Wednesday, July 29, 2015

3 Bottom-Line Business "Must Haves" ...

Put your business hat on. What do you see? Does it put you in go-getter mode? Are you thinking dollars and cents? Is this where you skim over your business plan (if you have one) and focus on your goals and objectives stated? Does the word "business" automatically make you think of the physical operations of your company? Does a "well run" business mean fiscal success to you?

In my 15 years of experience, I've realized that the most important aspects of how you run your business is not found in a carefully planned outline. That outline is your basic foundation--sell your product and make a profit. Many people have been successful with this formula, but if you're already running your own business right now, I'm not going to lay out the do's and don'ts at this point.

I'd rather talk about THREE aspects of running a people-oriented business that are just as important and will essentially strengthen your name, your brand, and even your product. Not only that, but you'll just feel way better about yourself and your business practices. No matter what industry you work in, your values will impact those around you.

You can run a business without it, but don't come knocking on my door for a business relationship. I want no part of you or what you have to offer because obviously you don't have what I want. Most of us associate "integrity" as a character trait, but more importantly, it is a trait that requires some action. You should be practicing what you preach. Integrity is a reflection of what you believe; it is demonstrated through your behavior. None of us can read minds so obviously I can't guess your intentions, but if there is a pattern of falling short on your promises, or you're just not all you talked yourself up to be, then you've misrepresented yourself. <-- That's the kind way of saying you're full of shit, and don't think that people won't figure it out. Bottom line, be the kind of person you would like to do business with. Don't just cheer on good ethics, be the one working his or her ass off to make a respectable name for yourself.

You may not realize it, but courtesy has become one of the most lacking traits within business relationships. I've realized this the most after I started publishing books a few years ago. The disrespect and self-serving habits of individuals can be overwhelming, and at times, unbelievable. I am not speaking of everyone in this manner, because there are certainly some people out there that are not selfish and cutthroat, but the ones that feel it is necessary to act that way are the ones you wish karma would work her magic on. Unfortunately, it doesn't always work that way. However, to be courteous is to compromise, and to compromise is to put yourself in someone else's shoes and decide from there. We get so self-absorbed in our own desire for success, so caught up in watching our own backs, that we continually fail to extend this opportunity to ourselves. We fail to extend common courtesies to those we work with, to show that respect we would like in return. Some may feel being courteous is just an opportunity to get screwed by someone else, and I certainly don't turn a blind eye to that. Been there, done that, it's not fun and I don't like to be in that position...but I'd rather be the one giving than the one taking. I've found that far better things happen in your life when you take on that approach. Give the benefit of the doubt once in a while, but be careful of being burned the same way or by the same person more than once. Never hang yourself out there to dry, but just be mindful of others in your industry. Bottom line, don't do something that you wouldn't want done to you. Be careful of the toes you step on because you'll eventually have to account for them in the long run.

Do I really need to say it? Apparently so. Being dishonest means flat out lying, intentionally deceiving, telling only partial truths, or telling a person what they want to hear when you have no intention of following through. A lot of people are great at justifying their dishonest moments. They want to believe it was a reasonable choice. But be sure to ask yourself the tough questions if you really want to have an honest business. If you can apply the first two principles that I've already mentioned--integrity and courtesy--then you should have no problem being honest. I'm not talking about the gray area, like when we tell our kids there's a fairy that collects teeth, or when we are launching a new idea and choose to keep it to ourselves for the time being. I'm talking about deliberately deceiving someone for your own gain; purposely doing business in a manner that you would not approve of had it been done to you instead. Bottom line, don't do dirty business. Refrain from backing yourself into a corner that you can't get out of, because eventually your lies will catch up to you.  

I'd just like to say that I'm not being preachy and I'm not standing on my soap box. I do pride myself in the way I do business, and yes I gravitate toward those that share my same values, but no matter how my decisions turn out for me, I can always be happy that it all came from a good place. I may have to make some business choices that are not all sunshine and rainbows, but in the end, I know I tried my best to be fair and respectful. Decisions to cut my ties with someone or choose not to work with them don't come lightly.  Apply good standards, observe, learn, and have compassion... but do what you feel is best for you and your business. I write for myself, and in that writing--whether it be my books, music, or just a blog like this--I leave advice for myself. I like to look back at the things I've learned because most often there is a lesson I can apply to what is currently going on in my life. These are age-old principles that will never die, and as long as I own my own business or work with others, I will always look to these qualities as the true foundation of who I am and what I stand for.


Sunday, July 5, 2015

Some controversial thoughts on business relationships...

This industry has changed so much in the past few years, for me at least, that I need to completely regroup and start over. I'm finding myself questioning all of my previous methods, ideas, and routines when it comes to publishing books...and I don't think I'm the only one.

My writing will always be my writing--I'm not changing that for anything. I'm never going to write a book because the topic is a popular fad, nor will I ever write in a style that is not ME. I don't believe in selling a part of who Author Hadley Quinn is just to jump on a bandwagon for increased sales. This has hurt me financially, but it will never hurt my integrity.

