Back in the 90’s while I was off becoming a known wireless engineer I had a great friend who lived in the same town I did. He’d just past 40 years old, had left his military service, and set off to become a small business owner. His business was a really good idea, especially given our proximity to a state college and a sizable young population.
For years as I climbed up the corporate engineering ladder I watched my friend pour his heart and soul into his small business. Most small business owners do that. We give it our all and then some. Still, his business was failing, bills were mounting, and something had to be done.
When I was promoted to the role of Regional Engineering and Operations Manager I gave him a call and threw him a life line. I needed good people, folks who weren’t afraid to work, and people who could learn and adapt. I knew I could count on Doug, and brought him in as a cell tech. Last I heard he still was one. Glad to know I helped out where I could.
The Small Business Dilema
For the vast majority of small business owners it’s hard to know when to pull the plug. If you’ve put everything you have into a business you do hit a point where you literally can do nothing but keep trying to stay afloat. You’ve literally put everything into it. I understood my friend’s situation then, but now being in the same position myself I keep wondering where my “Rich Charpentier” is to toss me a lifeline. Unfortunately I haven’t befriended any grad students who have turned engineer in the past few years, so there’s that.
Currently I’m teetering in my own business thinking. Every photo shoot looks better than the last. Clients love their images. Of course right now I’m shooting my Senior Reps, so that’s a non-paying proposition. The hope is they’ll be good in person advertisement, and it’s worked for other studios. But being busy while not actually paying yourself doesn’t really get you ahead. My books actually show me I’m slipping backwards.
So, I’m happy with my skills and product I offer. Everything is in the business. But I’m not seeing growth, instead I’m seeing the bottom line shrink compared to last year.
On top of everything else, there’s another stress in the business that I can’t write about yet. Soon enough I should be able to say something, but right now commenting on it is a no no. It’s been a constant concern these past few weeks, and it’s not making my enjoyment of work any better.
So, when do you put up the white flag, say enough is enough, and see if McDonalds is willing to teach an old dog new tricks? You know that motivational poster with the kitty hanging from the tree limb? Yeah, “Hang in there.” What you don’t see below the kitty is the pack of ravenous dogs surrounded by some alligators and grizzly bears. Just in case the kitty gets through there’s still the fact that he’s on a desert island surrounded by great white sharks.
Yeah, not a motivational poster moment folks.
When to say when?
So here I sit broken hearted….. Heh, had to add some humor there, and you can finish that line.
Seriously though, for several years I’ve said to myself “Give it a few more months Rich.” And while there have been a few victories now and again the overall business is flatlined to slipping. And once again I’m telling myself to hang in a little longer. But I’ve got to figure a cutoff date, surrender date, whatever you want to call it.
We’re still pushing forward and smiling, helping clients each day. But on the print side the margins are to thin, and on the portrait side I’m competing with so many “free” photographers its tough to get a value proposition across to potential clients. We all want great product at Wal-Mart pricing. Honestly a steady paycheck from Wal-Mart kind of sounds enticing right now.
In the meantime I’ll believe the poster
For now we’re gonna hang in a bit more and see how our Sr. Reps impact the community. Many other photographers have commented on this year’s batch of portrait work in the positive. And you know what they say to me? “If only you lived in a bigger market.” Yeah, tell me about it. 😉
There might be an opportunity at the start of next year. That means I’ll hang in until at least December. That gives us some time to turn it around. We’ll have to see what happens.
In the meantime, I’m left thinking of a few favorite Demotivational posters…….
And finally for the fans of the kitty the folks over at Despair.com have a new poster that I just came across.
Hopefully hanging in there will be the right choice. Guess I’ll get up tomorrow and see how the day goes.