The Power of Sharing

So I’m talking to a colleague of mine (Mark) who is responsible for booking speakers for the monthly Bay Area Professional Videographers’ Association (of which I used to be a member before trekking out to GA), and he’s sharing with me how great their April meeting was. They had a panel of wedding professionals (including Gene Higa, Elisheva Basseri, and Nicole Lisanne) talking about networking to gain more wedding business. And Mark was telling me how incredibly generous everone on the panel was with their information. It was one of the best programs yet.

But Mark also shared with me how he’s had a lot of rejection from people he’s contacted who didn’t want to share their knowledge. Their responses have been, “Why would I want to tell you how I do what I do, then create more competition for myself?” I was blown away and shocked at that answer.

Hello? Are these guys sleeping under a rock? I can’t tell you how many uber-successful people I know who all swear by the power of sharing. Giving of themselves to better their industry. Whether it’s technical skills, business knowledge, what have you. Imagine if everyone felt like that. Then no one would learn anything.

Here are three great reasons to share your knowledge:

  1. Reciprocity: call it Karma, reaping what you sow, golden rule, whatever. But I truly believe what you put out in the world comes back in spades. Share your knowledge, help others improve their businesses, and you will see tangible benefits down the line.
  2. A rising tide: you’ve heard the saying “a rising tide lifts all boats”? If you help your colleagues do better in business, ultimately everyone will do better. I once gave a day-long seminar on “Getting Paid What You’re Worth” totally for free. Why? Well, one reason was because I knew if I could teach other videographers to charge for weddings the kind of rates my company at the time was getting, then everyone benefits. They make more money, and clients wouldn’t be so freaked out when they saw my rates because they’d be used to it. 🙂
  3. It feels good: it just plain feels good when you can help edify your colleagues and you see the looks on their faces when you know you’ve touched them. When you’ve contributed to their life and business in such a way that is truly significant. Don’t ever discount the power of warm fuzzies.


So, this is your homework assignment. Find someone (or a group of someones) and share your knowledge. Blog about some technique you know that really helps you, I don’t know, post process faster or something. Go to your PUG, or SMUG, or PVA or [insert your appropriate professional organization abbreviation here] and teach the group something that will be of substance. Start giving back. For a week see if you can give more than you can take. I guarantee you won’t be sorry.

To get you inspired, go read “Love is the Killer App” by Tim Sanders.

P.S. Click here to check out the U-Stream video of that panel discussion I mentioned in the beginning of this post.

8 thoughts on “The Power of Sharing

  1. It’s no coincidence that those who DON’T share are those who end up being “behind the 8 ball”. With this industry changing so rapidly, there’s no way anyone can keep up with everything just by going at it alone. If I help someone, chances are they’ll be cool with helping me too. But if I keep to myself and don’t want to share, why would anyone want to assist me in any way?

    I love going to seminars, and I learn a lot from those who put them on. But the one thing that always surprises me is that I tend to learn MORE from the “seminars within the seminar” (mingling with others who are at the seminar, and hearing what they have to say about how they do things). Those “non sharing” individuals don’t tend to take part in the “seminars within the seminar” because they’re scared of others finding out their “secrets”.

    Too bad for them. And, too bad for the industry.

  2. I’m more of a capitalist – now that I’m a business owner – than I ever thought I would be, I guess.

    The concept of “rising tides” is a very controversial and I’d like to suggest an alternate angle.
    Suppose you charge $1000 for a service that many other “more successful” companies in your area charge $2000 for. Those other companies, under the guise of sharing, try to get you to raise your prices so there is a “rising tides” of prices and quality in the area.

    But in reality, it’s the idea that they’re losing business to you that really frightens them. So their ulterior motive is to attempt to create a pseudo monopoly where the customer has no choice but to pay $2000 for the product in question since no one else is offering it for cheaper.

    Assuming both products are very similar in quality, why should you raise your prices to match the others if you are able to sustain profitability at your lower price point? Isn’t it up to the competition to figure out a way to streamline, differentiate, or innovate in order to compete with your just-as-good but cheaper product?

    That’s the way the open market works. You are expected to compete with those in your market share; not ask them to homogenize.

    So my point of contention is this: If there are others who are charging less than we are and taking our business, it is up to us to compete with them. Not expect them to raise their prices so our clients don’t get sticker shock. That’s just one angle I’d like you to explore.

    Keep up the good work, Ron. Cheers!

  3. @Andrew – your point is worth considering, but let me clarify some things.

