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Wednesday, October 26, 2011


"If you do the right thing, money happens to you." - Tom Mendoza

It was supposed to be a standard event photo shoot but the 45-minutes that I spent documenting Tom Mendoza's talk at USF's Stavros Center in 2009 was revelatory. Mendoza is the vice-chairman of NetApp, the technology company responsible for the server storage used by companies like Apple, Blackberry and Yahoo. He is frequently credited with instilling the culture that has led NetApp to be ranked the #1 company to work for by Fortune Magazine in 2009.

I did my typical, non-intrusive photo documentation of the event but frequently stopped to listen and laugh at Mendoza's insights about his career in management. He was dynamic and positively inspirational and I soon adopted several of his techniques in running my own small business and living a meaningful balanced life.

I highly recommend sitting down and listening to the video but here are several principles from his talk that are worth noting:
  • The most important attribute by far is Attitude. "This is 100 percent in your power. Everyday you choose it," he says. "It isn't a constant but how you present yourself can be a constant. There is no upside to a bad attitude."
  • Candor is the the key to communication. "If you don't agree with me or don't like what I'm saying, I expect you tell me right now. The unacceptable thing is to go out in the hall and tell other people instead. That's not how to run a company."
  • Setting Expectations High Enough because most people set them too low. "Most high performance people have time-bound measureable goals. These are your own goals for driving your life."
To implement his goal system, Tom sets 90-day goals — three personal goals and three professional goals. All are measurable. They are written down in a personal book. The personal are kept private so, essentially, you are accountable only to yourself. For professional goals, he asks "how can I make an impact?" and these are shared with clients and customers to solicit feedback if he is on the right track.

In addition to writing down the goals, Tom puts one appointment in his calendar every day for himself. Writing it down is different than saying it. "You're in control. You're driving somewhere every 90 days. Every 90 days, change your goals or don't change them. You're aiming at them."

Here is a great interview with Mendoza by the Wall Street Journal and the link to the video of the talk appears online at iTunes U.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Rick Bailey, principal at Richard Harrison Bailey / The Agency, recently sent me a copy of his philosophical advertising book "Coherence: How Telling the Truth Will Advance Your Cause" and it proved to be a tremendous quick read. I've collaborated with Rick on several photo projects this year and I've found the process to be meaningful and easy, each of us challenging the other to push the approach with higher education imagery.

While the message of Coherence is relatively simple - know yourself, brand yourself and market yourself, Bailey's smart writing goes deeper, exploring the importance of differentiation and value in today's marketplace. Much of the case studies pertain to the realm of non-profit higher education communities but there are some key insights that directly translated to my business as a commercial photographer.

He writes, "In the worst economy in nearly 100 years, you must provide sufficient rationale for existence. In a word, you must differentiate. Clearly, genuinely, openly. You must provide a convincing case for your enormous cost. You have to prove the merits of your approach. You need to show the outcomes that make you a superior choice. Further, you have to deliver on the experience."

Working with a photography consultant since 2008 has greatly assisted in my efforts at differentiation but it's an evolving process. Prior to the democratization of the profession as a result of digital technology, top photographers were often "jack-of-all-trades" types, capable of shooting food one day and then shifting to executive portraits or ad campaigns the next. Photographers today must be "masters of some," targeting very specific topical niches in order to survive,

Feel free to track down a copy of the book online and keep up with Rick Bailey and the RHB team via their web site and great blog.

Monday, October 10, 2011


I have never mourned the death of a corporate CEO that I hand't met... until now. The passing of Steve Jobs last week at 56 years old, on the heels of Apple's new iPhone announcement, seemed abrupt and darkly unexpected. He had officially resigned as CEO on August 24, a sign that the pancreatic cancer that he had been staving off since his diagnosis seven years ago, had resurfaced with a vengeance.

Jobs was a fiercely untraditional corporate mogul. A confessed pot-smoker and experimenter with LSD in his college days, he dropped out of Reed in 1972 to bum around Portland for 18 months, auditing classes before traveling to an Indian ashram and returning to the states as a Buddhist. His roots in eastern religion, counterculture and drug experimentation fueled an "out of the box" visionary mentality that catapulted him to champion the Apple computer he and Steve Wozniak built in his parent's garage into a global technology movement.

To say the Apple computer has affected my life would be a gross understatement. It was 1983 when I first became aware of a computer called Macintosh. I was nine years old and would often be dropped by carpool at Caldwell's, my grandparent's clothing store, where I was expected to break ground on my homework until the store closed at 6 pm and my mother would drive us home. A small upstart retail computer store called AC3 Computing appeared in the shopping center that year and they were dedicated to Apple computers and their flagship Macintosh II and III computer. I can still smell the fresh blue carpet and see the walls decorated with plastic banners of Apple's then rainbow logo. After curiously poking my head in there one day, I soon became a regular... the kid who would come in and start gaming on one of the demo machines. My grandfather would eventually come retrieve me and apologize that I had "worn out my welcome," but none of the employees seemed to mind. "That's why they're here," I recall one of them saying as my grandfather ushered me out, bribing me with Jolly Ranchers.

I have now personally owned or worked on more than a dozen Apple computers since I used my financial aid to purchase my very own Powerbook 145 during my freshman year at Trinity College in 1992. With the exception of the Commodore 64 that I used in high school and the eight months at the Nantucket Beacon that we used PCs, I've been an Apple loyalist, a devotee, a drinker of the Kool-Aid. I actually have an Apple sticker on my car where it shares space with a BMW motorcycle sticker. My friend "Into the Drink" television host Nick Lucey and I would often joke during our time on staff at Scuba Diving magazine that Apple was an irreverent cult and we were a proud part of it.

Now that digital has redefined the world of photography, my Macbook Pro has a dedicated slot in my camera bag. It is as critical to the process of imagemaking as the lens on the camera. Period. This summer I was involved in a field project in which I was using an Ipad to trigger the shutter on a camera, 20 feet off the ground on a tripod, and the images then appeared on my MacBook Pro a few feet away. If I needed my assistants to recompose the shot, the live view on the iPad would let me see what the camera was seeing and make adjustments to composition and exposure. None of that would be possible without Apple computing. These latest advancements, and the many yet to come from the campus in Cupertino, are the legacy of Steve Jobs.

There are a number of exceptional images of the man who pioneered the unfashionable, yet simple, jeans and black long sleeve t-shirt look. Although I have a great affinity for the Albert Watson 4x5 portrait of Jobs that Apple.com posted on their site on the day of Steve's passing, I will always love the National Geographic image of Jobs blasting around Silicon Valley on his 1966 BMW R60/2 motorcycle. Wind-streaked long hair, beard, and cowboy boots, he is blazing with great speed and intensity on his way to a meeting, likely leading the charge for a new innovation. Ride onward Mr. Jobs. You will be missed.

Photo appears courtesy of Motorcycle Photo of the Day and PetaPixel.
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