Business Bites Episode 109: Tools to Make Your Day-to-Day More Efficient & Free Up Your Time

Tools to Make Your Day-to-Day More Efficient & Free Up Your Time

Episode 109 on the Business Bites Podcast

The Gist Of This Episode:  Successful CEOs all share similar traits that we can apply in our own businesses. Listen (and take notes!) as Rachel and Bryan Caporicci from The Business of Photography Podcast discuss the difference between a CEO mindset vs. a worker bee mindset and tools you can use to be more efficient in your business. 

 

What you will learn:

  • Why you should have systems in place
  • What the traits of a CEO are
  • Why you should have an organized to-do list
  • How to be realistic about what others tell you should or shouldn’t be done in your business
  • and more!

Expand To Read Episode Transcripts

Rachel: All right, Bryan, so welcome to episode 109 of the Business Bites podcast. I am excited to have you today.

Bryan: Hey Rachel. It’s really great to be on. It’s nice to be on this side of the microphone. Well I guess I’m always on this side of the microphone, but on this side of the interview, I guess, is more of what I’m saying.

Rachel: Yes, and as you guys know, I mentioned in the intro that Bryan has his own podcast, the Business of Photography podcast, and I’ve been a guest there, so we’re in role reversal today.

Bryan: That’s right.

Rachel: I’m grilling him with the questions. Before we get into the topic of tools to make are day-to-day as entrepreneurs even more efficient and free up time, since we all have a finite amount of time, I want to start with a little bit of your background and your path to entrepreneurship, just in case some of the listeners aren’t knowledgeable of Sprout Studio, your podcast, and you individually.

Bryan: Yeah, absolutely. I’ve been a professional full-time photographer now for almost 15 years, and I actually got into photography because I like the business side. I’m one of those weird guys that actually enjoys entrepreneurship, whereas most photographers, and I’d argue even a lot of creative entrepreneurs get into the game because they love what they do, not necessarily the business of what they do.

I’ve always had a passion for the business side. I went to school for computer science. I’ve always been a tad on the nerdier side, and so I’ve always known what you can do with technology and I’ve known what you can do in business and using systems and tools to help your business, and I remember sitting in my studio five or six years ago just piecing together all these different pieces of software, using different gallery systems and contracts systems and CRM systems, and I was using a custom built FileMaker Pro system. It was nerdy, it was great, it was useful, but it was also complicated and I had to double enter everything in every different system.

I literally said to myself, and it’s like this eureka moment that you hear a lot of entrepreneurs and big ideas how they come from, I said, “There’s got to be a better way to do this, because if I’m finding it challenging and I like business and I like technology,” which a lot of photographers don’t like either of those two things. I said, “If I’m finding it complicated, I’m sure that there’s other photographers like me that find it complicated.” I set out to look for a better solution and I couldn’t find one that did all of these things in one place, so I said, “Well, I know what you can do with technology, so let’s go ahead and get this thing done.”

Fast forward in the last three or four years, we now have a full team here in the office at Sprout Studio, and Sprout Studio is now basically an all-in-one tool that helps photographers and other creative entrepreneurs run their business. Everything from lead intake to emails, to client management, to contracts, to invoicing, to galleries, to digital fulfillment. Pretty much anything you’d need to run your business, you can do in Sprout Studio in one place.

Rachel: Yes. Literally everything. I have been hearing on the street really excitement about one of your newest tools within the software is the new scheduler, which I think is phenomenal, because when you were talking about the systems a little bit ago about piecing stuff together, I remember sitting there going, “Okay, I need a redirect from this calendar to this PayPal to this thing.” I just remember it just being a nightmare trying to keep track of everything, and it’s so nice that it’s all in one place.

Bryan: And that’s the thing, is there’s ways to get this done. If you’re technically savvy, if you like that stuff, if you want to piece together your own solution, there’s absolutely ways to do it, and there’s very efficient ways to do it, but there’s something about just having everything in one place that keeps it simple for you, the photographer, but also for your clients. They get this nice consistent experience that’s well thought out and feels cohesive as they go through the entire experience of working with you as their photographer. Yeah, that scheduler part is, in my mind and our minds, it was the one piece that was missing. We’d still have a lot of our users and photographers that would use Sprout for everything, but would have to link externally to another tool like a Calendly or Acuity, or any of the other systems that allow you to do scheduling, so building that into Sprout definitely made … It saved our users money and it made their lives a little bit simpler because it’s now integrated.

