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Featured Studio Owner

Ken Sander
Home Video Studio - Fairfax

Date: 06/12/2015

As we prepare for Home Video Studio's 15th Annual Getaway in Orlando, Florida next month it's fun and gratifying to anticipate the mix of people and personalities that make up our family of studio owners. Some are studious and driven. Some are hilarious and like to laugh. Some are technical and precise. And we love them all.

Ken Sander, from Fairfax, Virginia, makes his contribution to this tapestry as, what many would say, the wise sage. For nearly ten years he has quietly and consistently built his business, learned his lessons, and applied and shared them. Along the way he has found himself on the top earner's list more often than not, won many awards for his video excellence, and has been honored as Home Video Studio's Owner of the Year.

Prior to becoming a studio owner Ken was a manager with the Federal Aviation Administration for three decades, but he nurtured a longtime passion for video, even while in that position. "I worked with video, graphics and animation as a serious hobby for over twenty-five years for family, friends, church and the community," says Sander, ""I was thinking I just wanted to get into commercial video production and weddings but with HVS I learned that, besides that, there was a whole world of video services." So when the opportunity for early retirement came Ken knew exactly how to write the next chapter of his life, and in April of 2006 he opened his doors.

He's learned a lot in the ensuing years, and Ken is eager to share on a variety of subjects with those who have ears to hear. A few years ago Sander wisely reflected upon things he's learned as a Home Video Studio owner:

Be Friendly: "As I meet people in the studio, networking, or generally anywhere, I am positive and friendly. We live in a somewhat cynical world. Being friendly to customers, associates and people everywhere helps me to be more positive about the world and the world more positive about me."

Be Ready – Always: "I have found that customers come in all 'styles.' I really work to be ready and prepared mentally, emotionally and even physically to "meet them where they are." When I'm with someone they are my absolute focus. I expect objections so I am ready to listen, provide feedback and respond specifically to what they are feeling.

Be a Marketing Machine: "We provide video services to everyone - but – what is our business as owners? We are in the Marketing Business. I do everything possible to market our services, every day, in as many ways as I possibly can."

Be Consistent: "I try to work on a pattern or schedule. I work the most important things every day at the same time and then schedule everything else. I make lists and keep my focus on the list. I work the list - check off, add new items and keep doing it."

Be Teachable: "I am always ready to learn. I seek experienced people to help me. If I get stuck I ask other owners. I have attended every training opportunity Home Video Studio has offered. I take on-line courses. I read or listen to books on marketing and sales and how to run a business."

Be Responsible: "This is my business. I am responsible for its success. It falls on no one else but me. I own it."

Be Tenacious: "Never Give Up – Never Surrender" ("Captain" from Galaxy Quest). I repeat – I do whatever it takes to make it happen."

Be Adaptive: "Try, try and try again, but, adapt to what works. That means I do what I've been taught first. Then I may adapt it to work for me. Insanity is doing the same thing I've always done (or not done), over and over, but expecting the outcome to be something better."

Be Working ON THE BUSINESS: "There was a short time when I really got frustrated about the business. I realize, thanks to Robert and some other Studio owners that I was no longer in charge – I blamed everyone and everything else for my situation. Take charge and know what is happening and what to do next. Plan, track, evaluate and adapt. If I get stuck, I find help. I now have a mentor and a coach to help me."

Be Humble: "I feel I was very successful in my FAA career. I was very blessed. I feel the same way about Home Video Studio. I have been blessed and get to do what I really enjoy doing. I am so thankful for that."

On the heels of these nuggets we recently caught up with Ken in his studio to see if he had any other wisdom to share from his recent experiences. As always he was quick to share his experience on a variety of subjects.

Do you come from entrepreneurial families? Is entrepreneurship in your DNA?

My father, returning from serving in the Army, opened a Union Oil gas station. He owned and operated the service station for a number of years. Due to personal circumstances he sold the station and went to work for the Department of Defense as a machinist mechanic. But I have always felt a draw to owning my own business. Even in my FAA days I had a lot of freedom in my management positions to "stretch" business processes.

Were you looking for a business opportunity or did it find you?

A year prior to coming to HVS I started to plan for "what will I do when I decide to retire from the FAA?" I started to formulate the plan to open a videography business. I had planned to do so, part time, even before I "retired." I discovered HVS about the same time I was considering this. The rest is history.

What was your impetus to leave an ostensibly comfortable, middle class, salaried lifestyle and take a risk?

After 32 years (plus some) of serving in a really good public position (which actually was had work), I decided that whatever I do afterwards, I wanted to have my own business (and I did not want to go back to work for the government as a contractor). I wanted to feel like I could put in as much as I wanted or as little as I desired and generally control what I would do. It has generally worked out that way – working hard, but at what I really do enjoy.

Did you anguish over this decision or was it a no-brainer?

It was a no-brainer. I weighed setting up my business on my own versus having HVS help me set it up and to keep helping me in supporting it. I'd still do it if I started today. So much easier compared to what I've observed from other business owners starting on their own and having to figure it all out - on their own.

How many hours do you work per week?

Probably 60 - 70. But, I control 'the when and the how much'. Just last week I took off 5 days to run the AV equipment for a Christian men's conference. A number of times I have taken off a few days for a relaxing getaway with my wife. I also do some volunteer work, which I can do pretty much any time I choose to do it (during the day, evenings or weekends). What has surprised you lately? Any new discoveries?

There seems to be a significant increase in film transfer work. It just keeps on coming.

What was your start like?

I was part time from about April through September and went full time in October, right before the holiday rush. It was so hectic at that point I felt I wasn't going to get it all done. I found the next year, and many years after, I pretty much felt the same during the holiday rush.

Who are some of your famous or not, living or not inspirations?

My dad had work ethic that was amazing and instilled in me at a very young age. Also, I learned about respect for all people. My mom was very intense person but yet, gentle and kind to everyone. Zig Ziegler has helped me early on, even before starting HVS, with my concept and beliefs about sales. Steven Covey with his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People really changed the way I managed my life and work with people (this was during my FAA days).

What is absolutely necessary to thrive as an HVS owner?

Persistence. "Never give up. Never surrender" But be smart about it. Ask for help – and then listen and take it, especially from someone who's been there.

What's a typical day in your studio?

I usually am in the Studio at least 1 1/2 hours before we open. Have a little bit of quiet time to meditate and pray. Then, I review tapes that have run overnight, put in new ones. Check emails & messages, check calendar to see what's up for the day and what needs to be done soon. Then, edit jobs, return calls, answer calls, receive customer orders, etc. I am blessed because I also have my daughter to help with a lot of the calls & customers, as well as doing lots of the above tasks.

What are a few of your failures and what did you learn?

Not being consistent in marketing. I found that you just have to do it, over and over and over. But determine what works and stop doing what doesn't work OR change it up to see if it will work. Most of my struggles is not the "system" or the "HVS Plan" (its not perfect but it so much better than starting with nothing). Most of my struggles have been with my attitude. Once I realized it is MY business, MY attitude, MY struggles – it changed me and I realize success or failure is in great part up to me, not the plan.

We are pleased to have a valuable resource like Ken in our ranks. His wisdom is invaluable. Thanks and congratulations to Ken Sander, our June Studio Owner of the Month.

Ken Sander
Fairfax VA

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