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What I Learned from Alan Berg

Learning from Alan Berg Alan Berg at ALWEP

Last week I attended my first ALWEP event here in Birmingham where they had brought in Alan Berg in to speak about selling more and using your reviews to make money.  I have heard him speak before back in Virginia and the man is a brilliant speaker with many years in the wedding industry both at The Knot and Wedding Wire.

Getting Reviews

It was interesting to find out that 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation from a friend yet many small business owners neglect getting reviews from past clients on a consistent basis.  When you first meet with your clients, begin setting the stage for getting the review by bringing it up.  When it comes time for actually getting the review, expect to have to remind your clients at least once in order to get the review.

Responding to Reviews

Once you have received a review, make sure that you respond to it by thanking the person who wrote it.  If it is a negative review, online is not the place to respond back to them.  Rather do that via email.  When responding to the actual review . . remember that it is about all the potential clients that will read it down the line and not justifying your actions to the person who wrote the review.

Using the Reviews

Once you have obtained the reviews, don’t leave them to languishing in just one place.  Consider showcasing them on social media or under the images on one of your galleries.  If you don’t share your reviews with potential clients then they won’t know your unique point of difference according to past clients you have worked with.

Preparing for the New Year

planning for the new yearPreparing Your Business

Each year we take time to prepare for the New Year by taking time to review the past 12 months and to to plan for the upcoming year.  While the rest of the world prepares for the new year around the first of January, we started our planning in October.

Why Plan So Early

For us as a military family, our crazy moving season tends to also align with peak wedding season as well.  In the beginning phase of the photography business we waited until the traditionally accepted New Year to make our list of goals and dreams.  This often found us scrambling with no clear vision for the next year.

Making a List

One of the first things we did this year to prepare for 2018 was to make a list of what needed to be addressed and fixed from 2017.  From there we have spent time crafting a better workflow for my photography business and automating things what had in the past been recreated each time a new inquiry came in.

Checking it Twice

After crafting a better workflow we went back to that list we made from 2017 and added our dreams and goals to that list . . our BIG IDEAS.  Both J and I worked through that list and mapped out a schedule to start implementing those dreams and ideas into our work schedule . . things like video newsletters and more Facebook lives as well as some guest blog posts from our resident workflow specialist.

Want More?

While this just skims the surface of how we prepare for the New Year . . there is a whole podcast on what we do to get you ready for your best year yet.  Head on over to Bokeh Podcast and have a listen.  Don’t miss out on some extra tidbits on outsourcing.

Who is the We

Explaining who the We is in our team

Explaining Who the We is

I promise I am not putting on airs when I switch back and forth between using “We” and “I” but recently had a sweet friend point out that I do that . . either out of bad grammatical form or just subconsciously because the deal is . . . there is a We in both the Restart Specialist and Meredith Ryncarz Photography.  For years my husband has been the backbone of first my photography business and lately this one.  He has been the cheerleader at 10pm at night when I wanted to throw the towel in and the sounding board when I had a crazy idea or two.

The reality is though . . he is way more than that.  This brilliant genius of a man may not have a business degree but he should have.  For the past year he has not only been helping me fix my workflow but also that of countless other business owners who have mentored with me.  He has helped me host my first workshops and even spoken at them.

While he may not be front and center in social media, you can rest assured that when I say “we” . . I am talking about him.  Moving into 2018, I am excited that he will be lending his expertise to blog posts from time to time as well as some of our newsletters as he shares his knowledge on creating better systems in your business.

Task Efficiency

Being efficient in businessTask Efficiency

This time of year things become chaotic and having task efficiency becomes incredibly important in order to keep things organized and stress free.  I am not the most efficient person, just ask my husband.  However, there are 5 things that keep me efficient when I tend to naturally head out on a bunny trail of pretty images and funny teacher videos.

