This is the first in a series looking at the team of people behind Focal. Hear from Marketing & Communications Manager Martin Bauman.
I joined Focal when there were seven photographers actively using the platform. I was a master’s co-op student majoring in creative writing — which is to say, a world apart from anything to do with the business of photography. I saw what Lachlan was building and knew it could be special. I knew, because he was different. Focal was different. He was invested in making things better — not just for customers in search of a photographer, but for photographers themselves.
When I joined, the Focal team consisted of five people. There were two developers. Two communications and marketing specialists. Lachlan hopped back and forth between both. This was August 2020: summer of COVID. No gatherings. No photography bookings anywhere. And I was tasked with getting photographers to know about us and give us a shot.
It wasn’t easy: We were a small team in a sleepy city in one of the farthest-flung corners of the country. We were stubborn, mostly. Naive too. Figuring things out as we went along. (I thought if I launched a company Twitter page, I’d reach tens of thousands. Turns out Instagram is a better place to reach photographers. Go figure.) It’s remarkable to think how Focal has grown since then — first, from a Marketplace to a full-fledged suite of business tools, to free 1:1 mentorship, to an educational podcast — and is making an impact across North America. All from a small team of people who really care and the photographers who have put their trust in us.
Let me talk about trust for a moment. I don’t know if there’s any word the Focal team holds more paramount. None of what we have built — none of where we’re going — is possible without photographers’ trust. I’ve seen the state of the industry. Photographers deserve better than to have to underprice their work. They deserve to be treated like professionals. And they deserve a company that goes beyond lip service and actually listens to what they want.
I’ll tell you firsthand: Focal listens. I’ve seen the difference in photographers’ lives. I met Marlboro Wang and heard about how, thanks to Focal, he was able to grow his business by $12,000 in a single year. I got to know Hannah Tabert and watched as she gained the confidence to pursue her photography business full-time. I met Christin Carruthers and saw how she’d rebuilt her business after moving across the country. Every photographer has a story — and we care about those stories. We’re invested in building relationships.
Ask anyone who has worked in a start-up, and they will tell you that the job you’re hired for is, at best, a horoscope-level prediction of the job you’ll be doing. I thought I’d be writing blog articles and running a Twitter account. (Poorly. Did I already say poorly?) Somewhere along the way, I became involved in sales — though it seems the wrong word for the job. I am the farthest thing from a salesperson. I have no interest in selling anyone on another thing they don’t need — the little bit of Marxist in me wouldn’t allow it.
The best thing about Focal? There’s no selling involved. It’s a win-win-win proposition. Photographers get more clients — and pay nothing when they aren’t receiving new bookings. Customers get a better end-to-end experience hiring a photographer. And we’re able to build a sustainable model by connecting the two. We’ve already seen the proof in the pudding.
The hardest thing about Focal? Building trust. The nature of our digital world means we’re often reaching out to photographers online — and it’s hard to cut through the noise. (Yes, it really is us emailing you. No, we’re not robots. And yes, we’d love to chat and answer your questions by phone or over a video call.)
It comes with the territory, I know. And I don’t mind the difficulty — because it gives us a chance to surprise you. I want us to earn your respect — and to keep reaffirming it in everything we do. Because the only way to build trust is by delivering on the promises we make.
Our promise? To see you as a photographer, an artist, and a human being. To always listen. And to help your photography business succeed in the best way we can.
Simple as that.