Category Archives: business

Brother, Sister, Partner – Going into Business with a Sibling

Let’s face it, going to work can be a pain. Open plan offices are too noisy and impersonal, small offices are too claustrophobic, no one ever clears up in the kitchen. The vending machine steels money. Bosses are unreasonable and bullying. The pay is inadequate, the days too long, weekends too short and holidays hardly ever come. Well, now I’m self-employed – I decide when to make a cup of coffee, and if the kitchen’s a mess – it’s because I haven’t tidied up after breakfast. I can drink the coffee in peace and quiet, if I choose, have a little nap afterwards (Please don’t draw this last comment to the attention of my partner, she still has to go out to work) 

brother, sister & partner

HMRC class me as a ‘sole-trader’, but of course photographing and filming are very social, interactive and deeply personal – you have to look in people’s eyes. My trade is capturing a person’s soul! But once back in the office, and making business decisions, I can feel very alone, it’s all down to me! So that’s when I go to business networking. It was at one of these meetings that I met Stephen Taylor. His business is called Taylored Room Solutions, designing and fitting bedrooms, kitchens and offices. It’s a partnership between Stephen and his sister, Julia. So they’re never alone making decisions. Which made me curious; how can a business relationship with a sibling, transcend childhood resentments, from parental favouritism to broken toys?

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Councillor Brenda Fraser is the Mayor of Merton performed the official opening

I sat down with Stephen and Julia in their New Malden office and showroom, upstairs at Big Yellow Storage, only recently officially opened by the Mayor. The good news is that they’re really busy. As I promised not to take up too much of their time they insisted it was not a problem, I could have as long as I liked. Here’s a clue to making any partnership work – be a nice person and find a partner who’s just as nice. First credit then must go to Mum and Dad Taylor. “Oh our parents think we’re mad.” Julia tells me, I imagine most parents would worry if two of their kids gave up good jobs to go into business. “But at the beginning, we needed some money and they stepped up with that.” Then she turns to Stephen – “Oh, I forgot to tell you, mum definitely want us to do her kitchen and no mates rates.” “Oh good, double the price then.”

There seems to be a relaxed ease between them that only siblings could have – a brother or sister can know someone’s sensitivities better than anyone. Know how to avoid them, or apply coercive pressure! I ask Stephen how they’d come to give up their jobs and set up in business together. “She bullied me!” Which Julia denies, explaining that she’d been unhappy in her last job and thinking of setting up on her own. At the same time she was wondering if Stephen would be interested. It took Julia’s husband Mark to start the conversation between the two of them. “We talked and talked.” Stephen says. “And then we talked some more. I don’t think either of our partners saw us for months.” I ask if they’d known whether they’d be able to work together. ”We were averagely close.” A guarded answer from Stephen. “We always got on well, I always had a soft spot for Stephen.” Julia drops to a whisper, perhaps so that neither of the other two siblings will hear. Julia’s the oldest, Stephen the youngest of the four and they both say they wouldn’t do this with either of the other two. As Stephen got into his teenage, Julia had already left home for college, so they missed some of the ‘difficult’ years. Instead, Stephen had someone he could talk to, out of the home, but in the family. “Julia was living in a bedsit, I’d go and stay with her. We’d go to the cinema or ice skating, that’s where our friendship developed.”

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Their office is not big, Stephen sits with his back to the window, Julia’s has the window to her side and her back to Stephen. “There was a natural fit.” She says. “I did furniture design and worked for Sharps Bedrooms, Dream Doors, Kitchen Magic.” “She did a degree in flat-pack.” Her brother interjects. She visits the clients, does the design work and the costing, while Stephen runs the office, the financial management and marketing. “When we started, we had a list showing the split of responsibilities.” He explains. “The thing is, we have 100% trust, neither of us is going to run off with the bank balance.” Julia reinforces the trust and adds, “We try to have a weekly meeting when we both say what we’re doing, but it’s often cancelled because we’re busy.” “The trouble is, our meetings are never 10 minutes.” Stephen says with a smile. “Because we talk and talk, and then we talk some more and then we digress on to something else. But, as a small business, we ought to be able to react really quickly, but we don’t because we talk it through forever. We need to able to say, ‘ I made this decision because…’ And then, if it’s wrong learn from it.”

