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Archive for July, 2012

Photography: Our Society has Trust Issues

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

It’s not unusual for street photographers to be accosted in public spaces for making their images. It’s disappointing; it’s a negative side effect of living in a hyper-connected and information saturated society.

The scenario generally pans out in various ways and the crux of complaint seems to be “You are taking photographs of my stuff.” Like that, in itself, is theft that can be taxed or requires written permission. Like they aren’t left with their stuff… or that I am somehow stealing their stuff, rather than walking away with a captured image made from the light reflected off their stuff.

Or people feel that I’m going to make money from their image or the image of their stuff – but I’m never entirely sure whether they want a share of that money or simply not to be exploited.

Yesterday’s encounter on a light industrial backstreet at Moonah was interesting. I’m fascinated by the 1950s era houses with flaked-paint and the non-standard artefacts generally present in light industrial areas. Meanwhile, the clouds were multi-layered and rolling before a storm – blacks, greys and a swirling strip of almost blown out white along the horizon. I also have a fetish for roof photographs, but that’s another story that I pursue in digital.

I had a Fujica ST705w loaded with Rollei RPX 100 black and white film around my neck and a Holga 120n loaded with Kodak Portra 400 colour film. My objective was to make multiple exposure Holga photographs just to see how the Portra responds to the Holga.

Anyway, the thing with film is I spend a long time looking through the lens and trying to figure out the shot. Often, there isn’t a shot and I walk on. I think that I’d checked out three houses and a sleepy old beagle on a chair. I’d probably taken three photographs in the street at most before one of the residents accosted me.

I think what people miss about that situation is that photographs on a suburban street from a public sidewalk aren’t illegal. If every car or house or business or thing was owned with an eye to precluding photographers then there simply would be no cameras sold in our society.

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The Art of Expectation Management

Saturday, July 14th, 2012

It’s always difficult to know how much is enough for a customer or client when it comes to a product, a service or the maintenance of an ongoing business relationship. It all comes down to that question “What is the customer’s expectation?”

Customers are notoriously individual. Customers pick up the strangest ideas about the surrounding world. If we sell the best product or service out there but customers think it’s shit – sorry, but our product or service is shit with a capital S for Shit. That’s just the nature of the relationship; the customer gets to decide, not us.

I keep coming back to Tommy Wong’s challenge Imagine the customer has your money in their pocket and your job is to convince them to give it back to you? How do you achieve that goal?

A big part of meeting the challenge should involve serious thought about expectation management. Judging just how to slightly exceed customer / client expectations so they walk away with positive impressions that cause them to return for more business. We can provide that slightly better service than expected, features not mentioned in the brochure, early delivery or a small saving in cost. Free shipping. A ride to the hotel. Free Wi-Fi.

But it’s not that simple. It makes little sense to throw all of our resources at exceeding customer expectations if we have no idea of the appropriate amount or the underlying associated business costs. We need to consider individual customers; we need to work out how to achieve that little extra something in the real world at a minimum perceptible level in the customer’s mind where they notice but not so little or much that we use resources inefficiently. If we greatly exceed customer expectations then we may consume our hard-earned profits. If we don’t provide enough of an extra something to be noticed then we barely scrape by their expectations and may have been better off providing slightly less or adequate.

In a sense what we need to be considering is the question of how to differentiate ourselves in a cost-effective and efficient manner in ways that go just beyond what the customer has expected. We want a win-win.

It sounds easy to achieve until you get down to the nuts and bolts of it. Customer expectations fluctuate and are entirely individual. Their expectations walking in the door could change within minutes or be the same over months.

And to top the challenge off we have to realise that if we exceed a customer’s expectations on one occasion they may reset those expectations a little higher and the next time that little extra something is going to be expected… even demanded as their right.

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Business 70s Style doesn’t work

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

The business universe of 2014 is hyper-competitive even at the local level. It’s also hyper-connected. In 2014 it’s not enough to sit back and hope business rolls in the door from the 30 mile radius without some level of planning, organisation and strategy. Business 70s style doesn’t work (anymore) and doing it the old way is generally catastrophic.

It used to work. There was definitely a time when business owners could walk out onto the main street of Hometown Somewhere and suck a big tank full of air into their sack-of-yesterday lungs and know they had a captive audience. Hometown Somewhere had little choice but to take what was served, either with complaint or congratulation.

Those were the yippee days before the current phase of globalisation took us into a world where more business transactions occur in a single day than occurred in any of the years of the 1960s. That’s a powerful step forward for our ability to do good (or harm) as businesses. But it’s also a powerful step into the wilderness of survival of the fittest.

It also means a small business owner can’t just rely on riding through the troughs without consideration of the next phase of the economy. These are now global markets. Downturns can occur not simply because the large employer outside Hometown Somewhere is putting off labour… it can occur because somebody in Greece spent more than their allotted clam shells on the dime of other countries.

The cliche brush stroke at this point generally reads “Businesses that fail to plan, plan to fail.”

That’s why the modern small business owner doesn’t stroll out onto main street with an air of ownership anymore. If they don’t want to compete against the world then it’s too late… the world is competing with them. It’s a more volatile world where any point that starts turning a profit attracts competitors who want a serviceable share. On the one hand it’s an opportunistic vulture economy… on the other it’s a chance to out-compete and expand market share.

That’s why there is a competitive edge to maintaining a live business plan and strategic marketing strategy. The term live means it’s never thrown into a drawer to gather dust; live documents are constantly updated as circumstances change. In this environment, if you want to compete to win, there are opportunities and threats that can’t be attended to on a half-yearly or annual basis.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark (aka nortypig) and I live in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a photographer making pictures with film. A web developer for money. A business consultant for fun. A journalist on paper. Dreams of owning the World. Idea champion. Paradox. Life partner to Megan.

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