The biggest healing we’ve had with our company, BetterPhoto, an online photography school which also offers photo publishing and contests, has been simply getting through this year and staying in business. A year ago, we almost got knocked off our horse. All of a sudden, sales started dwindling dramatically, and we didn’t know why. Currently, we’re a company of 12 people. We were 20 in March of 2007, but I had to lay off a lot of people, which wasn’t a good thing. There’s a lot of competition on the market. People are wanting to learn photography. We have been able to respond to the changing market system. We’re back in the saddle now, and that’s a good thing.
There were a bunch of different phases to this healing. The first phase was a very active search into the cause. At first, I wasn’t sure what was happening. I was scared because I didn’t know why things weren’t working as well as they had been. Up until then, we had been growing at rate of 150% a year, but now suddenly everything was stalling. And that was very scary. So I prayed about intelligence. I prayed to the all-knowing God. God knows everything. I looked up all the passages in the Bible that talked about knowledge. I particularly like, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Ps 119:105).
What I discovered was that there wasn’t just one competitor; in fact, there were hundreds of new websites trying to offer what we offer -- online classes. But more often, these new companies were offering other ways to learn photography, like videos on the web where you watch a video that shows different techniques, but you don’t get to work with world-renowned photographers. There are a lot of people who need to work with the best names in the business.
Other phases to this healing included making hard decisions, like letting people go, which was terrible. I had to face extreme fear of what my decisions could do to someone’s life: someone could end up on the street. But you have to look at the interests of the overall team and have the courage to do something, even if it seems to hurt one person. So that’s what we did. The most helpful idea was the realization that God is the Leader, the One in charge, and that God knows more than we do about what is best. My employees and I might feel that continued employment at BetterPhoto is the best path, but God may have a better path in mind. Therefore, I needed to be humble enough to say, “I don’t know what is best” and to acknowledge and trust that God knows best. Then termination is less of a painful, life-shattering thing and more of a freeing thing. It might be that the person being let go needs to be allowed to take the next step in his or her path. It was still very difficult to do and still requires almost daily prayerful attention -- knowing that God is taking care of all of His children and that we are all loved and in our right place, every step of the way.
Finally, we learned that there was a huge drop in the number of people coming to our site from a search engine. So during the final stage of the healing, I put a lot of work into what is called SEO or “search engine optimization,” and that’s been proving very helpful. It’s a continual process: I research what people search for and then work to either provide new content or adapt our current content. It’s a lot of work, but it’s exciting to be working to give people what they most want.
So now we’re back! Our business is strong and sales trends are going in the right direction. Recently one of our staff referred to our company as “a small but mighty team.” Not only are we doing better financially, but our team feels galvanized, tight. We’re working together, and everything’s growing. It was a very gradual, year-long healing -- comprised of prayer, listening, and simply hanging in there. I was tempted many times to throw in the towel. But then the idea would come back that this was our right path. So we worked it out one day at a time.