I had never heard of Justin and Mary Marantz until four weeks ago. A friend of mine sent me the link to their website talking about a speaking tour they would be venturing out on and Charlotte was one of their stops along the way. I quickly scanned what the workshop would cover and gave it some thought. One of my yearly goals has always been to attend worthwhile workshops, both on business and photography, in order to better serve my clients. I thought this fell into that category and I decided to book it.

Upon arriving yesterday in Charlotte at the Fillmore, it was raining and I was running late. I’d never been to this part of the city and wasn’t familiar with anything. I quickly found an empty parking space and pulled in, grabbed my stuff and quickly walked through the rain to the workshop.

Mary began the workshop with an emotional story about her father when he was a child around the coal mines in West Virginia. It immediately grabbed everyone’s attention as the story unfolded before us. She then transitioned from the story into telling us to remember this moment and live our lives with no regrets.

So much information was covered in this workshop. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a business workshop, but more of a motivational workshop to get off the couch and do something that is worth leaving a legacy behind. She just happened to be a photographer and applied it to this industry. We discussed failure and it’s likelihood in this business. However, by failing you will learn more about yourself and it will help prepare you for what’s to come. How you respond to failure will shape your future.

We moved from having fears in this business to having dreams and what it takes to make those happen. Mary gave us seven steps from dream to done and actually walked a few people through that process. That really helped me see the big picture, but also how that big picture is really attainable; to break it down into weekly and daily goals and tasks.

We talked about the maintaining of your business and how not to get bogged down with it. I’m not nearly as busy as many of the photographers in the room were, so while this portion was informational, it probably didn’t apply directly to myself at this moment in my business. There were a lot of useful tips though like “if you don’t plan for it, you will get behind” or “the easier you make it on yourself, the quicker you will get it done” and “clean slate paradigm: it’s easier to keep a clean house clean”. She referenced books by David Allen and Jon Acuff – both I’m going to look into.

The last section we talked about was branding and having a tribe of believers. I felt like this was a great section because she covered personality marketing and why it may not be the best route today. A few years ago the idea was most clients couldn’t really tell the difference between images, so to set yourself apart, you needed to sell your clients on your personality. It made sense to me. If it didn’t come down to price and your pictures looked just as good as the next guy, what else would win them over, if not your personality?

One thing Mary mentioned  that really stuck out to me was, 10 or 20 years from now, your clients and their children or grandchildren are not going to remember if you had a fabulous personality, or if your favorite team was the Chicago Cubs, or if your favorite color was aqua. They are going to remember the pictures that you took at that wedding. That’s the thing that is going to stand out and last for years to come. Mary stressed how important it is to leave something enduring with your clients, and your personality just isn’t that enduring.

Don’t get me wrong, you should connect with your clients and your personality should win them over, but they should hire you because you can deliver a good product, one that will stand the test of time. Mary said “building a business on being likable doesn’t push you to be better”. Building a business on serving your clients and refining your craft will push you to be better.

There was so much more that we covered yesterday and I still need to wrap my head around it. But I wanted to write what stood out to me and the things that I’d like to focus on.

The workshop was actually two-fold. The first part of the day was the business workshop with Mary and the second was lighting with Justin. I didn’t want to stay for the second part, so I headed out during the break. As I walked to where I had parked my car, I quickly realized it was no longer there. I felt angry, frustrated and embarrassed all in the same moment. Right in front of where I had parked was a sign that said no parking. I hadn’t really paid any attention to it when I parked there I just saw an open space and pulled in.  Other cars were parked on either side of the open spot, with signs in front of those spaces as well, and I didn’t think a thing of it.

I dialed the number on the sign and spoke to the towing company. Thankfully for me, they were directly across the street from the venue I had just left. I quickly called Jon, told him what happened and headed back inside to find one of my friends who was staying for the second half of the workshop. We waited for the guy to come open up the lot and I sheepishly paid my $120 ticket (had to be cash too by the way) to get my car back. That was definitely a first and hopefully a last for me. How embarrassing. I guess God knew I needed to be humbled a little bit that night ’cause it worked.

Overall it was a great evening and I ended up with a not-so-funny-at-the-time-story to tell later. Lesson learned.