It Can Always Be Better

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Interview: Photo Grafix Owner talks obscurity, life

Photo Grafix Owner and Janitor Eric Basir leads a little-known photo retouching studio and virtual school which has 1 employee (himself), 4 unpaid servants (family members) and served a little over 700 customers and students since 1999. He works from a pathetic little dungeon all day and night, yet still finds time for family.

Q. When does the day start for you?

A. Shortly after sunrise. I make sure I get in some prayer, some religious stuff and a good 40-50 minute workout. I get to my basement corporate headquarters by 9 in the morning. I check email and rarely get through it all. I like to subscription requests for my monthly email newsletter. I loathe the unsubscriptions! I anxiously load Adobe Bridge and start working on projects that are in progress.

Q. How does a sole proprietor not get through all of his email?

A. If you saw the still unfinished built-in bookshelf in my living room, you would understand.

Q. How do you balance business demands with looking at the big picture?

A. Stepping away. Doing something physical. Working in the garden. Prayer. Eating. These things contain hidden lessons for work. I'll admit that keeping track of tasks with my Palm Treo helps keep the burden in perspective. Striving to stay organized is key. A clean desk makes a huge difference (when I get around to it!)

Q. Consumers have held their wallets during this current Great Recession...

A. Ugh! Say no more. Next question!

Q. Photo Grafix has struggled to grow revenue post-recession. Part of it was focusing on promoting the Photo Restoration Basics Video Course and Ask The Retoucher Live. Yet sales are flat. How do you react when Photo Grafix makes a mistake?

A. Mistake? Well, that wasn't nice. Look mister, I'm competing with firms throughout Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America. Photo restoration is not profitable like it was. So I saw everyone finding cheap restoration or doing their own work. I figured that those do-it-yourself types would benefit from my knowledge and experience. My video course is one of a kind, tried-and-tested and wholly underrated. Folks need this course. I believe sales were flat because my marketing is weak. I'm working with a consultant now to change that reality. Stay tuned.

Q. How often do you check the Photo Grafix finances.

A. Only when I must. It's quite a humiliating experience when I do check.

Q. Photo Grafix public outreach seems to have improved. Is that because of the recession?

A. Yes. It really forced me to go out there. Photo Grafix University Live was born from the nasty economic downturn.  I hope it enhances my workshop/teaching visibility for more and bigger venues such as the Federation of Genealogical Societies and National Genealogical Society. I'm finally in for FGS for their 2011 conference in Springfield, Illinios (due in part to the fine folks at the Illinois State Genealogical Society).

Q. What ideals do you embrace?

A. The Golden Rule: Do to others what you would do to them. For example, when folks call me asking about services I do not offer or they find it too expensive, I refer them to an appropriate source. I know people have problems and they're seeking solutions. I won't block them from help even if it means I won't be hired.

Q. What should a leader value most?

A. The intelligence of others around him or her. If they are students, customers, employees or friends. If they have a problem with something you're doing, encourage them to share it and cultivate an environment of openness. It must be sincere, however. Don't be afraid to say "I'm sorry, I was wrong."

Q. Who evaluates you? How do you know how you are doing at Photo Grafix?

A. Great question. No one, really. I always seek feedback, but rarely get it. When I do, it's usually brief. My service is too specialized it seems. But then again, business has been horrible. With the exception of a few very loyal customers, 2010 was our worst year since being in business (1999). I'm so glad it's behind us and I believe this year will be much better.

Q. Does work ever stop for you?

A. My mother asks me the same question! Unfortunately, no. Breaks are needed. Playing with the children, doing projects with them and reading Ranger Rick and Your Big Backyard before bedtime is something I never pass up. But work must never stop. If it does, we'd be homeless and hungry.

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