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Here is the transcription of the interview:
Braedon Flynn: 00:00 Welcome to the photo report where we have conversations with top level photographers and other people that create for a living to hear stories about how they do what they do, how they've done, what they've done, struggles along the way in a way that hopefully inspires, encourages and gets you to go out there and create more work. And this episode was with Shaun Gordon who is one of the founders of kiss books, which is a high end album company and we hear the story about how he goes from being a photographer to launching this company, which is now a significantly sized company. And we talk a lot about being, you know, when you're in business, you have product and you're. And as a photographer you are a service. You're basically selling your time for dollars. And so we have a conversation about how do you take the things that you're already doing and then make more money through sales and doing it in a way that's just really great.
Braedon Flynn: 00:44 So we actually recorded this live and so if you want to watch the video, you can go to the photo report dot Com. And see it there, or search youtube for the artist report and then type in his books. I'm sure it'll show up that way, but I hope you love this conversation as much as I enjoyed having it. Before we get into the show, want to tell you real quick about our sponsor film supply club. If you shoot film or you're interested in film, I love film. It is the best place to get it at the best prices than an amazing community of some of the top photographers in our industry. You can check it out at film supply.club/join now onto the show. Thanks. Thompson being here and after getting into that, can you just give a little intro on the sort of how you got to where you are to give people that don't know you a little bit idea?
Shaun Gordon: 01:30 Sure. Yeah. I was a photographer for about 15 years, a shot around 500 weddings. I'm mostly based out of Orange County and up traveling to 10 for, for that and I'm just saw this gap in the industry and cofounded kiss books because of this space that was like I loved, I, you know, she didn't over 60 weddings a year for a few years, which is kind of crazy. But the amount of albums that I was selling, it just became such a bottleneck in my business and it was basically at a point where it was like, it has to be easier than this at some point. And so having chosen the album makers that were in the history at the time, we kind of made our version of kiss and then decided like this is something I think that we can do on our own.
Shaun Gordon: 02:17 And created a system, a very simple way to get to the product and we launched kiss about 11 years ago now. So her dad and what like with, with that though.
Braedon Flynn: 02:30 So how did you transition from photography to then launching a thing to them becoming a thing where now you are just doing that?
Shaun Gordon: 02:38 Yeah, I love creative entrepreneurs and having been one for a long time, I was raised by an entrepreneur that knew the business side of things, so that was one thing that I loved and learned from my dad and um, understood what it meant to hustle, you know, shooting that amount of weddings and things like that made sense during that season. But also knowing that like I loved entrepreneurs as a whole and how could we create a space where we can all thrive together. I saw a lot of friends kind of like come in the industry and go out of the industry because of the business side.
Shaun Gordon: 03:10 It wasn't the lack of the creativity and the photography that needed to happen and some of them, amazing photographers chose to go on and do other things in other industries because it's hard to run your own business, especially as a creative, you know. And so, um, the transition for me was, it overlapped quite a bit. I shot until just a few years ago, and basically just shot less and less weddings as I was building kissed. I was so still so in love with photography and shooting, especially weddings that I didn't want to give it up, um, but it just came to a point where I needed to get focused and continue to serve the creative entrepreneur and ultimately multiply that side of things. And so it was a transition of like handing off photography so that I can get focused on Kiss.
Braedon Flynn: 03:55 Yeah. I think a lot of people envision what it might be like to start a company or even to become a photographer, you know, it's like the whole, I always sort of educate people.
Braedon Flynn: 04:06 It's like don't quit your day job because then it puts you in this place of being desperate and he like, you have to make it work in which then is really daunting for someone who's coming from an artistic side to them, like have to make their living. And so with it, I just think that's a good thing for people to recognize. Like sometimes when you are starting a thing, unless you're like raising a ton of funds, which also puts itself like got to give up ownership, got to do that, but the element of being able to create something that it takes a while to get it to be maybe where you might want it to be that first year that you launch.
Shaun Gordon: 04:40 Yeah. And I bootstrapped my companies and I'm, there's that sense of urgency of having to pay bills.
Shaun Gordon: 04:46 Even when I started my photography company, I was driving a truck for my dad and running his business and I swing a hammer to make sure that happened. You know, I was able to subsidize my income with some working for construction working and things like that. So it's, it, it depends on your personality and like what you want to go out and do. But it was like I was starting a family as well. As soon as I started my photography business, I had already had my first kid. And so it was just like I'm wanting to provide. I have bills to pay. Um, I would love to book this wedding and a lot of times I think the clients can read that when I'm in like a consultation they see my work and things like that. But you know, the confidence is one thing. I think you're talking about a little bit that it's hard to teach the confidence and so the sense of urgency is one way of going about it.
Shaun Gordon: 05:30 Debt, you know, is one way. It feels like your fast track with all the nice gear and all those types of things and it, it builds some, some kind of like cushion. They're good for some people, not for others. Um, it really depends on your personality and those types of things. But yeah,' don't quit your day job' is a great way of going about it because then it's like whether or not you love that day job, it's like a lot of people want to get out of that day job to become a full time creative photographer, whatever industry that you're in. And it's Kinda like that dangling carrot. Like what's it going to take five book, six weddings this year, then I can go to part time or if I booked 10 weddings this year, whatever your number is, I can do this full time, you know, or maybe your spouse works and so you're able to go into it full time right away.
