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PPA Today: Benchmark Financial Survey Archives

Recently in Benchmark Financial Survey Category

In the previous post 2 Studios Are Getting a Full Business Makeover This Year! you met PPA Studio Makeover recipients, Wes Roberts and Krista Newbill and read the overview of the makeover process.

Now that the makeovers are underway, you can follow along with their progress! First up is Wes as he and the PPA mentor team dove into the financials of his business.

Wes's Story

The Financials

Wes was super excited to get started. He's been working with PPA's Business Consultant and CPA, Bridget Jackson, to get a handle on where he is currently and the best way to move forward.

First, we always did a complete financial analysis of the studio. It's important to know what's working and what's not. We did this by comparing Wes' studio's numbers to PPA's Benchmark Survey. By comparing his cost of sales, overhead and net profit we started to get a good picture of the pitfalls that are causing monetary loss. We also uncovered potential opportunities for savings.

Wes' numbers looked better than the average benchmark studios in 2013 and 2014. However, his 20% cost of sales percentage doubled between 2013 and 2014. While, in general, 20% is a great number to achieve (below the recommended 25%), we had to figure out what has changed to cause such a drastic uptick and put everything in place to ensure that trend would not continue in 2015.

Second, PPA mentors helped Wes develop a photography business plan for 2015 that included three goals:

  1. the number of sessions he wants to photograph (broken down by month)
  2. the sales average of each session
  3. his net profit

Congratulations to PPA's Benchmark Grand Prize winner Emily Engelhardt, CPP! Emily won an all expense paid trip to Imaging USA this year in Nashville - including roundtrip airfare, accommodations and all access passes to the show for her and a guest. Emily has participated in the Benchmark Survey twice over the past few years, so she's not a newbie when it comes to the benefits this photography business guide can offer. Emily has officially been in business for the past 7 years. And after attending PPA's 3-day Business Breakthroughs workshop in Texas, she became inspired to seek financial advice to take her photography business to the next level. 

"I knew if I wanted to make this a career I needed to be smart about how I ran my studio, and knowing how to appropriately price myself and not getting into debt were both big wins for me," said Emily.

PPA's Benchmark also helped Emily see when to cut back on her expenses, hire a new employee, and look into purchasing the current studio she was renting. Emily explained that being able to see where she stood in relation to other studios in the country gave her a much needed confidence boost. 

When Emily utilized the Benchmark, it opened her eyes to possible investment opportunities. "My quarterly meetings with Bridget [Jackson, CPA] and my mentor, Julia [Woods], also helped me see that I could invest a lot more into my advertising budget, so this year I was able to invest in a large display in a mall in my target area and still gross a 42% net profit. Being able to see that I was right in line with some of the top grossing studios in the country, even if my sales totals weren't as high, my percentages were just as good, if not better,  gave me such a confidence boost, and reassurance that I really was doing well, not just hoping I was."

Before, Emily felt she was winging it with her business. After going through this process, not only is she reassured about the wellness of her business, but now she can analyze her financial budget and plan her next steps, using tangible data that make sense for her and her business.

"Even if you're not a 'numbers' person, it's so helpful to have some kind of standard to look to, not just hearsay," Emily stated.

If you participated in the Benchmark Survey, you can follow in Emily's example later this spring when your side-by-side comparison comes out! Let us know how PPA's Benchmark Survey helped you Be More! Oh, and be on the lookout for this year's new data... coming out soon! 

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Can you believe it's already December? We're winding down the clock as the year comes to a close here at PPA, and that means it's your last chance to take advantage of the Benchmark Survey! Help your business be more by maximizing your profit potential in just a few simple steps with this photography business guide. And don't forget that it's also your last chance to win the grand prize of an all-expenses-paid trip for two to Imaging USA 2015 in Nashville! That means airfare for two, a hotel for four nights, and two all-access passes to the big show. Not a bad way to start the New Year, is it? Just be sure to submit your information for the Benchmark Survey by December 15th to be eligible! 

We're happy to announce that for the month of November we have two Benchmark prize winners--Kimball Nelson and Sheila Rutledge!

Kimball is an experienced landscape photographer and has had the privilege of photographing the Rocky Mountains for much of her life. She also never stops learning as a photographer, routinely attending the Rocky Mountain School of Photography. This yearning to better herself as a photographer led her to PPA and ultimately the Benchmark.
By Bridget Jackson, CPA, PPA Business manager

Have you ever read something and thought to yourself, I could have written that! Today is that day for me. In fact, the entire article could have been my quotes.

The article was 7 Ways to Help Ensure Your Business Succeeds by Donald Todrin. He points out business fundamentals have not changed, but new strategies are required in light of the changing economic conditions. The information is poignant when applied to photography business owners, so I decided to do just that! Here are his seven ways to succeed in business tweaked for what I believe to be strategies for the photography industry.  

