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Key Idea: Seek Operational Advice

Monica seeks advice from customers like Michael Jones and she went to her local Small Business Development center to receive some free consulting.

Key Question:

A: 

Monica sought help when she began to feel overwhelmed by her business. Monica does good work and has many happy customers. However, she often works seven days a week and long hours each day. She went back to her Alma mater, Wayne State University to visit the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) where she met Pat Salo. Note: There are over 1,000 Small Business Development Centers in the U.S. They receive federal and local funding which means much of what they do is free to the customers.

Q: Why is it particularly hard to build a business around your own skill?

A: Pat Salo of the SBDC has discover that many business owners are technicians. This means they have a skill people want to hire. There are plumbers, carpenters, doctors, dentists, counselors, CPAs, attorneys, and so on. They start a business as a way to get hired for a short-term job. When they get too many customers or patients to handle personally, they hire help. In the case of a physician or dentist, they hire nurses or assistants. In the case of attorneys, they hire other attorneys or paralegals or assistants.

Monica has reached the point where she will send other photographers to shoot for new customers, but she still tries to take care of many of her old, faithful accounts. However, she is still plagued by the biggest obstacle any technician has when it comes to growing a business -- they love to do the work themselves.

Imagine a painter like Picasso delegating his painting. Or, an actor like Jack Lemmon delegating his acting. This is what has to happen if you want to grow the business.

Often, when professionals reach this stage of growth, the question gets asked, "Do I really want to grow this business?" And often the answer is, "No" and that's OK. The beauty about working for yourself is you can be as big or as small as you choose. The strategy for growth, however, has to include you as the owner either running the business by hiring, training and leading others to do the work, and, at some point, possibly hiring someone to lead the organization.

Do you remember what Pat Salo specifically recommended to Monica regarding her prices? Yes, raise them! There was a natural resistance. When Monica first began to charge money for her photographic work, she used price as a competitive advantage. She under priced others to get the business. Now she is established, she has overhead -- rent on the studio, utilities, telephone services, an assistant, and other photographers to pay. Although it is hard to raise prices because you are afraid your customers will take their business someplace else, if you define yourself uniquely, you will discover that price is not the only reason people do business with you.
 

Think about it

When is the last time you raised your prices?  What do your competitors charge?  If you are the best in your niche, shouldn't  your prices be higher than those of your competitors?

Clip from: Monica Morgan Photography

Detroit:  Meet Monica Morgan.   She took a calculated risk and it paid off. And, then she got serious about running a business.

In this episode of the show you can learn many lessons about sole proprietorships, risk-taking, sharing, mentoring, being mentored, and chutzpah (even temerity).  Today, Monica runs a full-service photography studio and is at the top of her game. She is a photojournalist who contributes to Newsweek, Jet, the Detroiter and the Associated Press. Rosa Parks first commissioned Monica to do the cover for her bestseller, Quiet Strength, then she became Rosa's photographer.

We all ask, "How can I get to the top of my profession?" Monica has done it.  Mix one part courage (heart, the muscle) with two parts intelligence (brains, that deep knowledge of your profession) and three parts tenacity (personal will), and then, constantly reinvent the formula. Magic begins to happen.

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Monica Morgan Photography

Monica Morgan, Founder

500 River Place Drive
Suite 5109
Detroit, MI 48207
313-259-7005

Visit our web site: http://www.MonicaMorganPhotography.com

Office: 313-259-7005

Business Classification:
Photography

Year Founded: 1990

Seek Operational Advice

HATTIE: Then when did you get to another level where you knew, `I need help, I need advice'? At what point did that happen?

MONICA: The business constantly grew. It was always growing. You know, someone was telling someone else. And I've had good people who have worked with me and inspired me to continue to just go out and get business. So one job led to another. Well, I'd say probably back in 1994 when I went to South Africa, that's what really caused a change, because I became international then. So people wanted to hire me, you know, `She's been to Africa, she's international.' And that didn't hurt. So client after client--what happened was I wanted to be a photographer. That was what I had decided to do in 1990. But I knew that in order to stay with the business and be with it as it was growing and not let it just overcome me, that I needed to gain more skills as a businesswoman.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Turning a hobby into a business takes an adjustment in thinking. Monica found the help she needed at the Wayne State University Small Business Development Center.

RON HALL (Director, Michigan Small Business Development Centers): A Small Business Development Center is a one-stop shop, if you will, for entrepreneurs, people wanting to start businesses and existing business owners, where they can go get some professional help in starting and growing a business.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Ron Hall is the state director of the Michigan Small Business Development Centers.

RON: SBDCs are very easy to find all over the country. They're listed in the phone book, normally in the white pages or Yellow Pages. They can also be found by calling your Small Business Administration office, who's one of our major partners nationally.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Pat Salo serves as a consultant to Monica.

PAT SALO (Consultant): An artist like Monica, angst is driving her to take pictures and be out there in the marketplace. To come back to the office and then take care of the books and all the nitty-gritty issues are really very important, but again, they cut into her creative time. And so we had to talk about how we could eliminate some of the bottlenecks and make the systemic part of her business easier and so that she could then be freed up to be more productive.

MONICA: And Pat was looking at me in amazement when I said, `Look, my problem is not getting business. My problem is maintaining the business.' There's so many things--the taxes, the accounting, just all kinds of things that don't even involve photography. And I'm still trying to learn photography.

PAT: Most small business owners are technicians. They do something very well, and it really is their passion. And Monica Morgan is a prime example of someone following their dream and their passion. Unfortunately they cannot do everything themselves. When they first start out and volume is low, they can. So what that means is Monica spends her days taking photographs, spends her afternoons sorting through her negatives, and then at night has to go home and do her books. Now that's fine, but then it gets to a point where the volume of sales increase, and then things slip by the wayside because the technician is torn between, `Should I go and satisfy my customer, or do I spend time at home organizing and doing the books?' Now that's where we come in.

HATTIE: OK.

PAT: Because there are methods and procedures and things that can be implemented that will free the artist and a technician like Monica to do what she really should be doing, and that's to be developing her photography.

HATTIE: What did Pat tell you to do to solve your problem?

MONICA: Pat told me I had to raise my prices. I'm like, `Pat, oh, I can't raise prices. I have too much equipment, I have to pay the MasterCard.' Pat said, `Monica, you've got to raise your prices.' And I was a little resistant, but I did, I raised my prices. And I didn't notice a drop in my clientele. And I don't know if I ought to say this, but it's time to raise those prices again, because sometimes I do feel like a robot, because I'm shooting seven days a week. I mean, sometimes people call me to book me next year you know.

HATTIE: Are you having fun?

MONICA: I'm having fun. I'm having fun, but sometimes it's real difficult because it's lonely being a sole proprietor.
 

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