There are few roadmaps for how to run a business, of any size. And, with both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in business, I can attest that how to actually operate a business, small or large, is not taught in college or graduate school. It comes from doing it, or observing it, and a lot of trial and error. This is especially true when one’s business is selling a service as opposed to a product. And, the more complex the service, the more challenging the operational side becomes. By now, readers of this post, as well as those who know me otherwise, know my background as a photographer. I worked as a photographer for a number of years before attending graduate school, but many of the lessons I learned in the photography world have transferred as I began operating a service based business – in the litigation consulting world. For example, long ago I created a photo assignment form to use for each assignment I undertook. It was a 1 page NCR form with 3 copies; remember those? Anyway, one of the first things I did when starting work in the trial consulting arena was to create a Case Intake Form. That form has evolved, now I’m on version 16, but it allows us to capture and tract critical information about each case. And, “borrowing” ideas from other sources can improve such ideas as well. We once visited the claims department of an insurance company and the claims manager pointed out the “blue” sheets on his desk – each one was the claim intake on a new claim and the company used blue paper to ensure that the claim did not get lost in the morass of other paper. Our intake forms are now blue for the same reason.
And, despite technologies, sometimes old fashion technologies are best. Clipboards are very useful in keeping relevant materials organized. I used to use a series of them indicating photo jobs to be shot, prints to be made in the darkroom, etc. Now I train our research staff to use a clip board with all of the information they have to have on hand on a research day, including the recruit list, the facility information, travel itineraries, etc. Things like this mean we are not paperless, but we don’t have to power up anything to check what time lunch will be served.
One more example that comes to mind is finding ways to deliver work to clients to meet their deadlines. In the days before e-transmission of photos or documents, I had to figure out how to get prints or images to clients safely and efficiently. I still have to figure out how to deliver things to clients and while it can sometimes be via email or now through our client portal, there are still times a hard copy has to get there. And, sometimes it has to be sent after the last FedEx or UPS pick up for the day. This means the use of couriers or Greyhound busses. The lesson from another business, photography, has therefore been useful in my world today, just with different work product.
It is fascinating to me as I continue to read photography magazines that I find marketing, or other ideas, that readily adapt to any service based business. One should read everything with an eye open to finding ways to adapt an idea, a technology, or a tool (phone apps) to the work one does – success in business, small and large, is putting the good ideas to work, regardless of where they originate.
This is an interesting topic for me because it is my field of social psychology that has been adapted to many other fields, including organizational behavior, marketing research, health care, law, and many more. There are numerous research techniques, such as focus groups, that were developed by social psychologists that have a large following in other domains, such as business related marketing research. Indeed, the work of social psychologists can be applied to any type of organization or industry. Attorneys who try to persuade a jury or judge into returning a favorable verdict do so by understanding a few basics tenets of persuasion; law enforcement officers who interrogate suspects use many social psychological tactics (including the infamous “prisoners’ dilemma”); human resources managers use employee satisfaction surveys developed by social psychologists to manage their staff; and the list goes on and on. As a social psychologist of many years, I have always found it interesting when someone asks me whether I have heard of group dynamics, the impact of primacy and recency on decision making, how to negotiate to reach an agreement, and other basic theories within my own field of expertise, as if they are learning this information for the first time and want to share their new found knowledge with me. Thank goodness for social psychology and all of the things it has offered not only to psychology as a whole, but to many diverse fields and people, including the world of litigation consulting in which I have worked for decades!