Success Stories

Jason & Tammy Odom   |   Renaissance Portrait Studio   |   Fairhope AL   |   Website

When you ask Alabama photographer Jason Odom to explain his studio's success, like many entrepreneurs, Jason states that success is about perseverance: "It's hard for me to consider myself to have reached a destination that you could call 'success,'" he says, "because every day in business brings something that can be improved, something that is changing." But he has vivid recollections about the business milestones that helped him to prosper in a business that truly is a passion, both for Jason and for his family.

SuccessWare allows us to operate like we have the resources of a big corporation, but to do so on a very personalized basis.
Jason Odom

A Business is Born

Jason's childhood dream was to be a photographer, and he has always been one; even during high school he worked for a photographer. Then in 1985 he accepted a full time job working for a studio in Mobile, Alabama. Twelve years later he took the plunge and opened Renaissance Portrait Studio in a rental property in the picturesque Mobile Bay community of Fairhope. After only a few months on his own, Jason made one of his most important business moves: he convinced his wife Tammy to leave her lucrative retail job to take over the business side of the growing studio. With Jason's obvious photographic talent and outstanding people-handling ability now combined with Tammy's hospitable personality and prodigious marketing and sales skills, Renaissance began attracting scores of adoring clients. The business was booming, but managing it was another matter entirely. "It was overwhelming," Tammy recalls. "Everything began happening at once, and we had so much to learn about running a business."

A Turning Point

Jason and Tammy may have had all of the business they could handle, but making a nice profit from all of their hard work wasn't as easy as they thought. "The next important turning point in our business," Jason explained, "was gaining an understanding of pricing." That happened when he and Tammy attended Ann Monteith's Guerrilla Management Workshop, where they learned how to price their products for profit using SuccessWare. "This was a real eye-opener for us," said Tammy. Using the software and their new-found knowledge, they immediately got their pricing under control to assure profitability. This helped to stabilize the business and give them well-deserved compensation for their tireless efforts. Then, working with the SuccessWare-generated business plan they developed during the Guerilla Management Workshop, they began tracking their progress against it with the software.

Praising SuccessWare

Before long they had gained a far greater understanding of their business, and today both Jason and Tammy are outspoken in their praise for SuccessWare's ability to handle the complexity of managing a busy studio. "We would find our daily business life very difficult without SuccessWare," Jason says, "because it provides us with a concise management tool that we use and refer to throughout the day, from the time we check our schedule in the morning to determining where our finances stand on a daily basis. We always know exactly what is going on with each of our clients, prospects, sessions, orders, bank accounts, etc."

Taking Control

"SuccessWare enables us to do so many things behind the scenes of our business," Jason continues, "but what it does for us in our interactions with clients is extremely important to their perceptions of us as professionals: SuccessWare allows us to present ourselves as a business that is on top of the details by putting so many bits of information together where we can access it instantly. In today's competitive marketplace, you have to be ahead of the curve with clients, or they can easily go elsewhere. So when a client wants to know something about an order, we can tell her in a matter of seconds by checking the order status in SuccessWare. Clients today want instant gratification, and SuccessWare allows us to provide it. To us, it's a sign of professionalism, and when you think about it, customers—whether your business is photography or ice cream—have a right to expect professionalism from the businesses they patronize. To put it simply, SuccessWare allows us to operate like we have the resources of a big corporation, but to do so on a very personalized basis."

What Counts with Clients

Providing personalized service to clients is what Tammy credits with making their business successful over time. Today Tammy manages a staff of three, overseeing all production and sales functions, even doing some photography with Jason. However she stresses that her most important job continues to be "making sure the client is taken care of at the best possible level." This, she believes can happen only when the business is well organized and when the staff recognizes the vital importance of this priority. "This is how you get repeat clients," she says. "The product has to be the best we can provide, but clients must have a positive experience as well. Little things really do count."

Creating Balance

The business averages approximately 500 photographic sessions a year, including several weddings, so Tammy also is mindful of the importance of striking a balance between sessions and workflow. "The major challenge we face in the digital age," she explains, "is not to overwhelm ourselves by over-scheduling too many sessions, given the production time each session or wedding creates."

Managing Workflow

According to Jason, the digital revolution has made SuccessWare even more important to the business. "Before digital, all we had to do was send the film and negatives to the lab, log them out and log them in," he says. "Because workflow is so much more complicated now, you must have a way to know where you are in the production process. SuccessWare lets us keep on top of every step."

The Importance of Systems

Tammy echoes the importance of creating systems throughout the studio, and presently she is working on a new employee handbook, which she sees as essential to making systems function and also for keeping an open line of communication with employees. "Having employees you can trust is vital," she says. "They need to know what's expected of them, and good communication is what builds mutual respect. It's especially important when the business landscape is constantly changing. Your learning and your employee's learning must be non-stop. So we are constantly going to school and attending PPA functions, because we know we can trust the information they provide about industry and market changes."

A Family Affair

The Odom's 12-year-old daughter, Lauren, who as an only child has literally grown up in the studio, is now assuming a more prominent role in the business. "She's actually making photographs at weddings," Tammy explains proudly. "She loves working with people, and they will do things for her that they wouldn't do for me. I don't know whether she'll want a career in photography, but for now the experience is good for her, and she's enjoying it . . . and she loves getting a paycheck!"

On the Horizon

In looking to the future Jason anticipates the possibility of purchasing a studio property to build financial equity, and the idea of finding a place where he and Tammy might combine a residence and a studio is very tempting. "I like the idea of working in a more closed environment, and it's entirely possible that we might further increase our profitability through such a move." If and when an opportunity presents itself, Jason knows that he can turn to SuccessWare's financial projections feature to determine if the move would be financially sound.

Management's Rewards

Jason's confidence reflects just how far his management skills have progressed from the early days when he believed, as he wryly reflects: "If you want to make a living in photography, all you need is to be a good photographer and do a little marketing." In remembering those days, Jason says he now sees an interesting parallel between learning photography skills and mastering SuccessWare: "I remember what it was like when, after years of study and practice with apertures and shutter speeds, the technical side of photography became second nature to me; finally I could concentrate on the artistic content of image making. Learning to use SuccessWare to manage your business works the same way: It allows you to keep the business side under control so that you can spend your time being creative." 

You can learn more about Jason and Tammy Odom, and their studio, Renaissance Portrait Studio, at their website.

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

Next: Jeff & Julia Woods: In Search of Balance

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