Sept 01, 2021
The Mass Business Podcast
Season 1, Episode 3 – The Right Mindset To Sustain & Evolve Your Business, with Mike Stone
Welcome to episode 3, where I talk with my guest, photographer Mike Stone, who has worked in the industry for 42 years! Mike and I talk about how to sustain your business through the changes in technology while evolving processes and systems. We talk about mindset being one of the most important factors in all aspects of any business. He tells us how he stays focused with time blocking and we learn the unique way in which he markets himself. Mike lets us know how he deals with the challenges that come with learning new things. Are you ready? Let’s go!!
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Matt Ward 0:01
Welcome to Episode Three of the mass business podcast. Today, our guest is Mike Stone, and he helps clients create the most valuable artwork that they will ever have on their walls, portraits of their own families. He has over 40 years experience in the field of making portraits and today we’re going to talk to Mike about the growth of his business over time about networking referrals and educating yourself, our theme for season one. Are you ready? Let’s go.
Welcome to the mass business podcast where small business owners, also known as risk-takers, share their stories about the growth of their business and themselves. Our interviews and our content is focused on growing a small business and understanding networking and referrals. I say it all the time, and I’ll say it again today. You never know for your next referral will come from.
MW – Hey, welcome to Episode Three of the Mass Business Podcast shout out to my good friend Cailte Kelley, for that custom song “High Five the world.” We’re always about high-fiving. And today, our guest on the podcast is Mike stone from Mike stone portraits. He’s going to talk a little bit about his business. Welcome to the show, Mike.
Mike Stone – Thanks. Thanks, Matt. I appreciate it.
MW -You’ve been in business a long time tell everybody what it is you do and how long you’ve been in business.
M S – 1:43
I’ve worked in the industry for 42 years. And I do portraits of families, mostly, but also children. And I work at their homes, where it’s a very unique experience for them and a very personal experience. And I make artwork that people hang on their walls so that they can stop time for a moment, preserve memories, and pass along the legacy to generations that don’t even exist yet. So yeah,
MW – 2:10
that’s awesome. And you’ve been doing that in the industry for 42 years. That’s great. You’re based out of Worcester, right? Correct me if I’m wrong, but you cover the entire state.
MS – Yup
MW – So you’ll go out the North Adams, you’ll go to P-town. You’ll go to the North Shore.
MS -Yeah. New Hampshire, Rhode Island. Yeah.
MW – I don’t care about those states is the podcast. So if you live in mass, but have a vacation home in New Hampshire or Maine Fine, go go there.
MS – You didn’t hear anything.
MW – 2:45
So I, you know, portrait photography, right. It’s changed over the years that you’ve been doing this right. And I think I think that’s something I really wanted to dig into with you. And that the the length of time that you’ve been in business? Is the adjustments that you’ve had to make? Right? digital photography didn’t exist when you were in business? It was it was Polaroid and Kodak. And those big companies?
MW – And some of those companies didn’t evolve. code. So they died. How did you manage to stick around? How did you manage to keep it going?
MS – 3:21
Well, so at that time, when things changed to digital, I was working for somebody else. And it was a pretty large company that that did, you know, several million dollars a year annually in business. And so we were on the front edge. Yeah, not the leading edge, or the bleeding edge. But we were close to, to converting to digital. And that was a year that I would never want to go back and do over again, ever. Because literally, nobody had all the answers. And everybody was depending on each other. But we got through that. And it was mostly just about making sure we had good solid systems in place to get our workflow done. And when we would, when we would come across a problem, the owner of the company wasn’t afraid to jump on a plane and fly across country if he had to, to get the right answer to keep the work going out the door. So, yeah
MW – 4:17
You said something very interesting that I think many, many small business owners, especially those in Massachusetts, don’t put enough time and effort into and that systems and process. Can you talk a little bit about how important that is in your business.
MS – 4:30
Oh, it’s hugely important. Even though I’m essentially a one-man band. So I have systems for scheduling and timing. One of my biggest things is, is I do block scheduling. So that means if I’ve got repetitive tasks, let’s say I need to send work off to the retoucher or I need to do framing. I set aside a certain day of the week and a certain block of time that that’s the only thing I do. I can interrupt myself with anything else. And if I don’t get the work done. And that allotted time that it has to wait until the following week when that scheduling opens up again, it takes some discipline. But that’s how a one-man shop or a very small group of employees gets things done without just like chasing fires all day long.
