John Patterson says ‘never losing sight of tradition’ helped keep The Camera House doors open in Lismore at a time when digital transformation was creating major hurdles.
John Patterson says ‘never losing sight of tradition’ helped keep The Camera House doors open in Lismore at a time when digital transformation was creating major hurdles.

New business focus gave clearer picture

JOHN PATTERSON is a survivor. When he opened The Camera House in Lismore 10 years ago, times were booming.

It was before the digital age and six specialist camera shops in Lismore catered for customers who not only wanted the latest cameras, but also film processing.

It wasn't to last. Since processing and printing peaked at the same time as the Sydney Olympics, four camera shops have closed their doors as the rise of digital cameras took hold.

“Processing was our bread and butter, but over the past 10 years we've seen dynamic industry changes from film base to digital base,” Mr Patterson said.

“What saved us was proactive investment in new technologies, like adopting digital output to print photos.”

Far from running scared by the new environment, Mr Patterson looked for new areas to expand the business while remaining true to its original mission.

With 26 years' experience in the industry, Mr Patterson decided to leverage the knowledge and skills of his staff to offer photographic courses for customers who wanted to learn to take a decent picture with a digital camera, as well as organising a monthly photo exchange.

“It's not our job to dictate to the market, our job is to react to the market,” he said. “If you loose sight of that then you are alienating your customers.

“We never lost sight of our tradition. We still process film, we still sell dark rooms, we supply schools, but it's about meeting customer demand.”

Mr Patterson also has a warning for budding small businesspeople - don't forget the reason you went into business.

“What can sometimes happen in small business is you forget about your experience because you are caught up in the day-to-day,” he said. “Most passionate small business people aren't true entrepreneurs. They are passionate about something and turn that into their business, then they become business people. In that closeness they forget the passion they have for the product.”



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