Shaun Gordon: 06:09 But still setting goals and things like that. It's always fun to to grow into that entrepreneur and then seeing what it's like. Like Hey, there's a lot more to this than taking pictures and you know, bringing that business side to it as well.
Braedon Flynn: 06:21 Totally. So let's get into that business side of it. I mean one of the things that you talked about a bit is where are you calling it? Get simple or?
Shaun Gordon: 06:29 Yeah, we, that's how we started. Yeah, we toured the country. I'm doing what we call get samples and it was like three or four of us would speak on kind of like the business side of things. And it was interesting because when we did the get samples, when we brought an attorney in or somebody that was going to help us with the business side, it was like we were given these seats away and we couldn't fill them up.
Shaun Gordon: 06:47 As soon as we did a photo shoot, there was 100 people signed up, you know, and I get it. That's the creative side that we want to go out and do. So it was our job to make it creative and understand the business side of things, you know, because it's like, if you're taking great photos, of course, like continue to evolve that craft. That's what we love to do, you know. But even in the email he talks about this like what we love to do is what we want to get to where there's all these other parts of running a business. And so when we were talking about those things wasn't as popular when we continued to do this thing that we fell in love with, why we started a business, um, we would sell out those, get samples. Now we call it pursue simple.
Shaun Gordon: 07:26 We shifted to 'Pursue Simple' because it's a lifestyle ultimately to create, to pursue simple is to create margin in your life so you can focus on what matters most to you. And that could be working on your business. It could be that you have a family, a partner, spouse, you know, the local community, the church, whatever it could be surfing, you know, um, whatever it is that you love to do, that's ultimately why we started businesses to give us some freedom hopefully. But a lot of times we quit a 40 hour week job to end up going and working for herself or 70 or 80 hours at first. Especially, because we have this light at the end of the tunnel of like freedom. We get to be our boss. We get to make the margin off of what we're creating as well.
Shaun Gordon: 08:09 But that margin is what pursue simple means in our life to simplify things enough. It doesn't mean that we have not, you know, it's not like a minimalist lifestyle is just making decisions on these things. And then, you know, hopefully firing yourself out of these positions and you know, charging enough so that you can focus on what matters most to you in your business and out of your business.
Braedon Flynn: 08:32 I'm really familiar with that term 'margin' because I read about a book a week, but for someone who isn't as familiar, could you define that word for us? When you were talking about margin, like what are you talking about?
Shaun Gordon: 08:47 Margin a lot of time is looked at as a financial term. Margin is space. So it's how much space you're creating. I'm doing these things to create this much space and then you fill in that margin with what matters to you.
Shaun Gordon: 09:00 But like it system that the automations, it's outsourcing. Sometimes it's like making a decision to answer emails and this amount of time or hiring somebody to do your album design or editing or whatever it is. You know, there's areas in your business that you may love or not. I'm doing all of the pieces and so you're creating margin by bringing somebody in to give you space to do something else. And you know, freedom is the word I run into all the time. Like why did you start your business freedom? Like I want freedom. And it's like, do you have it? It's like, no, not yet. Okay. So what is it going to take? If your vision is freedom to go and travel to go and you fill in the blank, um, what's it gonna take for you to get to that? And are you headed in that direction?
Shaun Gordon: 09:42 Are the decisions that you're making today taking you towards that vision of freedom or pulling you away from it? And so many times we're the ones that if I just did it, it would be done the way I want to do it. And so we ended up doing all of the things and then we end up burnt out. You know, I've been in that place before and it's no fun but ultimately kiss, we started it too. And it's evolved to pursue simple because it's a lifestyle and we know understand that entrepreneurs, so many of them start their business to have this space in their life, but then they, you know, they fight for it so hard that we ended up burning out and sometimes going and doing something going and working for somebody else because it's just easier. So I mean with March and what, can you maybe give some examples like, okay, let's, yeah, I want, I need that because I am working 80 hours a week and I don't have that and I am burning out because like you will get to that place.
Shaun Gordon: 10:32 I have no idea what that's like because I've met for someone who is, doesn't have much margin and they're just like working. Whether that's out of like desperation, whether that's out of fear, whether that's out of those areas. Like how maybe describe like things either you've seen other photographers do or other people in business or even yourself do that can create that margin. Because I don't. I think margin is a great idea. And if you liked that idea and you just hope that it happens, it's not going to happen. Right? There needs to be a lot of intentionality that gets put in and almost like for me, I have to build margin into my schedule because it will get eaten up if I do not. And then I will go months without do it as well. I haven't done anything for my site. Yeah. And that's where burnout comes from ultimately.
Shaun Gordon: 11:19 And so I think as simple one that I think a lot of us can relate to it. Like I don't love laundry, um, I don't love necessarily like cleaning my house or my studio or, or things like that. But when things are clean and organized, we can think a little clear. So to create margin would be like, I don't love doing laundry, who can do laundry for me? And so it's or clean my house. You fill in the blank because so many times we work, let's say 70 hours on our business and we feel like we're spinning our wheels and then we go home and we have home to take care of. And so we ended up setting a target, what's it gonna take for me to hire somebody to help me with this thing that I may or may not love to do so that I can focus on this, you know, so does that mean selling another wedding?
