Have you found a way to do what you love and get paid for it? Do you have a clear understanding of your natural gifts and abilities?
Plato said, “All things will be produced in superior quantity and quality, and with greater ease, when each man works at a single occupation, in accordance with his natural gifts, and at the right moment, without meddling with anything else.” One of the greatest experiences of my life has been the chance to do work that fits with my natural gifts and even better than that is finding work that combines my natural gifts with my husband’s natural gifts and allows us to work together.
We feel lucky that our ONLY business is Vision Quest Virtual Tours. We found a market that allows us to do nothing other than photograph virtual tours without having to do other types of photography. Because of our crystal clear focus and understanding of what we do well, we are able to produce superior quality work with relative ease.
I watch Greg creating tours and know that if I were to try to do what he does, it would take me four times longer if I didn’t give up in frustration long before then. He is the technical one in our partnership. He knows the shortcuts in Photoshop, he has developed systems to allow him to build multiple tours at the same time, he knows what he is looking for when color correcting an image. By the time Greg is finished creating a virtual tour, he has taken the images through five or six different software programs but he makes it look easy because he is working within his area of expertise.
Greg listens to me on the phones and is amazed at how easy it is for me to talk to people about our virtual tour business. I LOVE calls like the one I got today where the client told me that his web guy said he didn’t need the virtual tour and I got to overcome a laundry list of objections. I have spent hours on the phone over several months and today he finally got it! I was able to answer all of his questions and we are doing 8 virtual tours for him next week. That sort of thing fires me up but I understand that wouldn’t be the case for someone who doesn’t share my natural gifts and skills. Talking to someone 20 or more times before they say yes gives me a huge sense of accomplishment!
If you haven’t already found a way to get paid to do something you love, consider taking the time to write down a description of your ideal lifestyle. What would your work hours be? What would your role be in the company? Who would you work with? What special skills and talents do you bring to the table? Then look at your current life and ask yourself “What is keeping me from living my dream?”
By knowing ahead of time what your vision is, you can recognize it when the right moment comes along.
Vision Quest Virtual Tours provides high quality virtual tours for heathcare, hospitality and education. We have photographed tours in 31 states but when we are not on the road, we split our time between Charleston, SC and Quincy, IL. To learn more or to schedule a tour, visit us online at www.VisionQuestVirtualTours.com.
Many years ago, I was involved with starting a financial services business. We had hundreds of independent agents who sold products through us. These were not our employees but rather a volunteer army who chose to align themselves under our company and use our products and systems. My business partner had much more patience dealing with these people and was an inspiring leader however there was always that one person who could never be satisfied. After dealing with one such problem agent, I said disgustedly, “I don’t know why you let him treat you that way.” I will never forget his response as it has changed the way I view the world. He laughed at my statement and said, “Paige, I don’t have any control over what people do to me. The only thing I can control is how I react.” He passed away almost 7 years ago but those words ring in my ears almost every day and they are perhaps the greatest gift he ever gave me.
I feel like I am writing a book report as I finish my blogs about the Traveler’s Gift, by Andy Andrews, I cannot help but share the valuable insights from this book. The final three Decisions shared in the book are all about choosing how we react to the circumstances of life:
- Today I choose to be happy. I am the possessor of a grateful spirit.
- I will greet this day with a forgiving spirit. I will forgive myself.
- I will persist without exception. I am a person of great faith.
It’s hard sometimes to remember that we choose our attitude. During an extremely difficult time in my life, I made the decision to conquer grief and depression and instead focus only on positive things. I got rid of my cable subscription and made cd’s of only positive and uplifting music to listen to instead. I read books that were positive and every night before I went to bed, I would list the things that I had to be thankful for. The list got longer every day as I began to change my choices and LOOK for things to be thankful for. I began to let go of past hurts and grievances and instead choose to forgive others and myself for mistakes of the past.
