Friday, January 9, 2009

From a DM's perspective

I just received this as a comment on an old post and found it too good to just leave hidden and squirreled away. Not that this will be much of a surprise, it’s not easy being a district manager either. I’ve added topic headings to each paragraph but mostly left everything else unchanged. The following post is long but great.

I actually agree with 100% of the complaints I see on this site. But, I would also like you guys to see what we see in DM land

Being a DM, Fake Appointments I was a DM for 5 years, and recently lost my job this fall due to performance.(we were way in the red)Before we jump on managements back and make them out to be the bad guy...I think we need to look at ourselves. I had 15-19 studios at any given time. Part of my job was to look at your no show/cancellation rates. And investigate the issues. I would simply pretend to call the customer and confirm the appointments. In every single location I would find fake appointments being made. In the studio. That’s frustrating I realize that is was most likely not the management - but it was still happening. In every location.

Outreach We also would have to investigate the validity of these appointments - I'd say 40% of my districts and the other districts that I looked after due to DM maternity leave...medical leave...etc... were also false. The amount of energy that went into making false appointments astounds me. Why not just book the real one ? But here's the thing... I hated trying to sell to you guys that outreach wasn't telemarketing. Because no matter how you slice it, it was.

Labor I hated telling you guys you had to go down to single coverage during the*off* season. So I would discuss it with you all on conference calls and then during one on ones -I would end up giving you extra coverage anyhow. Believing that you would hold up your end of the bargain and get those extra appointments- be it smile searching...via phone or acquisitions. That never happened. You still ended up with the extra labor though. I was such a sucker, and this is why I no longer hold my position and have gone back to being a studio associate.

The hours kept My point is - there are good DM's. They know what it is like being from the field and do their best to work with you from that point of view. We have families to take care of, too. And DM's do not make a lot of money. Contrary to popular belief. We work 7 days a week. But we sign up for that. We don't sit on a couch eating bon bons taking calls while watching all my children. We have check ins from studios and forms that need to be filled out showing what we worked on with you guys, etc. Our office days are usually are longest days of the week. Usually not getting done until 9 or 10 at night...and trust me...those TM's expect us to start our day by 630/7am.

Dealing with upper management We also get yelled at, screamed at, told we are failures and that our people are failures. We keep all of that from you guys. That’s no way to motivate a team. Studio-Field has no idea what our calls and our visits are like. We protect you guys from all of that. You really and truly have no idea. V.P.'s and CFO's look at your numbers on a report...and ask why we still a studio manager who is doing so poorly. Without knowing anything about you or what you do in your studio. We try to explain what hard workers, go-getters, PRS drivers, photography gurus you all are. They just wave all that off. All that matters is the end result. If it were your business - would you write them a check from an overdrawn account week after week? We get asked that a lot.

Lending a hand Ever wonder how you have more outreach done on some weeks than you thought? Well some DM's get so tired of getting yelled at over a studio shooting 25 customers in a week and booking one outreach appointment...we just do some for you. you use 100 hours to do that...let's say I even give you fifty hours to handle the 25 customers. What did you do with the other fifty hours? Someone has to do it, right? Why not the DM ...not like we have anything else to do.

Spending your own money - I have never told someone they had to spend their own money to hold an event. I lay out the ideas/options. But also gave them plenty of ideas for events that cost 0 dollars. I spent thousands on event kits to be passed around the district. (that I don't get reimbursed for.) in hopes it will drive business. For what? For some studios not to book a single appointment ... or for other studios not to even bother picking up the kit on their scheduled day. (and I always paid mileage and drive time and if you couldn’t get the kit I made sure I brought it to you.) Or my favorite - the only sittings shot with the event kit were associates family. Why? It was very frustrating. And for those of you who are going to tell me that DM's get reimbursed... I'll just tell you only sometimes and at certain times of year. So when I spent hundreds of dollars per event kit...I could submit a pro forma and it didn't always get approved if I did it on my own accord. And then to get the kits back... with half of the props missing or damaged. Well that was the straw that broke my camels back. I stopped buying new things. I expect wear and tear from kids. Most of the damage was not being stored or transferred properly. Just not taking care of things. It was always very disheartening.