Shaun Gordon: 12:05 So I'm just adding more over here sometimes, but what we've seen work really well and why we're kind of sitting in the place that we are with Kiss is because currently there's a lot of people photographing weddings and making sure the clients get their proofs, their photos somehow. But where, where we've seen the most successes in albums. I own an album company, I understand that can come across that way, but I'm studying our top clients and how they're creating more margin is by selling an album in that package. And so that's what we're studying. Educating it worked really well in my business. Which is why I ended up heading in that direction. I love product and my goal always. I couldn't put words around this back then, but I was a photographer that created an experience. And so many times that's where the experience stops.
Shaun Gordon: 12:54 And so that's why they hire us. Nobody can be you quite like you. Nobody can be me quite like me. So they were either referred or whatever it was to get that experience, but I wasn't taking them to the finish line unless I told their story in printed form. And that's where our belief is. So if you're a photographer that creates this experience that tells their story in a book, then that is what your clients will expect. You show them that often. The people that are, you know, top kiss clients, that's what they're doing over and over again is like talking first and foremost about that experience. Of course, like do we want to work together? I'm going to be at your wedding day really close to you all day asking you to pose and doing these things. And I'm creating these moments that you get to hopefully, you know, just cherish for a lifetime.
Shaun Gordon: 13:41 Um, and that doesn't stop there. That story's not told until we put it in that printed form. And that's where that beautiful handcrafted book comes in. And so over and over again, that's just what I'm running into. We have like, we've tiered out our clients in those bottom two tiers, some of them shoot 15 weddings and they're still in that tier because I'm not a salesman, I'm a photographer and I get that so much, but it doesn't mean that your client doesn't want that printed, heirloom piece to cherish and share with their friends and those types of things and hopefully their kids someday and things like that. But sometimes we get in the way of that. We don't take them to the finish line and ultimately we're leaving money on the table by not doing that. If I was shooting 60 weddings a year, you know, I was selling probably 50 or 60 books.
Shaun Gordon: 14:27 I was shooting for other studios at time. So they were doing a lot of that work. But I know it was. The majority of it was ending up in a book. All my clients had an album credit I shot. All of the weddings that I shot for myself. I shot their engagement because I was investing in that relationship and once that trust relationship is there, they are willing to go where you take them and so you know, there's a lot of sales tactics like they'll buy what you show them and things like that, but you put a album of somebodies wedding in front of them. Even with somebody else's photos they can picture them in it, but as soon as you show them that with their work in it, it's like that is why I do what I do. I had these parties after my weddings, right, invite the couple, their parents and the bridal party to my studio and it was called the Unveil Party.
Shaun Gordon: 15:16 We had got the album all dialed in. I knew it was going to come in from the album company and they would get there. I'd have like photos up on a screen with music appetizers, drinks, things like that. But at some moment in the night, they would sit down on the couch and I would put the album in front of them and it was like instantly I get chills now because the emotions shifted in the room. They're like, we get to re-experience this wedding that we had. I flipped weddings, books and things like that pretty quick. So it was like two or three months ago. And so they'd sit there, everyone kind of cuddle around him. They'd laugh, they'd cry. And I was like, that's why I do what I do. I stopped moments of their wedding day so that they can relive them and I told it in this book and they get to do this.
Shaun Gordon: 15:56 Not just sitting here in my studio. This is for years and decades to come. They get to relive that moment. I made money doing that as well, you know, like I'm an entrepreneur, that means I'm going to do this for profit, you know? And so I built in what it took for me to design and you know, purchase the book and I made margin on the book as well. That's the financial version of margin, so I love that so much. And um, it's just something that I want to see our whole industry shift to is we're shifting back to print, film, things like that. It's beautiful. Um, and so if we're a photographer that creates this experience, that experience is now told in printed form, we've, we've done our job, you know, and we get to see them relive that moment down the road. Would you, you wouldn't have had the album sold yet and then you bring it and then they have the option now to buy it?
Shaun Gordon: 16:48 Yeah, there's different ways and we've studied a lot of our top clients with kiss personally. I did album credit and so I'd give them like a thousand dollar album credit and that included like a 10 by 10, 10 spread thick page book type of thing. Um, and the way that we would tell them and what we've learned even more now, like ways to word it better is like a tim spread 20 page book is like our minimum size and it's a smaller book and that's like the highlight reel of your wedding. It's Super Fun to look at, we'll get it down, but it's, you're looking at 20 or 30 images. Um, what I want to show you after your wedding is the full story. Um, of course we can, you know, I know everyone's on a budget, things like that. Sometimes we build that out before sometimes we would build it after the fact.
Shaun Gordon: 17:29 Um, but I showed them 30 or 40 spreads, like massive books. Um, and that's the first thing I showed them before I edited images when I was digital or before I showed them all of their proofs when I was film. Um, I would build out and design that book and I would show them that first. And this is like when I was digital, I could show them that when they were like on their. So they're sitting on the beach in Hawaii, they get an email from me, hey, I've designed your book and it's a couple days after they got there. It's the first thing I did, I called for the album and then I sent them that design. They live with that as their wedding for, you know, a couple of weeks and I said, this will buy me a little bit of time to edit the rest of your images.