1) Have a written plan that should include the following:
 a. A financial plan detailing how many sessions you plan to conduct at a certain sales average, an estimate of how much it will take to produce your products (cost of sales), and an estimate of what your fixed expenses will be.
 b. A source of initial financing until the business is self-sufficient. On average, per the SBA, it takes some businesses 3-5 years until they are sustainably self-sufficient. Knowing this, if you plan to use your personal resources, go at it fully understanding that it will take time to replenish.
 c. A sales plan to achieve your sales average goal. The plan should include a strategy and a price list set up to achieve the goal.
 d. A marketing plan to attract the amount of sessions you need to satisfy your financial plan. The plan should identify your ideal paying client and the appropriate strategy to attract such defined target clientele. Also develop your marketing calendar, detailing the tools to be used, when to use them, and how you will measure your results. (PPA's Square One tool is a great place to start developing your plan.)
 e. Detailed workflow from the initial phone call to the delivery of the products. Outlining each step of your process doesn't only help identify the time required for each session, but it will also help you define outsourcing/employee opportunities.

2) Don't marry your plan. Even the best laid-out plans can eventually go awry. Think of it this way; it's not necessarily the plan that is important, but what we learn from the planning process and how it shapes and guides our future actions.

3) Keep your ego in check and listen to others. The photography industry is unique in some ways in that there are plenty of mentors out there to help guide you. Find one whose business is a reflection of what YOU would like your business to be. Look past the "flashy stuff" towards finding a mentor who is dedicated to their craft and their photography business.

4) Keep track of everything, and manage your numbers. In order to be successful, it is imperative as a studio that you know how many sessions you need to hold in order to reach your goals. The results of this analysis can tell you if your sales and marketing plans are working. It's that plain simple. And if they are not working, it may be time to reassess. PPA has made it easy for you to evaluate your numbers. Just go check the online tools, Square One in particular, that will help you establish the basis of managerial accounting.

5) Delegate and avoid micromanaging. This is where your detailed workflow (see 1e) comes into play. It is important for you to remember that you don't have to do everything. In the beginning, it might make sense, but as your business grows, carve out specific outsourcing opportunities using your detailed workflow. The photography business tends to be seasonal so keep that in mind as well when you are creating your plan. If you find yourself needing help year round, then it is time to take the steps needed to hire on an additional employee.

6) Use the internet! Social media is one marketing tool that is inexpensive but vitally important to building your business. It takes time and effort but if you schedule it ahead of time and take advantage of off-season opportunities to pre-post, it will become easier.  More importantly, it is pertinent that you do it consistently in order to be effective. Look outside of our industry to see how profitable companies take advantage of free marketing tools.

7) Reinvent your business. Seriously. If you don't like what your numbers are telling you, make a change. Of course, map out your change, but always remember that it is ok to take calculated risks. It's not about what you gross, but what you keep in our pockets. Assess your business from a different perspective. Ask yourself what your competitive advantage is. What niche could you carve out of your competitive market, and how could you provide better customer service to elevate your value? Discounting brings down your market's perception of your value so instead of playing the pricing war, exceed your clients' expectations by delivering more!

You have made a conscious choice to be a photographer, one that requires time and money. Always give yourself the best chance to succeed in this ever-changing profession. Knowledge is power--and as an entrepreneur, you are on an endless path to discover what you don't know. This is what PPA is here for: to help you be more profitable by continuing to learn about the photography business!

jacksonbridget_blog.jpgAbout the author:
Bridget Jackson is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and PPA Business manager. Over the years, Bridget has helped hundreds of photography studios become more profitable. 

PPA's Benchmark Survey, to the uninitiated, is an amazing tool that can help PPA photographers maximize their profit potential. If that isn't convincing enough, as an added incentive, we've been giving away prizes to several lucky winners. It's a pretty sweet way to not only figure out all of the numbers you need to achieve what you want in business, but to also potentially win big!

We've heard from a few of our previous winners over the past couple of weeks and this week we're super excited to announce a brand new winner--Paul Jew!

Paul has photographed a huge variety of subjects--from celebrities to presidents, so the ability to compare books with other diverse businesses is important to his bottom line. "I think it is helpful to share so you can compare your business to other studios. Without this comparison, it would be difficult to assess how our business is doing compared to our peers. It's very important to have this knowledge." Paul used PPA's Benchmark survey as his photography business guide and it was easy. Remember, the knowledge is just a few clicks away!

For participating in the survey, Paul is taking home a $500 gift card to Showcase Inc.! Not a bad way to kick off the holidays (yes, there are already Christmas decorations popping out everywhere).

