When Was the Last Time You Did a Fire Drill?

When Was the Last Time You Did a Fire Drill?

When I was a kid, every so often in school, we’d do a fire drill. The point was that by practicing what to do if there was a fire, we’d all be prepared. Even today, we get on a plane and listen to the safety pitch – seat belts, exit doors, life vests, oxygen masks – it’s all about what to do in case of an emergency.


Well, when was the last time you looked at the different aspects of your business? When something goes wrong and appears without advance notice, what’s your plan to keep things going, regardless.


When business is great, we all ignore things we should have fixed years ago. Then, when things change, we jump to address the challenges with the urgency they should have had in the first place! For example, none of us were prepared for the challenges of the pandemic, but life has now changed, and we deal with live video calls without blinking. And when it comes to your clients, most of you have adjusted to doing whatever makes them comfortable during a shoot. The list goes on and on.


There’s a great quote from business writer and author Tom Peters from many years ago:


If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, should be, if it ain’t broke you haven’t looked hard enough.


So, here’s a starter list for you to think about – Are you ready when there’s a real crisis in your business?


  • Backup Gear: Sometimes, the most fundamental definition of a professional photographer is having the right gear. If you’re on a shoot and something breaks down, what’s your alternative plan?
  • Backup Staff: Most of you are single operators. What’s your plan if something gets in the way of any commitment? Who’s your backup if you’re sick?
  • Financial Responsibilities: Bills don’t stop coming in just because you’ve been benched. Again, who’s your backup? Who has the information, passwords, and access to your accounts at the bank?
  • Who are you gonna call? Yes, it’s the Ghostbuster’s theme, but when you can’t come up with a solution to a problem, who’s on your personal call list?
  • Your Inner Circle: Everyone’s network should have a handful of people at the very core. These are the people you trust the most. But the responsibility goes beyond a simple hand-off when something goes wrong – you’ve got to keep them informed all year long of the challenges as well as the good news. They need to understand your business.
  • Building a Stash: A blog is only as good as its consistency. At the very minimum, you should be posting twice a week, same time, and same days. But things get in the way. Build a stash of posts, so you’ve always got something in the pipeline.
  • ​Got a Call List? Take a look at all your gear and every supplier whose services you rely on – you should have a spreadsheet with all your contacts. From your gear to your lab to the staff at your bank, UPS, etc. a call list can be invaluable.
  • Check Your Website EVERYDAY! What good is working so hard to create the very best images if people can’t see them? Check your website on different platforms every morning. And check your email as well. It’s amazing how often something is wrong on a business website, but nobody is aware of it.

There are eight areas of your business to reinforce with backup plans. You can’t plan for everything, and we all know Murphy’s Law:


I something can go wrong it will.


But how many of you know Murphy’s Second Law?


Murphy was an optimist!

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This article was written by
Skip Cohen

Skip Cohen is an industry executive recognized for his diversity. He has served as past president of Hasselblad USA, Rangefinder/WPPI and in 2009 founded his own educational consulting company. In 2013 he launched Skip Cohen University dedicated to helping artists build a stronger business. He's a regular speaker at a variety of conventions and writes for several different magazines, as well as having two business classes at Lynda.com. Click above to visit the SCU blog.

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