In this series of blog posts we are introducing people who are speaking at Inspire 2014. Today we’d like to introduce you to Michelle Turner of Michelle Turner Photography who will be leading a Weds morning workshop on Posing and Composition: The Art of the Environmental Portrait
You own a business and things are going well! Perhaps you have clients that you like and you have a good source of referrals-- your business is thriving.
So, what's the problem?
As business owners, we pour our hearts and our souls into our work. It can be difficult to set up boundaries and recognize (and accept) a need for change, especially if you are running a "successful" business. If you've been in business long enough, you have probably weathered several of these "storms," or times when you simply needed to make a change for your own sanity. "If it isn't broken, don't fix it" simply doesn't hold when your personal life is suffering.
In my case, the need for change happens every three years-- things will be going well and the business will be thriving, but I'll reach the end of my rope and get to the point where my business is running me instead of the other way around. I will be MISERABLE.
In my first few years of business, it happened when I found myself working 80 hour weeks and answering emails at 11pm on a Sunday. I realized that I had no boundaries, and my personal life was suffering for it. I was happy-- well, maybe not HAPPY, but at least I derived a lot of satisfaction from the fact that I was running a successful business. But the center couldn't hold-- I had to make a change in the way that I did things or sacrifice everything in my personal life that *actually* made me happy. It was difficult to recognize that and make that change, but in the end it was better for me and better for my business. I was afraid that I would lose clients when I set boundaries, but I didn't-- in the end I'd like to think that it made my business more successful and it started to look more professional to my clients.
The next crisis came when my destination business took off. Once again, it's a good thing, right? Well, I realized quickly that I didn't have any down time. You know that end-of-season, grumpy time when you are ready to jump down the throat of anyone that comes calling? That was me. All. The. Time. I would transition directly from the end of the New England season in October to the beginning of the destination season. I was burning the candle at both ends, and once again I found myself with a successful business that just wasn't working for me. It was scary to make the decision to intentionally take a month off every summer, because after all, who can predict what the "busy" month is going to be? I was nervous to turn away the work without knowing how the rest of the year would shape up, but in the end it was a change that was necessary for me AND my business.
The last crisis came last year when a good friend of mine (Stacey Kane, for those of you that know her) made a comment during one of our long phone conversations. I'll never forget that moment. She said, "I just realized that this is my last summer with my daughter at home. Next year she'll be going off to college, and I just don't want to spend my last summer with her working every Saturday." That conversation hit me like a punch in the gut. Now, my kids aren't that old-- they are still in elementary school, and as I already mentioned in the previous paragraph, I had already started taking off a month every summer to spend time with them. So, I wasn't worried about our last summer together, but it DID make me think of the other things that I was missing. Like those soccer tournaments on beautiful fall weekends or baseball games in the spring sunshine. School plays on Saturday evenings and parties with their friends' families. I was missing them all, and Stacey's comment made me realize that they wouldn't be there forever for me to catch up on them.
Once again, I found myself in a tough position. How could I take off Saturdays when I photographed weddings? Surely I couldn't. But what I *could* do is compromise and make a promise that I would never work more than two Saturdays per month. Sure, it was risky. And it definitely stressed me out. My business was doing well-- was I really going to turn away more work? I already wasn't working July, three weeks in December, and three weeks in March (my holiday time). But I needed to make it work for ME, so I found a way. I took more commercial clients and I became more involved in photography education, culminating in a wonderful opportunity with Clickin Moms. It was scary at first, but nothing replaced the fact that for at least two weekends a month I was home with my family, supporting my kids and finally (finally!) making friends with the families around us.
Success isn't always the Holy Grail it's made out to be, and sometimes it's difficult to recognize and accept when you need to make a change in your business to save your sanity. It's easy (and even necessary) to make a change when your business is in trouble-- it's a "sink or swim" situation, after all. But it's just as necessary to learn to recognize when you need to make a change for personal reasons. We live our businesses and sometimes it's hard to take a step back and make a change when our business is successful. But when success comes with a price-- an expense to our personal life, relationships, or our health-- is it really worth it?
I can hear some of you saying, "But I depend upon my business income to survive. I can't make changes and take the risk." So do I. To that let me say that each and every time I went through the process with my business, it made me reevaluate my business plan, look at my numbers, analyze my marketing and spending in general, and really SEE what was going on in my business. Rather than sitting back and letting things happen or continue on autopilot, the need for change was a catalyst. The critical thinking that went into the process helped me really emphasize the positives (and head off the negatives) along the way. The biggest piece of advice that I can offer is to learn to recognize when your business isn't working for you and take steps to remedy it. It may be scary, but a business is like any living thing-- it needs to grow, change and adapt in order to survive. You'll thank yourself down the road for avoiding that nervous breakdown or burnout. And so will your business. :) -- Michelle Turner