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  • Writer's pictureJay Ashcroft

My 3 Pillars of Business Success

3 tips to run a successful business and make it profitable

Back in May of 2023, the unthinkable happened. And no, not the kind of unthinkable where you’re like “Ah, this sucks.. Oh well.”

I’m talking earth shaking life altering unthinkable. The kind of unthinkable that changes everything.

We had just moved to a new home – a new home in the forest, in a region that I had been extensively researching and working towards moving to for the year prior.

Yes, a whole year of planning went into this. I mean, there was a lot at stake. My photography/videography business was still young – 3 years young. And there was the $40,000 studio that I had built a year and a half before this – the one that I was just walking away from.

When the move happened, I still had a few clients down south (“home” is about 2 hours south of where I had moved to), and the idea was to push forward in my new location. Get new clients, start a new business with my little brother.

Growth. Expansion. Awesomeness. The dream.

Well, all of that was fine and dandy. And I guess I can be grateful that I got to enjoy 10 or 11 days of this new found adventure – on the 11th of May, ah yes – back to the main point – the unthinkable. The unthinkable did indeed happen!

I was on my motorcycle, ironically going to get a new health card. I’m riding along and I see a sedan stopped at a green light, in the left lane up ahead. I think “Go, you idiot.”

So I get into the right lane, to proceed through the intersection.

But! Ah, crap. As I approach the intersection I hear the sirens. See the flashing lights in my peripheral. I come to an abrupt halt in the right lane beside the sedan.

I look to my left. “Yep, there’s a fire truck coming to the intersection, that’s why this guy is stopped.”

But now, alas. I am in a very precarious situation! I’m on a bike. What if someone slams into the back of me because they see the green light but not me at idle, sitting with anticipation at the intersection?

I look at the firetruck – still a ways away. I look into the intersection and then back at the man in the sedan beside me. I slowly begin to scoot in front of the brown beast to get into a more defensive positio….. BAM!

“What? What the hell is happening? Why am I flying through the air? Oh god, my leg’s caught between the bars and the tank.. Yep I’m going down” I desperately pull my right leg out from catastrophe.

My left leg wasn’t so lucky. I’m about to stand up – after ripping my helmet off and looking around in confusion. “What the hell happened? Did that guy just floor it into me? I need to get out of here. I gotta get back to work.”

I’m about to stand up, and then I notice the burning sensation in my shin. I wince and sit back down.

I slide my hand up the bottom of my jean leg.

“Yep… Yep, that’s my bone. Yep – the thing’s snapped in half.”

Oh MAN! Come on – Seriously?? How can this happen. Why did this happen to me? Just when everything was starting to get good. Just when I was starting to live.

Then comes the fear.

The trip to the hospital, the emergency room all night, the refusal of “the strong drugs”. The bending of my shin in half like a knee as the nurses put a temporary cast on me for the night.

The emergency surgery the next day to save my leg. The come down. The shock wears off. The reality sets in the as I lie awake at night, extreme agony piercing me on a molecular level.

“What am I going to do?? I’m going to lose everything… I can’t work! Oh my god – what am I going to do??”

Okay pause..

That was intense, right?? I do apologize – I just needed to paint a really clear picture of the reality of my situation. It was MESSED UP. It was the most hardcore thing I’ve been through in my entire life.

And that’s coming from the guy who had his niece and father die within the same year. This was something else. It was something I couldn’t control. Financially and career wise, it was detrimental.

Or was it?

Well as it turns out, I was actually fine. I was more than fine. I was flourishing and making huge profits. But how?? My gut reaction was that I was screwed. But then – I wasn’t. What??

Well – as it turns out, the deep and focused work that I had done for the 3 years prior to my accident had paid off. The 5 am mornings. The undying obsession. The diligent work and investments into this business were now coming back my way. Unknowingly, I had set up my 3 Pillars of Business Success.

They are as follows:

Acquire Internal and External Talent

• Setup Residual Projects

• Maintain Client Retention

Let’s breakdown exactly what each and every one of these means.