Many of you know that I have very strict business ethics. Sadly, these ethics and high standards seems to be what's unique these days and sometimes they hold me back market-wise. That's terrible. It makes me disappointed. Will there always be bad business? Of course there will be. But you will never see me on the active end of it. When you work in an industry where different professions collaborate, you find yourself in some interesting situations sometimes. So many experiences are amazing--the people, the art, everything that comes together--and there are some that you have to learn from when things go wrong. I would not call these "unfortunate" experiences, because you do learn SO much from these instances, but it can be frustrating. Especially when you pride yourself on your integrity and how you treat others... When you get shafted, it makes you question why.

I've gone into some business ventures that I was sure were going to be amazing, successful, brilliant, the best business friendships ever...only to be knocked down in shock. Is this failure? No, I don't think so. I can read people pretty well, and I enjoy this strength of mine. I even see the conflict happen before it does, and some would question why I would go forward with it anyway. Here's the thing... Sometimes I get a gut feeling about someone, and when my business head says NOPE, NO WAY... my heart and intuition say, YES GIVE THEM A CHANCE. I cannot know everything going on in someone's life, nor do they understand what has been in mine, but I feel that everyone deserves the opportunity for EXPERIENCES. See, whether they be good ones or bad ones, you are surrounded in instances that TEACH YOU SOMETHING. It can be about people in general, or straight up business do's and don'ts, but you are always learning something, therefore...achieving.

I've recently put a lot of faith in some individuals, and yes, I'm extremely disappointed in how things turned out. For me, there is no excuse when I see myself constantly accommodating another individual, trying to give them the benefit of the doubt, wanting them to succeed...only for them to give me nothing but shitty business in return. I really don't have to take this garbage the way I do, but let me tell you why I haven't made a big deal over "what kind of person they are": they are human too. I understand that not everyone thinks like me or treats others like I do, but it goes beyond that. Here's the truth... We all have moments in our lives where we are completely oblivious to how we've negatively affected someone. I've been there, you've been there...we all have. It wasn't intentional, and for some reason, we've made the kind of impact on someone that we didn't really mean to make. It happens. Don't judge a person on a single instance, for heaven's sake! Your perception is not always where it needs to be, give them a second chance.

BUT...there are those times where you give that benefit of the doubt, you keep accommodating them in a positive manner, you keep waiting for the same fairness to be recipricated... and you get nothing. I'm just going to straight up state right here that these people are not the ones you want to work with. You're thinking, uhhh that's my family. Haha, I know. But sometimes in business, you deal with people you want to strangle, and unlike your family, you can choose to NOT be around them. Drop them. Don't work with them. Don't promote them anymore, don't recommend them to anyone, and don't give anymore chances. DO NOT badmouth them, though. These topics come up amongst authors and such when we discuss business--if you're terrible to work with, it will get talked about at some point. But with me, it won't go further than, "I don't recommend working with this person." And for me to say that, it means it's bad, because I am Queen Mercy. I give multiple chances-- I mean a SHIT TON-- before I drop someone completely. Do I give up on them in life? Of course not. I believe everyone has a chance to redeem themselves eventually, and that's what I'm getting at.

We're all at different points in our lives when it comes to lessons learned. We don't all learn them at the same time and in the same manner. Some business folk have a no bullshit policy right off the bat, and I respect them for that and I could definitely go that route in a heartbeat, but I'm willing to share what I know to those that are willing to learn. We all start from somewhere, we all learn from someone, we all make mistakes...and even though I believe the key to financially successful business is to SURROUND YOURSELF WITH PEOPLE THAT ARE SMARTER THAN YOU... I also believe I learn more as a person when I'm there to guide someone else. Coming from an industry where finding that "diamond in the rough" is important, I've transferred these tactics over to my current business. You don't find the best looking individual for a cover... Surprise! You find the one that can deliver more than Ooh Ooh, take my picture! Not all authors care who they put on a cover, but I sure as hell do. I do like working with people that are smarter than me, but that's not always what is important. Loyalty is important. Generosity is important. Sincerity is important. And...a person who takes pride in hard work, not only for themselves, but because they've recognized it in you and want to represent you properly. To me, those individuals are brilliant at life.

Are you wondering where I'm going with this? Well here goes! I've been fucked over in this industry more than I'd like to admit. But truthfully? I've seen other people screwing each other over even more. Apparently the Golden Rule has been manipulated and fucked over as well, because I really don't see its beauty often enough. Social media has become a very powerful tool that is breeding more underhanded business, backstabbing, and special gossip groups that tear others down. It's. Getting. Ridiculous. I scroll through my newsfeed and all I see are the same "professionals" posting their passive aggressive posts about each other, cutting others down in sneaky silver tongued ways, and pulling in blind followers that don't see this happening. Don't be surprised if I state my opinion more often on there because I'm getting tired of it. For one, I wish all of you fake business friends would just unfriend each other; the photographers that make snide digs at one another, and the models that have nothing to contribute other than their overblown egos. If you think this isn't you, then no worries. But if for a second you thought I was talking about you, then I probably am.

