Steve Elkins, Stan Bedford, Jeff Beauchamp.
The Bedford Philosophy
Stan Bedford lives by three principles—integrity, diligence, and follow-through—regardless of personal or business matters. He can ask himself the question, “At the end of the day, what kind of person are you?” and be comfortable with the answer. Living your personal life this way spills over into your professional life. Stan remembers something his father always told him, “Son, always remember you’re in the picture business.”
Stan is proud to say he’s a religious man. “The most important thing in my life is my relationship to God” he says. Stan’s wife Tonya and his family are his motivation, having always supported him from the beginning. Stan is proud of the people working for him. “I’ve assembled the greatest talent in the industry, which has been paramount to the success of Bedford Camera & Video” he says. “My honest desire is to treat them as I’d want to be treated if I were in their shoes.
People work here because they enjoy photography—and are recognized for all they do,” Stan adds. He won’t open the stores on Sundays, explaining that it’s a day for family.
With confidence in his executive staff, Stan has taken a backseat to running the day to day operations of the business. Jeff Beauchamp, President; Steve Elkins, Vice President; Tommy Neil, Vice President/Acounting; Austin Pittman, Central District Manager and Jason Bedford, Senior Manager, are responsible for running Bedford’s six stores. “Jeff is a real people person,” Stan says, “and Steve is extremely technically oriented.”
According to Jeff, “We’re looking for responsible adults to work at Bedford’s. He explains that Bedford’s encourages wisdom, tenure, and seniority in its employees. One third of the more than 100 Bedford Camera & Video staff has worked at Bedford’s for more than 10 years. “I think the retention rate is due to a combination of things,” explains Jeff. With the guidelines of the employee handbook that all staff are given to read and sign; commissions and spiffs; and an atmosphere where they are rewarded for their hard work, Bedford’s employees are loyal folks.
Jeff is constantly working on a variety of marketing efforts. “My job is to drive more bodies into the stores,” he says. “When they hit the carpet, it’s the staff who sells them; and it’s their efforts that have led to Bedford’s success,” he explains.
Listen to the local radio stations, and you will probably hear Jeff’s voice discussing photography—and you can catch him on TV as well, discussing digital photography on local news shows.
The company has an on-staff chaplain—Daniel Carson—who also works in the stores. He’s available to talk to the staff about their professional or personal concerns. “Having a resource like Dan in the company does a lot for morale,” says Jeff. “It helps to know you’re being taken care of.” At Bedford’s, they make it a point to take care of the people on both sides of the counter.
Doing It Right
Stan also sees a great deal of continued success in digital printing, “If it’s presented correctly at the point of sale,” he says. Customers need to be given the menu of options afforded to them when they purchase their digital cameras, including ordering prints, gifts and more online. The promise of digital is more options—customers want these but don’t know what they are yet. When they find them they become a repeat revenue stream for the store—and Bedford’s becomes a part of their joy of photography.
Each of the stores offers multiple Lucidiom kiosks with the Luci scrapbooking software, which are hooked to Fuji Frontier minilabs. The kiosks are also connected to wide-format Epson printers, so customers can even create scrapbook pages as posters. Customers can sit at the kiosks and order prints, create scrapbook pages, burn images to CD, and more.
Bedford’s also has in-house digital artists who do photo restoration work, as well as creative graphics.
This past summer, Bedford Camera & Video held its first Roadshow. John Rose, Manager of the Little Rock store, came up with the idea, did the research and put together the advertising and promotional materials. He and Austin Pittman brought a trailer full of product to Jonesboro, Arkansas—an area without any photo specialty stores. In addition to the new products for sale, they offered a free clean and check of cameras to all who attended; a portrait sitting; and a two-hour digital camera class. Despite bad weather, the event had a good turnout, great sales, and it’s something that will be done again in the future.
