“It will be the best thing you have ever done for your company”
A Cost Saving Workflow and Happier Schools
Tulip photo has been established for almost 20 years and is a primary schools specialist photographing over 100 schools in SW England and hiring several local staff. When Jack Van Veen, the founder, photographed his first primary school those many years ago he knew instantly this was the segment of volume photography he wanted to specialise in.
This interview looks at the reasons for the company’s switch from their self-built online system to the GotPhoto Platform and then more recently the changes in their workflow during the pandemic.
Interview with Jack Van Veen
You have been a customer of GotPhoto for a few years now. What did you do before GotPhoto?
Before we used GotPhoto I don’t think there was a good third party platform.
I wanted for the customers essentially exactly what you (GotPhoto) offers. I tried to build this myself and I ran my own site for a few years. However the cost of developing it and keeping up with all the new technology it was far too expensive and really was not exactly what I wanted. Over the years we have changed the way we work and as the number of schools increased, we looked to automate our production process whilst also providing parents with an online system for viewing photographs, placing, and tracking orders.
After you guys contacted me I didn’t have to think about it too long and tried a few schools one season. And that was it really it was absolutely spot on and doing exactly what I needed it to do for our business.
For printing you have an in-house lab setup and you are using our easylab integration. How does that work for you?
At first I wasn’t sure about using it and I continued on doing manual inputs, the way we had done for years. Then we moved over to easylab two seasons ago and basically, we could be less a whole staff member in the office as it is really less labour intensive and freed up so much time. Prints just roll out, it has become much cleaner and easier.
In the British market there is often a bit of hesitancy for the studios to go 100% online. How have you handled that?
I wanted to move 100% online a long time ago but there were schools who wanted to allow the parents to pay cash. However with the pandemic those schools themselves have turned cashless (for the parents) and so the school photos are just another thing that parents now buy cashless as well. So we could move totally cashless and/or paperless as time goes on.
Do you see yourself having a proof order form anymore or at some point again post pandemic?
No, Proofs are definitely not something we want to go back to at all. The pandemic really shows that it is not needed. It was only about 12 months ago that I was still convinced that was the only way to show a photo to parents. That was our sales context: If the parents saw the photos they would buy. But now we are not initially showing them a printed photo anymore, just a QR card to login, and they are buying just the same. And of course, we don’t have the cost to print proofs and this is a more automated process entirely.
Where do you see your school photography now post Covid?
We don’t batch back to school anymore. We post everything home and the parents pay a small postage charge. From a workflow point of view that has been very, very good for us. We don’t pack and print for a school deadline anymore. We just work on an order basis. Before, we used to spend very late nights in the office. As for staff planning, it really streamlined things now.
And schools absolutely love us: only last year they had to collect proofs and money for us, they may have had to deal with incorrect payments or when something was lost. Plus they had to distribute orders. Now the school has to do absolutely nothing. They just get commission and that is it, much more simple for us and them.
Finally, is there anything you would like to add for someone hesitant to try GotPhoto?
Well I didn’t want to take the plunge myself but then I tried it and I could change the things I needed to change, I can personalise it the way I want to personalise it, and it only has been for the best. It really helped us so much as a company – workflow wise, cost wise as well.
Alex, our personal account manager, is extremely helpful and efficient. Suggested improvements to the platform are listened to and implemented where possible. Go for it take the plunge and really it will be the best thing you ever have done for your company.