Shaun Gordon: 18:07 Next, next, just enjoy this. You can hit the play button. It'll play a slideshow. You can flip through each one. Don't worry about any changes. We will get all those done in the next email will be a link to the rest of your images. And then when they got the rest of their images, I would just set that expectation again of like you get three rounds of changes. This is what changes look like. This unlocks the calculator as well. It shows you how much this book would be. You know, let's say it's, you buy it just the way it is. $4,000. I know that's a lot of money. Remember you have a thousand dollar album credit and if you order this in the next 30 days, we can get these changes done. I'm going to give you a little bit of a break. So now it's $3,000.
Shaun Gordon: 18:43 I'm going to give you like 25 percent off, you know, that's another.....So we're looking at like a $2,200 book at that point and you can pay me half when we order it and half when when you get it. So it's become this 4,000 book down to like two payments at 1250 and I know it sounds kind of infomercial but it worked really well and there's times where the parents were paying for it so they just wrote a check and they put it in that they're like, 'we know most of your clients get bigger books' because they were a referral. Can we just build that out a little bit now? Like if you have it in your budget, let's do it now. But even a client that walks in the door so many times, what are they there to hire you for? It's like the experience and they want to be able to afford you at the wedding and sometimes they come in and their budget's a little lower than maybe where I start at.
Shaun Gordon: 19:22 And so like can we just cut the book? I was always like, no, like you have to have this in here because you have to understand the photography is just an avenue to get to this book, but this book is why I photograph and I want you to relive these moments down the road so I don't really want to take the book out. So let's leave that credit in there. If you know we can't. Maybe we can't work together or something like that, but this is my heart is that we need to print this book and again, once that trust is there, it's not just a trends transaction, you know, they're not hiring us without a relationship most likely anyway because we're a vendor that's so close to them. They want that experience and then they start to trust us more and more as I shot their engagements and things like that and I likely photograph on their friends' weddings in the past.
Shaun Gordon: 20:09 Once that relationship is there, they're willing to kind of like go there with you and even invest more into that. Understanding that, that piece that they get to look at for years to come is like, why I do what I do.
Braedon Flynn: 20:26 Do you have certain photographers that you know, that are doing it really well and what is it that they're doing that's maybe different than the next person?
Shaun Gordon: 20:32 Yeah, I think a couple of keys are like talking about that first and foremost, like setting that expectation expectation early on is, is huge. There's a few studios that I kinda work with closely because they're like, I want to say I believe the same you do, I don't know how to do it. Show me what you're currently doing. And they show me like their pricing and you know, their website and we work on some of those things.
Shaun Gordon: 20:54 But really what really matters is like setting that expectation from the get go. Like if they walk in the door and they expect you to give them a book, at the end of the day, your goal, it just takes a while to get there. And so the ones that are doing it really well today, um, that we've studied, they're talking about it on social media regularly and of course they show their beautiful work. I'm here shooting so they know you're shooting regularly, whatever. I traveled for this wedding because I want to travel for weddings. What you show is kind of what they expect, but every five or six, um, posts, there's something about an album on their site, they've built out a page about the album, how much they love it and the materials maybe and why they believe in print and things like that. So the more times they run into it, it's really about expectation because if you end up bringing a design in and they don't have an album in their package at the end, they're like, what is this for?
Shaun Gordon: 21:44 You know, all's I expected was to get a digital copy or a stack of proofs and I'll go figure out how to get a book done. And we've studied that side of things as well. And they say 80 percent of books that get start started in design in the consumer world do not get finished 80 percent. And so that's not just brides, that's everybody doing vacation books and all those types of things. But that to me is an epidemic. That's like an issue because they're, these images are locked up somewhere online in printed form, maybe on a four by six. There's nothing like looking at a print no matter kind of like however it is. Um, if it's in a four by six, I'm like good with it. Of course. I think the Mecca to me is like the book that the people that are doing it well are showing it, setting that expectation, talking about it regularly, and then communicating that multiple times.
Shaun Gordon: 22:31 You know, as a wedding photographer, we have multiple touchpoints whether a client we have, when they email us the first time, how do we respond? That's the first thing they see is probably our website. Maybe a face of video too that some images. Of course the next thing they do is go and try and find us on social media so they can look at more about more about the things that we offer and things like that. If they see that book regularly, they start to expect it right there. Then in the consultation, my top 10 clients, I've talked to all of them about this, um, these are like top 10 ordering clients for kiss. So they're selling like a lot. Some of the, you know, over 100. They may have a couple studios or some something like that, but they're all selling around 100 books a year.
Shaun Gordon: 23:11 Our top 10 clients are in. What they're doing is they're talking about it in that first consultation, you know, I'm the photographer that creates this experience and I'm going to deliver it in this book. So once I've sold you on the experience and I think the things are going well, that's when the book comes out. Like this is what would be in your packet. I show them a 10 spread, a 20 page book. This is the highlight reel. And across the way, I would have a bigger full length book. They really wanted to even look through that because that has family photos in it. The, you know, the Middle Section of the book is Kinda like the, what I got in trouble for saying this once, but like the proof life photos, you know, formals are pretty simple for the most part. But I had this, a grandma in the room and she said, what do you mean proof of life?
Shaun Gordon: 23:51 And I'm like, oh, that was not meant to be, you know, you're going to be in that photo. It was just a lot of times, you know, that's something that they would want to cut if they want to get down to because they want to tell the story in a wedding book. So many times you're flipping through it. It's like she's getting ready, he's getting ready to see each other before the wedding. And then there's this break of everyone looking at the camera, you know, and then it goes back into dancing and all this fun. So it's almost like this break in the middle of a book versus telling that story more fluid, but so many times those ended up in there because it's like, I want you to see that grandma and aunt so and so was there and things like that. Um, but those are like the majority of the people that are doing really well.