PPA's Benchmark Survey is the industry's only complete financial overview that depicts what profitable successful money-making studios (the kind you want to be) look like. That's unlike any other industry averages that only give you, well, averages. Having access to information that shows what high-performing studios look like has been helping photographers form a better idea of where they stand and how they can improve their bottom line. Please consider giving it a try! It really helps!

How? On top of the survey, digestible summaries, and an easy projection tool, participating studio-owners get a side-by-side comparison of the Benchmark with their own financial data. And this comes free for PPA photographers! Not only is this an in-depth source of information to help you grow your business, it is a $750 value (or more!). As a bonus, if you participate, you're also automatically entered each month in some giveaway drawings for great prizes! This month, participants are entered to win a one-year subscription to Sticky Albums or a $250 gift card to Adorama.

Don't forget about this awesome little nugget of information: In addition to the monthly giveaways, all participants are also entered into a drawing for an all-expense-paid trip for two photographers to Imaging USA 2015 in Nashville. That includes airfare for two, hotel for 4 nights and two all-access pass Imaging USA registrations. Submit your info today!


The Benchmark Survey is an amazing tool to help you PPA photographers be morebenchmark_october_prize.jpg profitable. To sweeten the pot, we've been giving away some sweet prizes to some lucky winners to go along with the joy of easily figuring out the numbers you need to reach to live the life you want. 

And we have two winners this month! We've previously heard from June's winner Heather Sams, CPP, July's winner A. Michael Fletcher and August winner David H. Smith about why they find the Benchmark Survey to be so helpful. This month, we have two winners in Robin Swanson, M.Photo.Cr., CPP and Mia Stevens! 

Robin is an award-winning photographer who specializes in weddings. "This is the first time I participated in the Benchmark Survey," she said. "My business has changed significantly in the past year and I felt that it is important to share this information to help others in the industry." 

For submitting his information in the survey, Robin was able to win a brand new Spyder4PRO!

Mia Stevens is another award-winning wedding and portrait photographer. "I participated in the Benchmark Survey because it shows hard percentages that if implemented correctly can make you more money," she said. "Who doesn't want more money?" 

Mia walked away with a $300 gift certificate to TetherTools--not a bad way to start the fall!

PPA's Benchmark Survey is the industry's only complete financial overview depicting what profitable studios look like (unlike other industry averages). As such, it has been helping photography businesses form a better idea of where they stand and how they can improve their bottom line. Participating studio-owners get a free side-by-side comparison of the Benchmark to their own financial data. Not only is this an in-depth source of information to help them grow their business, it is a $750 value (or more!), as PPA develops a customized comparison that is the first step in determining what to change for greater success. As a bonus, participants are automatically entered each month in some giveaway drawings for great prizes. 

Ready to better your business and get a chance at winning October's prize? There is a $500 Showcase Photo & Video gift card to be won! Go to PPA.com/Benchmark to participate!

But wait, there's more: All participants are also entered into a drawing for an all-expense-paid trip for two photographers to Imaging USA 2015 in Nashville. That includes airfare for two, hotel for 4 nights and two all-access pass Imaging USA registrations. Submit your info today! 

Benchmark_October_Prize_250x.jpgAt PPA, we know that photographers are always looking for business guides to help them stay profitable. One tool provided by PPA that we often hear is useful for members is the Benchmark Survey! We've previously heard from June's winner Heather Sams, CPP and July's winner A. Michael Fletcher about why they find PPA's business guide, the Benchmark Survey, to be so helpful. But don't take our word for it; instead, take a look at what David. H. Smith of Phoenix, AZ has to say about it (he's the August winner!).

David has nearly three decades of experience in photography. At his studio, he specializes in high school seniors, engaged couples, families and fashion models. While he prides himself on creating unique imagery and experiences for his clients, the Benchmark Survey has also been essential to his success. 

"Learning, participating and using the Benchmark Survey has been extremely valuable in making sure I am able to keep doing what I love to do. Comparing the performance of our studio to the recommendations from the Benchmark has helped us put certain goals in place. It has also helped us position our business, so that it is financially profitable and remains as such for years to come; it was like having my own photography business guide," David said of his experience.
 
PPA's Benchmark Survey is the industry's only complete financial overview depicting what profitable studios look like (unlike other industry averages). As such, it has been helping photography businesses form a better idea of where they stand and how they can improve their bottom line. Participating studio-owners get a free side-by-side comparison of the Benchmark to their own financial data. Not only is this an in-depth source of information to help them grow their business, it is a $750 value (or more!), as PPA develops a customized comparison that is the first step in determining what to change for greater success! As a bonus, participants are automatically entered each month in some giveaway drawings for great prizes. For submitting his information in August, David won a $500 B&H gift card!

