Pat tapped her head, "they can't steal this."
In fact, this friend is a leading artist, a painter, whose work has been picked up by major stores like Saks 5th Avenue, shown in New York at the famous Gift Show, and is well known among the circles who are into her type of art (which is American Primitive, by the way).
I should say my mom has a friend, because Pat is really her friend. But I grew up with her kids, and have known the entire family all my life. Nikki, Pat’s daughter, even helped with a photo shoot a couple of years ago. Pat, Nikki, and especially the son, Matt (who I haven’t seen in years) are probably the most creative people I know.
Though not one has a spike through their nose. At least, that I know of.
Pat is so well known, people copy her. What I mean is, they take her ideas, have them reproduced in China, and sold at a fraction of the price. There was one New York Gift Show where a vendor was selling these cheap imitations of her work just a few booths down. AWKWARD.
My mom asked Pat: why doesn’t this make you furious?
And, she replied, tapping her head, “Mary Ann, I have a thousand more ideas in my brain. They can’t steal those.”
And that’s how I view competition. There are competitors who just imitate what we do, and they seem to offer their services at a discounted price.
But the cheap rate doesn’t really exist. If you dig, like anything else, you get what you pay for. In fact, in most cases (if they can even do what we do), the rate is higher.
Of course, like the China knock offs (or a Rolex watch sold on the street corner), on the surface what they sell might look exactly the same, but if you scratch the spray-on gold tone paint, the cheap plastic shines through. And, while that cheap imitation Rolex might tell the time, for a while, get it wet and it falls apart.
Much like an inexperienced photographer facing an unexpected twist on a shoot. Like, say, a printer exploding. Or an iPad. Or a camera. Or a light. Or, in the case of one of my shoots where the roof leaked above the equipment: all of those things.
You think people won’t copy you. Who are you, after all? You’re just a dude with a strange blog and a photography business. So, you go about your business, trying to examine every part of the process every day, and make changes so things are always getting better. You upgrade technology, equipment, people, marketing, web sites, phones, cars, supplies — and then you do it again. All the time thinking: “What is best for the job? What is best for my client? How can I create an experience that is even better?”
And one day you wake up, and someone has taken your name and registered it as a .com. So, when you type in your name — MikeGatty and put a .com after it, a competitor’s web site comes up. Worse, at the bottom of the web site is a tag line, “not affiliated with Mike Gatty or US Event Photos.” And, even worse, it’s an ugly web site, with gross colors I wouldn’t be caught dead using. In fairness, they have since taken it down. So, now when I type my name with .com, it comes up, “you are not authorized to view this page.”
Or, you start poking around, keeping an eye on what your competitor’s are offering, and suddenly —
THEY ARE ALL ABOUT VIDEO. Two months ago, they never mentioned video. Not a peep. But start to create a new market, and POOF, it’s all they talk about on their web site. But, the video isn’t anything new. It’s not a different take on process and technology. No. It’s a chick dancing around with a party streamer for 15 – 20 seconds.
The next thing you know, they’ll be spiking their hair and writing a blog.
But, like Pat, I totally don’t care. I kinda think it’s funny. I love photography. I love events. There are so many cool things out there, so many twists and turns on technology, that I’ll never grow bored. And, if others want to copy what I’m doing, great.
But let me warn them now: My next style change will be a Mike Tyson face tattoo, a custom leather cat outfit, and a Smart Car. Honest. And my next web site is going to be www.MIKE_GATTY_IS_SMART_AND_HANDSOME.COM.