Shaun Gordon: 24:28 It's really setting that expectation and when we run surveys and things like that, what we get back is like, I don't believe that I am a good salesperson. And so I started to ask those top clients, do you feel like you're a salesperson? They're like, no. And I don't think my clients feel like they're being sold to. I'm just telling them this is what I offer. Like when I go to buy a car, I'm, they're selling me a car, but it's something that I'm like in the market for. So when they show up to your studio, what you know to that consultation, what is it that you offer?
Braedon Flynn: 25:00 And they don't really know what they want, unless you can help them understand what they want. A lot of times they don't, they've got a, it's potentially their first wedding, you know, most of the time it is and they haven't had that or maybe if they're on the younger side, none of their friends had been married and so setting the expectations but
Braedon Flynn: 25:20 I think it's more painting the picture for what, what do you want to do with this? And I've, I've heard are interviewed other photographers who are on the family photography side and talking about like actually going into their house and saying like, so what do you want to do with these photos? Like we're taking them, what do you want to do? Where, where do you want to see this print, you know, and how big, okay, here's this wall. It's maybe that could be, you know, we can do that like five foot, you know, that's, that's sort of the situation at the same deal as I've been able to explain. Are you just going to have your photos sitting on the computer or do you want this heirloom that can be passed down to generation and generation and be able to show your grandkids like only you know, those sort of things.
Braedon Flynn: 25:58 So I do think it's not as much sales and upselling as painting a picture for really what would make your client happy. Like this is this is the end product, right? Versus just like being out for yourself and trying to make more money. You're really trying to make your client more happy.
Shaun Gordon: 26:18 I was thinking about different ways to say that. I, I flew today so I was on a plane for awhile and it was listen to a book and it was talking about merging and like ego and different things like that. But I was thinking about this: it's easy when you go to a car salesman, like that's Kinda like the used car salesman doesn't have the best rap. You know what I was thinking? What if you were a writer? And like, what is it that your delivery, how do you tell your story?
Shaun Gordon: 26:40 What if I was a writer that just gave you all the words and you had to like print it off and then read it or something like that. There's like a, there's a gap there. So what do you want to deliver as the photographer as well, like where do you want your work to live? There's nothing wrong with social media. It's a beautiful thing. I mean lots of people end up seeing our work because of social media. Referrals, you know, travel and things like that come from those types of things. And that's a great avenue, for certain things. But so many times, like in the consultation for me and they industry consultation, I was doing a lot of consultation, probably shouldn't 50 weddings. Literally. I was like, I got the chills every single time I talked about the book because I said, here's the deal, you know, it's not a shocker that marriage isn't easy.
Shaun Gordon: 27:21 And so down the road, let's say you're arguing about finances or how we're gonna raise our kid or work or something like that, and it's like, I don't really like you right now. But remember when our photographer was talking about this book? Think of a wedding day, when are you ever going to buy dinner for 100 of your friends? Ever, ever one time. And it's your wedding day. You get all dolled up. You know, we're likely more fit than we ever will be. Like, we're so excited because it's a big moment to make this decision to be with this person for the rest of her life, (hopefully). And so everything is shaped around this moment where you guys make these vows down the road when things aren't going so great, just pull up. That book is mad as you are. It's going to be very hard.
Shaun Gordon: 28:04 That book's going to feel even heavier. You're not going to want to look at it, but open it up and ask yourselves, 'why did we look at each other this way, that day? Because there was nothing else weighing on us'. And I saw you for this person and of course, you know, we don't do really well when stresses are on us and you know, uh, when we're in those kinds of like arguments and things like that. But if we can get back to this moment, I think I like this person and it's not just because it's this perfect day, it's because I saw in you that day that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with you. And so even me as a photographer, I've done my job. If you open that book down the road and look through it because it's like such a fun day, your friends and family are there to celebrate this moment and it's a lot less likely that you're going to go and try and find these photos on a computer and hopefully be able to even find them in your piles and piles of photos.
Shaun Gordon: 28:54 You know? And like I said, social media is a beautiful thing to share some of our work. But when it's printed, it, it literally. To me, I wonder if I ever saved a marriage by saying because I said it to probably hundreds of clients and like what we do is a beautiful thing. Where do I want it to live, you know? And I would love to see it printed when I walk into. I still, I haven't shot for three years now and I walk into past clients that are now friends or friends that hired me to photograph their family and I have friends, pictures that I took and it was the one time they hired a professional photographer and their kids are like 14 years old and in that photo they're six. But I still love seeing it on their wall and I get the chills again because it's just like, that's why I do what I do with the camera.
Shaun Gordon: 29:38 I want to see it like this and relive that moment with them with my clients and for them, it's even a bigger deal. So, um, I think the expectation is a huge deal, you know, ultimately investing in the relationship. So it's not just a transactional thing, so that referrals come from it is another huge thing that's more on the grand scheme of business, like how we get referrals and things, but ultimately that book is a walking commercial for us as well. So another trick that I did, a lot of my clients end up doing this as well as - I'm not like consulting, I'm just helping. That's what I love doing is just sharing people what worked for me, sharing with people what worked for me. So after that party I would send them a thank you note is handwritten and think, you know, hey, I love this about your wedding.
