Success Stories

Mary Fisk-Taylor & Jamie Hayes   |   The Art of Photography   |   Richmond VA   |   Website

Jamie Hayes and Mary Fisk-Taylor, partners in Hayes & Fisk — The Art of Photography, an upscale portrait and wedding business in Richmond, Virginia, are a hot ticket on the lecture circuit. Their fresh approach to blending Jamie's traditional, romantic, color candids and formals with Mary's sparkling black-and-white photojournalistic images has propelled them to the top of the industry. According to Jamie and Mary, their artistic success came more easily than their business success. They credit SuccessWare with melding a serendipitous partnership into a powerful profit-generating business.

"Before SuccessWare,we would routinely bang our heads against the wall trying to understand our financial position."
Jamie Hayes

A Fateful Meeting

In 1993 Mary Fisk was about to be married, and she was quite nervous about having her bridal portrait made. The Richmond studio her mother had hired sent a young photographer to photograph the session, and according to Mary, "The minute I met Jamie I knew everything was going to be okay." She loved the portraits, so when her first child was born, Mary sought out that talented young man to photograph her daughter. By then, Jamie was operating his own studio. "My daughter was turning one," Mary recalls, "and Jamie's business was turning two. We both were going a little crazy at that point: I was not enjoying being a stay-at-home mom, and Jamie's business was growing faster than he could manage." So when Jamie asked Mary if she knew anyone who was looking for part-time work, she emphatically replied: "Me!"

A Partnership is Born

Jamie and Mary started working together in 1996, and it has been anything but part-time ever since. Initially Mary handled minor production and telephone calls, which she was more than qualified to do after having previously served as administrator for a law firm. Eventually she moved into sales and marketing — everything except photography. In 1998 they officially became partners.

Searching for Answers

"Even though I felt at home running a law office, I had no idea how complex the portrait/wedding business is," Mary recalls. "No matter what I tried, nothing worked to give me the information I needed to control the business. We would routinely bang our heads against the wall trying to understand our financial situation. Jamie would go through periodic fits, asking why our accounting records said we were making money, but we didn't have enough cash to pay bills.

A Turning Point

In 1997 Jamie attended a weeklong business management class with Ann Monteith at the Mid-Atlantic Regional School of Professional Photography (MARS). Mary remembers Jamie's reaction: "Jamie came back to the studio all excited about what he had learned. However he had sheets and sheets of numbers that boggled my mind. It seemed like the answer, but it was very overwhelming. We initiated some of the philosophies Ann taught but I did not fully embrace it until I attended one of her "Guerrilla Management" workshops in 1998. By this time SuccessWare automated all those tedious financial functions that I was trying to do by hand, and I fell in love!"

Taking Control

"Now I understood. I finally got it," says Mary. "The software literally changed our lives! That first year with SuccessWare was amazing. We had never felt so organized and on track. Our studio grossed over $500,000 that year, and we knew that we were well on our way to reaching all of our business and personal goals." Since then, Mary and Jamie have seen their profits soar. "A big part of the reason, is that SuccessWare made us much more goal oriented," Mary says. "It places our financial goals right in front of us. We know how many sessions we need to achieve those goals, and it shows us what action is needed to meet them." Their annual business plans have helped Mary and Jamie stay on focus and even create a reward system to motivate their employees.

Organizing Their Lives

Mary clearly understands the benefits of working with software that is specific to the photography industry: "It allows us to understand how all of the many things we do come together to affect profit. We can look at the information it provides and know exactly what our business is doing. I tell my photographer friends that SuccessWare doesn't run our lives, it organizes our lives. And it keeps us motivated because we can actually see when we are achieving our financial goals as it happens. This creates the energy and drive to keep moving forward. You know exactly what to do next. Everything is broken down into simplified reports that anyone, whether they are business-oriented or not, can understand. SuccessWare is so much more than business software — it truly is an incredible management tool."

Essential Education

Mary and Jamie know that running a business isn't something that comes naturally to most photographers. That is why they recommend Ann Monteith's "Guerrilla Management Workshop." Says Mary: "This workshop pulls everything together. It helps you understand your financial position and how, with only a few very doable business strategies, you can become much more profitable. When we first set our goals in class, we really didn't think they were achievable. But now that we know what we're doing, often we meet our monthly goals in only two weeks. Photographers simply can't afford to be in business without this knowledge. SuccessWare puts all the information together for us and it is easy to use and understand. Guerrilla Management and SuccessWare together are a must for any photography business owner."

Benefiting from Payment Plans

Several years ago Mary and Jamie instituted a payment plan option to encourage clients to upgrade their purchases by spreading their payments out over time. It worked wonderfully, substantially increasing their sales averages. However they had to manually run the payments and keep up with all of the credit information. So Mary was thrilled when SuccessWare automated this chore. She explains: "We take an initial payment on the day of the sale and then charge their credit cards on the first of each month. What used to take hours of hand entry, typing in 20+ numbers for each payment, is now done automatically by SuccessWare. It runs the cards each month, sends receipts, decline notifications, etc. It is money in the bank and we don't have to lift a finger. We look forward to the first of each month knowing that we have guaranteed money coming in so we can cover our monthly expenses. Implementing payment plans was one of the best things we ever did!"

Branching Out and Giving Back

By late 1998, Mary had begun photographing with Jamie. Two years later she proudly received her Master of Photography and Photographic Craftsman degrees along with her PPA Certification. Then she and Jamie began to lecture and share their business experience with others. Both have actively served their profession as Approved Business Instructors and give back to the industry in other important ways: Mary is serving a third term as President of PPA Charities and Jamie is the newest member of PPA's prestigious Print Exhibition Committee. Both are proud members of the elite Society of XXV. "We are truly fortunate and blessed to work in such a wonderful industry," Mary says. "We love what we do and do what we love. In 2008, we continue to rely on SuccessWare to manage our studio on a daily basis, just like we have for over 10 years now. Thanks SuccessWare!" 

To learn more about professional association seminars by Jamie Hayes and Mary Fisk-Taylor, call 804-740-9307 or visit their website.

For information on Ann Monteith's Guerrilla Management Workshops, visit AnnMonteith.com.

Next: Julia & Jed Taufer: Creating a Photographic Haven

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