Make a Schedule

The first step to being efficient at your tasks is to make a schedule.  List out all the tasks that need to be done and then assign them days and dates to work on them.  It there are weekly tasks that repeat, consider assigning them a repeating day each week.  For me this looks like:

  • Monday – Financial books and Blogging
  • Tuesday – Personal Education and Blogging for the Photography Business
  • Wednesday – Content Creation and Videos
  • Thursday – Content Creation and Vendor Meetings
  • Friday – Errands Run, Lunch Date with J, and Social Media planning

This may be a bit fluid if engagement sessions or styled shoots occur in the middle of the week but this is a general overview of what a week looks like in our office.  What may work for me though, may not work for you and this brings me to my next point.

Be Realistic

It is so easy to get caught in the comparison game.  People we think have it all together really may lead lives that are just as chaotic as ours.  Social media breeds that type of thought process.  When setting your schedule, be realistic about what you can accomplish.  You are not Super Girl . . and no one expects you to be.

Get Rid of Distractions

By far, distractions will trip me up faster than anything else.  I love Pinterest and Instagram for my daily dose of all things pretty but the reality is, it takes me down a bunny trail.  I might have intended to take a “break” for five minutes from answering e-mails only to look up at the clock and realize . . I have been scrolling and pinning for 30.  YIKES!  The best way I have found to get rid of distractions is to set timers for myself to keep me accountable to what needs to be done.

Take Breaks

I love to “marathon things” as my husband calls it.  If I have a large project in front of me, I want to sit down and knock it out rather than taking little bites out of it, one small piece at a time.  This worked great when I was in college and while my husband was deployed.  However, as a mom of two and a husband currently home and not deployed . . this doesn’t work.  It also isn’t healthy for my body to sit stationary for long periods of time.  This goes back to the timer and getting up and moving around a bit.

Give Yourself Grace

Lastly, this is the most important part.  Give yourself grace.  I am HORRIBLE about this and when I fall behind in my goals for the week . . I tend to beat myself up over it rather than actually assessing the problem and solving it.  We are human and it happens . . breathe, assess, and fix.

With that being said . . its time for a task break and a little reward in the form of a tiny bit of dark chocolate.

Whom Do You Serve

Wrapped Up in Why

I sat amongst a group of creatives ranging in age and length of business.  We began talking about “Why Statements” and points of difference.  One of the gals in the group piped up and said what most were probably thinking.

“What if I don’t have a why statement?”

This was followed by rapid fire questions based out of fear that all centered around targeting the right client based on the perfectly crafted why statement.  Now don’t get me wrong . . . we have all been there . . frequently.  I am also not saying throw away a well thought out statement of why.  What I am saying is that we often get so wrapped up in what all the other businesses are doing that we forget something incredibly important.  We forget whom we are serving.

We started these businesses in a service based industry.  To serve.  I say this from personal experience as a bride.  Back in 2006, we were planning our own wedding when the unthinkable happened.  Our wedding photographer backed out a month before our wedding.  At the time why statements weren’t really a thing and even if they were . . it wouldn’t have mattered to me.  All I remember to this day is how she made me feel.

Fast forward ten years and we decided to have a vow renewal.  We knew from the reputation of our photographer that we would love our images but even if our photographer had performed 50% less than she did, we would have still loved them.  Do you know what made me say that . . . it was how she served us.  It was how she made us feel on our day.  It wasn’t about her why statement . . but how she made us feel.

We do our clients a disservice when we analyze and overwork our why statement.  When we become so wrapped up in words and forget the actual purpose . . the heart and true why . . which is service and people.

Creative at Heart Recap

Merrimon Wynne Creative at Heart Group PhotoMy First Creative at Heart

I have been wanting to attend Creative at Heart for a long time.  Many of my friends and industry peers have attended in the past, coming back from the conference renewed and pumped about their businesses.  I have attended my share of photography related courses, workshops, and mentorships and my heart was craving a little something outside the world of cameras and more in the world of creative small businesses.  What I didn’t expect was to go and have to deal with some heart issues.

Creatives its a Heart Issue

Now, I could go on and on about how awesome the speakers and the break out sessions were but I am not . . because you already know that the content was great.  The speakers were phenomenal and over the next month I will be diving deep into some of the incredible things these people taught me but today . . today I want to talk about the heart, my heart.