Shaun Gordon: 30:21 Thanks so much for allowing me to be a part of it. Um, and I would send them what now is called a little kiss, like a small version of their, of their book. I wanted you guys to have this, like throw it in your purse or you just always have it on you. And it truly was a gift. Um, ultimately they paid for it, you know, because I built it out in the pricing and things like that, but they were now at Christmas, there may or may not take their 12 by 12 massive book to Christmas, but they're going to have that, book in their purse, that little kiss when they're getting their hair done or wherever they're at, they're always have that on them. It's a walking commercial. And so it's just, that was me investing in the relationship again, but now they're like, they're 20, whatever, 30, whatever a lot of their friends could be.
Shaun Gordon: 31:04 That's why I did the party with the bridal party there because they likely know somebody that's going to be engaged. That's just a referral based things. But now they're just like walking around and he, you know, didn't you get wet if you didn't, you get married a few months ago? Yeah, it was amazing. You know, I'm loving this and things like that. I have my whole wedding right here, you know, just one of those things. And so again, it's setting that expectations, showing, showing your work regularly. In a printed product that's what they expect from you.
Braedon Flynn: 31:35 So with just going back to the whole element of being a small business owner and creating the margin.
Shaun Gordon: 31:46 Can you maybe just think of I could two or three systems that can get put in place and then we'll sort of wrap it up from there. But from either things that you've had to learn and do in your own life or like other people that you've been around that have done a good job of that or what someone is trying to get that more in their life. How would they do that?
Shaun Gordon: 32:05 Yeah, write out what it takes, what you think it takes to run your business and then just kinda like put them in order of what you love to the things that you may not really like to do and then just start to like keep my vision was what for my business? Why do I do this? When somebody comes into your studio, when somebody comes in and buys what you do, they're not buying what you do.
Shaun Gordon: 32:31 They buy. Why you do it, and so we have to understand and even tell ourselves, get back to why we do it so many times. So knowing that is literally, I think a huge step in, in, in the creative industry. Why we do it is very easy to see, like I'm stopping time and creating these images for my clients to see, but there's more to why you do it, you know, whether it's family or friends, but this margin that you're referring to is really, look at it on a business platform, write them all out, figure out what is it going to take for me to replace myself out of the financial side of the business. Meaning like somebody that is doing my taxes. Something as simple as that. There's automations for that nowadays. But there's people that do that and that's the first thing I want to get rid of in my business.
Shaun Gordon: 33:21 Most of the time, I don't mind spreadsheets. I'm not going to be the one that creates them. So finding people that can do that or systems that can do that, like a lot of our industry as well has evolved a lot. Digital, brought a lot of things, but even just like tools and things like that, a lot of the companies that I sit in a room with regularly, they're creating systems to help the creative get back to the camera in their business but whatever matters most to them. And so there's just a lot of things that can do the heavy lifting for us. And then there's outsourcing. So those are the three main things. And you can do this in your personal life or in your business and slash or in your business ultimately. From like cleaning your house to create margin so that you can work on your business more to like, I don't love editing so I need to find somebody to edit for me.
Shaun Gordon: 34:11 So you bring somebody in, they edit for you, you hire a company to edit for you. Um, you know, for Kiss, a lot of people are like, I'm not a good designer. So we ended up building a designer that's online and you can hire us to do your design for 50 bucks is where we start. We'll design a pretty simple book for you for 100 bucks. We'll work directly with your client. There's like so many systems out there. So what is it that you love to do, like when you go to work, what are the things that you left to do and then fight for those because if you get to do those all the time, you're not going to be able to stop talking about what you do for a living. And that's pretty rare still. You know, as creative entrepreneurs, we tend to start a business because we love something but then we can get away from it pretty easily.
Shaun Gordon: 34:53 So what are the things that are taking us away from that? And those are the ones that you want to find a system for and there's a lot of them out there, you know? So figuring out those things and I can talk about those all day, you know?
Braedon Flynn: 35:03 Yeah. I think an important thing also to have in there is I know my tendency is I would lean towards like workaholic. Where especially when you own your own business and it's like it's exciting to grow a business and an exciting to be like, have a lot of stuff going on, but creating margin by shutting off, turning off, you know, and actually forcing yourself to get exercise and forcing yourself to schedule dates with your spouse, with your girlfriend or boyfriend, you know, like that sort of stuff, dates with your kids, because it's, it's my tendency is to never stop working.
Braedon Flynn: 35:41 And so I've had to learn that like it's going to be okay tomorrow, you know? And this can wait until tomorrow and because there is going to constantly be more and more to be doing, but making sure it's a. This can be used in so many different ways, but it's almost like the airline analogy of, you know, "In case of emergency mass are going to come down from the roof. Make sure you put your own mask on first so you don't die and you can't put the mask on the person next to you to help out", but at the same deal, it's for your employees, for your clients, for your spouse, your kids, if you are, have a completely empty cup, metaphorically speaking and you're, you're going to be doing a disservice to everybody around you and everything that you're involved with if you are not taking care of yourself.