MW – 5:17
So that’s a good point. Because I mean, we are basically not, I mean, we’re in business for ourselves, but we’re not in the business of what we do. We’re in the business of firefighting, oftentimes, right? We’ve done the wrong things to end up in firefighting mode. So are you time blocking just about everything possible in your business, then?
MS – 5:38
As much as I can I time block the things that I have to do. And I outsource anything that’s not related to doing photography, doing sales with my customers, or your marketing, anything else is a cost to my business.
MW – 5:54
Love that. So So that’s, that’s number three in my, my top 10 ways to grow a successful small business is to outsource our weaknesses. And we’re going to be doing season three on that. But the first one is educating yourself, which is what we’re talking about in this season. Mike, what ways have you grown personally and professionally, from an educational standpoint?
MS – 6:23
Oh, gosh, I do a lot of audible books, a lot of reading. So I’m, I’m always looking for something new to listen to, while I’m sitting here at my computer or driving to a client. You know, sometimes music is a good thing. But a lot of times, I’ll do an audible book. I’m right now listening to T. Harv Eker’s “Secrets of the Millionaire Mind”. Which is, of course about money, but it’s also just a ton about mindset. And it’s proving hugely successful for me.
MW – 7:02
So what I love, you know, you’re listening to a book about mindset. But I would imagine that you would agree with me that mindset has been at the forefront of much of what you’ve done in the years that you’ve owned your own business.
MS – Oh, yeah.
MW – Time blocking is a mindset.
MS -Yeah. And a discipline. Yes. Yep. Exactly.
MW – So is that how you approach just about every task in your business and tackle it is around mindset first, then discipline second?
MS – 7:33
Yeah, I would say so. I’m more of I’m not the typical creative. I’m more of the other side of the brain. I don’t know which one that is. But I’m, I have a fairly analytic kind of approach to things. So that helps me in a lot of the business aspects. And, and the fact that I’ve got the creative side to go along with it is a real plus for me anyway.
MW – 7:58
What do you think your biggest challenge is when it comes to learning new things?
MS – 8:03
Oh, getting started, or prioritizing, actually. There’s these four new things that I really want to work on which one’s the best one for me to do. And, you know, I might even get into analysis paralysis doing that, you know. And so then I lose some valuable time, because I was trying to figure out which one of those should I start learning next. But, but I try to make sure that I, that I picked the right one. And if I don’t, I know when to cut my losses and go back to the one that I should have done.
MW – So how do you know that?
MS – Just in my gut, I just…
MW – Yeah, you’re trusting your gut now? Hmm.
MS – Yeah. I just feel like, I just feel like, Look, I’m not getting the return that I thought I would get within a reasonable amount of time. So I, my senses are telling me this isn’t gonna pay off.
MW – 8:55
So it’s interesting you bring that up, Mike, in my new book coming out this fall, shameless plug, of the high five affect how to do business with people that bring you joy. There’s a whole chapter in there about trusting your gut because it’s not like we went to school and learned gut trusting 101 as a business tool. Right? And there was a guy I interviewed, whose name was Eric, and he’s a coach. And he said that. He said, when you’re when your heart and your mind are in tug of war, let your gut settle it. Yeah.
MS – Those were pretty good Words To Live By. Right.
MW – And every time I tell somebody that they’re like, Oh, my gosh, that’s so prophetic. That’s so that’s, that’s so true. Yeah. And so you think like, like, what you’re saying is like, you know, I pick this thing and I’m working on this thing, this task, I’m learning this thing and it’s just not happening for me.
MS – Right.
MW – That’s your, your mind and your heart in conflict at the moment. You got to let your guard settle it now. The reason I put it in the book was it was about ideal client selection, right? And whether or not you thought you were going to use this client was going to be a good client for you or not. It can be used in this form of business management in every form. Like, when you’re thinking about the things you’re doing. Yeah, you know, and I love what you said earlier, too, is you outsource things that you aren’t good at. Because otherwise, it’s a cost.