The Team My people. I loved my team. I bragged about them, shared their work with everyone including the higher ups at corporate. We were so photography driven. I taught my people how to shoot like a private studio in the high end of town would shoot. None of this cookie cutter malarkey you see on passouts or coupons. My people were bad ass. We usually got yelled at for thinking outside of the box and we never were five star. I would look at all the five star studios work outside of my district every round. I would pull up hundreds of their sittings and it would never even compare. It’s easy to get a five star by using mechanics. Five Star studios rarely ever have WOW photography. It’s all mechanics. How boring. I found our work far more inspiring and our customer retention rate was huge because of it. But we were never given any credit. We got bitched at instead. I’d be more than happy to share with any of you the model released work we shot if anyone wants to leave an email address.

PRS. Pre photography really does work. I could go into studios and only one or two in the district would actually do (sitting card review) pre photo. Why? If you know it works - why just blatantly ignore instructions? And I'm not talking doing pre photo in the thick of it. I'm talking in January... blank session cards. Same thing goes for session planning. I always got a lot of lip service from my people. But when I inspected things, it didn't happen. This is probably where I failed. If I performance managed everyone who wasn’t doing what they were supposed to be. I'd be running 18 studios by myself. Even though my team didn't do what they were supposed too, I still loved them and went out on a limb for them all the time. If they only knew how many times I had to go to bat for them to keep them from getting fired because of performance their heads would spin. I put my name on the line time after time because I kept expecting them to just listen to what I was saying. I guess they just didn't want too. And I didn't want to fire people over small things like I was directed, so I lost my job. I blame myself, yes. As you can see though, I’m not 100% at fault.

Contests Corporate stopped letting us buy gift cards and contest prizes, etc. any of you that have got them in the past year... that's money out of your DM's pocket. Not reimbursed. TM'S stopped approving those things a year ago. I was always buying gift cards... I even offered up cold hard cash for contests. The sad thing is, half the time the associates didn't know about the contests. And only half the studios would ever participate. I'm sorry if you think fifty dollars isn't enough. But that's all I got. If I didn't take the money out of my own pocket-there would’ve been nothing offered. No contests. Then you'd be complaining about that. I never once told my people how they were supposed to spend their winnings. Some chose to use it on their studio for a morale booster - some would keep it. My philosophy was that you do what you want with it.

DM's as “corporate”I read this entire website today. I think one thing that is lost in translation is that DM's are not corporate. They are also field management. We don't make rules. We have to enforce what's brought to us. We think the 4.99 sucks too. We think you’re abused by customers all the time. We think that you guys having to always go against LY...instead of just focusing on this years profit also sucks. We also think the bonus programs are ridiculous. Going against LY with a bad economy is a joke. We also think the appointment scheduler is a joke. We fight your fight with corporate all the time over it. but then when they investigate and find you have fake appointments in there...we're the ones made out to be the idiots. But we still take it. We think the single coverage in a high volume studio is insane. But we also know some of you schedule how we expect you to in the browser. then carry a paper schedule of what you actually do in the studio. We are on that.

Not all DM's are idiots. There’s so many that do go the extra mile. Before you judge, I'm just saying walk a mile in their shoes. It’s really hard to give a fair opinion on something unless you've been on both sides of the fence. I have been. I love what I do, and will never leave the industry.

Closing thoughtsYou guys work very hard for little glory. And there are a handful of you out there who do everything 100%. But seriously. Not everyone does. Trainers out there know what I'm talking about. You see it in studios when you visit.
I believe in the plight of the studio manager. I'm one of you. But I won't judge another’s position without knowing all that it entails. I could go on for hours about this...and some of you would have your minds blown at the abuse we take/took as DM's. (I still have a hard time saying I’m not anymore.)


Anonymous said...

After reading this post, I am baffled as to why the poster would stay with such a company. There are much better opportunities out there! A DM position with another company could be easily attained.

Anonymous said...

She stays because she has a passion for what she does. She enjoys making memories for her clients. She knows that when she makes that one Mom cry because the portrait SHE created was so beautiful. She cries with the family whose child may not make it through his upcoming heart surgery and these may be his first and last portraits. She knows that what she does is infinatly more importantant and supercedes any of the politics that go along with this job. She knows that any other "easily attained" position will never be able make this difference in people's lives. She knows that the art she captures will be her legacy, even if it seems trivial right now.

