Several years ago, I had the opportunity to have lunch with a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer from National Geographic magazine. While I no longer recall his name, what I do remember is that he was a fascinating man to talk with. He spent most of his life photographing wildlife in exotic locations I had only dreamed about or had never even heard of.
Our conversation led me to ask how he managed to capture such magnificent shots so frequently. His reply surprised me. He said they had a saying in the wildlife photography community: “F-8 and be there.” Because I was then, as I am now, an incredible conversationalist and accomplished wordsmith, my response was, “Huh?”
Before moving on, I should explain that I spent some time as an amateur photographer in my early years, and a darn bad one at that. But I did understand the workings of my Minolta 35mm SLR camera. (For the sake of this article, SLR stands for “slowly losing readers.” In the world of photography, “SLR” means “single-lens reflex.”) Stay with me here. This is going to make sense in a minute.
On a 35mm camera, there are settings known as “f-stops.” The f-stop denotes the opening of a camera lens, or aperture, that determines how much light comes in through the lens and onto the film (remember, this was prior to digital photography). An f-stop also determines the “depth of field,” or how much is in focus in front of and behind the subject. F-8 is a setting that is generally in the middle of the options and is an “all purpose” setting, meaning that you’re not getting “artsy” with the camera; you’re almost treating it as a point-and-shoot camera.
Back to our story: as I thought about the meaning of what this gifted photographer had said, it all started to come together in my mind. “So, what you’re saying is that you have created incredible photographs simply by being prepared to capture the moment when it occurs, no matter where you are, and without regard for it possibly being the ‘perfect’ shot,” I said. “Precisely,” he responded.
The photographer went on to say that he always had his camera at the ready. It wasn’t that he was anticipating his next photo to be a Pulitzer Prize winner, but by being prepared, he could rest assured that he was ready to take advantage of the next opportunity, since it usually popped up quickly and disappeared even quicker.
F-8 and be there has stuck with me ever since that amazing photographer uttered those words. And when I later heard that the definition of “luck” is preparation meeting opportunity, it occurred to me that the two phrases are eerily similar.
How does this apply to a cleaning or restoration business? I’ve seen cleaning and restoration businesses receive a call for the once-in-a-lifetime job and need to turn it down because they lacked the resources to pounce once the opportunity appeared. On the other hand, I’ve witnessed other small cleaning and restoration companies capture that same type of job because they had prepared for it by establishing relationships with material and equipment suppliers, temporary staffing agencies, and even friendly competitors. Additionally, they had secured a line of credit with their bank that would give them access to the funds necessary to process this type of job. F-8 and be there. Preparation meets opportunity. Lucky? Maybe. But it won’t matter one bit if the job comes our way and we’re not prepared.
Bill Prosch, CR, is a Business Development Adviser for Violand Management Associates (VMA), a highly-respected consulting company in the restoration and cleaning industries. Prosch is a leading expert in operations and a Certified Restorer. He has a deep understanding of entrepreneurial challenges having owned and operated a successful restoration company for more than 30 years. Through Violand, he works with companies to develop their people and their profits. To reach him, visit violand.com or call (800)360-3513.