Business Planning: Starting with the End in Mind Pt 2
Yowza….man it has taken a long time to get this part two published. Guess I am shirking in my duties. It has been a productive few weeks. Alright so I am going to pick-up part-two of “Business Planning, Starting with the end in mind”.
We left with taking a look at the “why” part of planning our business from the start. If you did a structured business plan usually the planning is comprehensive enough where many questions would arise that make you consider factors regarding lifestyle. But my whole point in talking about this is getting outside the box and digging deep into what we really want. It has always amazed me that it took me so long to really dive into this whole process. Being ADD I just floated around from interest to interest having fun. Very cool, but not conducive to arriving at a specific destination regarding lifestyle goals.
Part of the challenge is lack of instruction part of it stinkin’ thinkin’. Not really believing we can do what we want. How do we attack this “lifestyle” part of planning our lives? What tools can we use to try and figure out our weaknesses, strengths, likes and dislikes? Good question. I will go through a few I have found to be helpful. I also will be putting together a workbook in the future on this. It is important, in fact I think it is critical to the overall business planning to take a peak at the lifestyle portion. Tim Ferris’ book is probably the closest thing to a primer I have seen on the subject. If you haven’t read Tim’s book you should. “The Four Day Workweek”. It will challenge you to think outside the box. It made me realize I hadn’t done as good of a job as I thought I did when planning my new venture. Looking at the realm of possibilities in a different light also was refreshing.
Here is one thing that came about from my lifestyle planning process. I have a product that is coming out down the road. It teaches step by step parts of business planning and one area focuses on how to sell fine art prints or photography services online. As I was going through various areas of a pre-launch sequence for the currently named “Angel of Hope” series of fine art prints, I switched my thinking. It went from “control freak”, i.e. printing my images myself, to looking at outsourcing the whole thing. As an artist that is tough. I want to control the quality. From a lifestyle perspective though printing in-house is an issue. I want to create, not necessarily be a lab tech (even though I enjoy the process). If I continue on the current path I will get busier and busier with printing and fulfillment and have less time to write, shoot and paint. The more successful my marketing and sales are the less successful my goals toward lifestyle become. What?! Yep, discovered a major incongruency. My old entrepreneur self says no biggie…just hire more people. Yeah except I have been there and that’s not what I am looking for. I want total net dollars of X based on total time of X.
That sent me back to the research side again. Because in this instance I am working with a “physical” product (fine art prints on canvas and watercolor paper) it creates some challenges. How do I get the product to my client without me touching it? Easy, a fulfillment house…there are thousands of them. Ok, but in my planning I want no inventory. Uh, ok where so I find a fulfillment house tied to a pro lab that prints on-demand?
So far I haven’t found it. The Pro Photo labs are close except I have to physically send the order. I want the order automatically sent when my client hits the button. I want it packaged with my branding and so forth. I am still working on that. The print houses that work with fine artist are closer than photo labs so far. The point is though that if I had not done the planning I would have worked very hard to get my print sales up only to find out it didn’t fit with my end goals.
Specific to a client who buys fine art, when they hit the site and decides they want to purchase a print, I want my job to be done other than continuing my relationship with them. I want my job to be: 1-find clients, 2-create work clients want to buy, and 3-provide a way for my clients to purchase. I know how to automate some of it. I want to automate all of it except for the creation of the art. If it were only a digital product I would be there already. Also it is obviously different if it is a commissioned portrait.
My whole business has been re-created in the past year. I wanted to get as far away as possible from anything that involves trading time for dollars. So for me that includes open booking sessions for seniors, children, families or weddings. I got rid of weddings entirely. I raised my prices on seniors to be the most expensive in the area and I only will do 25 (currently). No families. Children are photographed according to projects I have now or coming up. It is a three year plan to get everything switched. Here is my thinking. Even if I lived in an area that I could be highly specialized, like only commissioned portraits, and only children. If I booked 4 appointments daily at 1000.00 a piece for the sitting, I still am trading time for dollars. I want to create. But not create on demand. And I want to get to where I get paid more than once for those creations. The reason I need my business to get there is I want time. I don’t have a goal of being the best photographer, or the best painter. My goals are to produce my income on 1 day a week and from anywhere. Why? I want to chill with my kids. It must come back to that ADD thing where I just want to have fun.
It is true I have many different interests I want to explore and get better at. Why can’t I leave for the summer with Allison and the kids and live in Argentina or Italy? Canoe down the Amazon, base jump in Lauterbrunnen, Journey to Tibet and climb 10 of the 100 peaks there in excess of 19,000 feet, Take a Zero gravity flight in Russia (now offered in the US too! Can you just picture the look on the face of your 12 year old. Priceless.) I believe I can. Maybe not tomorrow but I am certain with the proper planning in place I am there in my three year time frame.
So, check it out. Do some dreaming, figure out why you are actually working doing what you do then change your business plan to reflect those dreams. Do those things now. Waiting until retirement to do that stuff is a joke. I don’t know who said it but, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away.” Live, laugh and love.