One of the disadvantages of being of business with someone you like must be a temptation to just spend time enjoying each others company. But what happens when they fall out? Did the Taylored Room Solutions business plan have a section headed ‘Dispute Resolution’? “No!” They cry in unison, “When it kicks off, keep away!” Stephen warns. “The first few times we fell out out… oh dear. It was difficult. It was always something minor, I understood something one way, and Julia another.” “We go really quiet, so we know something’s up.” “Then there’s a text or an email from whichever one feels they’re slightly less to blame.”
partner Stephen editorial photographer KingstonSo would they recommend a sibling partnership? Stephen answers first. “Make sure your personalities are compatible, and complementary. This wouldn’t work if we were both creative.” How important has the support of partners at home been? “Daimon (Stephen’s partner) is very supportive, he’s not involved in the business but if he sees a decision is emotional rather than rational, he’ll say so.” Julia makes a similar point, “Mark (her husband) is the same, he doesn’t want to be involved, but it’s great to have him there to bat things off.” “They love us, but they have an outside perspective and can tell us if they think we’re doing something stupid.” Starting a business always involves a sacrifice. 
“Working twice the hours than I was before for far less money, and you can think, what’s the point?” Stephen asks. “But there’s value in this.” Julia says.

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As we finish our talk, Julia goes back to advice they would give. “It does change your relationship. We were brother and sister, but also friends. Going into business has changed that.” From what I’ve seen I’d say it’s added to their relationship, brother, sister, friends… and now partners.

Visit Taylored Room Solutions website.


“Every picture tells a story, make sure it’s the right one!”
Trevor Aston Photography and Video is based in Teddington, Richmond upon Thames in southwest London close to Kingston, Twickenham and Surrey.

Official Opening of a Multinational’s International HQ in Richmond – PR Event Photography

I do like Americans, they’re so polite. Louis Berger is a $1 billion global professional services corporation based in Morristown, N.J., USA. Louis Berger ‘helps infrastructure and development clients solve their most complex challenges’. They build things. Big things like airports. They’ve established an international operations headquarters in Richmond upon Thames. As the starting bell rang on the Brexit boxing match, I hope they didn’t regret their choice of location. The staff attending the official opening was very multinational, I heard as much Spanish spoken as English. Thomas Topolski, President, Louis Berger International spoke about the company’s values – ‘At the core of everything we do is the promise to provide solutions that have a positive impact on society.’  The Mayor of Richmond upon Thames, Councillor David Linnette spoke about how the local authority was desperate for the Louis Berger’s business rates. Everyone took his slightly uncomfortable speech very graciously, of course, they’re American.

If your business has an event coming up, get in touch to talk about how I can record the event on camera for you 020 8977 2529

“Every picture tells a story, make sure it’s the right one!”
Trevor Aston Photography and Video is based in Teddington, Richmond upon Thames in southwest London close Kingston, Twickenham and Surrey.

‘Builder’ Doesn’t have to Mean Nightmare! Home Renovation Video

Watching Julie’s house turning into the home she wanted was fascinating, a good education about the experience of the renovation of an old house. The work was carried out by ‘By Word of Mouth Renovations Ltd’, and was well under way when I made my first visit, everything that was going to be stripped out had gone. The building was just a carcass waiting for the ‘sinews’ of services – plumbing and electrics and ‘flesh’ of decoration to be installed. Along with the fixtures, fittings and belongings that turn a house into home. In this video, the owner, Julie describes her feelings before, during and after the building work.

If You’ve Got a Smartphone You Can Have a Business Video

Video is a brilliant asset for any business website, and one great way of using it is in testimonials from current clients and customers. I advocated this to a meeting of OmniLocal Business Networking recently, and to illustrate the point got a few of attendees to record a short piece to camera explaining what they got out of Omni’s networking. Nearly everyone has a video camera in their phone which is more than adequate for the purpose, but you have to take a little extra care setting things up. As a former radio producer and sound recordist I’m absolutely passionate about sound quality, and this is where phones can let you down, so here’re a few tips…

  1. Microphones need to be close to the source of the sound, in this case, the mouth!
  2. It’s worth buying a dedicated microphone if you’re going to do a lot.
  3. Get the phone as close as you can to the subject, without compromising the picture too much.
  4. Tell the subjects to speak up!

These are the testimonials we recorded for OmniLocal Business Networking with an iPhone 5c using available light. There were no windows in the room where we shot this video, only down-lighters. They produce very strong shadows, so we used a reflector to fill them in. A large piece of white card is effective. If you have to put the lights on it’s best to get away from windows – the light should be either  natural or artificial, but not both. 

 

 Make sure you can see the subject, natural light is the easiest and usually looks good. The footage below was shot in a hotel meeting room, we sat the subjects  in a window and placed a reflector on the opposite side. 

So far it’s been too cold to shoot anything outside, but if there’s a good background that can look, but not in direct sunlight. 

