Frank Donnino: Reacting to Adversity

Success did not come easily to photographer Frank Donnino, who today owns and operates one of the country's most financially sound portrait studios. His road to success was filled with obstacles and challenges. They taught him important life lessons that ultimately made him a respected role model and valued mentor to several generations of photographers.

Just Starting Out
As a young family man, Frank decided to quit a menial job he despised to follow his dream of becoming a professional photographer. He opened his first studio in an affluent section of Long Island, New York. Seventeen years later, having reached a gross sales high of $225,000, but with a profit of only $36,000 to show for all of his extremely hard work, Frank and his family could barely make ends meet in his high-cost-of-living area.

Starting Over Again
So, in 1997 he took the dramatic step of abandoning his well-established business and moving his family to South Florida. His plan was to work for other photographers while getting his new studio up and running. He told his employers about the business he ran in Long Island, and their response was universal: There was simply no way he could expect to do that kind of business in his new location. One studio owner even told him, "You're not in Kansas anymore Toto!"

Business 101
Undeterred and fully committed to making a success of his new studio, Frank attended a March 1998 week-long business course at the Florida School of Professional Photography, taught by Ann Monteith, M. Photog. Cr. "I never had any business education, so I figured that if I really wanted to improve my situation, I needed to learn something about business," Frank says. "What I learned blew me away! Here was the knowledge I'd been missing all those years."
Finding SuccessWare

At the class, he learned about SuccessWare and how it automates the studio business concepts Monteith was teaching. "Purchasing SuccessWare seemed like a no-brainer," Frank relates. "And I'm very glad I did!" Once back at his studio, Frank used SuccessWare to price his products properly and track every aspect of his business operation. He also began implementing other concepts he learned in class. During his first full year of business, his SuccessWare financials revealed that he could drop everything that was not profitable. "SuccessWare made it obvious to me what was making me money and what wasn't," he says. "Eliminating these product lines gave me more time to concentrate on the profitable areas of my business."

A Plan for Success
In 1999 Frank used SuccessWare to create a business plan. "It was the first time I ever had a plan," he confesses. He set his goals in Success Planning, then diligently charted his progress directly against that plan in Success Tracking. The result? After only three years in a brand-new business, his compensation soared to $89,000 — an increase of $53,000 (247%) over his best year in Long Island!
  "I credit many aspects of SuccessWare with these results," he says. "Success Planning gave me goals to shoot for; Success Pricing made sure every product I sell is profitable; and Success Tracking gave me tons of valuable information to keep everything on course." Frank also stresses the importance of one of his favorite features of SuccessWare — it's ability to track and report on inquiring prospects. "No other software has this important capability," he states. "It's helped me to see what phone sales techniques work best and what marketing vehicles are most effective. It's been an invaluable aid in increasing my bottom line."

Sweet Success

In 2000, Frank exceeded his lofty financial goal of achieving $125,000 in compensation by $3,000 from gross sales of $260,00! By sticking to his SuccessWare-generated business plan, he was able to do the types of photography that not only made him profitable, but happy too! With his residential studio business booming, and his reputation as the region's leading baby photographer established, life for the Donnino family was really looking up; but the gods of adversity were ready with some new challenges.

Disaster Strikes!
Forced to leave his home studio because of zoning regulations in 2001, Frank rented a retail space based on what his business plan said he could afford. By 2004 his income was growing to the point that it made more sense to own a building than to rent one, and a sticky landlord situation sealed the deal. Just as he was about to move his family into a new condo and start the studio build-out, two hurricanes scored direct hits on South Florida within two months of each other. With no electricity and life at a virtual standstill, Frank reworked his SuccessWare business plan using a battery-powered laptop computer."I adjusted my plan for this new reality," he explained. "I ran a portrait special in my condo, and by November I was in the new studio." Although his income took a hit, he still finished the year with a salary of well over $100,000!

A Debt-Free Life
"In any business, adversity is always around the corner." Frank says. "But the focus SuccessWare provides me every single day helps me to stay on track. After working with SuccessWare over the past ten years, I now have a wonderful debt-free life for my family through a business that I dearly love."

Helping Others
As Frank's success grew, so did his desire to help other photographers with their business challenges. He developed a baby plan that has helped hundreds of photographers improve their income. Members of his Baby Plan Mastermind group are full of stories about his help, concern, and kindness. In 2008, he was a featured speaker at PPA's Imaging USA, where he shared his baby planning concepts to an audience of several thousand appreciative photographers.

You can learn more about Frank and his studio, Frank Donnino Photography, at his website.

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

More Success Stories

In Frank’s SuccessWare Trends Report, you can see how his business grew over the years through business planning, which he started in 1998, as well has how quickly he rebounded from the twin hurricanes that hit in 2004.


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The number one management question I am asked by portrait and wedding photographers today is: “What kind of software do I need to manage my business?” Until the development of SuccessWare, I'd have to tell them to do as I had done for a decade: use an assortment of existing off-the-shelf software applications (spreadsheet, data base, and bill-paying packages) to patch together a system that provides the essential business data required for making correct management decisions.

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