I guess what I am saying, is that if you don't love what you do, you shouldn't do it. The politics are secondary. We are truly in the front lines and the "higher ups" could never do it without us. That being said, I believe that we are all dispensable and there is a balance that can be met as far as what corporate wants and what we are willing to acheive. I think that anyone who has been let go for what they see as not fair or for no reason other than PRS needs to look more carefully at what some other reasons may have led to their termination. If you had a low PRS that is an indication that you are not following the process that has been laid out, and your dismissal was probably a long time in coming. Maybe I am wrong, but in my district person would not be let go without the proper steps having been followed. HR has specific protical(sp?) in place to make sure that they don't end up with a law suit. I am not saying that unfair things don't happen, but to say that some of these practices are company wide is just not fair either.

Anonymous said...

Responding to the comment above:

First off you are stuck In a fantisy world. All this nonsense about crying with the family! Come on now be real. That rarly happens. 99% of the time it's annoying parents that force Their kids to take pictures. Then they scream at you when thier kids won't smile (after trying your best)

ok their job is tuff. Big deal sometimes they forget how it is to be the photograher. Now that's a hard job.

After all the" abuse" a DM goes through you still wanna stay? They did you a favor by letting you go. Take this opporunity to work for a company that values the hard work you do.

Anonymous said...

When I first started with the company, I thought that I would be a part of capturing the memories and doing something meaningful, as the commenter above talks about, but the fact is- that is what you would experience if you worked in an environment that was completely focused on taking the time to actually capture those moments in a caring, fostering, calm environement (i.e. a private photography practice). The reality is that at SPS you're so pressured by sales goals, customers who have no money or expect a deal under $10, the over-scheduling, being underpaid and under appreciated, the session requirements, etc---all of this does not lead to the magical experience described. As much as one may enjoy photography, SPS sucks the life out of you, and how anyone can stay (especially after being demoted) or defend the job and the company is beyond me.

Anonymous said...

If I am in a fantasy world, then I have been in it for over 18 years. Perception is reality. I have had ups and downs with management and politics but it all comes back to why we are here - the customer. Do I get that "annoying parent"? Yes, of course. 99% of the time? NO. If 99% of your clients were unhappy, or annoying, then I would say that you SHOULD reevaluate your position in the company. Percentage wise, you are correct, the ones you cry with are not as abundant, but they sure do remind you why you do what you do. The majority of the rest of your customers should still leave knowing that they got the service above and beyond. This is the attitude that will drive your PRS. You call my world "fantasy". I would much rather be in mine than yours.

SPS said...

I'd like to see those creative photos.

Anonymous said...

I've often wondered if there were people out there who truly loved the job. It sounds like the person commenting above does, and that is commendable, especially considering the circumstances. I personally do not understand those feelngs since my experience with the company was so terrible. Prior to working at CPI and now post CPI, I have always managed and worked for companies who really value employees and treat them fairly, in a great environment. So my experience at CPI was such a stark contrast from anything I had experienced before (or since). If the person commenting has been with CPI for 18 years, as the comment suggests, perhaps his/her perspective of what is fair or acceptable is much more limited since I would suspect that CPI has been his/her main employment. For those of us who have made the wise decision to move on, we can speak honestly about how the conditions at CPI are unacceptable for workers as campared to most other job experiences. At most other jobs you 1) have a set schedule and set time off 2) are not called at all hours at home from your job 3) are valued and treated fairly 4) are not "expected" to work off the clock 5) get adequate pay increases 6) work with a consistent staff that doesn't turn over so often 7) are not "expected" to spend your own cash to benefit the company 8) work with staff coverage that is condusive to customer service 9) work with sales strategies that make sense--not "rope 'em in with an amazing deal" then be required to get them to spend ten times more than that 10) are evaluated on a variety of performance factors, not just the company's bottom line. There ARE better jobs out there.

Anonymous said...

CPI uses people up and spits them out. I'm glad to know DM's don't have it much better...I thought I was being singled out.

Anonymous said...

I think that most of the people who come here are disgruntled and maybe have been treated improperly. We are not hearing from those who are happy and therefore the overwhelming opinion of the company here is somewhat slanted toward those who were not happy. I say if you were not happy, then you did the right thing by getting out.