Here's what I suggest:

Photographers, start doing your own thing. Quit chasing one another. Stop pointing out what you believe to be each other's faults and weaknesses. Don't ever pretend to be friendly when all you're doing is manipulating one another. Your fans may worship you and not see it, but there are many others who do. You're not fooling everyone. I love many of you and respect your hard work. Without you, we wouldn't have the beautiful covers that flood social media. I love book covers! I will interact with you because I want to, but there are a few of you that are pissing me off, I'm not going to lie. And it's not just me because there are other issues brought to my attention by other authors and readers as well. Stay classy, and if you find that you've been one of these photogs that have gone to the dark side, no worries. Just regroup and focus on what's important. It's never too late. We love your work.

Models, step up and take your position seriously. You have an amazing opportunity to help others instead of yourself. You'll actually find that you're achieving more this way. Trust me. I know what I'm talking about. If you doubt that, let's converse sometime. You might be surprised by where I've been. PLEASE be honest when you're doing business with an author. Don't just tell him/her what you think they want to hear. If you say something that turns them away, then your connection was not meant to be. Seek out authors that have your same mindset, do your research. If you just want to be a face on a cover and nothing more, then be up front about that and say so. There's nothing wrong with that. If you'd like to work with authors that take you to events, make sure you are giving them the respect they deserve by showing you care about them, their work, and the events they are going to. You guys get far more out of events than we do for taking you. Authors are spending a lot of money on you, the least you could do is say a simple "thank you for inviting me." We did not build you, we did not make you successful, we do not take credit for your hard work getting yourself "cover ready," you may think your face has made us a ton of money but you're wrong. But shit, I see this as an equal partnership. Treat each other well, show some respect, and those basic qualities will bring so many opportunities in the future. More covers does not mean more success, either. Pace yourselves. Don't burn yourself out with too many covers too soon. Especially if you work with traveling authors. You may think a ton of authors asking you to go to events is a cool thing, but it's not for us when you spread yourself too thin. I always compare it to a band that tours. There's a headliner and an opener that commits to a tour; they don't run off and do shows with other bands in between. It just doesn't work that way. They need to focus on one project at a time. For most authors, we want you to be successful and have other opportunities. Just don't shaft us or give us a raw deal by not being able to follow through with your promises to us. Please and thank you. We invest a lot in you.

Authors... Write your own style, share each others' successes when you can, and don't judge each other negatively. And stop paying so much for covers!!! Holy crap, some of the prices I've heard! What is going on??? There are so many photographers out there, ones that are amazing. Just because they have a lot of followers and high prices, it doesn't mean they are who you need to work with. I see a variety of covers from a variety of photographers...they are amazing! Talk to each other, find out which photogs are amazing to work with and have fair prices. Some of them become lifelong friends because they aren't overused. I'd like to suggest that you not use the same cover models, too. The same faces within the same genre within the same author/reader circles are just getting old. Not everyone agrees with me, and I know photographers and models hate that I feel this way, but there are so many faces out there. If you need a new face, ask me! Also, make sure you are up front with your models with what you expect from them. Hopefully they are honest with you and don't just agree with everything without the intention of following through. Call me crazy, but I feel if they're going to travel with you, they at least need to support you in making that possible. If we don't sell books, we don't make money. Simple as that. I've made mistakes in this area and do regret it, but I don't have to do it again. Models that don't care about your project are not the ones you want to work with, and definitely do not feel obligated to take them to events if they can't even share your work. Move on to a model that deserves it. Enough said. They are not entitled to anything. And bless those awesome people that love their authors and show it! Treasure them forever! You'll never get every single one of your cover models to be gems, but when you do get one, reward them for their strong character. And finally, stop de-valuing your work. Stand up for pricing complaints. $2-$3 is NOT too much for a book. I can't even believe we have a 99¢ option, but please be careful when using it.

Hey, just love your neighbor, people! Business or otherwise! Harmony is a beautiful thing and we have the power to make some amazing things happen. Embrace it. I am very passionate about not only my work, but the people I choose to have involved in it. All of this seems opinionated? Well good. Because I believe there is always room for improvement and I see industry harmony as one major victory. It will never be perfect, but I truly feel some of the negativity needs to be squeezed out, even if it's bit by bit. I know human nature causes us do nasty things sometimes just to stay ahead, but seriously, it doesn't have to be cutthroat. Please help me bring back more of the trust and integrity that makes it enjoyable to have business relationships. We desperately need to set higher standards.

Indeed I would love to hear some input from others, like what you expect from the people you work with. Maybe we can throw it all on the table for a session of enlightenment. I'm always up for improvement =)