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From the Desk of The President - PPA Today

From the Desk of The President

By Mariah Ashley

I would like to officially announce my candidacy for the office of President.

(Cheers and Applause)

Oh wait a minute; I'm going to need to retract that statement. I'm already the president around here. In fact, I've served two and a half terms.

I know it seems pretty important and glamorous, being the most powerful woman in my office and all, but have you ever seen the side-by-sides of the presidents before and after their terms? Ouch! Being President DOES NOT do a body good- check it out

Wrinkles are in fact... bipartisan.

Whether you are the President of the United States or President of your Small Business, the job description is the same; 24-hours a day, 7 days a week. Endless worry, countless decisions and constant public scrutiny. Success in pleasing your constituents? Unlikely. 

So who would want this for themselves? Well, Hillary, Ted, and Rand so far but maybe they'll give that a second thought after they read my blog post. Sure, right now they're all caught up in their patriotic passion to serve their country but do they realize what a grind the next four years will actually be for them?

I mean, you have got to wear A LOT of hats when you are president. I can't believe how many decisions I have to make in the course of the work week. I heard on NPR once that President Obama does not make any non-essential decisions. He has so many big decisions to make that he's eliminated all choices like, what to wear, what to eat etc. He simply does not have room for one more decision. I think maybe George W. Bush said it best when he famously said, "I am the decider." I hate to admit it, but he was right if, you are president you are the decider. Period. That's what you do, you decide.

The thing is, everything (including your skin) turns grey when you become president. It seems like much of the frustration with our elected officials comes from wanting them to take a hard line on an issue. I'm here to tell you, as someone who sits in the big chair, it's nearly impossible to boil things down to black and white and all that grey is exhausting. Let me illustrate with three examples of presidential decisions I had to make this week.

Foreign Policy


The vice president and I had a two-hour Saturday sales meeting with future wedding clients. They chose several beautiful albums (made in the USA I might add), and some framing. Their order came in at just under $4K. Not bad for a Satur-day's work. Before they left our office we openly discussed the cost and I told them I would send them an invoice that they could pay in two parts. So far so good right? 

Fast forward and Monday rolled around as it often does. There was a message in my inbox from the clients which said... We need to talk. Dunt..dunt..dunnn. I called them back, (it's best to face these things straight on) and this is how the conversation went ...

Client: Hi Mariah, It was great seeing you on Saturday, thanks for meeting with us.

The Prez: Great seeing you guys too, how can I help you?

Client: Well... We loved everything we chose but we have some concerns, namely the price tag.

The Prez: Oh?

The Client: See, I've had my virtual assistant ...

The Prez: what the?

The Client: some research and it seems I can get my wedding albums from India at a fraction of the price that you are charging.

The Prez: (flabbergasted silence)

The Client: So I'm just wondering what reason you would give me for paying you so much more when I can get a similar product so much cheaper.

The Prez: From India? (blood pressure reaching dangerous levels)

The Client: Yes, from India. I've just got to put the brakes on this wedding spending. Things have gotten out of control, we have had a lot of unforeseen expenses moving abroad and I'd also like to know if there's any wiggle room with the quote you gave us.

I would really have liked to answer "no comment", because I think that's what you are supposed to do when your tongue is about to get you in trouble, but instead I tried to educate my client on the virtues of having us, "the experts", design his albums, not to mention the quality of customer service and the quality of the products themselves. He was not convinced so I told him I'd need a few days to think about it, a useful version of the no comment tactic. 

After some thought I concluded that basically what the client was asking me was this, "Isn't getting some of my money better than me giving all of my money to India?" 

A big decision needed to be made.

Here's what I told him: 

I understand that you guys want to stick with what you picked out during your visit, and trust me I would LOVE to offer you a discount, but unfortunately we do have a strict policy of no discounts. 


Basically, it just wouldn't be fair to the rest of our clients. We've probably had a half-dozen clients place orders similar to yours since your visit, and they've all paid our full price. That being said, we feel it would be hard to face those clients if we turned around and gave discounts to someone else. 


Like you said, it's a small business so personal relationships with our clients are very important and I wouldn't want to jeopardize it by not treating everyone equally. A no discounts policy across the board makes it fair for everyone and lets me sleep at night. And inversely, discounts across the board would put us out of business in no time flat! 