 

“Every picture tells a story, make sure it’s the right one!”
Trevor Aston Photography and Video is based in Teddington, Richmond upon Thames in southwest London close Kingston, Twickenham and Surrey.

Testimonial Video Shoot

There were two bed-sits on the top floor of number 32 Bryn Road, Swansea. One looked out over the bay, the other over dull rooftops. That’s the one I had, the room with a view was taken by Chris. It seemed appropriate at the time, I’d attended a second-rate state comprehensive school and was failing an engineering degree at Aston University. Chris went from public school to Cambridge and was coxing the boat race, you know, the one against Oxford held every year on the Thames. We were both spending the summer on placements at the ‘Aluminium Wire and Cable Company’ in Swansea. We were quite different people, but got on very well, I think because at the that time we were both slightly baffled by life.

Some 36 years later, I’m in very foggy Newport Pagnall to meet up with Chris and video some testimonials for his new business, Coursecheck. I’ve driven from Teddington, Chris from deepest Sussex. We speak by phone and by chance we’ve stopped in the same road two cars lengths apart. I’ve driven my Fiat Panda, Chris has driven is in his Jaguar, his mid-life crisis, he says. But I’m reminded of 32 Brynn Road, and the room with a view.

Coursecheck.com is platform for course delegates to record their unedited feedback about the they’ve just done. It’s a great way for confident, high quality trainers to enable new clients to see independent feedback and ratings. Of course, of the our subjects today speak very highly of how Coursecheck has worked for their businesses.

Both the videos were shot were at the subject’s premises. They were managed smoothly and efficiently – while I’ll set up the camera and the ‘set’. Chris ran through the questions he’d ask and they chatted while I finished the set-up. I’m sure this would have helped brake-down any nerves, but they were both very confident to start with! More video.

Shooting Cows for Editorial

I nearly grew up on a farm, so I was delighted to be commissioned to get some editorial photographs of a couple of farmers with their cattle. It was only ‘nearly’ because I lived next to, not on a farm. They had three boys of my age, so that’s where I was for every moment I could manage. Marching across the fields to bring the cows in for milking, feeding the pigs, collecting the eggs from the chickens, digging up potatoes, riding on a trailer behind a tractor, trying to fish with baler twine and a bent nail, then nearly drowning in the pond after co-opting a tin bath as a boat. The appropriately named Bullock boys lived on the best playground you could imagine, and I had no doubt that at some point in the future I would be a farmer. I was wrong about that!

The editorial photographs I was to take were destined for a brochure promoting the high quality provenance of Campbell’s Prime Meat.

It’s my second editorial job for Campbell’s, and an early start from their Linlithgow base. I’m spending the day with Seonaid, the client and Brian from Stoddarts, one of Campbell’s suppliers and a customer of the two farms we’re visiting. The first destination is the wonderfully named ‘Wolfstar Farm’ in Ormiston, to the east of Edinburgh. The Kings are a father and son team who raise Angus cattle. It’s Ross, the younger one I’m to photograph, and the first animal is a big, handsome bull. As I wander around it’s pen taking pictures, it occurs to me that I’m possibly being a little over confident around the beasts. Because I grew up near them doesn’t mean I know anything about them.

Editorial photography

Ross reassures me that this bull is as docile as it seems, but should never to be trusted. They’re so heavy they could easily crush you against a fence or a wall.

Farmers are famously unsentimental about their animals, after all, they’re growing them for slaughter and the plate. 

But I’ve never met a farmer who didn’t care deeply about the welfare of the animals in their care, and not just for economic reasons. Ross knows which of the animals enjoy a tickle under the chin.

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From the damp murk, and soft countryside of Tranent we drove west, almost right across Scotland. Through the spectacularly beautiful Borders, with a coffee stop at Moffat and then into the sunshine that was blessing Dumphries and Galloway, in the south east of Scotland. We met Alex and Scott Henderson, another father and son team, for lunch in the restaurant of a near-by visitor centre. Because I was a disinterested party, it was fascinating to hear the interplay of different perspectives in the conversation between these three links of the Scottish food supply chain. It ranged through market prices, breeds of cattle and the forthcoming EU referendum.

The Henderson’s farm, ‘Carswadda’ is in the truly beautiful, rural landscape of Lochanhead Dumphries and Galloway.

Alex and Scott produce Charolais cattle, sending to market a dozen head each day. Not surprisingly, Carswadda was a clean and tidy operation.

