Small Biz Advice: When it’s Time to Evolve



Holly Howard runs Ask Holly How, a small business consulting company based out of Williamsburg, Brooklyn that works with a wide variety of businesses from restaurants to retail to art studios and pretty much everything in between. Her clients report increased income and profit, decreased expenses and a significantly better quality of life. Holly heads up the Small Business Book Club at McNally Jackson Books.

Want valuable insight into how to grow your business?  Holly hosts FREE 30 minute strategy sessions at The Yardin Williamsburg.  Email her to set up a time or to ask a question for the next Ask Holly How.

Dear Holly,

About two years ago, I started a digital media company.  A lot of my revenue comes from providing digital tech services on fashion photo shoots.  I have two high-end fashion photographers that I’ve been working for since I started my company, and they provide me with enough work.  My business is thriving.

The problem is that one of the photographers has moved most of his operations to the west coast, and I fear he’s going to start reducing the work here in NYC. I’m a little freaked about losing him as a client because I’ve never had to look for clients in the first place, I just kind of fell into this.  Right now, I feel like I’m constantly in fear that this could go under at any minute. 

What can I do to protect my business and prepare for this photographer to stop hiring me?  I want to keep my business afloat, but I’ve never been in this situation before.


Fear of Change

Dear Change,

There comes a time in everyone’s business where we have to evolve and learn new skills or our business simply won’t survive.  For you, it sounds like it’s time to have a serious look at where your business is heading, and with whom you want to be working.  Because you said you “fell into this,” I’m sure you haven’t had to put too much energy into marketing your business, or seriously considering who your target client is and how you can connect to them.  If you truly want to build a business that will survive long term, now is the time to start getting clear on who you want to work with and how to connect to them.

Before you dive into your marketing research, get clear on your own vision for your business.  Only if you know where you’re headed in the long term, can you truly decide who you need to work with to get you there.  Spend some time thinking about where you want to be in 5-10 years and what your field of expertise will be.  If you want to grow your company, you must have the vision to get you there.

Once you know where you’re going, do your marketing research.  Consider who the clients are that share your same values and vision.  We are most successful when we work with people whose values align with our own.  Do some research and make a list of all of the clients you believe operate by similar principles as your own.

Once you know who you want to reach, determine all of the ways that you can reach them.  It sounds to me like building relationships may be a key component to your marketing strategy.  For instance, you say that much of your income comes from high-end fashion photographers.  It seems to me that the more you can build relationships with not only the photographers but also with the people most connected to those photographers, the more likely you will be to grow your business.

Aside from targeting certain photographers, consider the agencies that represent those photographers.  Would it be of value to build relationships with certain agencies?  Are there make-up artists or hair stylists you could connect with who would also be a gateway to meeting more photographers? Don’t simply consider the photographers, but consider who is in their periphery and how you can work your way into their circle. In your business, you should constantly be working to increase your connections and build meaningful relationships.

Spend time nurturing those relationships.  You must put effort and energy into them if you want them to have purpose and last.   Approach this by offering some sort of value to the relationship;don’t just try to get what you need.  No one wants to work with someone who simply takes, takes, and takes!  Consider what you can do for the other person in return.  Make it a mutually beneficial relationship, and you’ll be more likely to get the results you want.

Once you’re clear where you’re going, and you’re consistently putting effort into marketing your business, you’re less likely to feel the fear of having everything fall apart and dry up.  Carve out time every week to work on this and you’ll surely build the business you deserve.

Good luck!



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