Choosing to have a good attitude does NOT mean ignoring the reality and circumstances of your life but rather choosing to focus on what you can change instead of dwelling on what you can’t. There are a million excuses why something can’t be done but there are always at least a handful of reasons why it CAN at least be attempted. If I fail, I want it to be because I tried everything possible to succeed. Only then can I rest knowing that I did my best.
This is not to say that you don't need to carefully consider an endeavor before starting it, it just means that one should weigh the costs and decide whether or not to go for it. We started our virtual tour business at the peak of the recession. We were broke and unemployed and in the middle of a terrible economy but we took advantage of an opportunity and have turned it into the business of our dreams. If we stop to look at the obstacles we face and the odds against us, then we might never have started on this journey and oh what a mistake that would have been!
The book The Traveler’s Gift by Andy Andrew is about Seven Decisions That Determine Personal Success and I am reflecting on how these decisions apply to our virtual tour business. I wrote earlier about the first Decision - “The buck stops here. I am responsible for my past and my future.” The next three decisions are somewhat interrelated as they are all about our actions.
The second Decision of the book came from King Solomon and was “I will seek wisdom. I will be a servant to others”. It seems strange that the man who is considered the wisest man ever would advise the traveler to seek wisdom. But there is truth in the idea that the more you learn, the more you realize how little you know. Our virtual tour technology provider, RTV, Inc. has a national conference that we will be attending in May. I will be teaching other virtual tour providers about how to market their virtual tour business but the real reason we are attending is to learn from other virtual tour dealers about their best practices. Even after almost 15 years as a professional photographer, Greg is always open to learn better ways of improving his skills and systems as a photographer.
The third Decision of the book is “I am a person of action. I seize this moment. I choose now.” This decision was shared by a Civil War colonel at a critical time in the war. Given the choice to surrender or charge, the colonel gave the order to charge and in doing so changed the outcome of the war.
Quitting is often a temptation but as the colonel in the book said, “When I am faced with the choice of doing nothing or doing something, I will always choose to act.” Most of us will never face a physical battlefield but we must make this same decision on a daily basis in the battlefields of our minds. Armed with this simple philosophy, we can usually win our battle at least for the day.
I have found a way to work my way through a quagmire is often not to focus on the big picture but instead to break my actions down into manageable pieces. I have a goal of making at least 100 contacts every week and that number can be overwhelming so when faced with the temptation to take a break or quit before the end of the day, I force myself to make 5 more calls. Usually, the 5 turns into 10 and the 10 turns into 20 but by deciding to do SOMETHING, I am often able to get over the hump.
The fourth Decision, “I have a decided heart. My destiny is assured” was shared with the traveler by Christopher Columbus during his journey to find the New World. Armed with little other than a dream, Columbus was passionate about his vision of an undiscovered land. This passion allowed him to push on despite months of travel with no land in sight...and despite the fact that almost everyone thought he was crazy to try.
Having your own business requires just this sort of determination - especially the sales part. Like I said earlier, I know that when I am calling for a new area, I need to make about 100 calls in order to book two or three tours. What that means is that I am going to get no one on the phone or get told NO about 97 times a week. I got an email last week from a business that said they were interested in doing a tour but needed to pass for now. I exclaimed my disappointment and Greg said, “I think sometimes you think everybody that shows any interest is a Yes”.
I realized at that minute that there’s a reason that he’s the photographer and technical guy and I’m the salesman. He’s right...I absolutely believe that everybody that I talk to would benefit from what I am selling because before I call, I have researched their websites to see if a virtual tour would be a good addition to their marketing efforts. I know the value and quality of our tours so I am absolutely flabbergasted every time someone tells me “No”. If I did not think that way, I would become overwhelmed by the 97 No’s I get and I would want to quit making the calls.
But like Columbus, even though I may not see dry land, I have a clear vision of where I am going and I know without a doubt that if I put in the hours on the phones, the results and my destiny are guaranteed. There are many things you can’t control when you own your own business but you ARE in control of your actions and your attitude.
