The Theology of Work at Ken Duncan Galleries
A Four-part Study
The videos are from Small Business School the television series created
by Hattie Bryant and Bruce Camber
Ken Duncan is one of the world’s most important landscape photographers. He and his wife, Pam, founded what today includes three galleries and a profitable Web site that sell Ken’s amazing photography, as well as their own publishing house which specialises in producing photographic books. