How NOT to run your business. The Majestic Theatre:

Image from Despair INC. Their funny people.

by Gavin Seim: How often have you walked from of a business, annoyed at the lack of service? Businesses close everyday because people didn’t care enough to please. No matter what you sell, you need to give customers a happy experience. As photographers this is especially true. We’re selling quality and an experience, not a piece of paper. Similar in many ways to a movie theater, so today I’m using them as an example.

Last night I went to a theater called the Majestic in Yakima WA. Yep, I’m naming names. This is one of the worst Theaters in Washington because they don’t care. Poor management and inexperienced kids run the show. This “could” be a really nice theater, but you can almost feel the chilling lack of interest the moment you walk thru the door.

I went to see UP with family (fun movie by the way). The last show of the evening started and about half way thru I went to grab snacks. I was met by dimmed lights and told by a group of kids around sixteen that they were closing and cleaning so they could go home. Questioning this, I was informed that the owners make the decision. Then one young employee proceeded to make snotty remarks saying she likes the way they do it just fine and that they have lives too! Not kidding.


What is this about? It’s about service. Yakima theaters are owned by the same people and no competition means even less incentive. This theater, like some you’ve probably visited yourself has lost it’s vision of service. In a down industry becoming less and less needed, due to home theaters, big screens and great sound, you’d think theaters would try to stand out. Instead many cut expenses, lower quality and raise prices.

As photographers we’re selling something not required for survival. We’re not unlike movie theaters. Nearly everyone has a digital camera and can take simple portraits. Juts like big screen TV’s seem to be killing the theater industry and the only reason they make it is because they get the movies before we can buy or rent then. Imagine your business hanging by the thread of Hollywood execs who decide the release schedule of their films.

The reality however is it’s their own fault. Just like it’s the fault of photographer going out of business because of people with digital cameras. Blaming business failure on home theaters, or digital cameras, or photo booths is a copout to avoid the real problem of  not giving clients a great enough experience to make it worth their while. If the experience lacks, why should a customer bother. In our case the “experience can encompass everything from print quality, to attitude, to packaging to delivery time and much more.

Imagine a theater that charges $15 for admission, yet they had a polite warm atmosphere of people who cared. Picture, sound and comfort were amazing. You could sit in a private booth with your family and order food from a touchscreen to have it delivered to your table without leaving the show. This would be fun and different from home and that would make it worth it. The experience and quality makes it something you want to do. Just like a great portrait and a great experience is worth more than a snapshot taken by uncle Bob.

When the experience you deliver is poor, you’re suddenly competing with amateurs and do it yourself’ers. Theirs no reason for someone to pay you more. If cheap weekend warrior shooters and amateurs are taking your jobs it’s may be because you are one.

The bottom line here is service, service, and more service. In this world where lousy service and experience is the norm, I can see that the most powerful way to stand out in the crowd, is also the most underused. Service. Don’t become the Majestic and don’t expect your client to love your work if you don’t put out the effort to love it yourself. Being a real professional is more that just saying, it’s doing.

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