Rachel: I love that. In-line with the whole looking at what is going on here, what is going wrong or what can I improve, what is something that you could go back in time to your very first business, whether it was photography or the beginning of Sprout Studio, and what would you tell yourself or what would you change looking back?

Bryan: It’s so funny because I think about that concept a lot. If I could go back and tell my younger self something that I would do differently, what would it be? There’s all kinds of little nuances, but the thing that I find interesting, looking back in retrospect, I started my business because I liked business. In fact, I opened my photography business before I even owned a camera, which is kind of funny and very ass backwards, but it’s how I did it. I’ve always liked that business side, and so for me, I always thought of business first and then photography second. Not that I didn’t care about photography, but it’s business always came first for me, so I was always mindful of systems and productivity, and how can I make things more efficient, and how can I be more organized?

I’ve gone through different versions of those systems in the last 15 years as technology has changed, as the way that we do business has changed, but I would definitely encourage my younger self, but also just any photographer, to take some time to step out of the busy-ness of your business. I think that’s probably the biggest challenge that we have as creative entrepreneurs is that we live and breathe in this space, in the doing of the thing that we do, and we spent so much time in our business that sometimes we forget to step out and work on our business. Implementing a system, or working on your efficiency, or looking at different workflow tools, or different ways of going about what you do on a day-to-day basis, that sometimes feels like it’s this thing that’s impossible for us to spend time doing.

When I speak or teach on productivity or on systems, I have this exercise that I walk through of time chunkings to make us more productive and make sure that we’re doing the right things at the right time of the day, and so on and so forth. Oftentimes, I’ll have photographers and they’re like, “Bryan, you’re crazy. When do I have time to sit down and be all dreamy with the blank calendar in front of me and map out my time?” I’m like, “Well, if you don’t make the time to do that, you never will have the time.”

Rachel: You don’t have the time not to.

Bryan: Exactly. Exactly. I’ve used this analogy that … I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Fizzle podcast, but the guys over at Fizzle.co, they coined this phrase ages and ages ago and I just love it. They basically chunk up their thought process into two modes. One is being CEO mode, and one is being worker bee mode. It’s just a prettier way to say working on your business versus working in your business. I’m a big believer that the time that we spend in CEO mode, the time that we spend working on our business, it makes that time that we spend in our business that much more efficient, that much more productive, that much more useful. Although it’s hard to step out of that worker bee mode, when we do, it just means that we can be more effective next time we have to go back into worker bee mode.

Rachel: I’m glad you said that, because when I’m looking back with that question that I asked you, what would you tell yourself and that whole eureka moment, it is being in the moments where I felt too much worker bee. I couldn’t get out of the weeds and get to the 20,000 feet above to see what was going on. It was in the moments when I was feeling worn out or just on this endless treadmill that, finally, I would press the emergency stop and then go, “Okay, what is not working here? What can I fix, system-wise?” I love that we can throw out the word systems now and most entrepreneurs understand what we’re talking about. You can have one in financial stuff, on your legal workflow, your client intake, whatever it is in your business, because when I first started out, at least for solopreneurship, the word ‘systems’ really wasn’t out there. Then again, there wasn’t a lot of freemium information. You weren’t bombarded with these terms all the time, but I just remember …

These words weren’t even in front of my eyes. All I remember is the overwhelming drowning feeling that I was having of, “Oh my God, all I’m doing is worker bee all day. I’m not even able to … ” like what you were just talking about, sit down and make my calendar. I’m not even able to sit and go, “What is going wrong?” Or, “How can I go meet new clients?” Because I was so overwhelmed with just doing all the time. Actually, I didn’t prep you with this question, but I want to ask you, do you think that we’ve gone from a, I was going to say industry, but it’s multiple industries. I guess let’s just say an entrepreneurship time era where you went from no systems, no out of the box solutions. Do you think it’s almost paralyzing how many options are available out there now? If so, how can entrepreneurs get to deciding on a solution? Maybe I’m taking away from your tips a little bit.