The heart can be this ugly, emotional pilot that can really guide you down the path to crazy town if it isn’t tempered with a bit of wisdom from the brain.  It tells you things like “I am not good enough” or “I can’t do _____ as well as she can” or better yet “I am a fraud”.  Here is the thing . . we are so concerned with “I” that we forget about the big W.  No, I am not talking about the “Why Statement”.  I am talking about WHOM we are serving (more on this later).  We forget because sweet creatives we replace creative at heart with competitive at heart.

My Heart Lesson

I am competitive by nature.  I own it and sometimes . . I forget to check it and it’s other ugly twin joins in the game, hello Comparison.

I walked into Creative at Heart and being tired from a move . . I let those “I statements” start rolling in my head.  They clouded everything.  Monday morning I walked into my seat a little nervous because of this.  There on the table in front of me was a little notebook asking us “How Brave are You Willing to Be?” and it was the starting point for my biggest take away that I want to share with you now.

EVERY SINGLE PERSON HEARS THOSE I STATEMENTS

From the people who you think are kicking butt and taking names, down to the gal who just decided she wants to open a small business and is just building her website.  We ALL hear those statements in our hearts and then tell ourselves a lie that those other people don’t.

The Corner Seat

I sat on the corner seat of a vintage couch, clutching a La Croix and really wishing it was a glass of Merlot, chatting with someone who I have always associated with brave authenticity . . only to hear her say, she felt like a fraud . . . and I thought . . “ME TO . . but I am not brave enough to say that. . . to admit that . . to own that.

I had a long car ride home to mull over the conference and replay what I learned in my head.  How brave was I willing to be, not only here but in my wedding business?  Over the remainder of this year, your going to see some changes.  Changes that reflect the lessons learned on that corner couch and throughout the whole conference and friend, I can’t wait to share them with you!

Today I Choose . . .

Today I choose to be brave enough to admit that sometimes, I don’t feel good enough, but as I type this (really wanting to hit DELETE) I am reminded of Whose I am and whom I serve and that eternally that is the heart statement that needs to be running in my head.  How brave will you be?

Creative at Heart Brave notebook

 

Photo from Holly Felts

 

 

Merrimon Wynne Porch Creative at Heart

All photos by the lovely Holly Felts Photography

 

Mid-Year Reading List

Midyear reading listA Mid-Year Reading List

At the beginning of the year, I had a few books that were on my list to read or re-read.  As the year has progressed, I have added a few more to my list.  Some of these I have read and some are on my list to read throughout the rest of the year.  As my kids have gotten older it has become easier and easier to get back into reading, something that I was voracious about before they came along.  I would usually stick to fiction books but as both my businesses have grown . . more practical books have entered into the list as well.

Personal

The Lifegiving Home by Sally Clarkson is one I have been slowly reading through over the past 6 months.  The book is fantastic for any momma wanting to be more intentional in her home.  There is so much meat to the book that I have really had to think through what I am reading.

Uninvited by Lisa Terkeurst is focused on those feelings of being left our and lonely.  While I put this book under the list of personal books to read, I think we as business owners often struggle with this feeling of being on the “D List” so to speak.  I haven’t started reading this one yet but I am excited to.

Cultivate by Lara Casey is such a treasure to read!  I was honored to be part of the team of ladies that read it before it came out as part of the launch team.  It came at the perfect time where chaos was the theme of our household.  It is a great study to do with a group of girlfriends and really pour into it together.  The book follows Lara and her family through the journey of loss and joy while cultivating a life of intention in the midst of that journey.  This book was so good, I will be rereading it soon.

Business

The Brand Gap by Marty Neumeier is a book focused on brand building.  Our goal this year for both arms of the business was to really hone in on what both brands really stood for.

Lovemarks by Kevin Roberts is another branding book recommended by Mary Marantz in her bootcamp class.  I haven’t read it yet but expect it to be awesome.

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie is a classic business book and a best seller.  It has been on my list for awhile but I haven’t had a chance to read it yet.

Disclaimer: Cultivate was provided by the publisher. The reviewer was under no obligation to offer a positive review.