To learn more about us or to schedule a tour, visit www.VisionQuestVirtualTours.com.
“One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. Which road do I take? she asked. Where do you want to go? was his response. I don't know, Alice answered. Then, said the cat, it doesn't matter.” - Alice in Wonderland
Lewis Carroll’s classic “Alice in Wonderland” tells us that if we don’t know where we are going, then it really doesn’t matter what road we are on. Unfortunately, many people run their small businesses with the same philosophy as Alice.
It is easier to get back from somewhere you’ve been than it is to go somewhere you’ve never been before. One of the easiest ways to set your goals at the beginning of the year is to examine what you accomplished the previous year.
At Vision Quest Virtual Tours, we specialize in Healthcare, Hospitality and Education. Our goal is to focus our marketing efforts and business in these specific areas. Our year end numbers prove that these marketing efforts paid off as 90.5% of our business came from those areas. For 2011, 52% of our income came from healthcare virtual tours and boarding school virtual tours. For that same time period, 38.5% of our income came from hospitality - vacation rentals, bed and breakfasts, inns and hotels.
It’s not that we don’t do virtual tours in other areas but because we know what our market is, that is where we focus our efforts. We did about 5.5% of our business last year for residential real estate and the remaining 3% were a variety of different businesses.
Unlike Alice, because where we want to go, we have a much better idea of which road to take...which is a very good thing because in 2011 we photographed 350 virtual tours in 31 states!
It’s been said that the IRS Tax code is about ten times bigger than the Bible but the difference is that the Tax Code doesn’t contain any good news. In the Bible, Jesus said, “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.” Many people dream of owning their own business but do not really have a plan for determining if that business is going to be viable. In looking at a starting a business, it’s important to look at long range profitability as well as short term viability.
If you are considering starting a business, look not only at the long term profitability but also the short term expenses involved in start up. One of the big downfalls for small businesses is not being prepared for taxes at the end of the year. Because we are self employed, we knew what our end of year income was on 12/31 and because Greg does such a great job as the CFO of our virtual tour business, I also knew exactly what our expenses were for the year. Last week, I gathered all the information for our taxes and did a preliminary estimate of what our tax situation will be.
2011 was our first full year in business so we had no idea what we would owe in taxes therefore we did not send in quarterly estimated payments. With much anticipation and a little apprehension, I calculated our taxes and realized that we are going to end up writing a pretty good check to Uncle Sam. At first I was unhappy that we didn’t have enough write offs to offset more of the taxes but in retrospect, I am pretty excited.
Owing taxes means that Vision Quest Virtual Tours made a significant profit in our first full year in business. We shot 350 tours in 31 states last year so we have almost 39,000 BUSINESS miles that we can write off for the year. At 51 or 55 cents a mile, that is a significant write off. We are able to write off our phones, internet, meals, uniforms, advertising, supplies...if you own your own business, you know that the list goes on. Even after all of the deductions, we still owed a good bit. As hard as it is to write a big check to the IRS, our hope is that we owe twice that much next year because as small business owners, we only pay taxes on our PROFIT!
Starting our virtual tour business was something we did after lots of research and planning. We operated the business on a part time basis the previous year and made enough to cover all of our start up costs. On December 30, 2010, I quit my full time job and we dove headfirst into the self employed world. We went full time only when we knew we had enough consistent and projected income to make the business viable for the first year. Because we had done a great deal of preparation in the year before we pulled the full time plug, we were ready when the opportunity presented itself.
We credit much of our success to having a great partner who allows us to focus on what we do best. Originally established in 1999 as RealtorVision and now RTV, Inc. proudly supports Vision Quest Virtual Tours as well as over 100 thousand real estate agents in 27 countries. They are the largest full service virtual tour and property marketing network in the World and yet allow us the autonomy to run our own business and make our own decisions. With them acting as our back office, we can focus on photographing and building virtual tours and let them focus on things like research and development of new technology and hosting our tours.
