Long ago in a lifetime far away, I discovered photography. I loved it. I mean, I really, really loved it. Not just learning how to make photographs. I loved learning how the camera and lenses made those photographs. I loved learning about the major and minor differences various lenses had. I spent every free moment using equipment and learning about our craft. I spent almost every free dollar buying more equipment.
In a burst of insanity I decided the best thing a gearhead photographer like me could do was to start a photography rental company. I’d have to buy everything because now it would be ‘stock’ and ‘assets’. Brilliant!! Like people say, it’s not work when you’re doing what you love. (I will mention, for those considering a similar path, that when you are working 14 hours weekdays, 8 hours Saturday and Sunday, and losing money, you should not mention how much fun it is to your wife.)
Lensrentals was more successful than I’d ever dreamed it could be. What I found out, though, was that I wasn’t running my personal photography toy store. I was leasing office space, negotiating shipping rates, filling out two gazillion governmental forms, learning how to regain stolen equipment, obtaining lines of credit, hiring people, managing employee benefits, trying to figure out what would rent well, and various other things that did not fit my definition of really fun stuff. Not to mention trying to learn about those business –type things like return-on-investment, depreciation, profitability, market share, corporate tax structure, and a bunch of other terms I still can’t understand. (Maybe unwilling to understand is more accurate, but whatever.)
The bigger the business got, the less time I spent with the equipment I loved and the more time I spent being a businessman. I learned several things in a fairly short time: 1) I’m not a good businessman, 2) I don’t want to become a good businessman, and 3) I want to play with the toys and lots of business responsibility keeps you from playing with the toys. For those of you thinking I should add “I refuse to grow up” to that list, I had figured that out way before Lensrentals started.
During the last several years Drew, Tyler, and Kristin, who actually have business sense and training, have taken over the day-to-day operation of Lensrentals. They not only do it a lot better than I did, they like doing all that stuff I hate to do. Even stranger, they’ve never expressed the slightest interest in taking lenses apart. Go figure. They all came here when the company was still small, leaving secure corporate jobs and taking significant risks (and pay cuts) to do so. They’ve had as much to do with the growth and success of Lensrentals as I have.
So it makes sense, and is with real enthusiasm, that I’ve accepted an offer from the current management team to buy a majority interest in Lensrentals. I will remain owner of a significant portion of the company’s stock, but am now “one of the owners” not “the owner”. I’m totally comfortable that the company I started will continue to be run the way I wanted it run, because the people buying it are the ones who’ve been running it that way for several years.
The best part is they basically told me “you can do whatever you want to do as long as you remain an active part of Lensrentals.” So going forward, I will continue to head our quality assurance, repair, and research efforts. In other words I will spend my days taking stuff apart, figuring out how it works, testing it, repairing it, and writing about it. I’m in gearhead heaven once again.
What will you notice that’s different? Nothing. The only thing changing is that I’ll have more time to do the stuff that leads to most of these blog posts.