Anonymous said...

Hence the name of the blog--"spssucks"...did you expect to find people who love SPS? Come on!

Anonymous said...

I'd be interested to hear if there really ARE people who are happy in the company out there. If they are, I have no idea how. Somehow they are having a completely different experience. Or they are gluttens for punishment. Either way, they will get fired at some point just like so many others. And they will realize that all of their support for the company was in vain.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like the former DM who posted the original thread was reasonable, fair, and a good boss as a DM. She really cared and was proud of her employees. She tried to motivate them with potivie feedback and incentives, even out of her own pocket. Obviously, all of this is why the company chose to remove her from the DM position. She was clearly not as cut throat, cold and calculating as CPI expects its DMs to be. Probably not enough yelling through e-mails or job threatening to produce the unrealistic expectations CPI has for its employees.

Anonymous said...

working at SPS has taught me one thing. i Want to be a photographer for the rest of my life.... i do NOT however want to continue to be the lady who took your pictures at sears in 15min. and then stole your $$ because i conned you (which is what i do and why my PRS is always over 150)

I will not be with them forever. it is not true photography and i certainly do not make enough being an asst. manager at $9.50.

But i do Love many aspects of my job, i could be stuck in a factory sweating my ass off and never getting anywhere at all and never being respected for my job. At least when i tell people im a photographer i hear "Oo Cool!" instead of "Sucks for you." And it did teach me where im going with my life.

Yes, cpi bites...... but it could be MUCH MUCH worse!!!

Anonymous said...

As I have started reading these comments for the past week or so I am not sure if it is "encouraging". It seems alot of people feel the same way about this company. I am for one glad to know that I am not alone in this. I do however for whatever reason love my job. Yes I want to enventually go out on my own so I do not have to be stuck with the same old cruelty and rules and regulations. I am going on five years at this company. I started before the digital cameras. I sometimes miss the fact you could look at a screen and see your shot instead of having to constantly check your camera. Back then the lab would send post its on your pictures that said " Now this is great photgraphy!" It made you feel appreciated and excited to do well. There was way more incentive then. Now it usually unattainable to get your so called spiffs and what not. You get written up for the most upsurd reasons such as not enough outreach calls and poor surveys. Silly really. I do love my job but as many have said its hard to keep a good employee when there is no incentive or given raises. No hours to give the employees who usually have to find a second job to make the hours and then make that job their first priority because it pays better and is less stressfull. I sometimes wonder why I have stayed but could not see myself at any other studio. I like the cameras and the way they can move all around. A for porps they took them all away to "get back to basics" Well I feel there should still be an otion to have them if the customers prefer that. So I started buying cheap ones at the dollar store without yes the approval. I will continue to do so too. My customers appreciate it. Also now they come up with the cheaply made window and stairs. Ok so I am confused it is unsafe for a child to stand on a number base five inches off the ground but it sok for them to stand on stairs that have no back on them? WTH? Five star photography is a joke too. They half the time say there is not six poses when there is and dock you for everything just to be sure you dont have enough points for even a 3 star. I plan on having a chat with my evaluater here soon. Corporate monkeys are ruinig this buisness. It no longer has the fun it once did. They are constantly changing the rules and there is no earthly way to keep up with it all. Do this but don't do that , Oh wait yeah do that but son't do what we previously told you to do. For Christ sake make up my mind. If we need to be creative then share some other pictures out there. Help us help you. Man I better quit before I get too worked up. Thanks to all for sharing and for letting me vent as well.

Anonymous said...

Let me tell you what I think I think Zero Dollar Days Suck...Oh my gosh...let me tell you something with this economy right now....they better be thanking there lucky stars someone is coming into buy specs or reorders....I mean I cannot force someone to take photos if they dont want to....all I can do is try and you DM's threaten us with our job so stick it....dont give me this crap about all this stuff to bellyhoo over....obviously you couldnt hack it as a DM so woe is you. I dont care who you are....but threatening people with their jobs on a continual basis and scaremongering doesnt win you a place in my heart.

I know business and this isnt business....if someone wants there photo taken they will come up and say Hey Can i have my photo taken!!

Anonymous said...

What are these zero dollar days you speak of?

cs said...

