On completion of 5 years as an Entrepreneur I was overwhelmed with the wishes I received from friends and family. In between these wishes, there were a few requests to share how my journey has been as an entrepreneur. And going down memory lane this is what comes to mind:
I was working as a Sr. Consultant with Infosys before I started with a dream in my heart and camera in hand. As part of my job with Infosys I would travel to the US and UK on work regularly, was working with a fantastic team, was catering to some top International clients and having fun. I enjoyed what I did. So the most often than not reason of “I hated what I did hence I quit” does not hold true here 🙂 Due to my travel and work hours I was missing out on simple pleasures of life, I was missing out on the growing years of my daughter Isshani, who was just 2 years. So I wanted to take up something that I enjoyed and at one stroke also give me quality time to spend with my daughter.
I took a decision to exit the corporate world and founded – “AGNA”, which means to ‘look beyond what your eyes see’- 5 years ago and eventually under AGNA came – PhotoMojo. The last few years have been rich in experience. I have had to start from rock bottom and learn everything from scratch. Entrepreneurship brings its own challenges but finally the joy is all yoursfor the taking. Thirteen to fourteen years in a Corporate world makes you get used to people doing things for you, but when you start on your own you have do everything.
Over time as a photoprenuer I have learnt some really valuable lessons that have held me in good stead and I believe hold good for any business or enterprise.
1) Have a proper Buy -In from your Partner / Spouse
This is as important as a good business plan if not more. It is vital that you have your partner share in your dream and is on the same wavelength. Not only to share with them the spoils of the success but when the journey does get a bit tough, which is bound to, you will have another to fall back on and be your strength. Having your partner walk alongside also gives you unadulterated and fresh perspectives to something that you see and do day in and out at work. Its an icing on the cake when they are actively involved in business. Well I am sure there are those that beg to differ but as I have said this is purely my opinion. And to those that will agree “Never ever take your work into the Bedroom.”
2) Build a Good team
A good team is the backbone of your business plan. The first and foremost aspect that needs to be in place, as your partner, you should be surrounded by people who share your dream and discipline. Sometimes two heads are sure better than one, delivering quality you believe in consistently time and again while adhering to process becomes easier with a team who understands your language at work. And do practice the ever dreaded word ‘reviews’. After every shoot we as a team spend time on reviewing the whole thing and picking out lessons – the good and the not so good. I believe this has helped us grown from strength to strength over the years.
3) Stick to your Core but pivot into complementary services
With PhotoMojo initially I concentrated on a certain genre of Photography like Family shoots, Kids, Editorials, Performing arts – mainly people related. That was my comfort food. I would let go of assignments out of this set such as, Interiors, initially for I thought I would not be able to connect to my subject. But over a period of time I realized these assignments were no different from my travel stories that I shot with so much gusto. Today Interiors are a major part of our portfolio.
Videography slowly followed Photography because I had the opportunity and time to explore it, for the team I groomed were adept to handle the shoots and the back end work without too much of my hand holding. It is essential to pursue ancillary services that compliment your core service line. This will help you supplement your earnings during your slow seasons.
4) Know your numbers and keep your books in order
This is the not – so – creative aspect of what I do today, BUT as important as your light and angles while you shoot. It is very important to know your inflows and outflows. Though most of us keep track of our payments, the keen eye is missing when we are the ones making the payments. As you begin, along with your creative ideas do also have on a sheet your yearly/quarterly/monthly targets, Capital investment, Maintenance/Operational costs and lastly but not the least your taxes written down.
When I started I did so with a small investment of INR 10,000/- + a basic camera kit and a Laptop. I had put down a list of things that I should add over the next year and started keeping a small amount aside every month. This helped me to upgrade and also it didn’t hit me hard .
5) Legal – Get your paper work in order
Another essential part of your business which we all tend to overlook is – Legal. It becomes imperative, especially when you are dealing with corporates. We always insist on signing an NDA, for we are dealing with some really sensitive work related to IP. This has been received very well with our corporate clients like Mindtree, Boeing RnD VMware etc. Where personal shoots like Weddings, Family portfolios and the likes are concerned we always have a written document which clearly spells out our deliverable right in the beginning of the project and I might add this has been a saving grace in many instances.
6) Stay Humble, Learn from your mistakes and Share your knowledge.
You may be the best in your field but your humility and simplicity is what gets you more business than not. Keep that smile on even when you feel like screaming, your clients and the people you work with are bound to notice. If you have erred, in all modesty admit it, correct it, learn from it and move on. It makes you a bigger person.
One man’s experience is another’s learning so for everyday that you have, make an effort to share your knowledge. You are also learning, because that’s how we grow as people and as a society. When you do this you are not creating competition , you are building an eco system.
Stay Humble, be grateful for your success, and remember that you are successful because someone trusted you. And today I am grateful to heaven that so many people trusted me.