If you are considering starting your own business, count the costs and weigh the risks. Statistics will tell you that between 50 - 90% of small business fail within the first year and yet the dream of many people is still to own their own business and defy those odds. We are living proof that the rewards far outweigh the risks!!
Vision Quest Virtual Tours is owned by Greg and Paige Mitts. We specialize in virtual tours for healthcare, hospitality and education. To schedule a tour or learn more, visit us at www.VisionQuestVirtualTours.com or give us a call at 843-410-4701.
I just finished reading the book “The Traveler’s Gift” by Andy Andrews and it had a profound impact on me. This simple little book describes the journey of a man who travels back through history to learn important lessons from historical figures such as Christopher Columbus and Abraham Lincoln. As I read the book, I couldn’t help but think about how these same lessons apply in my life and business. The subtitle of the book - Seven Decisions that Determine Personal Success - refers to these seven lessons.
The first decision was explained by Harry Truman and the lesson is that “The Buck Stops Here” or in other words, we all must take personal responsibility for where we are. Andrews writes, “I am where I am today -- mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally, and financially -- because of how I think”. In order to change where I am, I must change how I think.
How I think determines how I act and the decisions I make. The decisions I make today, directly control the outcome of where I am tomorrow. Every day we face the cumulative effect of all the other decisions we have made. I have a terrible habit of staying up way too late which means I wake up late which means I lose valuable business hours. I have the same amount of hours that everyone else does in a day but it’s how I utilize them that determines my success.
Not only must I focus on working hard, I must also work smart. Not all of those hours are equal. Sure it would be a great idea for me to go for a run but right now may not be the ideal time for that. A run would take me away from my desk during business hours and right now I need to be talking to people about virtual tours.
We feel blessed to have a successful virtual tour business, Vision Quest Virtual Tours. We frequently hear people tell us that we are so lucky or that they are jealous of the life we live but many decisions go into our success. Here are 7 of the decisions that were critical in getting us where we are today:
- We chose to downsize our stuff so we could supersize our lifestyle. We live in a tiny house with a tiny payment and very little overhead. We have just one car. Because we have chosen to travel, we don’t need a bunch of stuff or a big house. Because we don’t have a bunch of stuff, we are free to travel.
We live entirely on cash and have chosen not to utilize credit cards. This sometimes affects where we are able to travel or the timing of certain purchases but it gives us a sense of certainty in knowing that we haven’t gone into debt to start or run our business. It also means we have to carefully watch our balance sheet to make sure we are keeping the pipeline of future business full.
- We decided that one shared income was enough since it meant that we get to work together every single day. There are times we would love to have at least one steady paycheck but this is the risk we chose in being self employed. The rewards greatly outweigh the risks.
We decided that we would focus our time on what we do best. For us that is two main lines of business - healthcare and education and Vacation rentals and hospitality. By having a crystal clear focus, we can streamline our efforts and create an impressive portfolio in those distinct lines.
- We dedicated our business to serving others and we give back a portion of every dollar we make. We think “luck” has very little to do with our success so we honor the giver of the gifts through donated tours and charitable contributions.
We decided that we would price our virtual tours in a manner that made the accessible to almost any business. We believe so highly in the value of the virtual tour and have seen what it can do for a business. We would rather have many smaller jobs than try to gouge a few people. We believe that by offering a high quality product at a fair value, everyone wins.
- We decided that having the right partner changes everything and we are so grateful that we chose RTV, Inc. for our virtual tour technology. They are constantly evolving and refining their systems so we don’t have to spend any of our time, money or efforts on researching and development. We have a back office that makes us look even better than we are and we are eternally grateful for the support of the RTV team.
These are Seven Decisions that have helped determine our personal success. What are the decisions you have made that have gotten you to where you are today? What decisions could you make that could change where you are tomorrow? I’ll be blogging about the other decisions over this week but for now, it’s business time and I need to get back on the phones.
