided to make a strategic move. "Like many Houston photographers, I lost some of my best clients when Enron collapsed, so I decided right then to take a good look at the growing popularity of home businesses. I decided that moving my studio to my home would probably put me ahead of the rebuilding curve." Once again she turned to SuccessWare to determine the financial impact of moving to a home studio business: "Because I could see very clearly that even though the move had a lot of up-front costs, it was likely to improve my financial position, it gave me the confidence to take what otherwise would be a really scary step."

Creating a home studio turned out to be a brilliant decision, because it gave Carol more flexibility in further refining her artistic direction, it increased her profitability, and it gave her more time at home with Molly. The move also allowed her time to share her insights with other photographers who are concerned about achieving balance in their artistic, business, and personal lives.

Designing Business Success

"Artistically, I knew my strengths and weaknesses, so I always designed for my strengths," she explains. "I'm not a strong technical photographer, but emotionally I can create a commitment to my clients, and this commitment finds its way into my images. Once I got authentic about myself and my strengths, and when I gained the courage to verbally commit to clients that what we were doing is creating more than an image on a piece of paper, they began to invest in me. That separated me from other studios and created a business without limitations. The most important thing I learned was that people will seek you out when they know they can purchase something that is truly authentic. I try to make every client understand that ultimately what I'm doing is transferring ownership of images that come from my heart to theirs."

"From a management perspective, what was most important to me was to create a business that could serve my lifestyle as a single mom. I did this by embracing the financial side of photography, even though it was not something I was drawn to. In the process, I learned that creativity is creativity, no matter how you apply it, and creativity is a very important part of managing a business. I see so many photographers who are unhappy and so stressed out because their business is interfering with their personal life. One of the first things I suggest to them is SuccessWare, because it is a barometer that helps you to make huge improvements in your business very quickly. If you take the time to use it fully, you can take control of your business, and ultimately the only way you can take the stress away from your life is to gain this control."

Mastering the Art of Reinvention

If there is a theme that is central to Carol's life, it is this: Rebuild. Restore. Renew. "Today everyone wants to be a rock star," she observes. "But when you're my age, it is time to reinvent and renew, which is something that everyone can do by studying current trends." These days, she is reinventing by capitalizing on the huge societal interest in becoming "green" and "organic." "I'm convinced that this is a major marketplace trend," she says, "so I am looking at how we can use hand-made papers created from recycled materials in albums and in our marketing. I believe this will be attractive to many consumers."

The green concept of recycling also inspired Carol to undertake a charitable promotion that will benefit a parish in New Orleans, a city to which she feels a close kinship. "There's an urgent need to get guns off the streets in neighborhoods there," she explains. So she is participating in a "Horns for Guns" project through which parents can receive a musical instrument by turning in a gun to a local church. "This is allowing me to tie a promotion to my passion," she says, and she plans to appeal to the Houston Symphony, which is supported by many of her clients, to help reach her quota of 30 instruments. With the effort only in its infancy, she has already received 20 instruments.

Carol Andrews truly has achieved a business without boundaries: After 22 years and four different locations, she has worked without a business sign, but adoring clients and students from all over continue to seek her out. "Maybe one of these days, I'll actually have a sign that says 'Andrews Photography,'" she muses, then she adds with a smile: "Or when I shut the thing down, I'll just hang one that says 'Andrews Photography Was Here.'" 

For information on Ann Monteith's Guerrilla Management Workshops, visit AnnMonteith.com.

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