Saturday, August 20, 2011

Doing More With Less

A number of years ago I worked for a consulting firm.  In a lot of ways it was a great gig, but the thing that drove me absolutely ape-shit nuts was that it seemed to be driven by buzzwords and cliches.  At the time I could not go into a meeting without someone tossing out the phrase "value added" at least once.  It made me insane.

To me, if you're in a relationship of any kind, but especially one in which money is changing hands, it should be a given that the person receiving the cash would instinctively, reflexively want to add value to the transaction.  Even the guy at the register taking your five spot for that whipped cafe blah-blah-blah is responsible for adding value to the transaction by being courteous, efficient, and not fucking up the order.  And the more dollars that are going into that person's hands, the greater his responsibility to find ways of adding value to the transaction.  So, to be sitting in a room full of people who earned salaries far greater than the coffee guy on the corner all having revelatory orgasms over the value added concept was more than I could stand.  I made a year and a few weeks, but then I was done.

I'm reading a book for my new job, "Delivering Happiness."  It's the story of Zappos, the Internet sensation that built a business from nothing to a billion dollar empire in the matter of a few short years.  It's an easy read, and I'm enjoying it.

I just finished the section on Zappos's core values.  For the uninitiated, "core values" is a term usually tossed between a company's marketing and HR departments that indicates someone thought of a list of ethical priorities and wrote them down.  "This is what we stand for!"  The list is printed on the web site, some recruiting materials, and flashed in front of some potential investors, and promptly forgotten the minute someone changes the subject to sales, the bottom line, or lunch.

Zappos, however is unique in that it apparently practices what it preaches, and aligns its business practices, including hiring, with its core values.  In providing examples of this, an employee wrote a story of how she did more with less.    She had begun working with Zappos as a temporary employee shortly before the holiday season.  It was her first Christmas away from home and family, and she had no money.  Her Christmas feast consisted of two yams that she somehow managed to bake and flavor with freeze-dried marshmallows she picked out of a package of instant cocoa mix.  She describes the instance has one of her happiest memories.

Over the years I've worked in various companies and theatre groups who have talked about doing more with less.  For me it always translated in working harder for the same results you would achieve with greater resources.  Today, however, I finally got the meaning of that phrase.  It's not about stretching every dollar beyond it's elasticity.  Doing more with less means infusing the resources you have with greater significance.  It means taking care with your resources, not necessarily being miserly, but being respectful and creative with those resources.  It means that the resources you have don't necessarily have to stretch further or last longer.  It means that they have to mean more.  The utilization of those resources have to be more deliberate, and that we must have a greater appreciation an respect for the results achieved.

Doing more with less is something I think everyone should consider.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


I admit that I have a problem.  I'm not satisfied unless things are complicated.  And starting with my photography, the fussier the better for me.  It took me a couple of years to realize that more isn't necessarily better.

Last week I did several shoots, and started with a classic beauty shoot.  Laura, the model needed an editorial make-up shoot for her portfolio and I was happy to help her out.  The make-up was all about vivid colors, but we needed a pop.  I have miles of swatches, so we wrapped her in these an shot against a black background and white background.

There is a fair amount of post in this shot, but I'm very happy with it because unless I told you, you would never know.

This could easily turn out to be one of my favorite shots of the summer.