MS – 10:26
Yeah, It’s costing me money to do something that I can hire somebody to do. That can do it better than me. And a lot of people in small businesses have egos since like, nobody could ever do this, as well as I can do it. And guess what hate to tell you, but they can, there’s somebody better and faster than you, and you just freed up whatever that hour or two hours or whatever of time is to do more for business growth. And then like you were talking about learning things, you know, you cut your losses, but a lot of people won’t do that. Oh, I paid, I paid $1,000 for this course. And I’m not getting anything out of it. But I’m gonna keep after it. Because you know, and they’ll ride that train all the way to the bitter end when they probably should have, you know, two weeks in when they started to say this isn’t working. I’ll give it another week. And if I’m not getting results, then it’s time to cut it off. So yeah, it’s kind of thinking ahead. What am I actually getting out of this?
MW – 11:33
Yeah. And I mean, I think it’s, it’s so interesting because it’s you, we talked earlier about mindset, right, and how you were learning certain things about mindset. Getting help in a small business, as a single solo entrepreneur, is such a stretch for so many people the first time they do it. And so that what I tell people is trust, but verify. We always think people won’t do it as good as us. And you know what that might actually be true. Okay, that might, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, maybe it won’t be done, as good as we would do it. But we can’t do that and do this and do this all at the same time. Because we know we can’t multitask. And so if we can get to the point where we can train people properly to do things the way we would want them done, we don’t get frustrated with those people, we pay well, they’re going to do the work, they’re going to grow with you. And they’re going to be some of the best people you ever have in your Rolodex or your contact database that are going to help you grow. And if even if you don’t want to grow as a small business, they can help you sustain, maintain, and not go backwards, like in the pandemic and things like that. They can help you brainstorm and come up with ideas. These are people you trust by this point. I think that’s a valuable takeaway is that you got to surround yourself with good people.
MS – 13:06
Exactly. And you’re and you’re back to systems again, to the way you get your the way you get good people and keep good people is with good systems for how you hire or how you outsource. Because having an outsource is the same as having an employee, they’re just not in your building. But you have the same sort of system for standards of production, so that they meet those standards for you consistently.
MW – 13:32
So you have a pretty unique way of going to market or marketing yourself. I mean, not when I talk to people as a referral coach, right? They always say the number one source of new business is referrals. And then I come back, okay, well, how much money you’re spending toward that. And typically, they say none. And I say, Where are your referrals coming from? And they say their clients? And I say, well, you think it’s your clients because you don’t really track it. Just traditionally what happens in most businesses? When I had a conversation with you a couple of weeks ago, just learning about your business, I learned something very interesting, you know, you have a very unique marketing approach. And I wanted you to share that with people who might be listening or watching this on YouTube because it might benefit their business. Right. So explain how it is that you market your services, the primary way you’ve had success marketing.
MS – 14:20
Are you talking about the charity auctions?
MW – Yes, absolutely.
MS -Okay. We participate in quite a number of charity auctions throughout the years. Now, this past year, that didn’t happen very much because of COVID. And weren’t happening but they’re coming back now. But I can donate an item to a charity auction or two or three. And they’re happy to get the item because it’s an organization that I believe in. I don’t just willy nilly throw them out to whoever’s having an auction. But it’s somebody that I might have some personal link with, cancer society something like that. And so we believe in what you’re doing, we’d love to help and donate something for you. And so it’s a gift certificate that people can bid on in the silent auction. And so we’ve got an item on display, like a framed portrait of what we do, and some of our literature, and people can sign up for it. So they’re looking at the literature, they’re liking the work that they’re looking at. And they’re saying, Hey, I like this guy, and/or this work. And I think we should sign up for this. So now you’ve got somebody who’s interested. And they’re also interested enough that they’ve thrown some money at this thing by making a donation. And so this is a person who’s pretty clearly qualified themselves as one of your clients, not all the time, but most of the time, they’ve got skin in the game, and they liked the work. So that is a much easier customer journey than one where you’re just, you know, cold calling, or, you know, unknown referrals and that kind of thing. So much of my business is about getting people to raise their hand and say, I’m interested.
MW – 16:12
And so you do that. And then they become basically a free client because you donated the item. But they now see your service. It’s many, it’s what many coaches do with a free consultation, and all of that. And so yeah, you have to do the work. But if they want any of the upgraded items, they have to buy those things, you know, upgraded frames, upgraded, things like that retouching, whatever. But also, now this is hanging in their home. And the people that come into their home are like Who did that? Right? There becomes the talking point to get the referral.
