by Tim Hoy Published 01/10/2009
Keeping trade secrets was the incontrovertible rule when I first started in 1981.
My belief was that if the competition got hold of our ideas they'd put our photographic workers' cooperative out of business. When business plans were written, I'd look at what had worked best over the preceding year and what needed to be reviewed in order to succeed.
Over the years it was common to find that some of the best practices had come about whenever I recruited new blood. Fresh ideas, often from people with less experience or training, would rejuvenate enthusiasm and generate new business.
Although it was a big part of my personal life, I used networking, information sharing and support sparingly in my professional life until 2004/5 - I mistakenly thought it would protect my business, but I soon discovered that this Luddite approach would not take me forward in the new digital world where photographers help others out who they sometimes only know through their online persona.
Thankfully the last five years has seen me transfer my skills of networking from my personal life into my photography world, and it has reaped benefits beyond my imagination. Just from the Society forum alone I have generated two weddings, numerous training opportunities and a rejuvenation of our cooperative business in the middle of an international recession.
The Society community have been prepared to share information and ideas. At first I thought it was too good to be true, but every week I would see someone asking for advice and getting the most comprehensive replies.
Positive networking has secured so many benefits. Just one of these is a gallery in which I will be exhibiting and selling my work later this year.
The gallery offer was a consequence of my making the effort to establish a relationship with a publican who commissioned me to decorate his two very successful gastro pubs with some local architectural images.
I was happy to display my work (after all it's another chance to get my name out there) as I could see that it would help the guy. My first regard was for his needs, not mine - something that I find is crucial in successful networking. And I treated him as if he was my best client this year, just as I do with all my clients, regardless of their budget. By adopting the right mental attitude towards the job we developed a mutual trust and respect which I am convinced is part of the formula for a positive outcome in the long term
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