When you own a successful business, it is natural that with growth comes the hiring of employees. You look for someone that has an interest in the industry in which you work so it is also natural that your employee might one day work for a competing company, or even start their own business. Unless you have a non-compete clause in your employee contract, there really is not anything you can do to prevent this from happening. After all, your employee deserves to grow personally just like you want your business to grow.
Moving on and moving in your own direction is not necessarily a problem in my industry specifically. We have a lot of work to go around and new businesses and venues are popping up every day. The hope (at least from my perspective) is that clients will know the difference between the talented real professionals and the bored unemployed looking to make a quick buck. A lot of times price can set us apart and, in most cases, those of us that have been in the industry for a while are not fighting to work with the “bargain shoppers” anyway. Quality over dirt-cheap prices speaks volumes when you only have one day to get it right!
But what happens when you have someone working for you that actually steals from you? Steals your client base, lies about her credentials and then uses your name to get your clients to come to her? Well it is happening right now as I am writing this. In order to protect the individuals, I’ll say that I have a “best friend” who owns a photography studio. I know this is totally throwing you off so do not even try to guess who it is! His bread and butter comes from repeat business with children and families and he truly is the best at working with the kiddos. He had an assistant that worked for him for years until he found out that she was stealing clients from him by working side deals offering exactly the same thing as he did only cheaper (oh yeah, and the quality was even cheaper than the price!)
Upon being confronted, the assistant cried and swore that she was sorry and would never do it again. She begged for him to keep her on staff. He was much nicer than I would have been and told her that he needed to think about it because now the trust was broken. Instead of coming to him and saying that she wanted to be a photographer and start photographing with him (YES, that’s right. She had never actually shot a session before! Maybe I didn’t mention that she was an editor and office assistant) she started going to his clients and offering lower pricing in order to take the clients away from him.
While, legally, nothing much can be done at this moment, my question to these types of people is: If you are good at what you do, why do you have to tap into someone else’s client base? I have been in business for 10 years and I have never gotten a job by reaching out to a client that I know is working with someone else and cheapening myself by offering a lower price for them to leave their current planner. First of all, I know my worth, so there’s that! But secondly, I’ve found that ethics in business is one of the most important things in creating a long lasting career.
Thank God he has loyal clients that have come to him to tell him that they were told that “his business was closing” or told that “she was now working that specific portion of the company” etc. You cannot match a great photographer with the relationships that he has even if you are doing pictures for free. But for the clients that fell for this or switched over due to pricing, we’ve all been this rodeo before. When you realize that you only like the photo because your child is the subject, but upon second glance the photo is not good enough to hang in your closet much less your living room wall, you’ll realize that you definitely got what you paid for!
The point of this article is to let the business owners out there know that you have to protect yourself and watch who you hire. Employees like this are like younger siblings that never could match up to the accomplishments of their elders. Jealousy and insecurities take over and that’s just not a good look. Just stay the course and know that, in the end, talent and truth always come out on top, and mediocre photographers are a dime a dozen. They all fade out eventually!
And if you are someone that wants to move on and have a business of your own, then have a business of YOUR OWN! Not someone else’s. How about starting by using different spots in the park and different poses or a unique concept? Just an idea. Creating and running a business is about more than just the task at hand. It is about building up your own clients, and having your own ideas and techniques. It is about managing money and marketing and hustling! If you are that good and you think you can do it on your own, then be that good and prove yourself. Right now, you are just proving that you cannot do it without your old boss and that’s just pathetic!