Bryan: No, I think that’s huge, because I think there’s also the complete opposite end of the spectrum where one end is photographers feel like they’re frantic, they have no system, they’ve got sticky notes all over their computer monitors. There’s that typical view of an unorganized entrepreneur. That’s one thing that I’m sure a lot of folks can identify with, but there’s also the complete opposite end of the spectrum, which is where every single week there’s a flavor for that week. We’re changing systems and we’re always doing new, and we’re always trying new things and transitioning and migrating, and this and that.

Honestly, I’ve seen it with Sprout Studio users, where we’ll have someone that starts using Sprout. They love it, they sing the praises, and then the next flavor of the week comes along and they switch to that one. Then another one comes along and I see them in those user groups. Another one comes along and they switch, and then they come back to Sprout and they’re like, “You know what? I’m going to go back to my roots.” Then they switch when the next one comes out. A system is only as good as you are in disciplined in implementing it.

I think that, yeah, it’s overwhelming and challenging to look at all the systems that are out there. In whatever system you’re looking at, system could also just mean looking at your workflow for how you edit if you’re a photographer, or how you deal with a legal challenge if you have a client that’s coming at you for something. There’s different systems and different facets and different areas of our business, and yeah, it could be overwhelming, but that’s also where we don’t have clarity and we don’t have a good thought process when we’re in the weeds in that worker bee mode. The worst decisions get made when we’re overwhelmed, when we’re frantic, when we’re drowning. When we can’t fight to breathe at the surface, we make the worst decisions, and they almost never end up panning out to be the outcome that you hope it to be.

I find the best strategy to make good decisions in your business is to give yourself that space as to where and when you make those decisions. I don’t necessarily mean like physical space, but I mean get out of that worker bee mode. Get out of that space of being busy to make those decisions, because otherwise, you’re going to get to that point, and I’m sure everyone listening, if you’re an entrepreneur you’ve been in this space where you feel like you’re burning the candle at both ends. You know that you don’t think clearly in that space. It makes things even more complicated and even more overwhelming when you have to make decisions.

Rachel: I actually just had a couple past episodes on this about getting your stuff together in case life happens. I’ve had some major events in the last few years of my life that have really led to distraction from my business, and the only way that the business that my family counts on for finances and my employees, team members, I hate to call them employees, but my employees and my contractors alike all depend on me working or my business and systems running. I can’t even impress … We’ve been talking all this, keep yourself from burnout, you can go through these systems, be more efficient, but let’s also think it from a tangible life perspective. What happens when the bottom falls out of your life one day? You don’t know what’s going to happen.

What’s interesting, for me, is in the last few months I had sat down in December and I went through and rewrote all my systems. Even though I’ve been doing this for years. I would pull out the old writing out the steps of … Like the example you gave a minute ago, maybe a client intake. I wrote down all of the steps of client intake and how I could improve it, and I just spent a week completely engrossed, no showers, which was gross. Eating Chinese food on my couch, and just for an entire week blitz worked on all of this, and it paid off because I ended up having a really crazy life change the following week.

The timing was insane, but it was nice, because while I’m in the process of writing out the systems and everything to identify weaknesses, how I can also maybe look for online software like Sprout Studio or something like that to help fill the gaps and give me more of my time back, it also allowed me for me toidentify, “Okay, how do I offload this to someone else?” I, then, was literally able … I took it, I wrote it out on a piece of paper, then I stuck it into monday.com as my workflow. There’s all sorts of systems that you can write your systems and your workflow stuff in, but now my team just picked up with that and ran with it to the best of their ability, and I didn’t have to hands-on do that.

In my long-winded fashion, I’m just saying we’re talking about giving you guys more time back, more efficiency, but also consider you never know when the shoe will drop in life, and you need to be able to have someone else pick up for you, or maybe you are not going to be in a mental state you can even think about, “Oh my gosh, what’s the next step in the client workflow?” If you’ve already written it out, you’ve made it as efficient as possible, it’s going to make those circumstances and life situations better for you, and you’ll still be able to keep your business running.