MS – 16:48
Right. Yep. And we do, we also do something where we work with vendors, who are looking for a very nice gift to give to their best clients. And it works much the same way. They can give their client as a thank you one of our portrait certificates for a very nice product at the finish, they’re not obligated to buy anything else. But two things happened to the client. They receive this thank you from the vendor, and they say, Oh, my gosh, Matt sent me this wonderful gift, which is a whole different level than a fruit basket or a bottle of wine. Okay? Even if they never use it, if they do use it, and somebody comes over and admires, the art on the wall and say, Where did you get that? Oh, Matt Ward sent me that because he’s the greatest guy in the entire world. Maybe five minutes later, my name shows up. But it’s really mostly about the vendor and the relationship building that’s happening there.
MW – 17:51
That’s great. I mean, I love the idea behind it. Because what that really basically means is when you’re doing your marketing, when you’re finding ways to generate sales from referrals, find a way to be unique with your marketing, it helps you stand out. Right, and that helps you sustain you know, your, your business over such a long lifetime, and get known to people love that idea. So definitely be unique with your marketing now. Because we’d like to help businesses grow. Right. I wanted to ask you about one tool, one software tool that you use in your business that has changed the way you conduct business, and it’s helped you whether it’s optimized, save time, save money, whatever it might be. What software tool is your favorite helpful tool for your business that you can share with our audience?
MS – 18:48
Well, the most over the, certainly over the past year, and I’m going to continue with it is the combination of Facebook and click funnels, using click funnels for marketing. Yeah. Because I’ve gotten over the past year, again, auctions were non-existent. So I had to find something to fill that bucket of leads coming in. And so I learned really quickly how to use Click Funnels and how to do Facebook ads. And that was a pretty darn good replacement for the auction work over the past year.
MW – 19:24
And what’s the offer that you put out like to Facebook on the ad? What’s the offer that you get people to go into for the Click Funnels?
MS – 19:31
Sometimes it’s an enter to win.
MW – You’re still donating the item?
Now they have to get into your system and now they become an email in your email list.
MS – 19:43
MW – Yeah, there you go.
MS – 19:44
Or sometimes it’s just a sometimes it’s a gift with purchase. If you purchase a session, you get this, this extra thing. Sometimes it’s just a direct offer where it’s, here’s the session we’re discounting it today at 75% off, and Here’s the purchase price. So it just depends. We were constantly tweaking and trying different methods.
MW – 20:07
But I think that’s the key takeaway of this is you’re constantly tweaking you’re trying new things. And that has been what has sustained you in business. That’s super exciting, Mike, tell all of our listeners where they can find you online to reach out for your portrait services if they should desire to do so.
MS – 20:25
Sure. The web address is MichaelStonePortraits.com. And I have a Facebook which is the same name, Michael Stone Portraits and Instagram as well, Michael Stone Portraits. And you can reach us at our telephone number 774-303-1949, or our email, Mstone@Michaelstoneportraits calm.
MW – 20:53
And folks, you can also find him in the mass business connections Facebook group, which is where I found him and I’m connecting with a ton of people and great business owners alike. And you can always tag him in there and say hello in there. You know, lots of takeaways from today. Hopefully, our listeners got some value out of it. If you learn something great, If you’re using Click Funnels, make sure you comment on our Facebook page in the mass business Facebook connections Facebook group, or right here on the YouTube channel video. We’d love to have you comment. Are you using Click Funnels? And what are you using them for that way Mike can reply and he can have a little conversation about that. Mike, thanks for jumping on Episode Three of the podcasts. We greatly appreciate it. Thanks for having in there and teaching us how to sustain in business a long time and do unique marketing in different ways. We appreciate you being on.
MS -Thanks, Matt. I appreciate you having me.
MW -Folks. That’s a wrap for Episode Three of the Mass Business Podcast. And until next time, we’ll see you again.
Outro -. Thank you for listening to the mass business podcast where we focus on growing a small business and understanding networking and referrals. Don’t forget to like on your favorite platform and share out this podcast. This show has been produced by Heather grant music by Cailte Kelley. All rights reserved. I’m your host, professional speaker, author, and word of mouth referral consultant, Matt Ward. Don’t forget to live happy, smile a lot, and high-five everyone around you.