No preamble, this week.  Let’s get straight to the point and the title of the blog post:

It’s Competition Time

You might be forgiven for thinking from the title of this week’s blog that I am announcing some contest or other.  No, sorry.  This blog concerns my thoughts and reaction to the news that a new studio space is opening just down the road from my studio, and it appears that studio might be a direct competitor to my business.

I have always maintained that how a person or business responds to competition is a good indicator of the true nature of the person or business.

Around the time that I opened my studio (six years ago if anyone is counting) I was on the mailing list of another studio.  That studio was in a different town.  I remember well the emails that the studio owner sent out when other studios opened in the same building that he was in.  Those emails were rants, peppered with ‘Anglo Saxon’ vocabulary.  It wasn’t pleasant reading.

I vowed at that time that if I ever found myself in a similar situation, I would do my best to respond positively to competition.

The First Challenge

I faced that challenge for the first time two years ago when Rick Bradbury decided it was time to open his own studio.  Rather than seeing this as a threat to my business, I chose to look at the positives.  I am sure Rick won’t mind me saying, but it was my suggestion that he took the unit opposite mine.  I have said many times partly in jest but with a fair bit of truth to it, that if he was going to have photographers going to his studio, I’d rather they had to walk past my door to get there.

As the last two years have shown, having Rick’s studio next to mine has been a good thing, we have been able to share equipment at times and help each other out.  We have even run a joint event and are planning to do more.  We’ve managed to coordinate ourselves so that we don’t run events on the same day and in any case our styles are different and so on the most part we don’t have a clash.  Of course, I’ve lost the income from when he used to hire my studio, and we both offer one-to-one training, so potentially we are competing with each other in that field.

The New Challenge

It’s going to be a very different story with the new studio.  Let me say first of all I wish them all the best and hope that they have a very successful business.  I also hope that it is not at the expense of mine.

I am very aware of the limitations that my studio has.  It is small and I don’t have much space to store props and equipment.  The size of groups I can accommodate is limited, and I can’t set up permanent sets.

But small can have its advantages too.  It’s easy to heat, and it is a more intimate space that is particularly conducive to small group and one-to-one training.  And training is the primary raison d’etre for Ian’s Studio.

I like to think that I offer value for money with my events and training sessions, and based on feedback from those I have trained I believe that I communicate in a clear and effective way.  Combined with a welcoming atmosphere these are the values on which I have built the studio and these are the values that I hope will mean that I can retain my customers.

Things Change

It is inconceivable to think that the new competitor won’t have an effect on my business.  But that is the nature of business.  I’ve seen it before.  When stock photography became accessible to anyone with a camera, that industry changed beyond recognition, and not everyone survived.  There is an old joke:

“How many stock photographers does it take to change a light bulb?  None… they all just sit around and talk about how it used to work.”

Some things in my business will need to change, that’s not always a bad thing:  businesses that don’t adapt die.  I am always looking to improve what I offer to photographers, so if there are things that you are aware of that I can change to improve your experience at the studio, please let me know.

Lessons to learn

Here are the things we can learn from all this:

  • Moaning (and swearing) about the competition helps no one.
  • The best way to deal with competition is to focus on your own business and if necessary ‘up your game’ or change your business.
  • Businesses that collaborate tend to be more successful than those that just compete.

Until next time, keep making great images (and preferably make them at MY studio!)