President’s Message: Be a Lifelong Learner

©Carolle Dachowski

May is the month when students (and most educators) are either dreaming about what the summer holds or are as excited about their next adventures as they are about graduating. Taking a page from their excitement, it’s a great time of year to think about your education, both business and personal, and ponder how it enables your success.

School was not something I loved as a child. I enjoyed the learning, but only the things I wanted to learn about. I loved art and history. The other subjects, not so much. It’s not that I felt the other subjects were worthless or that my potential might be stunted if I didn’t get a handle on them. It was that I wanted to focus on the subjects that interested me. In short, I was an immature learner.

When my wife and I opened our studio, we were the embodiment of we-don’t-know-what-we-don’t-know. Like many other brand-new photography entrepreneurs, we spent a lot of time working on refining the craft. We believed that if we made good images, the market would respond by making us successful.

I loved making images. I still do. But the problem with our studio was our lack of business education. It wasn’t that we didn’t know we needed business education. We knew we did, but we didn’t know where to find it or who to trust to deliver it. And let’s face it, learning to budget is not as immediately fulfilling as creating new art. The Small Business Administration in our state had some solid resources, but we needed photography-focused business education to help us create a studio that was sustainable and profitable. It wasn’t until we joined PPA and went to Imaging USA that we even fathomed how much education we were lacking. Suffice to say, it may have been just dumb luck that we’d survived our own ignorance of basic business principles.

“It was tempting to try to implement the 47 things we loved, but that wouldn’t have served our goal of establishing a strong, consistent business. Pick three things; do them right away.”

Jeffrey Dachowski

The classes we took at Imaging USA literally saved our fledgling studio. We took several full-day pre-convention classes that gave us a needed boost and became the base of our business education. PPA still offers full-day business classes at Imaging USA and has an online education platform with nearly 1,000 videos covering just about every segment of education you might need to make your business thrive this year.

Another avenue we found to be beneficial was attending educational events at our local PPA Affiliates. Being in New England, we could travel by car to six different groups in just a few hours and attend any of the workshops hosted by those organizations. On Monday morning when we returned to the studio, we’d implement three things we learned. No matter how many pages of notes we took or how many awesome ideas we heard, we made sure to put our education into practice right away. It was tempting to try to implement the 47 things we loved, but that wouldn’t have served our goal of establishing a strong, consistent business. Pick three things; do them right away.

The key to finding long-term success is having a willingness to learn. I encourage you to look through the offerings on and into other forms of education that might help you grow. If you’ve always wanted to learn how to weld, gather information about a welding class in your area. If you’re interested in learning to speak German, find a local resource or a reasonable online alternative. Fascinated by beautiful tapestries and want to learn to weave? Locate a local fiber arts store and take a class to see what develops. The time you invest in your business education will pay off at the end of the year. The time you invest in your development as a learner will pay off for the rest of your life. 

Jeffrey Dachowski operates a photography studio in Bedford, New Hampshire, with his wife, Carolle.