Bryan: I think that’s spot on. Over the past, I’d say, maybe 10 years, but more so in the past five years, I’ve really gotten into studying the psychology and the science behind productivity and how our brains work. As we talk about these things, which has allowed me to speak with some insight into these things, and one of the things that I have found so incredibly fascinating is that our brains, we know, are unbelievably wired. Just the way that they help us do what we have to do is amazing, but the way that our brains work when we have something to do. Now, this usually shows up in the form of a loose end.

For example, Rachel, like what you’re talking about, where you know you’ve got something to do but you just haven’t done it yet, or you’ve got this next step to take with a client, but you don’t have it tasked in your to-do list somewhere, you don’t have it organized somewhere. If your brain knows that there’s this loose end, this thing to get done, it will constantly bring it back to our prefrontal cortex and actually remind us of these things and constantly do it. It usually manifests itself when we sleep, and that’s why so many of us have a hard time sleeping or have a hard time falling asleep.

Rachel: I’m raising my hand.

Bryan: Yeah, right, because we can’t shut our brains off. We can’t stop thinking. Our brains are subconsciously just recycling all of these thoughts, all these things, all these to-do’s. Whereas if you have them organized somewhere, if you have them systematized somewhere, if you have them written down, if you know that it’s going to be automated or outsourced or somehow taken care of, or even if you just have it written down on a sheet of paper that you know you’re going to look at in the morning, that’s enough for your brain to be like, “Okay, you got this.” Let’s go to bed. Let’s shut off for a minute now.

This also shows up when we feel this incessant need to be checking our phones and our emails and our social media feeds when we’re not working. I say not working with air quotes. You can’t see me in a podcast, but this idea of working a nine-to-five. I personally love the concept of having business hours. I think it’s a useful tool for us as creative entrepreneurs to deploy, to actually build some structure into our lives and into our days, and build some boundaries for ourselves but also for our clients. But whether or not you agree with that concept, work has this tendency to spill into every corner of our life and every corner of our minds if we don’t train it otherwise.

That training is the systems, and again, it doesn’t have to be Sprout, it could be any system. A to-do list. It could be any other system that you use, or some way of managing all the things that we have up in our heads. If we keep them in our heads, our brain will overwhelm us. It will recycle them, and we’ll never be able to have space in our lives, give ourselves a margin in our schedules, get to sleep properly, or just be able to have time off and spend it with our kids or our spouses or our friends or family, or whoever it is that we want to be doing outside of the business that we do.

Rachel: I’ve said it before on past episodes. What is the point in business if you’re not going to be able to live your life? I love to work, but I don’t want to live to work. I love it. That week I talk about sitting on the couch and just ripping apart all of my systems and workflows and redoing them all. I loved that. Was it really a true efficient if you looked at it? Was I really getting ROI that week? No, I wasn’t making sales. No, it wasn’t making new clients, but it has set me up for a more efficient workflow and success in the future, but I much enjoyed it.

That you’re talking a little bit ago about being between CEO mindset and worker bee mindset, and I do think that there’s this confusion. I think this is what you were getting at, that sometimes entrepreneurs have to feel busy to feel successful to feel like they’re accomplishing something, and just understand, even though you’re not in worker bee mode doesn’t mean that you’re not accomplishing something when you’re in CEO, and there is a balance.

I throw to you, Bryan, on that. Is there a percentage, you think, when people are sitting down and looking at their day-to-day, how should they carve that up? Should we be looking at 50% CEO, 50% worker bee, or how do you fit that into approaching this?

Bryan: Yeah, so it’s a hard question to answer, because everyone’s business and situation will be a little bit different, but I’d almost throw it back to the listener to basically looking at your business model and how you have things set up. Maybe you are a solopreneur, in which case you are going to have to wear a lot of the hats, or maybe you’re running a team and you’re able to offload some of the things, but if you look at some of the most successful people in the world, and now this is everywhere from folks that are financially successful, your Bill Gates, your Richard Bransons, those kinds of folks, to anyone who is just making a big impact with philanthropic endeavors or other things that they’re doing to make a change in the world. Anyone who is successful and is really not competing, but they’re performing at the top of their game in their space, they do not spend their time in worker bee mode, which is so interesting.