With multiple locations, Bedford has to differentiate its product mix for each store. The Little Rock store is the largest and sells more cameras and photography products than those located in Ft. Smith or Northwest Arkansas. The Ft. Smith area has more professional photographers, and so it stocks more lighting equipment and studio accessories. Rogers is home to a large number of retirees, as well as the corporate offices for Wal-Mart and its vendors, and tends to stock a different mix of products. When asked about growing up in Wal-Mart’s back yard, Stan says, “Never fear them…always respect them.”
Communication is important in any organization and Bedford’s doesn’t take it for granted. The regularly scheduled morning managers’ meetings are times for dealing with issues requiring wisdom and insights from the entire team. If the distant store managers can’t attend the meeting in person, they join in by teleconference. The company’s 20 managers represent the 106 employees by bringing their suggestions and ideas to the table. The store managers discuss which new products they feel should be stocked, share customer and associate feedback, and upcoming community events in these morning meetings.
Putting Customers First
Bedford Camera & Video puts its customers first in a number of ways. “You’ve got to create value,” says Stan. “In specialty stores today you’ve got to create a service, a package, but you have to be competitive on price as well… not beat prices, but be competitive,” he adds. “We’re going to compete with the big-box stores but we’ll do it in a smart way—by being productive.”
Each of the stores offers drive-thru windows. “They’re great for customers who can’t run in, because of small kids or for elderly customers who can’t easily get into and out of their cars, or even in inclement weather” explains Jeff. And yes, they’ve even sold cameras and other accessories through the drive-thru windows; in addition to the normal photofinishing orders.
On busy days, you might even find Jeff, Stan, or others in management working the drive-thru window—or the sales floor for that matter. “If I hear the bell ring, I’m out on the sales floor, greeting customers and asking how I can help,” Stan says. He may be the boss, but he’s not above doing any of the tasks he asks his employees to do.
On particularly busy days, when the drive-thru window has a line of customers waiting, Bedford employees will go outside to help alleviate the wait time. “Get them in, out, and on their way,” says Stan. The day that we were visiting, Stan, Jeff, and Steve were all behind the counters assisting customers as they walked in the door.
Bedford Camera & Video is known for its high level of customer service. Jeff explains that the staff is passionate about photography. In fact, employees are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the new cameras by taking them home to use. “Employees who are passionate about photography put more effort into their work,” says Jeff. Many feel “like a kid in a candy store.”
Customers who purchase a camera receive a free one night photo class. Bedford Camera & Video also offers advanced photography classes, specialized classes, and seminars. Professional photographer George Lepp has presented five seminars to Bedford customers in recent years. The stores also hold one night classes that are specific to camera brands, such as Nikon and Canon.
One of the more popular programs that Bedford customers benefit from is the pre-paid print card program. This was started for Christmas 2004, and according to Jeff, they’ve gone through over 15,000 cards at $40.00 each. The pre-paid print cards are printed on heavy cardstock and signed by a store manager. Because they are on cardstock and not the kind that is swiped electronically, the balance is tallied on the reverse of the card. Jeff says its better this way, for a number of reasons; they’re cheaper to produce, easier for the customer to know where they stand, and paid for up-front.
In fact, Bedford’s receives glowing feedback from its customers on an almost daily basis, whether via email, the website, or letters—all proof that they’re doing it right.
Stan Bedford and his family. (l. to r.) Don, Cari, and Shelby Hoover, Natisha, Tonya, Jason, and Stan Bedford.
Stan Bedford, 1976.
(l. to r.) Bedfords President Jeff Beauchamp and Gary Elmore at KWHN Radio, during the morning broadcast, discussing photography.
Dan Carson teaching a basic photo class.
Denver Bonds taking shots at a major event in Little Rock.
Leslie Zachry photographing Andrew Elkins in Bedfords portrait studio.
Barbara Wilson at the convenient Drive Thru. Each Bedford location offers this convenience.
Patti Allison (center) helps customers with the Digital Print Stations.