Do you ever wonder what it would be like to own a TSS Photography franchise? What would you need to know for seasonal sports photo shoots? What sports would you get to see? When would you be busiest? Would you have time to run a successful franchise while still spending time with your family?
We rounded up a group of TSS Photography franchise owners who’ve been featured on the TSS Photography blog this year to ask them about their business, life, and future plans.
Where is your franchise based?
Rachel Sherman: My franchise is in southern Florida and encompasses Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach.
Victoria Shafer: My business is in Ohio–specifically Ross and Fayette counties.
Lindsay Verdun: Central Illinois–I work in the Peoria metro area.
Jennifer Lambertz: My business is in the Atlanta, Georgia area. Atlanta is surrounded by a circular freeway and I have the northeastern quadrant. Included in my area are the second-largest county in the country and the two fastest-growing counties. The whole area is very family-oriented and suburban.
Tod Cohen: My franchise is based in Charlottesville, Virginia. It’s about two hours southwest of Washington, D.C.
What are your favorite sports or seasons to shoot?
Rachel: I shoot all the sports, do special events, and ROTC, but my favorites are the school shoots.
Victoria: I shoot sports leagues, schools, as well as non-traditional sports (choirs, dance, etc.). The large outdoor sports shoots are my favorite.
Lindsay: I shoot everything! From baseball and soccer to football, hockey, dance, wrestling, swim, bowling, school portraits, and everything in between. I think when I shoot football, it’s my favorite. It may be the time of year as much as the sport itself.
Jennifer: I shoot all sports–soccer, baseball, lacrosse, softball, gymnastics, dance, etc. I’ve been working to expand into the school portrait market. I’ve also done a few special Christmas party gigs. My favorite shoots are when I get to be indoors – it gets hot in Atlanta. I also really love to work with the little kids.
Tod: Like most TSS Photography franchise owners, we shoot all the major sports – basketball, softball, baseball, soccer, swimming, lacrosse, football, cheerleading, wrestling, diving, track and field–and a lot of school portraits in the fall. I love it when we do our “photo booth” with onsite printing. A trained photographer takes the photo in front of a studio drape with professional lighting, and many people use fun props. We have the printer set up and people can take home a hand-held memory from their night. I’ve been enjoying the high school shoots. We are now doing multiple poses and we are sending the link to the parents saying, “look at your child’s photos and choose what you like best,” and it has given us the opportunity to reach out to more parents.
How do you get everything done during the busy season?
Rachel: With the help of 15 to 20 hour days.
Victoria: I have a strong staff of talented employees.
Lindsay: We are so lucky to have a wonderful family. My mom comes and helps, our aunt lives next door, and my in-laws just built an addition on to the house so they can stay close. They are such a huge help–from helping with work to watching our kids and running them around!
Jennifer: It’s a lot of hours and delegation. Really, the thing is to continue training and delegate–it helps you be able to grow. Getting everything done is a delicate balancing act and there is a huge learning curve before you can hand things off. With continual training, we get through it.
Tod: I had to hire and train 20 new people, which is a lot more than we usually have. It required me to bring on a lot of extra staff and get people trained very quickly. It’s good to be busy, but it is good to be able to catch your breath. It’s nice that you don’t get bored.
What do you do to “catch up” during the slower times?
Rachel: We use the time to ORGANIZE, or at least try to.
Victoria: I don’t have slow times, but my “slowest times” are January and February. That is when I review and update my processes, forms, and pricing.
Lindsay: We love July. We typically do not have any jobs the whole month and we’re okay with that! It is usually our month to take vacations, enjoy our kids, and just relax. February and March are slower, too. Then, we try to take the time to clean the office up, go through samples, organize, hire staff, and train as needed.
Jennifer: When it slows down, that’s when I do things like archive the photos from the year, the marketing, and update all the samples. We spend time creating marketing packages with new marketing materials. It’s really a cleanup time; we replenish everything. This summer we went through the automation system and upgraded our processes. Sometimes we take the time to do longer training sessions, but most of the time we do that right as the busy season gets started because it’s top of mind.
Tod: Training definitely is one thing we like to do. We reach out to our customers for reviews of what we just did. We like to check in with all of our leagues and get feedback from them, as well as decide what we can improve. It’s the time to archive, get new samples, clean up the computer files, and make sure all our marketing materials are updated.
What is the most interesting/funniest experience you had this year?
Rachel: The most interesting experience was when we were scheduling around hurricanes. The funniest experience of the year was taking pictures of a school mascot. It turned out to be a live pig we had to get to pose for his picture.
Lindsay: Probably my most interesting experience this year was taking senior pictures in a barn loft that was more than 100 years old. That was both fun and a little scary!
Jennifer: We had a button/magnet fiasco. It will forever be remembered and probably will top everything for the years to come.
Tod: TSS always plans a franchisee conference during the summer. During the same time, I had been trying to make a presentation to a large soccer league. Of course, the one day that I was able to make the presentation to the league was during one of the days of the conference. With some help from a staff member, I was able to make a remote presentation from my hotel room in Nashville. They chose to go with TSS! I was able to earn their business and still participate in the conference.
What is one thing you did better this year than you have in the past?
Rachel: I did quite a lot better this year. I was better with organization, my profit and loss planning, and league reports.
Victoria: This year I was better at having a well-trained staff.
Lindsay: I was very proactive this year in scheduling our leagues early–more so than usual!
Jennifer: Our overall photography was better this year and the automation has boosted our customer satisfaction. We really have had a lot more training and experience this year.
Tod: The lab introduced us to Photo Match technology. With it, we are able to take photos and see the pictures in a gallery. We set up computers right at the shoot and people are able to place the order right away. In less than a week, the photos get shipped directly to the buyer. Parents can’t forget and there’s nothing to do once you leave the event. Everything is wrapped up.
What did you learn this year?
Rachel: I learned how to juggle to stay afloat.
Victoria: Staffing up before I need it is one of the most important things I have learned to do.
Lindsay: I learned I don’t personally have to do everything, and things can still go well. More and more I depend on our staff-we need them. I’m trying to be okay with that and accept that they are good workers and do an excellent job. We’d be lost without them!
Jennifer: This business is going to be a marathon and not a sprint. It is something you build over time. I have a plaque which says, “great things are done by a series of small things brought together over time.” I’m always learning to set my own expectations and take the time to do things well.
Tod: I learned you can never give people enough training. I want to give ongoing feedback. I want to let people see their photos from beginning to end. I’d also love to share the production process from beginning to end.
What are you looking forward to learning to do better?
Rachel: I’m not sure there is one specific thing, maybe the ability to commit more stuff to memory?
Victoria: I plan to make more time for sales next year.
Lindsay: I need better time management. I’m struggling with an active one-year-old and we keep getting busier with the business side of our life. I’m not sure what the plan is here, but I need to schedule my time better to accomplish everything and stay sane.
Jennifer: I am looking forward to learning EVERYTHING better. When I stop learning something new, I won’t be having fun anymore. The books, the processes, the marketing, even the way different people handle everything. Everything can get better over time. I’ll have had my franchise for two years in December 2017. I’m still very excited.
Tod: Again, I want to stress training. Both office staff as well as photography staff. The more trained we are, the smoother things will run. There are always new processes and the more confident we can be in the work we are doing, it will make things flow more smoothly.
What do you think?
Do you think you have what it takes to join these five franchise owners in the sports photography world? If so, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us or download the virtual brochure today and get started on the path to owning your own photography business.