1. Acquire Internal and External Talent. Throughout the course of my short career, I’ve met a lot of people. It turns out it really is all about who you know. Because of my lack of a need to compete (there is no competition in our industry, only collaborators), I was able to make a lot of friends who were really good at what they do – which so happened to be the same thing that I do.

Most of these folks were fully subcontractors. I was able to lean on them for shoots when I needed them the most. But most important of all was my subcontractor/employee hybrid. A man who has been with me through thick and thin. He’s seen it all with me.

I was first introduced to Jon a few years ago – and right away he was ambitious and wanted to learn what I did. Oh and I taught him – I showed him everything.

And the entire time I would remind him. “Listen man.. I’m teaching you this stuff to set you up for success. You are self-employed. You will invoice me every two weeks. And I will pay you every two weeks. But I also want you to go out and get your own work. I’ll even help you do that.”

Of course he’s grateful for this. Of course he gets better and better, and of course he starts to get his own work as well. But he never strays too far. Jon proves time and time again that he’s got my back – because I’ve always had his.

Now what do you think happened when I called him and told him I broke my leg in half?

Well… He says “Oh god, Jay.. I’m so sorry man. Don’t worry about a thing.. I’ll handle everything.”

What a God send! With Jon’s commitment, I was able to continue to serve my current client base down south. That meant a continued profit of just over 11k per month for the worst 4 months of my healing.

Jon took care of all of the shooting and on the ground work, and I did all the computer work from bed. Unbelievable. My gratitude is through the roof.

2. Set Up Residual Projects. You’ve definitely heard the words “Keep your pipeline full”. Well I always heard it as well – except I had no idea that my pipeline actually was full – and that somehow throughout all of my healing I had 3 pretty big “residual projects” come my way.

These projects were seemingly set up in unison – they came to me a year or more prior, and their commencement came to fruition literally when I needed them the most. One of them I had already shot. It was a group of 3 videos for an arborist company.

I was able to really squeeze a lot out of the footage and put 3 videos together for the client.

Of course they’re grateful, of course they pay me even more than I had imagined they would. What a win.

Then I had a promotional speaker come to me with a video need, as well as a jewellery brand who needed product photos done.

Remember how I had mentioned you need to acquire internal and external talent. Well if Jon’s the internal talent, this is where the external talent comes into play.

Because I had befriended many talented creators in my industry over the past 3 years, I was able to subcontract the shooting aspects of these projects to them, and then I took care of the editing. Win-win-win! They make a profit, I make a profit and the client gets the quality that they need.

3. Maintain Client Retention. Jon was really the cornerstone of our success with this one. Because I had been so loyal to him, and he had returned the same respect – we were able to continue to work with the existing client base down south.

But the only reason we were able to do this was because of one word. COVID. Ah, covid, you sweet, sweet mistress. How you caused all of us entrepreneurs such misery.

Well, not exactly. Apparently I only take the backlash of a problem for so long before I get fed up and finally decide to solve it.

Problem: COVID restrictions keep causing lockdowns. Everyone keeps cancelling shoots out of fear.

Solution: Find clients who always need content, win their respect and have them sign yearlong general service agreements, locking us into monthly payments and creative schedules.

Wah bam! This was my saving grace. This was my baseline, and the 11k per month that pushed me through the worst of the worst, and provided the time and energy that I needed to heal.

And what have I learned?

Thinking back on everything that I’ve done – there isn’t one thing that I’d change. We all have our ups and downs in our careers and in life in general – but there’s always bigger things at play.

As for my leg, and for my recovery – I’m on the mend. I’m seeing a physio therapist twice per week, I’m walking more and more normal every day, and I’m getting back on track.

I’m ready to acquire new clients in my dream home, and to continue the work I started 6 months ago when this happened to me.

I’m so grateful for everything that’s happened, and that the choices I’ve made for the years before this accident have put me in such a good position to heal and grow.

It may be hard to believe, but throughout this traumatic experience – I’ve actually gained more than I lost – but that’s a topic for another day.

Keep your chin up. Be an opportunist. Do everything that you can to set yourself up for success. The future you will thank you.

To your success,

Jay Ashcroft


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