“I’ve been shooting real estate for just under a couple of years and I’m crazy busy, shooting an average of between 7-8 houses a day, most days. I think it’s starting to catch up with me though. Last Monday, each of my scheduled morning shoots went longer than I’d expected and it pushed back every other shoot to later in the day. Unfortunately, it forced me to have to completely reschedule my last two shoots of the day to another date. One of them was for my top client and he was really upset because he got an earful from the homeowners for asking to reschedule. Apparently, they'd spent the weekend cleaning a 3,000 sq. ft. house. They told him that, with four young boys under 8 and two large dogs, it would be impossible to keep the house clean and they’d have to do a full clean all over again. I’ve already apologized to my client over and over and after he calmed down, he said it was okay but I still feel horrible. Any advice?”
Well Tom, I feel for you. I’m pretty sure that most of us in our community have done something that caused a client/homeowner to be upset. So, given that you’ve probably done all the things you need to do to patch things up with the client, including apologizing profusely, rather than give you some additional input about customer service, I’d like to take another tack and let you know that, somewhere down the road, this situation will help you!
I stumbled across an article online published in Nature Communication that talked about some scientific research on the value of what they called, “early-career setbacks”. In short, the research found that such setbacks can contribute to making your career stronger in the long-term; even when compared to those subjects in their study who reported never having had a major early-career setback.
The study examined the careers of two groups of scientists who’d been rated as “statistically identical”. One group of scientists were successful in winning a research grant while the other group narrowly missed the same grant. After following the careers of both groups of scientists for 10 years, they found that the group who’d narrowly missed the grant, had significantly better careers than the group who’d won the grant. The researchers tried to rule out a number of potential mitigating variables but the results came back the same. Dashun Wang, a professor at the renowned Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, in Evanston, IL, and co-author of the study, surmised that the actual failure to be awarded the grant was used by the scientists in the failure group to inspire themselves to achieve more.
I'm not surprised by these findings as intuitively, I think that many of us know that accepting our failures and trying to learn from them is usually a key factor in any successful career. In fact, I’ve read that it’s becoming a popular practice to document failures (and the things you’ve learned from them)... it’s called a “failure résumé” and it serves as a touchstone for people to remind themselves of how much they’ve learned and grown in their career.
I’ve actually written about a variation of this technique in a number of articles, most recently, here, where I talk about the importance of analyzing those shots that we think we’ve botched when we get home after a shoot (see item #2 in the article). I hope this helps, Tom!
So what about you? Do you have a a story about a time when a very significant failure contributed to making you a better photographer and/or helped you to run your business better? It would be great, if not inspirational, for all of us to read about these sorts of experiences in our field!
Tony Colangelo is a residential and commercial photographer, as well as a photography coach, based in Victoria, BC, Canada. He is a long-time contributor to PFRE and is the creator of The Art & Science of Great Composition tutorial series.