Those folks are not answering their own emails or putting out their own fires. They’re not doing the things, the busy-ness. They spend their time in critical thinking. They spend their time making big decisions. They spend their time on strategy, and they surround themselves with folks who can help them with it. That’s where I come back to say, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could all, as entrepreneurs, just spend all of our time thinking?” But that’s not the reality of the businesses that we’re probably all in.

As a photographer, you have to take pictures as well. You’ve got to answer emails and do your bookings and do those kinds of things. Maybe you have built a team that you can outsource some of that to, but that’s just a nudge to the listener to basically say, you perform your best and you will reach your own definition of success, however you figure that out, quickly, more easily, and you’ll be able to sustain it the more time you spend in CEO mode. Do whatever you can to outsource or automate or hire or eliminate the things that you have to do in worker bee mode to give yourself that freedom and margin that you can spend in CEO mode.

If listeners are looking for a more concrete answer, I would say a good starting point is to try and spend 25% of your time or 20% of your time in CEO mode. If you can take a day out of your work week and spend that solely focused on strategy and growth and thinking and visioning and moving things forward and spending your time in that space, that is probably, I’m willing to bet, 10 times more than you’re already spending. You’re going to move the needle pretty significantly, even with that 20% shift on things.

Rachel: I get that that can be overwhelming. Just even the idea … There’s probably some people listening to this driving their car, they’re running around getting kids from school, they’re maybe headed to a session or whatever, and they’re thinking, “I don’t have the time for that.” Bryan just said one thing that slipped by there really quickly. Eliminating. This is, I think, very hard for entrepreneurs who are very type A, hands-on, DIY-ers, and we also are like, “Ooh, something new, shiny,” and we’re really passionate about almost all facets of our business, maybe not all, but if you fall into any of those categories, you may forget that yes, you should be eliminating some things in your business.

I think it is easy to fall into this, yep, we should outsource, and I do agree with that 100%. I have multiple episodes on that, which FYI guys, there are going to be show notes, rachelbrenke.com/epi109. I’ll link related episodes there also on some of these topics, but not just outsource, but also eliminate because, and I am one of them, that I can get excited about an idea, I can get excited about a project, and I’ll drop everything else and I’ll add more to my plate. It’s like, no, that needs to be eliminated, or not even eliminated. Put a pin in it for later. Just because I’m not doing it now doesn’t mean I won’t do it later on. Luckily for me, I’ve had a good solid team for a few years who will say, “We don’t need one more thing right now. Can we put a hold on this?” But if you’re sitting there by yourself as a solo entrepreneur, there may be things that you need to eliminate or put a pause on in order to get your head around what we’re talking about here.

Bryan: Yeah, and I think the other side of eliminate also is automate, which something that a lot of the times we have a hard time doing, because we feel like we have to touch everything. I would argue that if there’s anything in your business that you do repeatedly, that you do every time, borderline the same way for each client, for example, find a way to automate it. We don’t need to be touching every single thing in our business. We have this obsessive compulsive way of needing to get our hands dirty in every single way, and it’s like, “Yeah, do you really need to? Do you really need to?” That’s where you can say, “Do you really need to?” If yeah, you do really need to do that thing, try and find a way to automate it, and if you don’t really need to do that thing, then like we said, eliminate it.

At the end of the day, you always are saying “no”. Whenever you’re faced with any decision, “Should I do this thing?” You’re always saying “no” to something. If you say “yes” to taking on that new project, or booking that client because they’re going to give you great exposure, you’re saying “no” to something else whether you realize it or not, because time is a limited thing. We only have 24 hours in the day, so when you say “yes” to one thing, you’re saying “no” to something else. It could be your kids, it could be your family, it could be another big project, it could be CEO mode, it could be just some free time to read, or a vacation, or whatever it is. You’re always saying “no” to something. Make sure you say “no” to the right things.

Rachel: To wrap this up a little bit, it’s easy for us, because we’re in relatively solid, successful places in our business. I keep going back to the beginning, that if I was in the first few years listening to this podcast back when podcasts really weren’t a thing, and I would be anxious and I’d go, “It’s easy for you to say, but I am so scared. My family needs this money. I have to work all these hours. I can’t pass up any opportunity.” I love what you just said about if you say “yes”, you’re saying “no” to something else, but how do you help the listener?

