Most recently I had an event happen in my business that took me by surprise and hit me left field. It totally stopped me in my tracks for a moment or two. I was so busy creating content and programs, teaching students all over the world, making good stuff for great photographers that I didn't really pay attention to much else. I was fine-tuning this using the industry's best developers and automation specialists to create these dynamic platforms, encompassing all walks of life and time zones to create a flexible program for photography professionals. Sounds good right? I was super excited and enthused, ready to ride this wave of happy.
So while soaring at this altitude of awesome, it was brought to my attention a past student said something very negative about what I was doing online. They had a grievance and aired it in a public forum quite critically with comments that were unfounded and opposite to the mass feedback our team was getting from the rest of the students and was quite frankly unwarranted and hurtful.
So why did it hit me for six?
I am the first person to absorb constructive criticism in the most positive way I can because we are all learning all of the time and honesty is a great tool for improvement. But unfortunately, this wasn't the case. So many people have said to me this situation is something that happens all of the time in business. It is one you would expect out of the hundreds of students you have, as you cannot be everything to everyone. I was so used to success and positive feedback!
But this threw me. I didn't expect it and wasn't prepared for it. So began another lesson in business; how to process unfounded negativity. How to overcome it, how to grow from it and move forward. How not to allow interfere with your personal attachment to your business, this can be tough when you are passionate about your business,
If you have taken a passion and transformed it into a business, there's a little thread in there, and that little thread in there is called the heart. Your heart and passion are all wrapped up around this business model. So what happens if somebody criticizes this in a way that is awful and it seems you are powerless to defend yourself?
You can see this all really got me thinking, and processing and I did overcome it. It is also an opportunity to share with you so that maybe you too can get something from this experience.
I urge you when you are in business, particularly when you are serving from the heart, always exceed your customer's expectations, and your student's expectations, so we avoid this type of thing happening in the first place, I mean that's a given. I show my students how to do this extensively in our training models. Years of generational photography has taught me the successful way to attract, serve and KEEP great customers. The next obvious point is to be active on the social media or internet pages you are a part of, so if something is
brought to your attention, you can intercede if need be. But remember it isn't always
possible, and shouldn't be a 24 / 7 thing, you can never stop people altogether online. If they want to, they will. I am of the belief that an issue should always be taken up peer to peer first, though. Unfortunately, when people decide to air their concerns online, everyone sees it. It can be slanderous and cause damage to business. Meanwhile, if you let a company know directly that they didn't meet your expectations, you are giving them business a golden opportunity to step up, explain or assist.
Ok, so you need go-to people. Your vibe attracts your tribe. When shit goes down in your business in small or large ways, you must have trusted people you can bounce off and discuss it with. This is crucial. I suppose in a way, it's a risk management system. The first thing to do is seek advice. Choosing to ignore it completely is not wise. What if the person has some issues that are quite founded? So you need to gather some people you trust, who get your business and the market you are servicing, giving you honest answers. Get them to check out what happened. Do they feel that the issue at hand was warranted? What could you have done differently? If it comes back with a piece of gold for you, a nugget of learning to improve your program or resource, fantastic, this might be something you can implement next time and learn from. Write it all down, because then you have A PLAN, a response plan to kick into place, in addition to helping you be as professionally as possible it also attributes to your future workflow and is a part of excellent business "process". If you have positive statements at the ready, literally in a folder labelled "critical response" at your fingertips, you can reply online if it's a thread you have access to. Under no cicrucmstances should you respond to someone in a negative way online. Other people are watching, and a professional is about critical response, timing and online etiquette. If people see the way you handle a small or large crisis online well, you earn their respect.
In my case, there was nothing I could do. 99% of my students were ecstatic, and the issue at hand was to do with the person complaining, and as I said earlier- you simply cannot please everybody. End of story.
It is safe to say after talking to my industry people, entrepreneurs and providers of educational resources: one size does not fit all. You are going to have a small percentage, in fact, you need to allow for a small percentage of people who will be disgruntled with everything they come into contact. The result of which? In business, you could find yourself in the firing line. These issues apply to every form of human interaction! But more specifically if you are in the online- program industry you might find your program may not have suited their requirements or presented in a way that fits their need. Now if your portion of that is a small percentage overall and without sounding like a broken record- this is to be expected and you need to be prepared!
However, if there is nothing you could have done, nothing that could have been changed (remember for the greater good of the larger group) you have to realize this is a part of business. You just have to take it on the chin. Remember as a great mentor told me; statistically, it is almost impossible not to have this happen!
What I don't want to happen to you, is what happened to me. My expectations were sky high and unrealistic. It left me stunned, stopped and it hurt my heart, it hurt my feelings. I
urge you NOT to absorb that into your heart and take it as a reflection of the entire reason
you're doing what you are doing. Please don't let it do that.
Do not let the unfounded comments of others stop you in your tracks and squeal the brakes on in your business. Stagnancy is the quickest way to legitimately losing confidence; losing momentum and losing yourself. Always keep moving and growing and don't stop. Reflect yes, be mindful, of course. But do not give up.
For more information on how to make it in the photography industry with absolute success
and more strategies like these go to: annieography.com