Do you know your numbers? We heard this question at Imaging over and over and over again. "You should know your numbers." "You MUST know your numbers!" "Don't you know your numbers?" Everyone was talking about it--the folks at the PPA's Studio Management Service's booth, the speakers in the lectures, even the bathroom attendant in our hotel might have mentioned it. The last one there is a bit weird but it illustrates the point that knowing your numbers is clearly VERY important. My problem? I think I have too many numbers. And many of them are just plain NOT GOOD.
5 The number on the clock when my eyelids fling open every morning right before I start thinking about work and panic sets in.
2,800 The number that some of my camera gear was valued at. I sent it off in November to a company online that buys used camera gear. I was promised a check which... you guessed it...didn't arrive as promised.
7 The number of times I contacted the aforementioned company to inquire as to the whereabouts of my check and/or my equipment.
2 The number of complaints I filed with the Better Business Bureau before I got a response from the company and a check for $2800.
(Negative) 79 The number in my bank account after the check I received for my equipment bounced.
1 The number of times I've used the word "flabbergasted" in my life, this particular time in an email demanding a certified bank check be sent overnight to cover the bounced check. Okay, make that 2 times I've used the word flabbergasted in my life.
3 The number of times I had to re-order a printed promotional piece from WHCC this week because my brain is so frazzled that I put the wrong phone number and then the wrong address on it (case in point: too many numbers!).
145 The amount it cost us each time I ordered it.
3,427 The amount of money Verizon said they were charging me for this month's cell phone bill. (Murderous thoughts directed at my teenage son inserted here).
911 The number I called to report a heart attack after receiving that piece of information from Verizon. Good thing I knew that number.
256 The actual amount I owed Verizon. It was merely a typo. Phew.
4,252 The number in dollars that I owe Rhode Island for sales tax this month. Ouch.
37 The number of wedding inquiries we've received since the last wedding we booked in November.
Zero The number of weddings we've booked since November. Clearly the most depressing number of all.
At this point, I'm not sure that knowing my numbers is good for my health. Since I've started thinking about my numbers I've had daily panic attacks that I'm sure are actually heart attacks, though the paramedics say I am fine and asked me to stop calling them.
Truth is, I'd really like to kick these numbers in the ass. They are taunting me with their smug, unchanging, arrogant selves. It's time someone taught these numbers a lesson. So I started thinking about these numbers and how I could really kick them where it counts.
I was watching the movie The Illusionist the other night for the 100th time (Ed Norton is my celebrity crush, but I digress...) and I realized these numbers are like illusionists. The illusionist says, "Now watch this very closely," and I stare intently at what those tricky little numbers are doing, ignoring the rest of what's happening on stage. Before you know it, I'm fooled. Not this time, numbers. I'm on to you. I am going to find out what's going on behind the curtain.
Zero is the first number I need to investigate. What is up with booking ZERO weddings in 2.5 months with 37 inquiries? 37 was a VERY distracting number until I looked at it more closely. Of those 37 inquiries, we were only actually available for 15 of them. Recently Trish and I decided to tag-team weddings, cutting in half the number of potential bookings. So, that number makes sense and 15 is a bit more digestible. But out of 15 weddings it seems that least 1 would have booked us. So I looked even closer. Of the 15, 2 are in communication with me and "fingers crossed" it looks like they may book. So, now we have 13. Of the 13, 4 of the inquiries are for next year. Those brides will probably take their time deciding because they are still a little ahead of the game, so that leaves 9 definite NO's. Hmmm...
Whenever people ask (and they always do), "What do you do in the winter? Do you like take a couple months off and go on exotic vacations or something while there's no work to do?" I un-cringe my face and politely reply, "No, actually we are just as busy in the winter. Most brides are booking their photographers then so there are a lot of meetings, and of course we are working on albums." It dawned on me that this might be a big fat lie. Am I really always busy in the winter meeting brides? Is that when we book the most weddings? For some reason I seem to think so, but what do the numbers say? Trish and I got examined our contracts for the last 4 years and started calculating exactly when people book (i.e. when did they make that first deposit?). And guess what? April...and June through September. Huh! Consider me enlightened. We are probably just so busy and numb in the summer that we are literally booking weddings in our sleep. In fact, in 4 years the average number of weddings booked in the winter months is 7.5. So, while that number isn't overwhelming, I think we can all agree it is better than zero. What could account for that?
Bargain shopping. Every single wedding we have booked in the winter had received a significant discount. Surely that occurred partly from our desperation to drum up some money but we also had an associate photographer we were booking at a fraction of what we charge now. See? The numbers aren't always what they seem!
This has been a lot of math but bear with me- I have one more equation for you. We got 9 definite NO's from our recent inquiries, and we've discovered that we are about 7.5 weddings off our average number of bookings for the last 4 years. Through our powers of absolute recall we have also decided that those 7.5 were tire-kicking pains in our butts, and we wouldn't be sad to lose THOSE clients. So, now we are only really off about 1.5 weddings since as I mentioned earlier we have two pretty good leads in the hopper. So now who's (potentially) up a half a wedding? Take THAT numbers!
Suddenly REALLY knowing my numbers makes me feel a lot less hopeless. We should all know our numbers. What is your Cost of Sales? What do you want to make? What do you need to charge? These are all really important numbers. The amazing, supportive, and infinitely patient consultants at PPA's Studio Management Services can help you figure that out, just like they helped me. But don't stop there! There are other numbers to be uncovered, investigated, and in some cases obliterated! I am a math doofus- if I can do it anyone can. It's time for you to take charge.
Just remember, some of these numbers are terrorists and the first rule of dealing with terrorist is NO NEGOTIATION. Wait them out, find out where they are weak, and then swoop in and kick the crap out of them.
I leave you with a slightly modified quote from Good Will Hunting:
Will: Do you like
Will: Well, I got her some numbers. How do you like them