Business Resilience: Photographer’s Fortitude
This is the fifth article in our series on building a thriving photography business. We hope it will enrich and empower your business efforts—irrespective of whether you’re just starting the journey or you’re well down the track. (If you’re just joining us, please consider starting with the first article here: Building a Thriving Photography Business.)
What is Business Resilience?
The word resilience refers to “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties”. It speaks of your bounce-back capacity. When suffering the inevitable challenges of running a business, do you bounce back from the blows and knocks that come?
In terms of business, the phrase “business resilience” has been defined as follows:
Business resilience is the ability an organisation has to quickly adapt to disruptions while maintaining continuous business operations and safeguarding people, assets and overall brand equity.
That’s a great statement to ponder over but the first question that comes to mind is, how do you develop this ability in the first place?
In The iBoss Dilemma, Craig discusses how to harness this powerful stuff. Let’s tune into what he has to say…
A little girl wandered into a candy shop with her father. She took the candy bucket her father handed to her, and started filling it up. When she joined her father at the counter, her bucket was overflowing.
The shop owner chuckled heartily at the sight of this little, knee-high girl and the vast quantity of lollies she’d chosen. He looked at her father. “All for her? She going to manage all that?”
Before the father could answer, the little girl piped up: “I’m bigger on the inside than I am on the outside, you know!”
Bigger on the inside.
In a world obsessed with externals (appearance, status, bank balance, size of house, size of car, and so on), we need to remind ourselves that it’s what’s on the inside that really counts.
Externals are not just superficial, they’re also fleeting. But what’s on the inside (the substance of one’s spirit, in a word, character), this is enduring.
It is upon the substance of character that a legacy is built.
Bigger on the Inside
The height of a building is secured by the strength of its foundation. In the same way, the reach of my potential is secured by the strength of my character.
I can only reach as high as my character allows.
Well, that’s not completely true. You can over reach. And many do. But there’s always a consequence for over-reaching.
Eventually, something goes snap.
And then everything comes tumbling down.
I remember reading an article that deeply impacted me as a young man.
In an interview with Time Magazine way back in November 19911, Harvard Medical School psychologist Steven Berglas spoke of an interesting phenomenon. He called it the “success syndrome” and he spoke of “victims of success” who overachieve “without the psychological bedrock to prevent disorder”.
Without the psychological bedrock to prevent disorder.
In a nutshell, he was referring to those who lacked the substance of character, a strong moral foundation, to maintain and support their over-reaching.
According to Berglas, a person who has lacks this foundation will inevitably suffer one or more of the Four As:
- Arrogance – a haughty, conceited spirit
- Aloneness – isolationism
- Adventure-seeking – chronic risk-taking
- Adultery – infidelity
Wow. That impacted me as a young man.
Not only was Berglas speaking from a decade of working with “victims of success”, including many well-known celebrities, what he said made complete sense. I was witnessing it in the world at large. And since then, this syndrome has become endemic in every sphere of society. Every nook and cranny.
Every niche of our society now has its own sub-culture replete with its own experts, celebrities, conferences, merchandise, and yes, haves and have-nots. From the colourful world of cosplay and YouTubers, to the innumerable sub-branches in every industry, to the elite executive-level business clubs, every niche now offers its members the opportunity to climb the ladder and become a “victim of success”.
The answer to the last question Berglas was asked is fascinating. He was asked, “What’s the cure for a bad case of the success syndrome?”
What’s often missing in these people is deep community or religious activity that goes far beyond just writing a check to a charity.
You don’t have to believe in Jesus or Yahweh or some higher being, but you have to subordinate yourself to a greater cause.
When you do that, you don’t take advantage of people, you don’t exploit them.
Go, be a part of a community. I’ve seen it work. It’s the only antidote for narcissism. Be an Indian, not a chief. Lose your identity in a group.
The healthiest people have that commitment.”
Wow. Just wow.
Let me spotlight the two things that leap out for me.
- Be a part of a community.
- Subordinate yourself to a greater cause.
Why are these simple things the “only antidote for narcissism”?
Because they build our character. They add substance to our inner world.
They teach us to put others first.
They burst the bubble of self-preoccupation.
They make us bigger on the inside.
And in so doing, they enable us to reach higher. To fulfil our potential.
Without something going snap.
What is Character?
Bill Hybels said,
Character is who you are when no one is looking.”
I like that. What am I like behind closed doors? What am I like when I’m not trying to impress others? This reveals who I really am. Shorn of posturing and posing and pretence.
It’s a place of beginnings if I’m prepared to be honest with myself.
You see, to grow my character requires facing and slaying my narcissistic tendencies, my pre-occupation with self.
Why is this so important?
Because public effectiveness stems from this private victory.
The truth is, there can be no true peace or lasting joy if the things we do are inconsistent with the things we believe in. If our actions don’t sync with our convictions. If our behaviour contradicts our values.
Legacy-building character requires remaining true to yourself, true to your values, when everyone is watching.
So, take Will Rogers’s advice. He said,
So live your life that you would not be ashamed to sell the family parrot to the town gossip.”
