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Executive Director’s Letter: More Fall excitement than ever

Here we go! The fall season is starting to come off-peak and holidays are just around the corner. There are so many positives this season, I don't think I have spoken to a single company that is down in business or sales. That is incredible news and shows the resilience of industry companies, suppliers, and business partners. This is a testimony to all of your creativity, quality, and commitment to delivering high-quality products and services each day to the schools, students, parents, and families.

During the pandemic, we saw schools that have always been locked on commission either drastically reduce it or entirely remove it, even in the Deep South. With the age of many school administrators changing to Gen X and Millennials, we have found these executives value having a fair price for the equity of all as more important than any type of commission, tax, or rebate. This is incredible news and continues to be a large topic of why so many are seeing increases in participation. I have said many times - and will continue to say - our industry was never designed to be a fundraising mechanism for schools. Our essential services are ever so needed for school safety, school organization, and administrative effectiveness. I am excited to see these trends happening. I am so proud of the members and their efforts in educating schools on the negative impact of commissions and on rebating.

Exciting member benefits from your association

As the national trade association serving the school portrait and yearbook industry, SPOA is excited about many new projects and services developed on your behalf.

First, we are in the process of gathering all the interested members of our purchasing/buying group for shipping. As a trade association, we are able to build buying groups utilizing our size as buying power to negotiate master contracts. We have already seen this action save companies thousands of dollars on background checks. Now we are looking to potentially save millions on shipping costs. Imagine if every member lab and member company simply just completed the interest form. We have partnered with experts who take these numbers and negotiate a contract that could save the largest company possibly 9-14% (equivalent to hundreds of thousands of dollars) and a small studio that may have been paying on average $36.00 to ship a box of packages to a school, could now drop to $15.00. This could be a game changer and a huge profit pick-up when it seems all other costs are out of control.

Second, we are revamping our entire website to focus on membership benefits and provide a portal to assets such as the national and state lists of schools, districts, and principals, state directories, boilerplate human resources, sales and marketing documents, training videos and so much more.

Third, we have launched our new Sony/SPOA student photography contests and school camera buy-back program. If you are working with a secondary school and they have aspiring photographers, this is a great contest for you to share. There are three contests scheduled for this year: fall (already underway), winter, and spring, plus multiple contests per season awarding brand-new Sony A7 camera kits with lenses and more. Sony Artesians will help grade these award winners. This is an incredible opportunity for many of your schools. It's also a great way to find future school and sports photographers, staff, and support.

Fourth, we will be exhibiting and speaking at educational conferences around the country this year sharing all of our members' contacts and services. This includes the national association for school superintendents (AASA), Journalism Education Association (JEA), and many others. Our goal is to educate not just about our member companies folks looking for new options but to inform them about standards, guidelines, best practices, and more.

Fifth, we have built an incredible solution for schools with our "Find a photographer" site that gets huge hits every day and helps drive SEO to our members. Next week, SPOA will launch 'Find a Yearbook Company" that we will market in schools across America, helping drive new growth and more value to our members. In January, we will launch the "Find a Sports Photographer" site, which will have the same impact and will help our members grow the league and organizational sports business. We will continue to find ways to help our members grow their businesses and brands across the United States.

Sixth, we will be facilitating our annual SPOA Digital Guidelines and Standards for the Production of Yearbooks (formerly PSPA Guidelines) call with the yearbook industry this December. Our discussions will be about whether to keep everything as is and simply renew it for next year or discuss changes in the standards. Invitations have already been sent. If you wish to participate, please contact SPOA or David Lake, the chair of this committee. In addition, our two newest Executive Board members for both secondary and elementary yearbooks, along with Jake Mark, the chair of yearbooks on the Governing Board, and myself will be facilitating a secondary yearbook call with executives from the major yearbook companies to discuss ways in which our traditions can support one another and discuss other topics like standards/guidelines and other ideas and best practices that would help schools and the staff that support both yearbooks and pictures.

Leadership Summit preview

Seventh, on Nov. 29th, SPOA will be hosting its Leadership Summit in Greenville, SC with all of its board members, strategic partners, and many of its business partners to discuss key industry items as well as the strategic direction for our association. This will be an action-packed 48 hours that will create the strategic plan and direction, values, and member benefits for years to come.

Last, our conference is shaping up to be a game changer. We have pre-conference sessions that you will not want to miss, starting Monday, July 10th with the ImageQuix and PhotoLynx Annual MVP, Sandler Training - Leadership Training Track, Dale Carnegie - Customer Service Training, and a Sales Training Track. There will also be SPOA's "Operation School Smiles", which is a service project where attendees can dedicate a day to help beautify a local school or two in the city in which our conference resides. Tuesday, SPOA will host dozens of different, no-cost early-bird sessions (with SPOA ticket) ranging from "photo walks and training" with Sony Artisans to sales, marketing, operations, photography, finance, insurance, human resource, and other training to help companies, leaders, aspiring leaders, and owners learn and grow all aspects of their company and business.

The exhibit hall opens that afternoon, Tuesday, July 11, and everyone is in for a big treat with the SPOA Welcome Party sponsored by Fotomerchant. Wednesday, July 12, will continue with the exhibit hall and show along with continued education tracks and sessions focused on sales, marketing, photography, finance, legal, HR, and more. Thursday, July 13, will be a full day of general sessions with keynote speakers and concluding with the Annual Awards Banquet.

It is our mission to serve our members and bring great value to their continued membership. If you have ideas and thoughts on how SPOA can help you, please me at Thank you and have a terrific rest of your November.

David Crandall

Executive Director School Photographers of America

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