Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Real Life Bayonne Experience

As I was writing up this week's case study on Bayonne, I kept having flashbacks to a previous job. I served as the Greek Manager and later sales manager for a local photography company. The company (who I won't name out of respect) took youth sports photos, fraternity and sorority composite and bid day photos and graduation photography. The owner was attempting to break into the school photo market, which was exceedingly tough due to the presence of well established national companies like Lifetouch.

Over the course of five years working for this company I made a number of observations on improvements that could have been made. We needed a true CRM client system, not spreadsheets. We really could have used actual Microsoft Office, and not tried to get by with OpenOffice. Access to a computer with photoshop was a real issue for me to get my work done. We frequently had soccer or hockey photos that coincided with the Greek Schedule, and I'd have to work across 3 computers that were shared by other employees (2 of them with poor computing power) to complete my work. Our office was cramped (old, 2 story victorian house that had been converted to an office) and everyone was constantly underfoot everyone else as we tried to get orders out the door. The walls were a depressing grey color, and the carpet was stained.

Some would have helped production timelines. Some would have just made morale better, but I also came to understand while some of these ideas were easy for me to make, they were not easy for the company's owner to invest in, especially given the shifting and more challenging market the photography business found itself in more regularly. Digital photography cut into huge parts of our markets. My position as Greek Manager used to involve many more duties, and our company would frequently "party pic" at formals and other special events. With the advent of smart phones and Facebook, the market for candid event photography had completely disappeared.

Formal Bid Day photos became more and more of an issue, especially ensuring that we were under contract annually. Nice, 8"x10" formal photos that took 3 weeks or more to get started to become an issue for the girls. But as manager, I had to do data entry on all of the orders off of handwritten cards. That took time. as did ensuring that these large groups (upwards of 140 members) had their orders batched properly at our printer we contracted with (located in another state).

When it came to the composite boards, batch production became a fine art or a total disaster. 4+ photos of each girl, 140 members per group had to be edited and uploaded for them to order. I needed to batch the "chosen" photo for the board in a particular way for the board producer (we didn't build the boards, another company did). Mock ups were made and would go back and forth, back and forth with the chapter contacts to ensure for no errors before production. Shipping was at least $100 each shipment, so my boss wanted as many boards as possible shipped together. Then I had to arrange with the photographers to borrow the van to deliver the boards or coordinate with them to drive the boards to chapters located in other parts of the state. I eventually got so frustrated and overwhelmed by the lack of resources and chaotic nature of the position that I quit.

Like the situation at Bayonne, the company I worked for had production capacity issues, upper management inserting themselves into the production process, and clients that were overly demanding/unreasonable in their expectations for product delivery and notoriously slow in responding to emails. It was a really frustrating experience and while it was valuable work experience, it really made me understand what kind of work I did not want to spend my time doing.

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