Comparison in Business

Comparison in Business

Comparison in business is the internal and silent ugly disease that can eat away at the joys of being a small business owner.  We seldom talk about it but man do we feel it eating through our core like a hungry worm through an apple.  We all deal with it and to say we don’t is a lie.  I had the joy of working with three lovely new business owners this past weekend and I loved what one of them said.  “Don’t compare your chapter one to someone else’s chapter ten.”  She completely hit the nail on the head.  My journey and purpose in life will not mirror someone else’s journey and it shouldn’t.  Goals are great but comparison is not.  I have to be honest with them and those out in internet world.  I feel it to . . there have been seasons in my life where comparison has nearly eaten me alive and it wasn’t healthy.  It might have looked like I had it together on the outside but the reality was my insides were just a rotten as that apple.  So how do we deal with that comparison and surgically remove it?  Today, I want to share with you my five favorite ways of combating this silent business killer.

Have a Person

I love Grey’s Anatomy and still watch it in the background while I am working through my to do lists.  They had their person, the one they could go to when things got gnarly.  Have a person, a mentor, a friend who understands the seasons of life you are in in your business.  Whether this is a spouse or fellow friend in the creative industry, have a person.  My husband has been my person for a long time.  I am blessed to have someone who in many ways is the opposite of me.  He is systems and processes and I am arts and whimsy.  He reminds me to get out of my box.  He holds me accountable and I am blessed because of it.

Turn off the Social Media

How many times have you found yourself aimlessly scrolling through social media only to look up at the clock and realize half the day is gone.  Not only can it be a huge time waster but looking at all the good things others are experiencing can make your chapter one feel like a chapter zero.  If you find yourself feeling that way take a social media fast or at least limit when and why you will be on there.  This is a huge one for me.  If I am on there, it is because I am answering a question or responding to something.  It wasn’t always that way and if I am really tired I find that I fall back into that pattern again.

Sleep

I am not someone who is blessed to be able to operate on less than six hours of sleep.  My husband is but I am not.  I know that I can’t provide the best experience to my brides if I don’t get my self to bed at a decent time and this goes hand in hand with taking care of myself.  I make myself go to the gym and while I would really prefer to make a fool of myself attempting to dance in Zumba, I head over to the weight machines instead.  Comparison creeps in more readily when we don’t look after our bodies, our minds, and our souls.  How are you addressing these three areas in order to provide a better service to your family, friends, and clients?

Read a Book

Turn off the electronics and just read.  Pick up a book about the business world outside of your industry.  Don’t know where to start?  Pick up Lara Casey’s Make It Happen.  I love what she says about “choosing purpose over perfect.”  When we choose our purpose over perfection there is no more room for comparison.  When we focus on what we are put on this earth to do, we become more driven and less concerned with being like someone else.  Books are powerful and life altering.  Take time each day to turn off all the noise and just read.

Outsource

I was incredibly embarrassed to admit that I have outsourced certain things in our lives until recently.  I felt like it didn’t make me a good enough mom and wife if I couldn’t do it all.  That giant internal disease of comparison came rushing in like a storm.  I was an exhausted mom with a brand new baby and a preschooler attempting to run a photography business that was growing beyond what I could handle at the time and I think sweet Gina Zeidler could see it written all over my face as she started to take our family photos.  She whispered that one heavenly word to me “Outsource” and it was such a blessing to take that plunge!  In the years since that has happened I have looked to outsource things I hated doing so that I could spend more time with my family and less time letting my business run me.  Make a list of the things you like least and find a way to hire an expert to do it for you. Here are a few things that I don’t do during wedding season if I can help it!

Above all else know that your book will be completely different than mine.  Your chapter one may look glorious to how my chapter one was.  There is no comparison of the journey though because each will be different but each will be just as beautiful and special because it is your chapter, your book, your story.  Stop comparing what your journey looks like and start simply enjoying it.

5 Things Hurting Your Business

When we build a business, we never think that some of the things we are doing might just be hurting us and our ability to succeed.  This is even more important when we frequently move our business and need it to be on point and ready to go before we ever arrive at our new location.  Sometimes they are the simplest things that can lead to client confusion or even a fellow vendor wanting to refer you but they can’t.  Here are five quick things that you can fix today that are hurting your business and I have been guilty of them all in the past!

