If you closed up shop today, tied up all the loose ends and shut it all down, would anyone notice?  Would anyone miss you?  It's not at all uncommon right now for businesses to go "out of business."  

The economy has hit a lot of businesses hard, and as a result, many haven't survived.  As I drive through our community, there are a lot of for lease/for sale signs where there used to be coffee shops, stores, offices, etc.  As I drive through our community, there are a lot of empty spaces - a lot of empty spaces that used to be someone's business.

The thing is, as I drive down the road, I look at these empty spaces and I couldn't tell you what used to even be there.  Maybe if I thought about it long enough, I might be able to tell you - but for the most part, I don't miss the stores that are gone!

In fact, in our area, there's only one store I can even remember having gone out of business recently - Circuit City.  And I never shopped there.  I don't miss it.  The reason I don't miss it, and most of the other stores that are gone - is that they didn't add any value to my life.  There was nothing unique about them, and there's nothing they offered that I can't get somewhere else, from a business that still serves our community.

What about you?  If you stopped doing business in your community, would anyone notice?  Is your photography offering anything that isn't offered by someone else?  Are you, as a photography business, a place that people care about and want to be engaged with - or will they not even miss you?  

I think there's really two things to think about.

First, what value are you adding to people's lives?  What does your photography add to the lives of your community that only you can offer?  Really, it's a question of "how are you unique?"  The chances are, if you're the same as everyone else, not only will no one notice you - but they won't care when you're gone.  By adding value, you ensure that those around you will have a stake in you - and they'd notice if you were gone.  But more importantly.....

Second, by really adding value to people's lives, you stand a much better chance for success.  Sure, there are some great businesses that don't make it.  There are good people who aren't able to keep their business going.  But as I look around at the businesses in our community that truly add value - they're all still here.  

There are 5 photography studios within 5 blocks of ours.  We live in a town of less than 8,000 people.  Two of them are either closing down, or trying to sell to someone else.  We HAVE to be different.  Our style is different, our clients are different, our studio is different, our client's experience is different.  We want people to notice us - we want them to be invested in our success.  In fact, we want clients that would fight for us to stay in business - because they feel like they'd be losing value in their life if we were gone.

How are you different?  What value you are you adding to your community?  Would anyone notice (or care) if you were gone?

Image used courtesy of flickr  F33 under creative commons license.