Obstacle or Opportunity?

Posted by Chuck Kocher
On February 1, 2016

Obstacle-or-opportunityA friend recently told me about a young man he knows who saw a way to turn an obstacle into an opportunity.

This young man lives on the East Coast and had attended Rochester Institute of Technology with dreams of becoming a photographer. You’re probably aware that the photography industry is a pretty tough place to be right now. More and more newspapers and magazines are letting staff go—replacing them with freelancers. Some (make that many) would say that it’s not exactly a growth industry.

This young man, however, finished his degree and—instead of hanging out his shingle as a freelance photographer—went to work for several years at a high-end photo store in New York. It really wasn’t the place to hone his skills as a photographer, but there were things to learn.

The store’s clientele consisted of people who could afford high-end photo equipment. But today’s cameras are unlike the cameras or years ago. One of the main differences is that they are digital. What that means is that even skilled photographers needed to re-learn how to shoot and manipulate the images they captured.

So much of what happens to a photo these days occurs after the picture is taken. The young man we’re talking about spent a vast majority of his time on software and trouble-shooting for high-end photographers.

When he left the camera store, he continued to spend a lot of time doing set-up and trouble-shooting for clients. The tech stuff (while not his passion) paid his bills. He saw the need, and he used the skills and training he had to deliver what clients needed.

He also kept his eye on what was happening in his industry. One of the major trends he noticed was an increase in the use of drone photography. Real estate agents (among others) were taking advantage of drone technology to fly over (and through) homes to give clients a completely new perspective or new properties.

Recognizing the potential, our young friend began building and experimenting with drones and attaching cameras to the drones in order to take pictures. Demand for drone photography mushroomed! But instead of simply spending a lot of money on drones and new cameras, this young man kept his eyes and ears open.

Instead of just following his gut (and excitement about drone photography) he read about the safety and security issues surrounding drones and about the projected new requirements that would require drone operators to be FAA licensed pilots in order to fly drones.

After doing a fair amount of research, he began taking lessons and studying to get his license before the new laws went into effect. He’s now certified and ready to offer his services to anyone who needs them

The demand for drone photography continues to grow, but while many photographers will be playing catch-up (if they decide to do it at all) this young man will be out getting the jobs they’re not qualified to do.

Here’s why this is so significant. Innovation isn’t always about coming up with a new piece of software or a new app or a new tool. Sometimes it’s recognizing an opportunity and putting yourself in a position to take advantage.

What do your customers need? What skills or capabilities can you develop that your competitors don’t have? You can either play catch up to stay competitive—or you can be out in front—choosing the clients you really want to work with.