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I’ve been semi-active on a couple social networking sites for some time now. For me, the best use of social marketing hasn’t necessarily been to acquire new clients, but to continue relationships and dialogues with existing clients. I update Twitter with strictly business stuff because of the one way nature of the updates, but I use Facebook’s more interactive interface to inject some personality into my postings. Myspace has fallen off my radar a looong time ago, but I still have a page I check every couple months.

After being published in Entrepreneur magazine this month, I’ve fielded a couple requests on how I made that happen. Did I know a guy who knows a guy? Did I get a hold of the editor directly? Um, no and no. I simply interacted with the magazine’s fanpage on Facebook. Here’s what went down:
Entrepreneur’s FB people posted up an inquiry if any small biz owners had been affected by having their credit lines pulled. I definitely had something to say about it, so I posted up a synopsis of what happened, but also posted that we were not going to seek a replacement line of credit, instead opting to save cash for the foreseeable future. This answer differentiated mine from other answers.

Something clicked with the Entrepreneur folks, because I got a FB message a few days later asking if I was open to a reporter contacting me for a story they were writing. Um…let me think…ABSOLUTELY!

That’s it! No pulling strings, PR blasts, or magic fairy dust. Just simple interaction and adding value to a conversation where others were being vague.

Earlier in the year I also won a book for posting in another Entrepreneur FB post, about how I use social media for marketing.

So while I’ve approached social media as a way to engage existing clients and spread news about Radiant happenings, being proactive about posting to others’ conversations seems to be paying off. Go out and actively seek social media pages where you’re opinion might be valued. In short time, with intelligent postings, you might find yourself being rewarded for being a valuable contributor.

Follow Radiant:
Facebook – New Radiant fanpage (under construction)
Facebook – New Whiteproductphotography fanpage (under construction as well)
Twitter – Radiant
LinkedIn – Ryan

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Being in a magazine isn’t uncommon for me. Seeing my name in print is usually a monthly occurrence, but it’s always as a byline under a photo or article title. So I was pretty excited a few days ago, when I finally got my hands on the Feb ’10 issue of Entrepreneur magazine, the issue that features an article I was interviewed for back in November ’09.

I’d been anticipating its arrival in my mailbox for days now, but was met with disappointment each time I opened the door (well, at least there were checks in there, so I wasn’t too bummed). During a recent visit to Wal-Mart I stopped by the magazine area and like the Holy Grail it immediately popped out at me amid covers of ‘roided up bodybuilders, hot rods, and bridal magazines. A quick search of the table of contents revealed nothing immediately indicative of where the article might be, but the contributor’s page had a photo and bio of Julie Bennett, the financial writer who interviewed me. Thumb through the mag and BAM….page 42…”What to do When the Bank Pulls Your Line of Credit”. Finally! Wait, why didn’t they hire me to shoot the article? Nevermind, let’s see where my name pops up.

Flip the page and there at the top, first words of the feature “Ryan Weber considered himself a prudent business owner.” Sweeeet! I never expected to be the lede in the story. Full of enthusiasm, I wanted to grab the old lady looking at wrapping paper down the aisle and tell her just how cool this felt.

Julie Bennett did a wonderful writeup of the now common occurrence of businesses getting their credit lines screwed with by creditors. The article starts with my story of borrowing family money to start Radiant, then later accepting a credit line from Advanta, only to have them go bankrupt and pull the credit line. That credit line wasn’t a primary source of funding for monthly expenditures, but it was a nice safety net when clients were delinquent or we needed to rent equipment for shoots. All of a sudden it was gone. You can read more about that whole experience in my previous post here.

Bennett’s article was well thought out and she did a fine job of spelling out various funding options for businesses that have lost their credit lines. However, since the interview took place in November of last year, I do want to update some of the information presented in the article:
– “My wife and I are paying the mortgage on our home and making payments on one car” – The house is still mortgaged, but the car is paid in full now. That payment is now rolling over into other debt and this week we’ll be paying off and closing our credit cards. Can you tell I hate the credit industry now? Thanks Advanta.
– “And we have a 6 month old daughter” – Our daughter is eight months old now and a total sweetie.
– “It’s very stressful trying to meet our monthly costs with no backup funding” – I don’t remember saying that, and we haven’t been in danger of missing monthly expenditures since the very beginning of starting this business. It is stressful trying to produce shoots with no card to offer as a deposit for equipment rentals. No worries, though, just a paraphrase that ended up as a quote, probably due in no small part by my quick talking on the phone during the interview.
– “Otherwise, I plan to go debt free and run my business on a cash basis. Losing my credit line was much too stressful.” – WE’RE DEBT FREE! We have no debt, low overhead, and about seven months of operating expenses saved up.

The article is absolutely worth checking out if you have a business and are dealing with creditors. It gives alternate sources of funding like factoring receivables, borrowing against purchase orders, and getting unsecured lines of credit. Credit cards aren’t your only option. Oh and the last section “Final Option: Go Cash” has a pretty smart dude who’s eliminating debt altogether and saving cash for expenses. 😉

Updated: 1/26 – Here’s a link to the online article.