Vision Quest Virtual Tours is a full service virtual tour provider specializing in virtual tours for Healthcare, Hospitality and Education. We split our time between Charleston, SC and Quincy, IL however have photographed over 350 tours in 31 states.
At Vision Quest Virtual Tours, we photograph all of our tours using High Dynamic Range imaging or HDR. HDR provides an incredible level of clarity and detail that is not available in traditional photography. For each individual image, we photograph 9 different exposures and then blend these together to provide an image that shows both the dark and bright areas equally well. To see the difference that HDR makes, take a look at this tour...http://rtvpix.com/BU-0966-L16DVB-01?h=500&w=700
We photographed 350 tours in 31 states last year and drove 39,000 miles to shoot tours. We photograph a wide range of virtual tours and our prices range anywhere from $100 to $2,500 depending on the size and scope of the job. I read a Facebook comment earlier today from a photographer that said that he would not consider shooting using HDR unless it was on a higher price tour because he felt like it was extra work and the extra time made it cost prohibitive.
That confounds me! We pride ourselves on providing an excellent product no matter if we are shooting a one bedroom condo or a huge hospital. Like I said earlier, we charge according to the scope of the job but every single image we shoot is photographed using the 9 exposure technique because it gives us the best results every time...and we think that's why our customers choose to work with us!
By the time we publish a virtual tour, we will have used no less than 6 different software programs to create the end result. Because of the volume we do, we have streamlined our processes and invested in our systems so that in actuality it takes us almost the same amount of time to shoot a tour using HDR as it does to shoot without it. Even if it does take a little longer, we find it easier to just do our best work every time and trust that it will all even out in the end.
Vision Quest Virtual Tours specializes in virtual tours for Healthcare, Hospitality and Education. When we are not on the road, we split our time between Charleston, SC and Quincy, IL. To learn more or to schedule a tour, give us a call at 404-863-9769 or visit us online at www.VisionQuestVirtualTours.com.
Many years ago, I was involved in negotiations to sell a privately owned company to a publicly traded company for $6 million. The negotiations had gone on for over a year and the final vote of the board of directors was scheduled. The night before his final presentation at that meeting, the owner and CEO of our company got a phone call that his father had died. The meeting went on without him and someone else made his final presentation for him. In the confusion, the wrong materials were presented at the meeting and the deal fell apart.
I learned from this was that when you are making a sale -- whether it be a $6 million sale or a $60 sale -- no one can tell your story better than you. This is a lesson I have never forgotten and keep in mind when I am making sales calls. I believe that I can tell my story with a good voice mail but it’s not unusual to find a business where the person I am trying to reach does not have voice mail and I am asked if I want to leave a message.
My answer to the question “Can I take a message?” is to simply and politely say that it would probably be easier if I just call back. I usually say, “Why don’t I just call her back in case I get back on the phone. That way we don’t have to play phone tag” and then I ask when might be a good time to try back. I tell the person taking the message who I am and who my company is but then explain that I would prefer to explain what we do and it would be much easier for me to tell that story than ask the receptionist to do it for me.
When I get the chance to talk to a decision maker, I am pretty good at sharing my passion for what we offer in a way that convinces them of the value of a virtual tour for their business. The challenge is trying to share that passion in a little pink message slip to be interpreted and conveyed by someone else. This is what I must do when I am asked to leave a message and my preference is not to take that risk.
There are many reasons I want to be the one telling our story. I am passionate about our virtual tour business. I am lucky to work with my husband who is also my best friend and I am very proud of his talent as a professional photographer. We have an incredible portfolio and have worked with leaders in the industries we represent. I have seen firsthand what having a virtual tour can do for a business.
Again, I find it helpful to tell the person on the phone who I am, what we do and why I am calling because the main job of a receptionist is to act as the gatekeeper and keep pesky salesmen like me from bothering decision makers. By befriending the person answering the phone, I greatly increase my chances of getting through the next time I call.