Contact Information

With as much as we move, there are often things that slip through the cracks that should get fixed but don’t because we think they are minor until they actually become a major issue.  The biggest issue that could be hurting your business is the inability for a client to contact you.  I recently went to contact a local wedding vendor about a styled shoot that she needed help with but I couldn’t find her contact information anywhere.  There was no way to e-mail her and there was no phone number anywhere to be found on her social media.  The best I could do was message her through social media and hope that she got it.  This got me thinking, what if that had been a bride or client wanting to contact her.  The first thing to do is make sure you have contact information clearly findable on your website and across your social media accounts.  If someone can’t contact you the way that they want, they won’t hire you.

Correct Information

This may sound redundant compared to the last point but I can’t tell you how many times I or someone I know has searched for a small business for something they needed, only to find that they no longer live in the area that they have listed on their website and social media.  Unless you are willing to travel back to that location make sure you remove it from your information.  In addition to correctly listing your business location, make sure that it is consistent across all social media and web information.  If you listed your business on Yelp, Google, Bing, or Wedding Wire and you have moved then you need to go in to all of those accounts and change them so that your information is accurate.

SEO

I know I harp on this a lot but if you aren’t actively (and correctly) trying to use SEO then your business will end up on page 50 of Google and you will be left wondering why no one ever contacts you with inquiries.  I say this as someone who has tried to do my own SEO for years with some success with it.  However, I learned the hard way this year when I rebranded that the age of my website URL had been really helping me in the past.  My brand new baby URL was of no interest to Google and I have had to work really hard to get it to where it was.  It still wasn’t enough and the more I dug into SEO the less I realized that I actually knew.  My suggestion is to hire an expert.  Someone who does SEO for a living and knows what they are doing.  I have done my research and I can tell you that not all SEO experts are created equal.  Some are good and some are REALLY REALLY good.

Using Social Media as a Business Tool

Social media really started just as I was leaving college.  I have seen it grow into the behemoth that it is today and I can only imagine where it will be in just a few short years from now.  As someone who moves and has clients who now live all over the world, this has been an amazing tool in some ways.  A very wise mentor of mine taught me to see it as just that.  It is a tool and it should be treated as such.  I see a lot of creatives who over share personal stuff on their business page or who post controversial things on their personal page.  While it is a personal page, clients can see that and that could be hurting you.  Consider changing the security settings of who can see what you post but ultimately, once you become a business owner, even your personal page becomes an extension of your business.

For more tips on how to grow and move your business, check back here every Monday for our Move It Monday series or dive deeper and purchase my e-book on how to move your business effectively.  Want to dive deeper into success?  I now offer mentoring sessions face-to-face or over an internet call.

Planning for the Slow Season

The Slow Season

For most photography businesses, the slow season runs from December through February depending on your geographical location.  In some places farther north with the lack of indoor studio space, it may run longer, so what do you do with that time where you may not be photographing as much?

Rest

We seem to have been swept up into the idea of “Always Hustling” and while I’m not against the hustle, I didn’t quit my full time job to work even longer hours from home.  There needs to be a balance to the hustle, a period or rest and renewal.  Without this balance in the down season, we become quickly burnt out and a business operating from burn out does not serve its clients well.

Reset

Every year I take December and January to hit the reset button on my business.  I take an analytical look at what worked and what didn’t in the previous year.  From there, I rework what needs to be fixed and update areas of the business like my website that has been put on hold during my busy season.

Get Creative

During the down season, I love the chance to flex my creative muscle and try out new locations, gear, or a technique.  This is the time to do a big styled shoot, visit venues, or do headshots for fellow vendors.  This also helps in keeping your skills sharp.

Want more tips for what to do in the down season?  Sign up for our Restart Specialist Newsletter Here.

Hello & Welcome

Do you desire a thriving creative career despite the challenges of relocating? Then you are in the right place! Welcome to the space you have been searching for! After spending years searching for the answer to constantly relocating my photography business, the Restart Specialist was born.

  

  

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