I recently blogged that 2012 was the greatest year of my life so far but today is January 15, 2013 so the fact of the matter is that 2012 is a series of wonderful memories and 2013 is going fast.
Many people set New Year’s Resolutions and the vast majority of those are never achieved because the people who set them do not have a plan to reach them. This an old acronym regarding goal setting that says the key to achieving goals is that they need to be:
S = Specific
M = Measurable
A = Attainable
R = Realistic
T = Timely
My goals are always the same every year -- to be physically fit, financially secure, spiritually grounded and to foster good relationships with the people I love. These are noble but vague goals...
As 2012 draws to an end, it’s time to look at how our virtual tour business has evolved in the past year. This is our second full year operating Vision Quest Virtual Tours as our full time job and sole source of income. It’s been said that you can’t EXPECT what you don’t INSPECT so this exercise is very helpful in seeing how far we’ve come and also in setting our goals for 2013...
My husband has always been adventurous - he has skydived, flown in a World War 2 acrobatic biplane, raced go carts, participated in triathlons and perhaps most impressive of all - he has been an entrepreneur for his entire career. He has worked from the time he was 12 years old and has the best work ethic of anyone I’ve ever met. Me...not so much!
I spent my career as a w-2 employee and I like the idea of a paycheck coming every two weeks or so and commission checks coming as well. I like the idea of going to an office with a bunch of like minded people. Even though working in an office often means working three hours and socializing for five, I like the framework of having set office hours. I like office Christmas parties and birthday cakes in the conference room. I especially love the competition with other sales people.
Working from home and traveling all over the country for our national virtual tour company could be very isolating for me if we weren’t a part of the RTV national network. We are connected to the group through the Facebook group, the annual national convention and just the contacts we’ve made by collaborating with other virtual tour photographers in the network.
Everyone knows that it’s important to be prepared for emergencies but there are certain things that only become emergencies when we don’t plan for the inevitable.
Ten days before my first half marathon, I found out that I had sesamoiditis which is odd since I didn’t even know I had sesamoids. These two little bones on the base of my big toe were irritated because I hadn’t listened to my body which told me that my running shoes had broken down even though they still look relatively new. Luckily, I had the resources to get new shoes in time for the race because without them, I might not have been able to finish.
I learned a similar lesson in our virtual tour business this summer when my photographer husband said we had to replace our camera. The camera we replaced is a high end Canon model which looks brand new and was only a little over a year old. I learned that camera shutters are rated for a certain number of clicks. Because of the volume of images we shoot for our virtual tour business, we had gone way over the recommended clicks for our camera. Greg was seeing little issues with the camera that I with my inexperience would not have noticed. Rather than wait for the camera to break down during a shoot, we bought a new camera of the same model. We carry the old one as a back up and we’ll keep track of about how many clicks we have to know when it’s time for yet another new one.
It is our practice to photograph using the very best equipment we can afford and upgrade it as we are able. Starting a virtual tour business using RTV, Inc.’s virtual tour technology did not require a big upfront financial commitment but as we have grown, we have had to plan ahead for upgrades and replacements of equipment. Just as my shoes could have sidelined me for the race, not planning ahead could be a big issue for our business.
I blogged recently about the fact that businesses that succeed do so because they have the resources to stay in business in spite of early failures. While it’s admirable to “give all you’ve got” be sure to save a little if you want to succeed in business for the long term.
If you’ve ever visited New Orleans, you may have heard the word “Lagniappe”. Lagniappe derives from New World Spanish la ñapa, "the gift," and ultimately from Quechua yapay, "to give more." It is still used in the Gulf states, especially southern Louisiana, to denote a little bonus that a friendly shopkeeper might add to a purchase. I’ve always considered Lagniappe to mean a little something extra -- a bonus which is appreciated but was certainly not expected.
For our virtual tour business, our Lagniappe comes in the form of Tour Tracks jobs.
If you have never been to an RTV Convention, you may wonder if the time and expense are worth it. If you have been to an RTV Convention, you may wonder what you will gain by attending again. After all you learned so much last year that you can’t possibly imagine that there’s anything left to learn.
For us, there is absolutely no question about whether we will attend. Our virtual tour business was successful before the convention and was successful after the convention. But something fundamentally changed for us as a result of attending the RTV Convention.
In 2006, the American College of Sports Medicine reported that 70% of first timers who sign up to run a marathon end up dropping out before the race begins. Training for an endurance event is HARD. Much harder than one might imagine so many people underestimate their level of commitment in getting ready to run 26.2 miles. Many marathons also offer half marathon courses -- there’s a big difference in running 13.1 miles and 26.2 miles though both are lofty accomplishments. For this reason there is an option at the race expo for runners to switch from the marathon to the half-marathon.
This is also how it happens in most businesses. Professor Amar Bhide showed in his Origin and Evolution of New Business that 93% of all companies that ultimately become successful had to abandon their original strategy -- because the original strategy proved not to be viable. Note this statistic refers not to business that failed but to businesses which ultimately became successful. I wrote recently about finding the right strategy for your business and referred to the fact that my greatest successes have come after my worst failures.
When we started Vision Quest Virtual Tours, we had a clearly defined strategy of building a local virtual tour business photographing North Georgia residential real estate virtual tours. Instead, we ended up with a national virtual tour company providing healthcare virtual tours and vacation rental virtual tours to clients all over the country.
Our strategy didn’t fail because we didn’t try hard enough to make it work. Our strategy failed because there was a better path for us that emerged as a result of the obstacles we faced and overcame. We put in all the effort we could but day after day, we were hearing nothing but “No Thank You” as I called Realtors. Our market was hit hard during the housing market collapse and our Realtors weren’t making money and therefore weren’t spending money on marketing. As we continued to contact those Realtors to no avail, we stumbled upon some other business by chance.
We thought that we would do a few vacation rental virtual tours and healthcare virtual tours as a way to make a little extra money while we waited for our North Georgia virtual tour real estate business to take off. What happened instead was that the Healthcare virtual tours and vacation rental virtual tour business skyrocketed and our new strategy became crystal clear. As a matter of fact, residential real estate virtual tours now make up about 5% of our business and healthcare and vacation rentals make up about 85%.
I am a slow runner. No, seriously, I am very slow. I finished my last two races almost dead last. In my first triathlon, I was fourth from the bottom out of over 400 finishers but as I was racing I saw this sign:
Should I choose to focus on where I finished in comparison with the other racers that day, I might become discouraged but it’s also true that I finished faster than every single person who did not finish or did not start the race that day. So basically that puts me in the top 1% based on how I choose to measure myself. I am in an elite category of people who actually showed up to run the race!
Many people like the idea of owning their own business or running a half marathon but how many people actually get out and turn their good ideas into a reality? How many actually make it to the starting line? There are many similarities between getting to the starting line of running a race and running our national virtual tour company using RTV, Inc’s virtual tour technology.
At Vision Quest Virtual Tours, we specialize in behavioral healthcare virtual tours because I have a background in the behavioral health field. In my work with mental health patients, I have met many who hear voices either through psychosis or schizophrenia. To them the voices in their head are absolutely real and no amount of persuasion will convince them otherwise.
This should not surprise the rest of us because we all hear voices in our heads -- the only difference between a “sane” person and a schizophrenic is that we get to choose which voices we listen to. I find that it is very important for me to filter the voices I hear by choosing what I listen to, what thoughts I allow to reside in my mind, what I choose to read and watch on TV and who I allow to speak into my life.