Vision Quest Virtual Tours is located in Quincy, IL. We provide virtual tours in Illinois, Missouri, and Iowa as well as all over the country. We specialize in healthcare, hospitality and education as well as residential and commercial real estate. To learn more or to schedule a tour, visit our website at www.VisionQuestVirtualTours.com or give us a call at 404-863-9769.
Vision Quest Virtual Tours has just finished our first virtual tour for Sullivan Auctioneers, LLC . Sullivan Auctioneers does anywhere from three to 10 estate sales every week. The items for auction include homes and farmland but also tools, collectibles, antiques and furniture, cars, farm equipment and much more.
The auctioneers list the information about the auction in the local newspaper, create a flyer, and post pictures and information on their website. Prior to the sale, they catalog the items and hold a preview day prior to the sale where people can come by and take a look. As with many real estate open houses, the people who come to the open house are often curious neighbors and not seriously interested prospects.
A virtual tour is a perfect way to provide a preview of the items for sale as well as show the property that is included in the auction. We did our first virtual tour for them yesterday and were thrilled with the results. The house is being remodeled so we will go back once it is done and take the interior pictures of the home but this tour allows someone to get a great idea of what is being offered without having to go to the preview day.(click here to view the tour)
We have priced the auction tours a little higher than a plain real estate tour since we will be doing more stills of particular items. We are looking forward to creating a great partnership with Sullivan Auctioneers and the best news is I get a sneak peek at what is going to be in the auction!
Vision Quest Virtual Tours provides high quality 360º real estate virtual tours in Quincy, IL and the surrounding areas. We focus nationally on healthcare virtual tours, school virtual tours, bed and breakfast virtual tours. To learn more, visit our website at www.VisionQuestVirtualTours.com or give us a call at 404-863-9769.
How many times have you gone in a store and had a salesperson approach you with the same question, “May I help you?” The standard answer is usually, “No thank you, I’m just looking” even if you are there for a specific reason. Until we have decided that we want to do business with someone, we don’t want to be engaged or hounded by them.
As the internet has evolved, so have our expectations for websites. Remember when people used to ask you if you HAD a website? Now having a website is a given -- if you have a phone number and a business card, you probably should have a website. The internet has provided us a virtual mall where we can browse around and get a real understanding of our options before actually actually engaging the services of a particular business.
The problem is that many websites today are nothing more than a glorified business card. The days of just putting pictures and text on your website and asking people to decipher your message are over. We are so inundated with data that we no longer want to sift through pages of information to find out who you are and what you charge. As I research prospective customers for our virtual tour business, I am amazed at how often I have to search multiple pages just to find the phone number for the facility much less the name of someone to talk to. Now granted, I am on the website trying to get this information so that I can sell our virtual tour services to them but MOST people are on a company’s website as potential customers for THEIR services.
Whether we are talking about healthcare facilities and treatment programs, vacation rentals or residential real estate, there is no shortage of competition for business in today’s market. Most people use internet searches to create a “short list” of options to call later. I know that’s what I do. Once I have created a short list, I go back and review all the detailed information to help me further narrow down my choices. Most of the time, I want a quick overview from the home page that answers my basic questions -- who is this business, what do they do, what makes them special and who do I need to talk to if I am interested.
A virtual tour is a one click way to answer many of those questions. If the information on the home page interests me, I will then go on to read the rest. By providing an automatic overview of the program, home or business, the virtual tour allows the prospective customer a chance to walk around without a pesky salesman asking “Can I help you?”
Vision Quest Virtual Tours provides high quality 360º virtual tours for healthcare, hospitality and education. We specialize in virtual tours for therapeutic residential treatment programs but we work with any business that wants to give their customers a chance to “look around”. We are located in Quincy, IL but work with businesses all over the country. Visit us online at www.VisionQuestVirtualTours.com to see why businesses in over 30 states have chosen us as their marketing partner.