The Importance of Team, Part 2

In the last blog post, I ranted about my team — and how each of us brings something different to an experiential photo execution.  The union of those different benefits is one factor that makes our team so strong.  I said, for example, my mother brings decades of experience and vitality to her shoots, Melanie a youthful sex appeal and sweet personality, Matthew passion and energy that leaves you a bit breathless, and me?  I bring a geeky technology that pulls everything together.  Great photography goes without saying.

(I was not always so team oriented!  My mom used to hiss at me every 5 minutes:  “OUR BUSINESS!  OUR BUSINESS!  NOT YOUR BUSINESS!  It used to drive me nuts.  But she was right.  What, Michael?  YES, she was right…I didn’t hear you Michael.  YES you were RIGHT MOM.  Now, please be quiet while I write…)

But there is another part of the team equally important on any photo execution:  the client.  That partnership — and it should be a partnership — is vital.  Here’s my favorite story.  For loyal readers, please forgive me — I have told this before — but it is worth a spot here.

Three years ago, I was running off the airplane at McCarrin Airport in Las Vegas, diving for my storage facility where I staged equipment, and hustling over to Mandalay Bay, to meet a new client for the first time.

(Please note:  when you are at the airport, don’t text on your phone while slowly shuffling down the aisle, paying no attention to where you are going.  I will aim for you, it’s really great fun….)

On the way to the airport, the client had called:   setup MUST be completed that afternoon by 4 pm.  The problem?  I landed at 2:30.  That means — well — a tight schedule. I usually leave three hours for setup.   I sighed into the phone, and told the client I’d do my best to make it work.  (I’m never good at hiding my true thoughts:  WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME?  NOW, ON WAY TO THE AIRPORT  ISN’T THE BEST TIME!) I also said, (through clenched teeth) “Well, meet me at the convention entrance of Mandalay Bay with a cart.  Then, we can haul the stuff in easier, and I won’t have to waste time figuring out what Ballroom we are in.”

I pulled in front of Mandalay Bay’s convention center.  Ashley, the client, was waiting there with a huge luggage cart and two guys.

They hauled the stuff out of my rental car, not letting me carry anything, even my camera bag, put it all on the cart, and hustled me into the convention center.  I was set up and tested 30 minutes later, well before the 4 pm deadline.

That client was Honda, and it was the first time I shot Mario Andretti’s two seat race car.  Because of the success of that event, Ashley called a few months later.  At the start of the new race season, we were hired to do photo executions at each of the IndyCar races, nationwide.  We’ve been doing those races ever since, and as I write this, I am waiting at the gate to go to the Indy 500.  My third Indy 500.

But what I remember most of that initial setup, that premier event, was how hard Ashley worked with Melanie and I to set us up for success.  Not only did she meet me with the cart (and two guys), she helped with the line, she helped manage the other representatives from Honda, she helped with everything.  She made my job easy.

Other clients come to mind when I think of team.  Just recently I shot for General Mills — again — and, again, I was hired by Kelly.  It was Kelly who was with me on that infamous shoot at the World’s Suckiest Five Star Hotel when my cameras (and lenses) were stolen at the end of the shoot.  When I looked at Kelly, after I told her what happened, she was clearly more upset than I.  She looked devastated.  To this day, when I think of her, I think of the kindness and compassion she showed that day as she helped me cope with an awful crisis.

Maryland Realtors is our oldest client.  (Here’s how old a client they are:  I landed them by sending out a postcard, snail mail.  That was my first and last snail mail publicity campaign.)  And through ups and downs, Melissa has stood by us.  If we make a suggestion, she considers it.  If we want to try something out, something new, she’s grooving to it.  The result?  I try some of our newest, cutting edge technology out on their event every year, if at all possible, and really try to make their event different.  Most of the time, I don’t charge for these new services, I consider it my own private testing ground.  And they love it.  In fact, Melissa and I have contact throughout the year on Twitter and Instagram.  At one point, she assured me, she was not a “Twitter stalker.” (How many clients need to assure you they aren’t a Twitter stalker?  Not many.  Most people just skim what the hell I have to say, or ignore me altogether.)

There are, literally, hundreds of clients that I haven’t mentioned, but if I went on any further it would be the most boring blog post ever.  I spend a lot of time talking about how we set ourselves up for success, and very little time discussing how the client does the same thing.

Some photographers think a great client is just one who pays their bill.  But that limited view is what gets you in trouble:  a great client is one who wants the event to be successful, and will do whatever they need  to make sure it is.

When you have a great client?  Do whatever you must to hold onto them.  They are hard to find.  They are as important as your camera.  They are as important as your technology.  They are more important than you.  A great client?  A great client is part of the team.  The rant will continue…

All is not always fun and games at the IndyCar Races.  Here’s Birmingham, this year, after a freak storm.  Ashley and I huddled, trapped, in Mario Andretti’s trailer as the storm pounded.  Matt, Bobbie and team had to secure the tent.  
The Verizon tent wasn’t as lucky.  No one was hurt, but we consider them team, too.  In fact, I’ve worked with everyone in this photo for three years.  To have them hurt would be like having a member of my family hurt.
Trevor is the MC for Fan Village.  During my Birthday (month) he’d announce to everyone: “stop by and wish Mike a happy Birthday month!”  To this day it makes me giggle.  
And here we are huddled in Mario’s trailer.  Ashley is on the left.  Allison on the right.  I am blessed.