Me too. I only left because i needed a bigger paycheck.

Anonymous said...

I would assume by zero dollar days they mean days with no sales or sits.

Anonymous said...

Or those fantastic sits where they customer pops out a combo of coupons that they don't have to pay for anything. For example...using a free 10x13 (which you don't need to make a purchase to use) and a free 8x10 from the super saver membership. 2 poses...2 sheets...$0 sale.

Hooray for SPS

Anonymous said...

They arent allowed to use BOTH free sheet coupons. Its one or the other. One free sheet per customer, per day. Just so you know =)

Anonymous said...

Until they call customer service and raise hell because it doesn't say anywhere on the coupon that you can't combine with super saver...then customer service turns around and sends them a free 5 sheet package!

Anonymous said...

I LOVE THIS SITE!! I recently left SPS after working for about three years. I just couldn't take it any more. My managers were lazy cows. One of them was pretty gifted as a photographer but she was identified by customer service if a customer called to complain about our studio. And she was/is allowed to continue working there even though she gets calls from cutsomer service every week. Our Manager decided that it was okay to change our time in/out if we missed a break. Christmas time we all needed breaks but we were told there wasn't time. The manager also decided to take our herself a little prs uppage while she yelled at us for our crappy prs. But all she left us with is 9.99 packages. Oh well I don't work there anymore but it's really nice to vent. I love this site!!

Anonymous said...

Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha!
Just about sums it all up.
Everyone and anyone who works for CPI or ever has, knows how useless MOST (not all, but MOST) DM's are.

I worked for this company for six years. Six LONG Christmas seasons, so I am not just someone who tried the shoes on realized they didn't fit and decided to get on this great site and talk shit about my old DM... I wore them shoes til the soles were worn off.... and if my DM ever got caught at her shady game, and they fired her, I would go back to my little studio that has steadily declined since I left, and can't get a 5 star studio rating, or even shoot a single 5 star session, to save their lives since I left in NOV. of 06.

Actually, at one time, when she had me snowballed, I thought she was over worked too...
But then I realized, NOT SO MUCH!

In six years... how many times did she walk thru the doors of my studio? Six. Total. Once, was only because Bruce Pellar wanted to come see the "rual" studios in her district. She always used the weather as an excuse in the winter to not show up, and... the excuse of... "I KNOW HOW GOOD YOU ARE AT YOUR JOB AND I DON'T NEED TO BABYSIT YOU" as the summer time excuse. When really, the truth is, my married DM's boyfriend wouldn't travel this far north to see her, and that is what she has been using her "out of town" studio visits for FOR YEARS!

She, like many other's I have learned, just pushes their weight around, has several studio managers who are already making squat for pay, do the majority of their work too.!. and then they take credit for it.

This company is ridiculous!!!
I think there are probably some great DM's out there. There has to be, but most of us, don't experience anything even close to a GOOD DM.

Yes, DM's carry a heavy load, but doesn't everyone who works at CPI? There is never enough help to go around, there is never enough hours to give out, and there are never enough hours in the day to get everything that your DM has set out for you to do, plus your daily managerial duties, plus.... single coverage in a studio. It's absolutely ridiculous.

So, on another random note:
Sunday, January 11, 2009, I went back into "my" studio, for the first time since 2006, for a scheduled appointment for my children. The moment I walked thru the arch way, I realized, nothing has changed with this company at all since I had left.

I could tell just by looking around, that the new manager wasn't getting any help from the DM either.
The staff was under trained, and honestly, quite rude.
They did not know me, nor did I know them.
The photographer in the camera room however, was my old assistant manager, and she was struggling with a sitting. Her staff, never once offered to help her... they sat on their butts on stools in the front of the studio discussing how many people one of them had slept with.

In utter amazement, I just stood and stared at them for a few minutes, until my old assistant manager realized that I was in the lobby... and then, just as I expected she would, she asked ME for help.

She was two sittings behind, plus mine. She couldn't get anywhere with the sit she had in, and everyone else was getting ready to walk out the door. She obviously realized HER staff was not interested in helping her out any, so, she was very excited to see me.

To be honest, I jumped at the chance to help her in the camera room, I actually LOVED my job, but couldn't work for my DM any longer.