Shaun Gordon: 36:24 For a lot of my upbringing, for some reason I leaned on feeling that was selfish. And so I don't think I. and I also sort of, I'm a two or three on the Enneagram, somebody that is a helper and so always putting others before myself, which is like that good Christian thing to do. But at a certain point it's like if you go down the road you're like, Whoa, I am work that's in. That's how you get burnout. But yeah. Yeah. I'm really glad you brought that up because I could talk about books all day as much as you know. I love that. There's times where I'm just like, of course he's talking about books because he owns album company, you know, but ultimately what matters most is we are our biggest asset. Um, there's a book called essentialism that I read multiple times a year because it's not a, again, pursue simple essential ism.
Shaun Gordon: 37:13 It sounds like this minimalist way of living in, it's not, neither of these are, um, it's like what it is. So what is, what is it that matters to you and if you aren't the best version of you, what are you representing going out? But there's times where I was again, you know, working tons of hours for myself and when I was shooting 60 plus weddings a year, if any of my past clients, you know, I took care of all of you the same. Um, I really didn't, you know, in those years and it's when I got back to that point where I was like, oh, I'm looking forward to this weekend and I can't wait to create again, you know, because I was recharged again. But when I was shooting two or three a week and it was getting tough and so I, you know, read the writing on the wall and was like, I need to figure something out because I'm falling less and less in love with something that I couldn't wait to do every weekend.
Shaun Gordon: 37:59 But taking care of yourself, you know, it was like when I started to do yoga, I was so much better for the day because I had set an intention. I took time for myself. I love doing it in the morning because I was just, I was like glowing afterwards, you know, and I was like, Yoga, like I'm not very flexible and they're like, it's not about that. It's about just taking time to breathe. And I ended up in a studio that was all about setting an intention. I was so much better throughout that day. Then I was a. I just like woke up, picked up my phone emails. It's so easy to go straight into that, but taking care of yourself first. It has. It's totally sound selfish to me as well, but it's like what we just look at that a little bit different. What if it's that you're so much of a better version of you when you get to go on that date with your kid or with your boyfriend or girlfriend or spouse?
Shaun Gordon: 38:48 Like what if you're actually able to be present with them because you took care of yourself and you're not like running from a meeting right into the date with your kid. You know, I've set rules in my, in my life, like when I get to this point, like for me, one of my, one of the rules is like when I stepped on a plane to go home, I travel a lot for a kiss and with my family as well. When I'm traveling for work, I can listen to books and watch documentaries about work on the way to work. When I'm flying to the destination, as soon as I step on the plane to go home, no more business. I can't like listen to a business book. I can listen to a book for fun. I can check out and watch TV. I can listen to music because when I get home, I don't want to be wrapping up a phone call.
Shaun Gordon: 39:34 I've done it way too many times. I'm wrapping up a phone call. I'm sitting in the garage. I've been gone from my family for three, four or five to seven days and my kids waiting there, but what's more important at that moment? It's probably whatever is on the other line to him or her, but now they don't deal with that at all. When I get home, I've kind of reset, you know, it could be hours, it could be from lax to Indianapolis. Now it's a four hour flight. I'm, I've spent four hours reading whatever it is that gives me life, not business books. This is sort of getting life, but I'm, I'm ready for home at that point. I'm excited to see them. I, you know, dive out of the car. I don't even know where my phone is. I'm excited to see them. It's very different and I'm a better person when I show up at home because I invested in myself and that's just a rule me and my wife made.
Shaun Gordon: 40:18 And when I'm in town, I'll go into the office at times I work at a home, a lot of times there's a, there's a cutoff and it's a hard stop. I have to stop because I know my kids are going to be home or I have a date that night or something is happening so that I'm investing in myself so that when I'm with them it's like that's my goal. I want to live an authentic, authentic life and that just means genuine, honest, and I want to be present when I'm sitting with somebody. I don't want to be checked out up here thinking about business or worried about something, you know?
Braedon Flynn: 40:47 I resonate with that a lot because I struggle with that a lot I think. And I think I've definitely. I mean, my oldest kid, your kids a little bit older.
Braedon Flynn: 41:01 My oldest kid is almost nine and a lot of my growth of my business has come in that period of life and there's been so much traveling and so much not recognizing the problems. And the one thing that I've learned that if I could impart anything on anyone listening would be that, none of it matters. I feel like in my business, I've reached the pinnacle of success that I could, like really caring too. I've been featured in every magazine I could care to be featured in and like the ones that actually would die to be featured in it. I've been there, I've shot celebrities, I've shot that, you know, it's like, so you get to this place and it's like for what you know and, and at the sacrifice of what. And it's like you, you can listen or hear or meet people that are incredibly wealthy and they're not any happier, you know.
Braedon Flynn: 41:53 You've got to really take care of yourself is one and two. I've asked yourself like why are you doing what you're doing? And then what is important and make sure that those important things happen. I, I am all for hustling. I'm all for working hard. I'm all for working really well and performing really well. But at the same time, that is not the point of life that is not going to actually validate you, that's not going to make you feel like maybe even make me make you feel more awesome. But at a certain point you're going to get to a place and being like, this is, I hope you would get to a place that you say like, this is, this is all trash compared to what actually is important in life. And I've had to get there and some like pretty heavy crashing ways, you know, and almost losing my family, you know, to a degree and have had to have some major wake up calls.
Braedon Flynn: 42:49 And I mean that's a part of why I like doing these videos is trying to encourage like the people that like trying to get to like be maybe where I am to be like, hey listen, like there's one, like have grace and patience on yourself. But then too, it's like learn some of these lessons have been learned, you know?