    First, with respect to the example I gave, the vast majority of videographers (the group for whom I gave my talk) are way, way, way under-valuing themselves. We were not dealing with a case of one guy over-charging and another charging just the right amount. There are videographers offering 2 cameras, all day coverage, spending upwards of 40-50 hours editing, creating custom DVDs, then charging only $2000 to $2500. I’m sorry, but when you add up all the man-hours that go into a project like that, they are grossly UNDER-paid. I’m talking about getting videographers as a whole to friggin’ charge what they’re worth. The vast majority are not!

    Second, why would a videographer (or any business for that matter), not want to charge more if they could? I’m not talking about milking clients. I’m talking about being able to raise your rate to a FAIR market value. If that FMV is higher than what you’re currently charging, it’s behooves you to raise your rate.

    It sounds like you’re saying that if two companies have a similar product, and one is able to get a higher rate for the same product, as long as the other lower priced guy is profitable, he shouldn’t raise his rates. Assuming all things are equal, if one CAN get a higher rate (by doing better marketing, branding, etc.) they should. I’d want to know, why is that other guy able to get double what I get (using your $1000 and $2000 example).

    Thirdly, I can’t speak for any of the other “successful” companies you’re referring to, but my tongue-in-cheek joke aside, when I share with others to help them raise their rates, it’s not because I’m worried about losing business. (Trust me, anyone who doesnt’ hire me because of my price was not my client in the first place. And chances are, I wouldn’t want to have them as a client. The biggest frustrations I’ve had in serving clients have come from ones who nickel and dimed me). And I would hazard to guess, that most photogs and videogs who have succeeded in attracting a higher end clientele, when they’re sharing, it’s not under any “guise” or fear from the low end guy (I REALLY don’t think Mike Colon, Joe Buissink, Denis Reggie, LaCour, Elysium, Kristin of Bliss, and other successful high-end studios on the speaking circuit, are worried about losing business from someone who is under-cutting them).

    The mindset you suggest is what keeps videographers earning the smaller fees they do. It’s not homogenizing the market to get us as an industry to all raise our rates to a fair value for the services we provide. IMHO.

  4. Hey Ron,

    Thanks for taking the time to respond. I think we’re talking about two different scenarios in our examples.

    New analogy:

    – Company A and Company B sell the same product.
    – Company A sells the product for 20% less than Company B sells theirs. ($1600 vs $2000. A fairly realistic comparison for entry-level packages in the videography world.)
    – Company A sells 60% more of these products (x50/annually versus x30/annually.)
    – Company A makes $80,000 gross annual sales versus Company B’s $60,000.
    – Company A has figured out a way to charge less, sell more, and produce the same quality and service as Company B.

    In the above scenario, who would you say needs to change their workflow or product? Company A or Company B? Although, on the face of it, most people would ask Company A to raise their prices, the truth is, it’s Company B that is not being efficient.

    So the question becomes: Is Company B asking Company A to raise their prices because it’s becoming increasingly hard to compete with a lower-priced Company A? Or is it because of concern and genuine care for Company A’s well being?

    Another case-in-point: China Versus USA production. I’m painting with broad strokes here, but generally speaking, I would say Made in USA products are better but more expensive. Made in China is cheaper but lower quality.

    Should we ask China to make better products and charge more or should we figure out a way to make our superior products for cheaper? There is no right answer except the answer that starts with “we should…” rather than “they should…”

    In other words, if the aforementioned Company A can sustain their profitability and is competing for Company B’s clientele, then more power to them. If they can’t, and end up burning themselves out or going out of business, then the open market has proven which model is more successful.

    [on a side note, I’m totally in agreeance with you that most videographers undercharge for what they’re doing. And your attempt to help everyone see themselves for what they’re worth is noble. But ultimately, the open market will dictate which price-point is the best price-point.]

  5. @andrew – I think in general we probably agree on the business basics you’re talking about. But the key difference here is that we’re not talking about a commodity. When it comes to photography and videography services, there’s an experience and a perceived value component that comes into play. Two people may offer video services that on the surface seem “identical,” but one may still be able to get a higher rate due to branding, the experience of working with that company, etc. But, as you pointed out, a volume studio may make way more money at the bottom line, assuming they have implemented the necessary systems to deal with that volume and deliver quality service. And in truth, chances are these two companies are serving different clientele anyway, so they aren’t competing for the same dollars. A high end photog like Gene Higa is not competing for the same bride that Bella Pics is. But, Bella Pics makes a lot more money. One model isn’t better than the other.
    With respect to the group I was speaking to, no one was going for the high volume market.

    Lastly, you’re absolutely right, the market will determine the price point. I think what I’m trying to do is help those not getting the fair rate for their work, find the clients willing to pay it. The market HAS determined a rate for high end videography. It’s just more difficult to find those clients and effectively market to them.

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