I'm not going to lie, I was skeptical at first, it had been two and a half years since I had touched a camera, and I wasn't sure that I was going to be able to fufil her request for help, but I also knew I couldn't sit and watch her struggle. So, I did it.

Turns out... I did that sitting, my sitting, and another one, just to catch them up. And in the end, I had to laugh to myself ... Turns out, my dumb ass DM was right. I am good at what I do. I shot three back to back nearly perfect sittings after being out of the loop for two and a half years.. so, the very next day... I contacted the small buisness Administration, and am applying for grants and loans to start my own same day printing Studio, in her Area. I also went out, same that very day and bought a proffessional digital camera, before I left the mall, and ordered a professional portrait printer.

Maybe it isn't as easy to stay afloat in the portrait industry as someone may think. Maybe I will fall flat on my ass trying, but, maybe I won't. I know the clientel. I know what they are looking for, I know what they like and what they don't... and I am probably 90 days out from giving them just that.
Sucks for her, and her staff, that I was a very well liked studio manager, not only by my staff, but by my customers. 90% of our customer requests were for me, and as soon as they find out that I am going to be doing photos in their area, I am very confident that I will build a customer base quite quickly.

90 days, four backgrounds, and a lighting system away from at least giving my best effort to see the customers that I loved for six long years have the option of good quality photos, great customer service, and maybe finally satisfaction at a low price.

Anonymous said...

I would LOVE to know what district this person was in?!?!?

Anonymous said...

I had a good DM for about a year. Then she left the company. After I left too, we were able to speak freely about our experience. She said CPI was the worst company she had ever worked for, and I could say the same. She said the things she was being asked to do as a DM were ridiculous and sometimes unethical. I felt the same as Studio Manager. I can't believe I lasted as long as I did.

upsetcpiemployee said...

Please remember all DMs are not "useless" as someone posted in here. I pride myself on helping my managers in anyway I can. I work for them, not the other way around. I will also say though, I have had some bad apples, and unfortunatly we have had to part ways. But in any managment job that happens. It saddens me to this day to let anyone go (unless they are stealing). And it really saddens me to hear that many of you have had bad guidance in the past. I love my job (not nessacarily the company at this moment) and would give anything for my people. In the past 4 weeks I have stuck myself out there for my people more times than I probably should have.
Unless you have been a DM, you do not realize all that we shelter you from. If you think it gets hot at your level,it gets even hotter as you climb the ladder. So for those still working for CPI keep your chins up, do your best and make sure to ask for help(documented via email is the best way- make sure to print and log those requests). If you have a bad DM I am sorry. Even the best people are making harsh comments right now. Remember if they are threatening your jobs, more than likely theirs are on the line as well. Not to justify any type of abuse, just an observation. And above all remember Human Resources is there for you. They protect you and your rights as an employee.

Anonymous said...

Dear Upsetcpiemployee:

I have read your posts here and also at the CPY financial site. You obviously care way too much about the business and are sure to find yourself unemployed soon. I worked for CPI as a studio manager for well over 10 years. My studio went from low volume to super high volume during my tenure. I loved my job, but hated the BS and often voiced my opinion when others were too afraid to. When my studio started to struggle, I was threatened, not coached. I was terminated after my DM spent the summer "building a case". One write up after another. After many years of being recognized for my exemplary performance, I was fired. For "Poor Performance". I had always been told that I would never have to worry about losing my job unless I was stealing. Yeah, right. Fortunately, my state employment commission agreed that I was terminated for "reasons other than misconduct".

Anonymous said...

Responding to Anonymous #3:

After being in this industry for nearly 8 years, I have found myself hating my job, but loving my career. I hate the corporate bull shit, but love those times that I make a mother cry when she sees the pics I've captured of her "Precious Angel." It's not bull shit, I see it all the time. I have also had several clients come in on a monthly basis because they are thankful that their child has survived another month, when their miracle wasn't expected to survive & thrive as well as they have. For you to say that we live in a fantasy world, you must not be doing your job as well as you could. Yes, there are bad customers, those that piss you off because they come in all the time to get just the 9.99 package, or whatever "special" the company has advertised & they got their stingy mitts on, but the good sessions usually outnumber the bad... & these are the reasons I love what I do & put up with the crap!