Hope you understand. We understand if you decide to do your albums elsewhere as you mentioned. All I can say as a consolation is that you'd be very happy with our end product and we will of course take excellent care of you.


All the Best,

The Prez

I haven't heard from him since and I don't expect to. That was a hit for the wallet but I've got to do what's right for the country company. No sooner had I made that decision, than another one came along.

The Presidential Pardon and Diplomacy

Next up was an email in my inbox from a mother of the bride. A few months ago, she had also come to see us for a sales meeting and picked out an album and frame for herself as well as for the bride and groom. Her order was about $5K and she had paid half. The other half was coming due shortly (of course). Dunt..dunt..dunnn.

Side note: The wedding has not actually happened yet, so we haven't actually ordered her items yet.

Anyway, you can see where this is going. Her email went something like this:

Hi Mariah!

Good news and bad news. The good news is John and Mary have found a GREAT condo that they are going to buy. The bad news is my husband and I are giving them money for a down payment. We've told them that now they'll have to purchase their own wedding album, which they are going to hold off on doing until they get their finances in order. We'll keep the items I ordered for myself. Hopefully the deposit I gave will cover that. I hope you understand. Apologies for pulling back on the portrait and album order.


the MOB

What's a President to do with news like this? Fire off an angry response? A drone? Cold War? It's tempting. It seems justified. But, is that really what's best for the company? Here's what I came up with while white knuckling my mouse:

Dear MOB, 


Thanks for the update, sounds like a good opportunity for Mary and John.

I made the changes you asked for. Your album order is now paid in full.


 We'll be happy to help Bronwen and Aaron when they are ready to do their album- life happens!

 And hey, they'll need a fab wedding photo to hang on the wall of their beautiful new condo!


 Thanks! Have a great day!


Man! We can't catch a break...took a hit on that one too, now we're down $6K ... let's hope it all shakes out when we go to balance the budget! Okay, two hard choices resolved, you'd think my popularity in the polls would be climbing right? Next up, decision number three...

Presidential Veto and Writing New Policy

A past client resurfaced to say she was ready to order her wedding alum, yay! We price our albums for 75 photos, and she had gone through and picked exactly 75. No up-sell there, but let's not get greedy right? The vice president/ resident album expert designed her a beautiful album and presented it to her for her approval. She did not approve. The conversation went like this:

Bride: I really just want one photo per page and NO white space at all around the photo.

VP: But the album is square, all your photos will be cropped A LOT.

Bride: That's okay with me, it's what I really want.

VP: We don't normally do that and the albums are priced for about 40 spreads. If you do one photo per page you'll need almost double that. There would be an extra charge for that.

Bride: How much?

VP: $420

Bride: We can't afford that. This is a stretch as it is.

VP: Well then maybe you'd reconsider and we could do some with one photo and other pages with two.

Bride: That isn't what I want and your price list says 75 photos it doesn't say how many pages that is.

VP: Well I guess you found a loophole, I'll need to talk to the Prez.

I do have the power to veto this chick into next year and it's tempting to exercise that right... but she had legitimately found a loophole in our policy. I could have argued that she had seen all of the sample albums and none of them featured this square one photo per page look she was hung up on, and that would have been a valid point. I could also just have said "No, I veto you because I'm the President and I said so, neener- neener." That wouldn't have made her a Snap fan though, now would it? Instead, I reluctantly authorized the ridiculous album at no extra charge and quickly re -wrote all of my policy and pricing so as not to get caught in a loophole again. Lesson learned. 

My point about wearing all these hats is that I take my hat off to all of my fellow business owners out there. You're fighting the good fight making these endless decisions for your business and not really knowing how it's all going to shake out. The future is uncertain isn't it? All you can do is what you think is right and try to lead your company with some grace, truth and dignity. 

You made some other decisions too, and they shouldn't be overlooked. You decided to believe in yourself and start a business (that's amazing!), you decided to create beauty in this world and share it with others (you're brave!), you decided to create a life for yourself where you have flexibility of work schedule and private time (you're in control!). You are a not only a decider, but you're a powerful example to the world of hard work, dedication, and passion. Keep it up!

Viva la Presidente!

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Professional Photographers of America (PPA) published on April 21, 2015 9:56 PM.

7 Tips for Taking Beautiful Family Photos was the previous entry in this blog.

It's World Copyright Day! Do You Know Your Copyrights? is the next entry in this blog.

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