Small Business Spotlight: Ross Oscar Knight Photography
This is a reprint of an article I published in 2012. You can find Ross Knight at http://www.rossoscarknight.com/.
Ross Knight and I used to work at the same company. I remember how the young, bright physics and engineering major talked about his passion - photography. I always thought it odd that someone could successfully use both sides of his brain. That is, until I saw some of his breathtaking photographs.
What I didn't know was that Ross was working nights and weekends, pursuing his goal of becoming a full time photographer. When he announced that he was leaving the company to run his photography business full time, I was very excited for him. I also thought WHO would leave a stable job to become. . .a photographer?? That person is the owner of Ross Oscar Knight Photography.
Love at First Sight
Ross first became interested in photography in grade school. At the time, Ross stuttered when he spoke. He had a teacher who gave him a camera and encouraged him to take pictures as a way to document his day. Ross discovered that he could use photographs to express that which he found difficult to put into words. The experience was life changing. While Ross eventually got over his speech challenges, he was hooked on the idea of expressing feelings through the art of photography.
Following a Traditional Path
After graduating from college, Ross pursued a corporate role at a large company where engineering was the traditional path to executive management. He was placed in a management development program with a select group of new college graduates. Because of his personality, work ethic and educational background, Ross did well.
During his time in the management development program, Ross availed himself of every opportunity to learn. He took classes in accounting and he acquired a Sigma Six Black Belt. He expanded his knowledge base. His goal was to learn as much as possible about business. Ross became a student of the business and even created learning experiences for himself.
While working his way through roles in different departments, Ross started to focus on his future. His passion began calling him and he started working as a photographer nights and weekends. He also thought about going to business school and began putting in applications.
While contemplating his next step, Ross looked around at his colleagues' work lives. Many people at this company had been there for over 20 years. An introspective person, Ross began to wonder whether he would be happy if he stayed in the corporate world for the next 20 years. He knew the joy that photography brought him. But what of working up the corporate ladder?
Taking a Different Course
After considering his options - continuing to climb the corporate ladder or attend the business school to which he had been accepted - Ross made the radical move of turning in an altogether different direction - he decided to follow his passion. He set a date and walked away from corporate life.
Being a process guy, Ross implemented the lessons he learned in the corporate world. He immediately began putting processes in place to make his business as efficient as possible. Continuing to draw on his experience, Ross diversified his business. His photography includes everything from corporate and architectural shoots, to weddings and families.
Ross also holds workshops for photographers wanting to take their skills to the next level. His three day workshops include one on one coaching on how to run a business.
Unlike many "local" photographers, Ross has always sought to run an international business. His tag line is Ross Oscar Knight Photography - Destination Travel Cultural Awareness Photographers. He shoots multicultural weddings both in the U.S. and abroad. He also produces a fine art collection where he captures collectible, thought provoking images, many of which are international.
One of Ross' most memorable destinations was Haiti, just after the devastating earthquake in 2010. His intent was to capture images in a place and time that could never be captured again. He shot images of an orphanage there, donating 20% of the proceeds from sales to the orphanage that was being built as a result of the earthquake.
I asked Ross what he thought were the 3 most important things for an aspiring entrepreneur to consider before taking the leap. He offered the following:
1. Over plan for your future. While you need to pursue your main business in earnest, you must have multiple backup plans.
2. Always invest in your business and in your personal development. Ross suggests following the corporate model here. Large corporations are constantly reinvesting. They also provide employee professional development through classes and training. Every business, large or small, must continually invest in itself to survive. Ross thinks that many entrepreneurs lose sight of investing in the business outside of what it takes to maintain cash flow. He also says that you should make time for your own professional and personal development.
3. Be true to yourself and what you want to do. Ross says that "When you are starting out, you are the business. [You should] understand the purpose of what you are doing." This advice goes hand in hand with the theory that you can't go into business solely because of the money proposition. If you don't have a passion for what you are doing, don't even bother.
Ross will continue to develop the corporate side of his business and find sources of residual income. Using cutting edge photographic technologies as well as keeping abreast of current social trends, Ross plans to maintain a cutting edge business and add value to his services.
A believer in building personal relationships with his clients, Ross says, "I believe there will always be a market for a personal photographer. I've gone on vacation with families to document their trip." For those who are fortunate enough to engage such services, Ross says, "They will get fabulous images."
After six years of running his business full time, Ross remembers the time when he was flying solo. The overwhelming days when it was “always an evolving thing to get it right.” To help get his company past the early growing pains, Ross implemented advice found in The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It. He says this helped him move his company forward.
Today, in addition to running a business he has a great passion for his family. Ross and his lovely wife, Brandi, are expecting their first child. When asked what he considers success, Ross said, "I want to be happy, I want to be content. I want to live with no regrets." At the ripe age of 32, Ross has achieved success.