Alan Mais began with the C&C Associates Electronic Film and Digital Camera Repair Course in 2001. His background was in management but also had 10 years repair experience. After a few lessons, his studies were interrupted by deployment in the military. Although he never completed the C&C Course he returned as a Student Member of SPT in 2002, upgraded to a Class A member in 2003 and upgraded again to Class B membership in 2005; indicating steady growth in his business The Camera Doctor. Alan is also a regular attendee of our C&C / SPT workshops each year.
Growth / The Bottom Line
Camera Doctor has experienced steady growth with a 30% growth in 2004 and a similar or higher growth shaping in 2005 and similiar growth since then. <As a reference; growth of 5% or 6% for a business is considered good to very good, a corporate pay increase of 4% is considered very good.> Alan attributes his business growth to three things; using big box retailers as a referral, conducting clinics, teaching operational use camera classes.
How do you promote your business? “We advertise in church bulletins, specialty publications, some newspaper. Even though we have not been able to track it percentage wise, I’d say we have a very strong response in repeat and new business with stickers we place in the camera’s serviced (including wholesale pieces) and in the free humorous pens we include with every repair exceeding $100.00.”
“I attribute a strong percentage of my increase to the big box retailers such as Wal-Mart, Walgreen’s, and Sams. This percentage is going to increase this year as many Super Centers are being built with in a 100 miles of me. I’ve found that by asking my customers where they have their pictures printed or where they purchased their camera gives me an in. Once I’ve found out where they do their photo business I ask them to do me a favor. If they were pleased with my service would they recommend me to this store? I ask this as I hand them a couple of business cards. I keep track of who the stores are (geographic location is necessary). Once I start to receive some referrals from the store I will personally visit the store and introduce myself and give them a stack of cards. I generally will received unsoliced requests from the store when their supply of my cards are running low. I never mail the cards if I can find a way to meet face to face and hand the cards in person. I go through so many cards that my wife schedules at least once a month a printing session of just business cards. Being a friend is what business growth is all about; it works for me anyway.”
Their business is a mixture of wholesale and retail. 79% or their business is retail with a mix of walk in and mail in, 21% of their business is wholesale. At the beginning repairs spit evenly between film and digital but Alan saw the ratio go to 65% digital by the end of his first year.
On the digital end the overwhelming number started with D P/S. Our D SLR repair market increased since then. “I think that once the word got out that we could repair D SLRs and the volume of units sold increased our D SLR repairs also increased. Especially with the problems of dust on sensor as most Nebraskan’s are outdoor shooters.”
How were you able to keep your dealers intact? “Three ways:
- I visit them every three months just to say Hi and also help answer any questions they may have on camera’s on their shelves. I spend time meeting all their sales personnel and get to know them personally
- I conduct camera clinics at their facility on a two consecutive day basis. On camera’s that are not repairable I personally get behind the counter and try to move their client into purchasing a camera from the selection available.
- I conduct operational use camera classes every three month’s at the store. Employee’s are allowed in free and encouraged to attend.”
One of the things we noticed is that Alan moved his business where the cameras are. Not by physical location, but by moving his business model. When you repair cameras you need to be where they sell cameras, process images and with those who enjoy and use photography. Big box retailers (Best Buy, etc.) are now the one number seller of cameras in the US. When Camera Doctor finds a common customer, a connection, they follow the food chain back to their photo sources using that customer as an icebreaker. Then they stimulate their sources business, reaping benefits for both. ... www.cameradr.com
Hello Chuck; I'm swamped but willing to help if I can. …. I'll make the time.” Alan
Camera Doctors moved to a larger location to handle the volume of business.