What Real Estate Photographers Can Learn From The Demise of GM

December 10th, 2008

Real estate photography is about as different a business from auto manufacturing as there could be. But there are some things in common. In both businesses listening to your customers and continually improving is essential to survival.

If Toyota wasn’t in the same business, in the same markets making billions while GM is loosing billions it wouldn’t be so obvious what is broken at General Motors. GM is a top-down company where management knows what is best for both employees and customers. Toyota is a bottom up company that is obsessed with listing to their customers and employees and where employees figure out how to make improvements in the manufacturing process. As this article points out, “Companies around the world, including those outside the auto industry, have adopted Toyota’s methods. Universities, both in and outside Japan, study the Toyota method. Toyota is also well-known for nurturing worker loyalty by offering lifetime employment. The last time Toyota resorted to massive job cuts was during hard times in 1950.

So what’s the Toyota method? There are thousands of pages written on the subject but It’s pretty simple really:

  1. Be obsessed with listening to you customer.
  2. Pay attention to and measure the quality of your product.
  3. Continually strive to improve the quality of your product.

Translated into the real estate photography business, what this means is that as your customers needs change (and the real estate industry is experiencing major change these days) you’d better be understanding that change and be partnering with customers to adapt to the change or one day you’ll wake up, like GM, and be on the brink of going out of business. The significant thing about making improvements to your business is that they don’t have to be large. But you must be improving continuously. Small improvements every week, every month based on listening to and partnering with your customers. Continuous improvement must be a way of life.

Getting good objective feedback from real estate photography customers can be a problem. Most people don’t give you objective feedback. They’d rather be nice to you, especially when talking face-to-face. This is why mailed or online surveys can be more effective. It’s easier to tell you the truth when you are not frowning back at them. There are services like and others where you can easily build a online survey and collect feedback by sending people an e-mail link to the survey all for free. I used Polldaddy to survey the 30 attendees of the Seattle workshop last spring. It didn’t cost a thing and we got a tone of great feedback. The other benefit of this kind of survey is that it can have parts that are structured and parts that are open-ended. Have you ever done a customer survey to systematically find out what your customers like and don’t like about your service and what suggestions they may have for you? This time of the year is a good time to do one.

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5 Responses to “What Real Estate Photographers Can Learn From The Demise of GM”

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  • I sent out a poll to my clients about 18 months ago (I really should do it more often), and it was really informative. It turns out that my customers value quality above everything else, and that price comes in at the bottom of what’s important to them.

    So yep, surveys are really, really helpful tools for helping real estate photographers to be successful Toyotas rather than struggling GMs.

  • Thanks agan Larry for posting all this valuable information!! Very helpfull as ever!

  • Thanks larry for your tips. Great advise for free! Mandatory read for GM-managers!

  • GM builds excellent cars, but then didn’t 15 years ago.

    The Chevy Malibu according to J.D. Power and Associates in initial quality is better than the Accord and the Camry.

    The Cadillac CTS-V sells for $65k and has 556HP and is as fast and handles as well as the 2009 Ferrari California that sells for $225k.

    The 2009 Corvette ZR1 sells for $110k and is faster and handles better then the $350k Ferrari 599 GTB.

    GM is listening to their customers and what they’re requesting in a car.

    Toyota copied part of their business plan from the Piggly Wiggly store chain.

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