The farms I remembered from my youth were more chaotic, where you had to wear wellies and mind the barbed wire. We played with the hay bales in the barn and on the Fordson tractor abandoned in a corner of the yard for our benefit. I suspect efficiency has put pay to any such romance now.

 

 

 

 

 

“Every picture tells a story, make sure it’s the right one!”
Trevor Aston Photography and Video is based in Teddington, Richmond upon Thames in southwest London close Kingston, Twickenham and Surrey.

New Hotel in Kingston and a Nice Place for a Networking Event

I love a nice hotel. There’s a charming, boutique establishment on a back-street in the Marias, Paris we’re very fond off. But there’s something about a big, grand hotel that’s rather wonderful. Kingston-upon-Thames is about to get one of those. The Doubletree by Hilton is opening soon, and Kingston Chamber of Commerce held a networking breakfast in the new hotel’s Sopwith Suite. Kingston’s aviation heritage has given a theme to the hotel, they’ve used the names and photographs of old Hawker aeroplanes. The purpose-built structure went up seven years ago, but was mothballed by the then owners. Under new owners, it’s been  finished it to a very high standard, king size beds, giant TVs and a carpet with a design based on an aerial view of Kingston. It’ll be a great place for a meeting over a coffee or a bite to eat. And I’m not just saying that because I got a free breakfast! And a chocolate muffin. And a pain au raisin. 

“Every picture tells a story, make sure it’s the right one!”
Trevor Aston Photography and Video is based in Teddington, Richmond upon Thames in southwest London close Kingston, Twickenham and Surrey.

Customer Facing Staff Need Good Portrait Photos

Motive8 Ltd understand the importance of presenting customer-facing staff in the best possible way, so they value good portrait photos. They’re a global organization, and established market leaders in the design & installation of residential and corporate health and fitness facilities. M8 have management contracts for many of the facilities they install, and every few months I get a call to photograph the latest set of recruits. I can always look forward to M8 shoots, the people are always lively and bright. As they’re also young fitness fanatics, that they’re usually beautiful as well, but of course that has no bearing on my enthusiasm!

Business Networking in St. Mary’s University – photography

Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill House, artistic licence moving the River Thames onto the back lawn!

St.Mary’s University is just up the road from where I live. It specialises to sport science and many of their students are themselves athletes. Part of their campus is in Strawberry Hill House, Britain’s finest example of Georgian Gothic Revival architecture, Strawberry Hill House was designed and created as a Gothic fantasy between 1747 and 1792 by Horace Walpole, historian, writer, collector and son of Britain’s first Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole.

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The University leased most of the dilapidated old mansion to a trust for renovation some years ago. After £9,000,000 of work the beautiful building was opened to the public in 2010. But the university kept a few beautiful rooms for their own use, known as the Waldegrave Suite. When the Head of the School of Sport Health and Applied Science, Prof. John Brewer spoke to a Chamber of Commerce, he used the hall and it’s features to illustrate just how far, high and fast ‘elite’ athletes hop, skip and jump. St.Mary’s students did incredibly well in the Rio Olympics. Prof Brewer explained very proudly that, had the University been a country, it would have been 25th on the medal table, with 3 golds, a silver and a bronze.

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Police Chief Superintendent Parm Sandhu, Borough Commander of Richmond, spoke at the meeting. Parm is currently one of the highest-ranking Asian women in policing in the UK. She is also the first in the history of the Met Police to hold the position of a Borough Commander.

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Prof. John Brewer, Head of the School of Sport Health and Applied Science

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Members of the Richmond Chamber of Commerce

How About Us? Staff Pictures on the Company Website

Getting a job is a little like being adopted. You enter someone else’s family with it’s different ways of doing things, different look and sounds, different smells. As time passes the strangeness fades until one day, almost without noticing you become one the gang, an insider, part of this no-longer-new family.

That’s why it’s so interesting to go into a company to shoot profile portraits of the staff. You’re never anything other than an outsider, but an outsider with a mandate to stare at each person and disrupt the routine. As a pebble tossed into an otherwise still pond, it’s fascinating to watch the ripples pass through the private world of the office.

While many quite enjoy the break in routine and an excuse to get away their desk, others just hate having their picture taken. I move each person on quickly after capturing a quick impression of them. It’s not really a portrait, but something to show to clients and customers to enable the process of engagement to begin, even before they’ve spoken to or met anyone. It reassures them them see that none one in the company has two heads.

My commission to photograph the staff at Receipt Bank on Fleet Street was a tribute to the power of networking. The call from Nelson came some four years after we’d attended the same group for about six months. I’m pleased to report that the staff of Receipt Bank have only one head each.

Corporate and profile portraits