During their decades doing business, Monica Sigmon and Michael Taylor have experienced many ups and downs. In fact, their perseverance during rough times actually made their business stronger and more stable in the long run. Monica shared with us ideas for handling the challenges facing small business owners today along with ways to keep focused on the bigger picture. You can watch the full interview here.
For small businesses, things fluctuate quickly and unpredictably, especially now. You may be experiencing a roller coaster of emotions. Some days you may feel productive and motivated, while other mornings may leave you wanting to crawl back under the covers. If this describes your current situation, you aren’t alone! Monica Sigmon shared some of her top tips on how to stay focused on the long game rather than making snap decisions based on fear and uncertainty.
As closures and stay-at-home orders first began rolling out, we were inundated with ideas for how to be productive and “take advantage” of this time at home. For some, this was inspiring and helpful, but for others, it caused additional stress and led to what Monica calls the “over-glorification of productivity.” Even if you came out of the gate strong, it was easy to underestimate how emotionally draining this “new normal” would be. No perfectly polished to-do list can change the fact that things are far from normal.
“This is big stuff… none of us have gone through anything like this in our lifetime.”
That’s not to say you should be completely unproductive. There are plenty of ways to maximize this time to work on your business and maybe even explore new avenues. But it is important to remember that you don’t have to push yourself to go, go, go every minute of every day. Go easy on yourself during this time.
With so many forces pushing you to put your head down and keep working, you may end up missing out on a big opportunity right in front of you. This is a unique chance to step back, look at the big picture, evaluate your priorities and long-term business goals... maybe even reconsider the way you spend your time and live your life. You might ask yourself:
“I really thought that the recession was the worst thing we ever could have dealt with.”
From the switch to digital photography to health issues to the great recession, Monica and Michael have been through plenty of business challenges, but they have managed to stay successful, and even come out stronger on the other side of the difficult times. But what about the small businesses that are experiencing their first big roadblock? How do they cultivate a mindset that allows them to persevere and see the potential opportunities? Monica’s advice? DON’T PANIC! Keep thinking about the long game, and always stay true to your brand.
“We all make our worst decisions when we are short on cash.”
It may seem like “no big deal” for a luxury studio to offer a few mini sessions because they need the short term cash flow, but it’s important to remember that it will still take time to recover from that decision as a brand. Instead of making quick decisions in moments of panic or fear, take a moment to breathe and ask yourself, “If we weren’t in our current financial situation, is this something we would say yes to doing?” If the answer is no, and it doesn’t fall into the guidelines of your brand, it’s worth revisiting the idea and really thinking about the long-term effects of the decision before going through with it. You may be thinking, “Well, that’s easy for her to say,” but Monica reminds us that we each have to take our own financial situations into account.
Monica says there have definitely been times that she made decisions she didn’t “love” but did so because she needed to. It’s her ability to reflect on these past decisions that give her the foresight to be much more cautious when making quick decisions in tough times. Despite the bad decisions, Monica and Michael also made some of the best decisions for their business during extremely difficult times—decisions that changed the way they did business for good and helped them maintain long term success.
Now is the perfect time to analyze your business and assess the need for changes. There may be ways you can streamline processes and cut overhead costs to better serve your clients and save money without cutting corners or negatively impacting the customer experience. During the recession, Monica had to really assess costs and trim where she could, which included renegotiating insurance costs and even asking themselves if they really needed four phone lines or if they could get away with only having two! Looking back she can’t believe how much money they were wasting on things they did not actually need in order to be successful.
When a store closes for renovation, they intentionally take time out, close down, shut down revenue, repaint, put in new fixtures, and when they open back up, they have new product, possibly new management, and even a whole new attitude! Everyone is excited to see the big new reveal! We’ve all been in stores that try to stay open during large-scale renovations, and it’s clear that it can be messy, confusing, and unpleasant for customers. Choose to look at these closures as our studios and businesses being closed for renovation and use this opportunity to make changes you wouldn’t have the chance to make with a full calendar of events and sessions.
Focus on social media. Stay in touch with and show up for your clients and your audience. Take advantage of Instagram stories and share behind the scenes things you’re working on. Maybe you are working on new props or backdrops for your studio, maybe you are practicing and learning new skills at home, maybe you are taking webinars and classes to brush up on business or technical skills. These are all things you can share with your audience and help get them excited for when they can finally book their session with you!
Consider picking up the phone and calling clients just to check in on them and let them know that you are thinking about them and their family. For Monica, getting a chance to hop on Zoom calls with her client’s children has been a real highlight for her during this time. She isn’t sure who is more grateful—her, the mother, or the kids! It’s been an opportunity for her to strengthen that client relationship and let them know that she truly cares about them on a deeper level! Monica and Michael also sent care packages to some of their long-time clients just to bring a little levity and joy to them during this time. Email newsletters once a week are also great, says Monica.
No matter what approach you take, put yourself in a position of continuing to offer value to your clients. What do they need right now that you can offer a solution for? How can you help your clients right now and not just with photography related things but also life-related things! How can you befriend your clients and just be a good human during this time?
A body in motion stays in motion. You may not always feel super productive these days, and that’s okay. Show yourself grace! If you can accomplish one step of a larger project or complete one task each day, that is an accomplishment worth being proud of. It is not a race, and you don’t want to lean into feelings of fear or desperation. Breathe, proceed with caution, and be intentional with your actions and decisions.
Don’t forget about the bigger picture during this time and be sure to spend a little time reflecting on these questions:
And then slowly, one step at a time, even if it is only one thing a day, keep moving forward.
Don’t forget that you can watch the entire episode with Monica Sigmon below or view it here on PPA's online education platform where you can also check out hundreds of other inspirational and educational videos!
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