Shaun Gordon: 43:06 I'll kind of finish with these couple of points. That is really great, Karen, that side of things and it's interesting you said your oldest is nine. It was like my oldest was nine. He's now 17, but when he was nine I was shooting a lot of weddings and my wife, we got to a point where she came in the room and said like, I'm done with this way of living because you're clearly. And she didn't. She wasn't able to put words around it that day like this, but she's like, you're clearly chasing one thing and it's like fame, fortune, and that is one way that we measure ourselves.
Shaun Gordon: 43:40 It's probably the easiest way for us to measure ourselves. I can look at the account and I know how much money's in there. There's nothing wrong with that, but we can't only look there. We have to understand why we're doing it and how we're serving others. Those two are so much harder to measure ourselves because it's not like we can put a measuring stick up to it and know how well we're doing. A lot of times we have to ask for feedback or just know that what we're causing is what's coming out the other side. Um, but money is one of those things. It's like, it sounds amazing and all those things and it is, there's some great things that it does, but if that is the only reason, then it's like we're in for pretty empty life. Like I was to the point where I was going to, I know I can hustle and make money, um, but it's not like so that I can come home to this amazingly massive empty home.
Shaun Gordon: 44:27 That's where I was headed as well. And it was like we went through a really, really tough time. We got authentic with each other and realized, okay, how is it that we're going to love each other going forward? And it wasn't like the business was crushing me, it was, it was how I was viewing it was. And I was Kinda like foggy anyway and in my own way. But once that all cleared out and it was like I could see why I did what I did, it made work more fun as well. Like I loved what I did, but I was on the verge of burnout and then I look back at home. Things aren't going well there. It was like a, I need to figure some stuff out. I need to figure out what I was doing, all of this for what mattered and then get back to focusing on those things.
Shaun Gordon: 45:06 And sometimes it takes a season of hustle so that we can have those moments with our family or to travel or whatever. The why is that we do this. But it is. It's interesting how, how few things matter when you really take a good look at it and it's like a morning, have coffee with my wife is what matters. And if I can do all of this to get moments like that, I will do all of this. But I want, I have to keep getting back to that. And it's through those conversations that I want to have with her that like keep me going so many times. So I appreciate you being honest as well, but it just resonated with me because it was when my son was nine, I've, I've apologized to my son because I was like the first nine years of your life. I wasn't checked in like I took them on daddy duty, so I thought I was doing all the things that I needed to for my son, but it was like I wasn't present in those times, like I couldn't sit across the table from them and be there.
Shaun Gordon: 45:58 I was like, thinking about how to make the next dollar or whatever it was. Um, and so I wasn't there with him. Now I can sit down with him and we have these amazing conversations about him and it is a beautiful relationship now. But, uh, you know, we have to fight for it. You don't just wake up and have that. It takes investment and that's what matters to me. And so I do a lot of this stuff and I love what I do, but it can take us away from what really matters pretty easily. That's powerful. Uh, and I think a really, it's a really good thing to have in the front of your mind, especially if you're starting out or you're like, no matter where you are, it's like checking in. I, I live by the word intentionality because I think nothing, nothing you really want to happen.
Shaun Gordon: 46:40 Happens without being intentional about relationships, you know, all that. And so if people want to find out more about kiss books, where do they go? And then also is there anything that they can like watch or like if you're doing education stuff? Yeah. So you can follow some social media anywhere you typing kiss books, we will pop up. So, instagram, in any of those avenues you can find us there. Kiss that us is our url. I'm, I'm at Sean Austin. Um, when I first started the, my photography business, I was Austin photography, so I'm still @ShaunAustin. But yeah, it will be. I mean if you just follow us on our website, you, you'll get, it's an avenue to all of these things. We're launching a lot of education. We're building, we're launching some stuff in September that is education based, specifically on albums, but we'll be doing a lot of this stuff like what matters, why, how do you build business, why you getting back to those types of things.
Shaun Gordon: 47:30 So we'll be sharing about albums but a lot of other things as well. And there's a lot of platforms and things that we're building for efficiencies for photographers. So follow along. We're hoping to just continue to create a space where the creative entrepreneur can thrive and build tools around that so that we can focus on what matters most to us. So yeah. Yeah.
Braedon Flynn: 47:49 Well how cool you are doing all that and then also for any photographers that are watching this, if speaking of margin, if you don't know about Film Supply Club yet, we have a lot of different partnerships and relationships. Kids books is going to be one of those, but I'm actually a lot of tools to be able to delegate parts of Your Business and we have relationships with them.
Braedon Flynn: 48:30 And here it is, but everything from bookkeeping to virtual assistants to, you know, where he hosts your gallery is to have every everything he needs photographer, we've really hand picked that for you. So that's a core resource filmsupply.club. And I'll have, I'll have links to that in the video or below that, but check those out and stay tuned for more. Really hoped you love that conversation and found something you can go apply to your own business. And if you didn't know there's a ton more content from before this podcast was started over on the photo report dot Com. Or you can search youtube for the artist report for even more. There's a bunch of interviews just with amazingly talented people talking about their business and how they got there. So please, and if you did like this podcast or like a couple of the episodes, please go give us review on itunes. It really helps spread the word and gets his podcast notice for other photographers, thinks tons for listening. Go be well and shoot well, and don't forget to enjoy the journey on the way.