Even sometimes, I think I still go through this when I don’t want to turn down … I turned down an opportunity this morning actually and it was like, Oh, because I was so scared to turn it down, or scared not to turn it down. It was both sides of the coin. What advice would you give if the listener, maybe myself, is feeling fear-driven in their yes or no, and choosing to do something that may take the place of CEO mode time?

Bryan: Yeah, it’s tricky because there’s all this conversation that we’re having here, and this is solid advice to help you move your business. If you zoom up 20 miles high and look at your trajectory, this is advice to move your business in the right direction. You’re pointing your compass in the right direction, but when you get down in there, when you zoom down, when you’re down on earth and, yeah, you need that paycheck to pay for your kids next school trip, or you’ve got your mortgage to pay, and like, “Well, Bryan says to spend time in CEO mode, so say “no” to the job. We’ll go tell the bank we can’t pay a mortgage this week.” Okay, no. I get it. When it gets down to the brass tacks of it, you’ve got to make a living, and so you’re going to have to make some sacrifices there in the sense of you may have to take on jobs that you don’t love as you’re getting going.

I am 100% okay with that. I 100% encourage that. It drives me nuts when I see educators talking about like, “Oh, you only have to do this one thing and say ‘no’ to everything else.” It’s like, “Great.” Then we just won’t buy food for supper then. That sounds great. Maybe that’ll work in two years from now. In the long-term it’ll work, but in the short-term we’ll just live on ramen noodles. It’s like, “No, that’s not okay.” As you go through seasons in your business, yeah, you’re going to have to say “yes” to things that you don’t want to say “yes” to in those earlier days, and that’s okay, but as long as you still give yourself some space to move yourself in the right direction, give yourself some space to be in CEO mode.

This whole idea of a 40-hour work week, working nine-to-five, I love to sit here and say like that’s what we should be doing as photographers. We should have this really, really nice work life balance, and we should be able to make a great living from photography, and yada, yada, yada. That’s where my thought process comes from, because for 15 years I’ve been a full-time photographer. My wife has been a stay-at-home mom with our three kids for the last seven years. We paid off our mortgage, we own our vehicles. We got ourselves to a place in life where we had what we wanted. We had the success that we wanted.

We made the decisions that we wanted all from the money I made with my camera, and so I say those things knowing what it’s like to be there, and I want to encourage photographers and anyone listening that you can get there too, but that doesn’t mean that in the early days you’re not having to bust ass. I’m not saying that you’re going to have this beautiful, cushy, balanced, nine-to-five the day you open your doors. That’s not going to happen, actually. I think that’s probably the minority. You’re going to have to grind it out. You’re going to have to hustle, you’re going to have to work hard. You’re going to have to say “yes” to things you don’t want to say “yes” to. That’s not inspiring for anyone to hear me say that, but that’s the reality of being an entrepreneur. That’s the truth, and so as long as you have a plan, right?

Rachel: No, agreed. Actually, with the planning thing, I think what’s important is … because I keep visualizing here how I felt. I felt like I was on a treadmill, and I finally had to yank the emergency stop. [inaudible 00:29:29] always go back to running or something, but I think there’s a difference between … sometimes you’re going to have to run longer hours, but there’s a difference between that and getting into a treadmill where you’re actually not going anywhere at all.

I think the perfect example, at least for photographers, and this can apply to anyone else that’s listening. You hear from other business people, and I’ve even talked about this in some episodes, you have to be clear on who your customer avatar is and your messaging and all that, but when you’re in the beginning and you’re trying to make your financial ends meet and you’re trying to get efficient like we’re talking about here in getting yourself systems in place and all of that and outsourcing, you may have to work a little bit more to invest a bit more to do that. You’re going to have to take jobs that you don’t want. One of the classic examples I see a lot is people will say, “I want to be a wedding photographer, but all I’m getting are family photography inquiries.” I’m like, “Yes, and you know what? You’re in your first year of business, so guess what you’re going to be shooting? You’re going to be shooting families, but you’re going to keep advertising for weddings.”

Bryan: Yep. At the end of the day, I guess I would almost turn that around to the photographer and say, “Great, you know what then? Only take on weddings, but that’s probably going to mean you’re going to have to go get another job working at a restaurant or doing something to pay the bills in the meantime, because weddings won’t do it.” My question to you is, would you rather get another job somewhere else, or would you rather get another job being a family portrait photographer? I would personally rather get another job making money with my camera. That might mean booking the jobs that I don’t want to do in the early days, and that’s okay.

