"Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results." - Andrew Carnegie
This quote popped up on my LinkedIn feed this week. How fitting! “Working together” is not always easy, especially when almost all school photo companies are competitors with one another. It's amazing, however, how many industry companies have realized the value of collaboration and what can be accomplished if we work together for the greater good.
It’s not easy being in the school portrait business. Consider the questionable behaviors that have gone on for too long like, having every new school software company dictate what their specific data export should be and, by the way, they want the data for free. Or consider high schools requesting (or even requiring) your studio take candids for free to sell more yearbooks. Or consider when schools request rebates or purchases not stated in the contract. Consider being shown a bid or an RFP to respond to that was clearly written by a competitor.
At what point do we stand up for the parents? Because all Mom wants is a great picture, centered, lighted well with a great expression, printed on quality paper, and delivered in a timely fashion for a reasonable cost. Unfortunately, many of the above-mentioned practices are what are prohibiting our industry from providing the ultimate end consumer - Mom - from getting what she wants.
Just because your company joins SPOA does not mean that all these issues will go away. What it does mean, however, is you are investing in our industry's future. Before SPOA, no one was lobbying on your behalf in Congress or at the state level. No one was fighting to make sure “school photography” was labeled essential service to ensure school portrait studios could still even take school pictures even when systems were closed. No one was able to get the school software companies to even return phone calls, much less encourage them to write a new standard on a single export, similar to the yearbook industry. No one had your interests in mind when writing new state laws governing student data privacy. In fact, some of these new state laws require studios to delete student images and data after just three years. No one informed them this impedes federal copyright laws. All until now!
We are lobbying for you. We are educating state and federal legislators about who are and what we do. We are educating state and local politicians on why your studio is an essential service designation and why schools need you and those images. We are representing the industry at the national educational associations making them aware of their options in each of their states. We are conducting training for educators cleaning up the contract and RFP language that may have been written or coached by one company. SPOA is partnering with a major camera manufacturer to build a national student photography training program to build tomorrow's school photographers while promoting student candids vs professional photographer candids. We have a new one-export for all school software ready to launch for 2022-2023. We are meeting bi-annually with the owners and executive leadership of all major yearbook companies to find ways to collaborate and to help each other's great traditions grow instead of eroding. We are working on a number of other fronts that will forever reshape this industry and increase participation and awareness.
None of these actions, however, are possible without membership. As more companies unite and join SPOA, together we will have more power and control in the direction of this industry. No matter how small or how large your business is, your voice is needed. The time is now. Our days of advocacy are coming this spring, including new proposed standards for software companies and educators. Look at what has been accomplished thus far; can you imagine what is possible if we united for our industry? If your company is not in our directory, please ask your leadership or owner why not? If money is the issue, contact us; we have options for you.
We are so excited about what is in the future. We have many school photography companies that have joined, in addition to key industry suppliers and partners that also see the value of having an organization committed to the health and vitality of this industry. Our hope is more suppliers will follow suit. These are true leaders that have not only already given their treasure but also their time and talent.
ImageQuix/PhotoLynx is “all in” on many fronts but one of the activities I am most excited about is the foundation being formed to serve the deserving students across the country. Fotomerchant is also a major supporter and will be delivering an industry-wide survey that will truly gain a national understanding of buying behaviors with parents in today's economy and world. IdiomConnect is providing a new revenue stream for participating companies images, as well as making a 10-cent donation for every senior image uploaded directly back to SPOA. Sony is working with SPOA on many fronts, including helping reinvigorate student photographers across the country. Other business partners and sponsors that have committed to our industry are Studio Source Yearbooks, APS Advanced Photographic Solutions Lab, 36Pix, Dale Carnegie, and Denny Manufacturing.
Our members and these companies have truly accomplished so much in the last 18 months. I can only imagine what more can be done when you and your business join our association.
Executive Director SPOA