Gwendolyn “G” Houston-Jack of Texas-based G Photography.
Can a hobby turned profession yield great business results? It did exactly that in the case of G Photography - a photography and portrait studio located in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas. Small business owner and photographer Gwendolyn “G” Houston-Jack is a portrait artist specializing in creating modern, lifestyle wall art of families and individuals. We caught up with her for an interview on her business and her use of Salesforce Essentials.
What are some of the major challenges you face as a small business owner?
A major challenge is time. There are never enough hours in the day. The second is getting everything done. All the tasks that are normally parceled out to multiple people fall on you. You're the salesperson and marketing person, while also taking care of the numbers. It takes a lot of time to do everything.
Why is Essentials a good fit for a photography business versus a photography-specific solution for relationship management?
I was looking for tools to help me keep my business growing. If I was going to learn a new skill, I wanted to be able to use that skill in another way beyond its immediate needs and I wanted to grow with the tool. You’re always investing your own money to get your business off the ground and in the past, I bought programs for photography that I either quickly outgrew or the companies stopped making them.
With Essentials, I have a very flexible solution. You can customize it to fit your own needs and there's room for growth. There are other things I want to do with Salesforce that I'm not doing yet, but I know I have those options and features.
Salesforce today announced new conversation channels in Essentials. Web chat, social and phone for small businesses - is this a game changer?
As a small business, you have to look like the big guys. You want to find ways to set yourself apart from other photographers in terms of service. You can get a great picture and do Photoshop but service and customer relationships are really how you're going to make money. Being able to immediately be notified and respond to social posts or have live chat available is definitely a game changer.
What crucial piece of advice do you have for small business owners who want to adopt a new CRM?
You have to do your research and look long term. Will this tool grow with you as you change your business? Is it easy to use? You're already stressed for time as it is, so you don’t want to have to fight with a new program.
As you began your adoption, did you leverage Trailhead?
I was already using Salesforce in my full-time job and I knew what it can do for a company of this size, which is why, at first, I thought I wasn't going to use Salesforce. I didn't think it was built for a one-person company. I took some time to research, started using Trailhead and fell in love. Plus, being an old girl scout, I have a thing for badges. I know what it's like collecting badges. You never lose that and Trailhead is a really practical way to learn and keep learning.
Many small business owners are stretched for money. How can they justify spending money on new tools?
As small business owners, we have to stop thinking that our small business means small task. That's not the case. We have the same values as other businesses have: respect for time, people and finances.
One thing I have stressed is why I prioritize sales. Sharing highlights from my experience has changed people's ideas. The moment I say, "Hey, Salesforce is only $25 a month," they say, "Oh, maybe I'll go look into it." The low cost is a huge factor.
Looking into the future, what are some of the technology trends that you think will impact small businesses?
First, I’m noticing that for truly omnichannel customer experience, communication - and how we communicate - is going to be key. Being able to respond quickly is very important. Second, if we're going to compete with bigger businesses, it will require being mobile. If you don't communicate fast enough, there's a very good chance you're going to lose the lead.
What's next for G Photography?
My next spot is to put my still images out in the market for the local craft fair. You take a couple prints and sell them and you get a feeling that maybe there's a market. I'm looking at putting that out there next, perhaps incorporating that into my website and an ecommerce store in 2020. There's also been a focus on small business branding so I find myself, as a photographer, doing some counseling.I don't consider myself an expert but people like the advice I give, so I'm giving it.