Actually the interest thing, Rach, you just said the treadmill analogy. It’s funny because I’ve never even thought of … I should switch my analogies because I always say a rocking horse is constantly moving but never actually going anywhere.

Rachel: I like that.

Bryan: It’s actually interesting, because you can almost say the same thing about someone running on a treadmill. You can run as fast as you want. You can sweat and burn all the calories you want on that treadmill, but you never actually move anywhere. That’s an interesting analogy for us when we look at what we do on a day-to-day or a week-by-week basis. We can feel busy and we can feel like we’re moving and we’re sweating and we’re busy and we’re doing all of these things and feeling like we’re accomplishing things, but if we’re not actually moving in the right direction, then we’re no different than that rocking horse. We’re no different than someone on a treadmill that’s trying to actually go from point A to point B that’s not actually physically moving in the right direction.

Rachel: What I love about how where this conversation has gone, because I initially intended us to be very like, “Three tips. These are the tools, these are what [inaudible 00:32:13].” We got into CEO mode, both of us did, but why is that? Because we have trained ourselves to get to there because we’re in a place in our businesses, and so it was a very worker bee conversation I intended us to have, but if you guys will go back and re-listen, if you’ve stuck with us on this episode, the way that we’re looking at … and I may be for me, I don’t know for Bryan, but as a female, I remember how I feel in those times, and that’s what leads to change. I remember feeling burnout, and so that’s when it led to changing of my systems, my workflows, et cetera.

It’s funny how our conversation has evolved to CEO level, and so I think this is a good example for you guys listening, if you have heard us say CEO and you’re like, “I don’t really know what you mean.” This is what we’re talking about. Look at what’s going on. It may feel worker bee when you’re writing out your systems and workflows, but what’s going through your mind, as long as you’re looking at where the touch points with, let’s say, the client intake like you were talking about before. The touch points you have with a client, the top questions that they have. How can you preempt those questions so that you’re giving that client the answers before they even ask the questions? That is CEO mode, even though it may sit and feel like that your hand-doing it, you’re not.

What hand-doing it, what the worker bee side of that would be, kind of what Bryan mentioned before was being in this reactive mode of always typing out the exact same email each time. The CEO’s going to realize I’m typing the same response to clients over and over. How can I template that, how can I automate that, and/or outsource it? That is the big differentiation. There’s still going to be hands-on things you have to do as CEO, but it’s all grounded in this high-level view of seeing how everything’s going, and then using the tools in order to implement it.

Bryan: That’s exactly what tools are there for. They’re supposed to be there as a tool, as something that’s going to help you get the job done, and they’re meant to be solution-driven tools that are there to help you. Yeah, you’re going to have to do the work, but you’re going to have to do the work once. That’s the thing I love about tools like that. Like Sprout, for example. I see all the time where photographers are like, “Oh, it’s a lot of work to get set up.” It’s like, “Okay, well yeah, but if you put in three hours now it’s going to save you 30 hours next week.” Is that not worth the three hours right now? Because you hop in, you do the work once, you get it all set up and then you’re off to the races and you’re good to go. That’s the kind of work that is smart time spent. That’s how we should be spending our time in CEO mode, so that we can hop in there, do the stuff, get it done once, and then hop out and spend our time where it’s better spent.

Rachel: I agree. Let’s shift to worker bee mode, give them some tangible tools that they can utilize. Obviously for photographers, Sprout Studio is a huge all-in-one solution they can use. What other systems do you use with your team or in your business to supplement? I’ve already mentioned for myself, monday.com. I also utilize Trello. I do Trello board more of like when we were talking about eliminating or making a list of projects and stuff I want to do, but not doing it right now. Getting it onto digital paper, so that I satisfy that urge to talk about it and memorialize it. Do you have any other systems that listeners can integrate? Maybe help them with getting out of the worker bee mode.