Ready to better your business and get a chance at winning October's prize? There is a $500 Showcase Photo & Video gift card to be won! Go to PPA.com/Benchmark to participate!
 
But wait, there's more: all participants are also entered into a drawing for an all-expense paid trip for two photographers to Imaging USA 2015 in Nashville. That includes airfare for two, hotel for 4 nights and two all-access pass Imaging USA registrations. Submit your info today! 
For photographers with businesses new and old, the Benchmark Survey has been proven to
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 help their businesses. Don't believe us? You heard from June's winner, Heather Sams, CPP, who started her own studio seven years ago. Now, meet A. Michael Fletcher, CPP, of Figge Photography in Newport Beach, California. His family's studio dates back to 1946.

"We're a family of photographers," Fletcher said. "Two master photographers founded our studio, and though we lapsed as members for a spell, we rejoined PPA in 2008 and are so thankful that we did!"

PPA's Benchmark Survey is the industry's only complete financial snapshot and has been helping businesses get a better idea of where they stand and how they can improve their bottom line. Survey participants get a free side-by-side comparison of the results to their financial data. Plus, participants are automatically entered in the monthly giveaway for great prizes. This month, Fletcher won a $500 American Express gift card.

"The Benchmark Survey allows us to measure our success, ferret out our shortcomings and focus on creating solutions, not just for us but everyone who is a PPA member," Fletcher said. "We're proud to be included in this year's survey, and we can't wait for the results!"

Want to better your business and have a chance at winning August's prize - a $500 gift card to B&H? Go to PPA.com/Benchmark and participate!

Think about it: how useful has filling out a survey ever been to you? Well, for Heather Sams, CPP, from Fountain, CO, not only has it helped her business be more profitable, but she also won an iPad mini. How?

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PPA's Benchmark Survey, of course. The industry's only complete financial snapshot, it's been helping businesses get a better idea of where they stand and how they can improve their bottom line. Survey participants get a free side-by-side comparison of the results to their financial data. With that kind of valuable info, the monthly giveaways for survey participants only seem like an added bonus!

Sams has been in the photography industry for over a decade, and previously used the Benchmark to put together a business plan when starting her portrait studio seven years ago. "What's great about Benchmark is that it puts all the industry information in one location that businesses can easily use," she said.

Since building up her business, Sams knew the importance of the survey to her success. "I was excited just to have been able to participate in the Benchmark Survey this year! It's such an extensive tool that the industry has access to that it just made sense for me to take the time to do it."

She never considered the fact that she could win the monthly giveaway. "When I found out that I won, I thought it was the coolest thing ever. It was super easy to participate, but winning an iPad really takes the cake. I was on cloud nine!"

And as a true dedicated professional, Sams already has plans to incorporate the iPad mini into her business. "I photograph executives, and they like seeing portraits and galleries immediately. Having a device that can make this happen will be great for my business," she said. "I'm grateful that I had the chance to participate in the survey."

Want to get in on all the Benchmark awesomeness? Check out PPA.com/benchmark and enter for your chance to win this month's prize. And don't fret! There will be more through the end of the year!

PPA's Benchmark Survey can seem like a bit of an abstract concept. How in the world can sharing some of your financial information with PPA help you make more money? 

When you participate in the survey, your information gets (anonymously) combined with hundreds of other profitable photography studios from around the country. Professional studios that have: 

• Grossed a minimum of $25,000 in sales in 2013

• Received at least 50% of their business from portraits (including high school seniors) or from weddings

By comparing how the top businesses (in the same boat you are in) perform, PPA's Benchmark helps you easily understand why some studios are so successful, why others fall short on profitability, and what pitfalls you should avoid. It is the one and only comprehensive financial analysis available that helps study profitable professional photography businesses. 

You already work in a very specialized field, so this is good information and financial guidance that takes your specialty into consideration. Use it! When you participate in PPA's Benchmark Survey, there are a ton of benefits too! 

• You get your very own, personal, tailored copy of the Survey results and how they compare to your business. 

• You'll see in plain English where you're falling short and where you are kicking business butt. 

• You'll be able to fix the items that need a little love and you'll be sure to be raking in the profits! 

"I was so excited and proud to participate in the Benchmark Survey, as it meant my business was at the level of other participating studios! It was super easy to enter my information, and I am glad I could contribute to something that I have used in my business," said Heather Sams from Fountain, CO who participated in June this year. 

Not only did Heather get her data in, she also walked away with an iPad mini! - did we forget to mention that? Every month there are some crazy awesome drawings! If you submit your information by July 30th, you'll be entered to win a $500 American Express gift card! 500 bucks! That's some serious dough for a little bit of work. Oh, and those who participate will automatically be entered in the drawings each month!  

Are you ready to create a stronger and healthier business? Start here! 





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