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Seeing friends’ and colleagues’ Facebook and Twitter updates all day today, I’d venture a guess that ’09 was the worst year in history. For many it was, I suppose. Many people have been affected by the economy in brutal ways…losing their jobs, homes, marriages, savings and their dignity. There aren’t enough jobs to go around right now, and I’ve seen some very talented and intelligent people scraping by. I’ve seen shifts in power with laid off editors/bosses/business owners suddenly asking clients to keep an ear out for possible work. It’s heartbreaking, but through it all I’ve seen compassion like I’ve never seen before.

From this compassion, something interesting happened this year….people mattered again. Seems that when no one can get a raise, job security is on the line, and everyone knows someone who has been affected by the economy, we seem to understand that we need to watch out for each other. So I think that’s a positive thing about 2009. I don’t have a lot of faith that America as a whole will continue this positive attitude when things get good again, but for now, we’re forging better relationships with people because of it.

This year was great for Radiant, because of things like:
– We picked up some great clients of all sizes, like Ty Ku sake, Las Vegas Valley Water District, Ethel M’s candy, Octagon Sport apparel, The Fitness Source, and Trannon Culinary, among others. We also managed to keep some existing clients around, like Mars/M&Ms World, Sanchez Decor, Anne Miller Designs, Stella Laguna Beach, many of our editorial clients, and others.
– We launched whiteproductphotography.com, which has been a successful venture and one we’ll be putting more effort into expanding in 2010.
– For the first year, our commercial revenues outpaced our editorial.
– We’ve paid off all business debts and are financially healthy and poised for growth in the coming year.
– We interviewed for a Feb 2010 article in Entrepreneur magazine…watch for it.
– We upgraded equipment to provide quicker service to our clients.
– We started accepting credit/debit cards to ease the immediate pain of paying for imagery that some smaller and midsized clients were feeling in this economy. Providing this service allows them to spread out payments on their terms instead of needing to cut a paid-in-full check upon invoicing. This has really helped some people manage in these rocky times.

2010 brings with it hope for economic turnaround and growth for everyone. We’re set for careful, calculated growth using our fiscally conservative plan. Radiant will expand and be more profitable, but not at the expense of client satisfaction. We’ve got some great goals set, many of which we’re already making moves on and we can’t wait to share the challenges and rewards with you through our blog.

Thanks for the great year!
Happy new year,
Ryan

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There are lots of updates to do here on the blog, but this one is just so exciting that it trumps all others.

Radiant Photography is debt-free!

Last week we made the last payment on our only open credit line and it’s an amazing feeling. It’s probably the only time you want to see zeros on your books, but man is it sweet.

The economy went south some time ago and, despite what some pundits say, I’m not counting on it turning around anytime soon. With that in mind, I started looking at smarter ways to do business and areas I can streamline. Paying interest to a defunct credit company seemed like a good place to start.

I have to give a big sarcastic thanks to Advanta, cause it wouldn’t have happened without them. Earlier this year, we got a notice from Advanta stating that the trust they use for funding credit lines was gone, thus our credit line was gone as well. Many, many small businesses got the same letter. With very little notice, many business owners were scrambling to secure other credit lines, find venture capitalists, beg for family loans, and turning to invoice factoring to facilitate quicker invoice collections. (Advanta just filed for bankruptcy this month. Read how it will affect small businesses here.)

Then as the year raged on the credit companies got greedy with fun moves like surprise interest hikes, penalizing full-balance paying customers, and other shenanigans. This didn’t affect us since we had no available credit to charge to, but it did light a fire of hatred inside me toward the way the credit industry is currently operating. I vowed to pay off Radiant’s credit line and try a new trend gaining a foothold in America called…(gasp!)…SAVING!

Radiant has always had a conservative fiscal mindset. From the outset, owning a studio or leasing a huge space was not in the five year plan, nor was over-leveraging to acquire needless equipment. For example, I built the upgradable computers our work is produced on, instead of overpaying for systems that would be obsolete in a year. We’re frugal, no doubt. In good times it might appear we don’t like to party or indulge in expensive thank you gifts, but we’re alive and kicking in these down times as a result. I’d much rather give clients consistency than be a boom-or-bust business that disappears when things get rough.

I can’t say that we won’t take on more debt in the future to expand or invest in equipment. In fact, I’m pretty sure we will, but it will be through different avenue than credit cards if their industry continues to falter. Businesses need capital to grow, hire employees, pay vendors, etc, but for now we’ll be doing so with cash savings. We’ll also trim back in areas we can afford to trim (selling space-sucking equipment we no longer need, negotiating cash rates with our suppliers, etc). It feels good to be debt free and streamlining the business. It feels even better to be doing it while business is good and we have happy clients, instead of a last ditch grab at saving what’s left of an ailing business.

When credit regulations are tightened, the economy turns around a bit, and lenders realize what true customer service is, we’ll change our tune. Moreover, I’m hoping people start saving more, forcing lending institutions to realize they need us more than we need them.

– Ryan

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