Bryan: Yeah, for sure. My favorite tool, literally for last 15 years, and I still use it today, is a tool called OmniFocus. OmniFocus is, more or less, it’s a to-do list manager, but what I love about OmniFocus is that it was actually built around, it’s called the GTD method, getting things done method, and if anyone wants to dive deeper into the concept of getting things done and productivity, things we’ve talked about today, go read the book, ‘Getting Things Done’ by David Allen. It is a fantastic book, and it’s probably the cornerstone read in that topic of productivity. He’s a master of that stuff. OmniFocus is basically a to-do list manager, but what I love about it is that you categorize things into contexts, which is basically what’s the state of mind, or maybe perhaps what’s the physical space I need to be in to get these things done?

Then obviously, you organize things by dates and all that stuff, but the context is the most important part, because if I’m in the block of chunk on my schedule that is emails, I want to see all the things that I have to do that have to do with emails. I don’t care to look at that wedding I have to edit. I don’t care to look at that piece of content I have to write. Whereas if I’m in errand mode, I want to see all the errands that I have to do. What are all the things I have to go out and pick up, and the mailings I have to make, and all those other things? I don’t care to see the phone call I have to make. It’s not relevant for me. Breaking things into contexts, basically it takes your to-do list, which could potentially be miles long, and breaks it out and presents this information to you only when it makes sense for you.

Rachel: I love it. I was just looking it up, because I actually never heard of it before. I’m going to link it in the show notes for you guys. This is phenomenal because … and that is one huge thing that I’ve always found for myself and in working with other entrepreneurs, if you have a big huge running to-do list, you’re going to get overwhelmed. You’re going to shut down and do nothing.

Bryan: Yep.

Rachel: I love that. All right, so guys, this episode was a little longer than it intended to be, but that’s okay.

Bryan: Sorry.

Rachel: That’s all right. No, that’s great. I think that we definitely could do a part two on this, maybe more into the psychology of stuff later on. This was really valuable. I know that from first blush of listening to this, some listeners may go, “Oh, this sounds like puff stuff. I’ve heard this before,” but I really encourage you guys to rewind this. We’re also going to throw up a worksheet onto the show notes page that you guys can fill out and go through this, because I have a list of like 15 things right here that are really high-level points that you need to have. Little things that Bryan and I just slipped in and didn’t spend a lot of time in, just because of the format of the episode, but I think that it’s worthwhile for each you guys to go back and dig into, so we’ll pull that. You guys can download it, use it.

I will be linking all of Bryan’s stuff, including his podcast. Even if you’re not a photographer, I think his podcast is a phenomenal one to listen to. You can take the same concepts and apply it to whatever industry that you’re in, and don’t forget for you guys to jump into the Business Bites Facebook group. We will be having a thread dedicated to this episode, episode 109, for you guys to have conversation on.

Bryan, one last thing before you go, is there any hard-hitting tip that you want to give to the listeners on this topic that you can leave them with?

Bryan: Plan some time this week to actually spend some time on your business. That would be my tip. Carve out that time right now before you do anything else, before you consume any more content or do anything else, go and take a two hour chunk, put it in your calendar as if it’s an appointment with yourself, and spend that time in CEO mode.

Rachel: Actually, I’ll sweeten the deal. I’m going to throw this into the group. When this thread goes up, I want you guys to go in and let’s get accountable. Tell us the day and time that you plan to do that, and at the end of the … I’ll give it a week or two, you guys know me, I keep popping in. I’m going to give out some random credits to the Rachel Brenke contract shop. You guys can use that in your business, so be sure that you’re doing it for accountability. You never know what you’ll win. Don’t forget, all show notes are going to be found and rachelbrenke.com/epi109. Good luck getting into CEO mode. I know you guys can do it.

Featured Guest & Resources

Bryan Caporicci is an award-winning wedding and portrait photographer based out of Fonthill, Canada. In 2014, he was awarded his Masters of Photographic Arts (MPA) designation by the Professional Photographers of Canada (PPOC), making him one of the youngest Canadian photographers to receive this level of achievement.

Bryan is the host of the Business of Photography Podcast. He teaches at workshops across North America, including industry-leading conventions and conferences such as WPPI, Shutterfest and Canada Photo Convention. Bryan is also the CEO and Founder of Sprout Studio.

You can find Bryan here:
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About the author

Hi, I’m Rachel Brenke

Rachel Brenke

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