The Law of Mumps & Measles
It’s been said that you can fool others (at least for a little while), but you cannot fool yourself. Of course, in the cold light of day, only a fool would want to pull the wool over his own eyes. Sadly, we can be so pre-occupied with externals that we do, in fact, dupe ourselves. Self-deception is a tricksy thing, as Gollum might say.
Self-deception takes us on a merry old journey. Until the day reality slaps you like a cold shower on a winter’s morning.
The truth is, we can’t fool others for very long either. Pretence isn’t a long-term gig.
If I have mumps but tell you I’ve got measles, you’ll still catch mumps not measles.
And sooner or later, I’ll get exposed.
You see, a person’s character is like toothpaste in a toothpaste tube. You don’t know what colour it is until you give it a squeeze.
And life always, eventually, provides the squeeze. Often when we least expect it.
Unveiled by our Words
Our words reveal our character. Our words reflect what’s going on inside of us.
Out of the abundance of the mouth the heart speaks.”
Negative words bubble up from a negative attitude. Defeatist talk boils over from defeatist thinking. In contrast, positive words spring up from an overflow of hope and resolve.
Of course, I can just mouth empty words. Say what you want to hear. Flap the jaws and maintain the pretence. Keep playing the fool.
But the squeeze is coming. At some point.
A better strategy would be to get my private world in order and to speak words of life in sync with the inner harmony.
Then my words can enrich my world rather than polluting it.
Then my words can carry weight and power and life.
Our word ought to be our bond. That’s all that was needed in business once upon a time. A person’s word.
As Richard Branson pointed out,
If you can’t keep a promise, don’t make one.”
Ask yourself this question: Would you trust you?
Character in Business
Up until now, we’ve largely addressed personal character even though all these points apply to business, of course. This is especially true for the small business owner whose business, as mentioned already, is intricately linked to his or her personhood.
For the sake of completeness, however, let me introduce another word that is more readily associated with business.
Integrity is to a business what character is to a person.
A little earlier, I made this statement:
Legacy-building character requires remaining true to yourself, true to your values, when everyone is watching.
The same is true for business.
Building a legacy business requires remaining true to your values.
Because it all comes down to what you value.
What Do You Value?
There is no better exercise for a business to do than to define their values.
What are the cherished values you hold, the values you want to build your business on?
I’m not talking about a code of conduct. A code of conduct may have some merit, especially for bigger organisations seeking consistency among a large workforce, but it can too often deteriorate into another list of dos and don’ts.
Yes, rules are important. Without them, anarchy reigns. If I want what you have, who’s to say that I can’t just take it? The law does.
You see, rules define the baseline of morality for a society. They’re important, but they don’t inspire greatness. They don’t inspire generosity of spirit.
Rules are merely a starting point. And observing the rules is just logical. The rules of soccer, for instance, exist to facilitate the enjoyment of the game. Otherwise, it would deteriorate into a scrambled mess; I don’t know, something like footy. (Just teasing. Hold your horses.)
Rules are necessary. However, values are better.
Values are ideals that inspire feelings and actions. Values enlarge us. They motivate. Values serve as the wind beneath the wings.
Values serve as a source of inspiration. We champion what we cherish. We celebrate what we want to see more of.
How do you decide on the values of your business?
Simply ask yourself what is important to you. What do you cherish?
You probably act on many of them unconsciously.
But writing your values down helps to clarify them. To flesh them out. To act on them more consistently.
Let me share the values of my business, and perhaps they’ll jog a few thoughts.
Honesty & Transparency: Because we have nothing to hide.
Promptness & Availability: Because we never want you waiting on us.
Service & Resourcefulness: Because we love what we do.
Friendliness & Patience: Because it costs nothing to be nice.
Although there is nothing ground breaking about them, they reflect my ideals about business, in general, and about my industry, in particular. I put a lot of thought into phrasing them as I have because they’re important to me. And just as importantly, I’m willing to be held accountable to them.
That last point is important.
I’m willing to be held accountable to them.
Because we’re not just talking about pretty words.
Remember, personal character and business integrity aren’t about externals.
They are about what’s inside.
Something to Think About
Just about anyone can be a flash in the pan. A one-hit wonder. A single moment of pure genius or madcap stupidity can put me on the news tonight.
A legacy life and a legacy business, however, are both built day-by-day, line upon line, one good decision on top of another. In a word, they are built on character.
It takes six hours to grow a mushroom. It takes sixty years to grow an oak tree. The question I ask myself is simple. Do I want to be a mushroom or an oak tree?
Business Resilience: A Photographer Needs Fortitude
Character. Integrity. Words that are easier to admire than implement.
That said, they are words that become integrated into our lives as we make good choices, day in and day out, week by week, month to month and from one year into the next.
In fact, they aren’t really a distant goal to aim at; rather, they’re qualities that grow in us over time.
And it’s people of character and businesses of integrity that demonstrate resilience. Why?
Business resilience is an expression of personal character and business integrity. Now, we’re able to weather the storms and bounce back even if we get knocked down.
I hope you’re enjoying this series and getting something valuable from it.
Remember. Don’t stop investing in you. It’s an investment worth making.