It has been an eventfull time since we made the decision to drastically change the direction of our business in the middle of June 2018. In only a matter of weeks we have been overwhelmed with support and well wishes for the future, so much so that we decided to put some more context around the reasons why we have chosen to go the way we have with our photography, and write this piece.
First and foremost I want to really re-iterate that the changes we are making are actually a really positive thing for us and we have experienced an enormous amount of success so far. We are choosing to undertake these changes, to better our lives and have more time together. I will never stop taking photographs and releasing them, it will just be done differently in the future, it will be a different perspective for our photography business moving forward.
THE CHANGES IN DETAIL
As of the end of July 2018 we will be permanently closing our gallery space in Bungendore, we know, a pretty big thing. After just over six years in the space, it is time for a new direction. The gallery has been amazing, we have grown our business to the level it is at because every day, I was there working away to educate, show people what is possible and allow people to really experience high end landscape photography. Selling prints is really the core business focus and being able to show customers the finished pieces on the wall has been really incremental.
The second big set of changes will see us cease to run our saught after photography tours and workshops. For six years we have been building these services up and have worked with so many different people and that has been really fantastic.
THE REASONS WHY
So now that all of the nice stuff has been stated above, I thought it necessary to put some context around the reasons why these changes are so important and why we feel now is the right time to make them.
Six years is a really decent amount of time to run any business model, in my opinion it takes three to five years to really build a new business to a decent, self sustaining level. As a big advocate for small business, I found it imperative to give myself a really good amount of time to run the business model we had employed and really try to do everything I could to make it a success and a long term proposition. This meant long hours and sacrifice to gain reward, but that is how it works.
It is fair to say I have been down the business road now, way further than I thought I would get. We have built this from the ground up, from nothing, and we are very proud of the journey so far, but about twelve months ago there were a few signs that perhaps things were travelling in the direction I would rather not go.
Time has been one of the buzz words around our business for the last little while. Time to create, live our lives and also be together as a family. I found myself so busy in the business that I simply didn't have the option to think of anything else. If I did, the machine of the business would start to slow down and it would cause disruption. As time passed, and as I got busier and busier, my kids suffered, my wife suffered, I was suffering and it was becoming unhealthy and a bit dangerous. Every waking minute was spent thinking and talking about the business and how we could continue to run, deal with the pressure, meet client needs, pay our bills, keep quality really high and try to fit life into the mix. On many occasions it got me thinking, hang on, why am I doing this the way I am and who am I doing this for?
Around the time we made the decisions we have made, I also made an attempt to forecast into the future, to try to see what life might look like in say five to ten years time. The scary thing was that it didn't look hugely different due to the demands of weekend work in a retail space, limited staff opportunities in a small town, the continued pressure of rising business costs and the reality that stepping back, even slightly to be with my family more, still didn't seem even close to reality.
Let's talk about pressure for a minute. In my business the pressure has been relentless. In order to survive and be competitive I had to put everything in - there was no half way or producing products or services that were half delivered. There is so much choice out there for consumers and it only takes one comment on social media to bring years of work and your name crashing down. A few months ago a friend asked simply, what I do for down time and I couldn't answer, I didn't even seem to think I had the time to do that. I have had some low times in the last six years due to the pressure, it has caused health issues, anxiety, relationships to break down and has caused me to question my approach and value.
I remember the first twelve months in the gallery, I called it the 'Blue Sky' period because every thought about the business was an opportunity and everything was really new and exciting. I was prepared for the fact that it would change and I have weathered many a business storm - but after a while and after trying many different things to ease pressure, I always came back to the same one single thing - I am currently the business. If I fail, the business suffers. If I get sick, the business stops and if I stop delivering, the entire business system will eventually fail and the flow on affects will be passed onto my family. This is a pressure cooker environment to be in. I found it OK to deal with this for a few years, I had to, but it started to wear me down. I felt anxious all the time, I was on edge and exhausted, I wasn't seeing my family enough and I started to really dislike the pocess of running the business the way it was set up and the affects it was having.
One of the mechanisms my family put in place to ease the pressures and be together was the Horizon Project. My family and I agreed that if we were going to run this business and do it properly, we would need to sacrifice time together, but if we could travel every two years as a family for extended periods it would be worth it and offset opportunities missed. This would allow us to be together and would allow me to get new photography material to feed the business. The first trip west for three months was a dream come true, it had an innocence and excitement to it, and it was all I could have hoped for. The second trip north a few years later was also fantastic but it was longer and put an enormous amount of pressure on us in regards to time and resources. The third trip to Tasmania was great but it was tough and the business really effectively stopped while we were gone - despite having amazing staff running things for us. So we arrived home from Tassie a little broken and I was unsure of what was next. The model wasn't working and I knew that the hungry business model I had created needed more of me to continue to prosper, grow and change in an effective way.
The problem was, I felt I had reached my limits in regards to what I could give, I wasn't able to sacrifice any more time, my days were already too full. I had tried many different things to ease the burdens but they had not worked. Over the years I felt as though the business had somehow beaten me down, so I would get back up and keep trying. The thing about this circumstance is that it felt different, I didn't feel beaten down, I just felt like it was time to make major changes and get out of the vicious cycle I had put myself in to seemingly survive.
So there have been many ideas so far but let me state, the business will continue and you will still be able to purchase landscape photographs from us. I am currently working on a new Coffee Table book that will be released early next year. We will also run a single, specialised presentation each year, presenting a video of current projects and allowing customers to buy newly released photographs. We will be active through our website and through social media channels.
First and foremost I must thank my amazing wife for her dedication, persistence, patience and understanding. I have been overwhelmed by her ongoing support for me and the things we have been through so far. Lets face it, the gallery, the tours and workshops and the photographs that have been created would not have happened if it weren't for my wife, it would not have been possible to the same level. I also want to thank my amazing children for their patience, understanding, support and for keeping me grounded over the journey so far.
Thank you to my mother for her ongoing and ever present support for our business and our family. Thank you also to the few who have helped in the gallery, in the workshop and in general.
Thank you to my most recent group of great staff, your dedication and willingness to work in our business has been a really huge support and an example of your awesome personalities.
Thank you also to you, our customers and supporters. It has meant more to us than anyone will ever know to have the support of those who have purchased my photographs, joined us on a tour or worked with me during workshop sessions.
We look forward to the next chapter with you all and can't wait to get in touch with further news, new photographs and more projects.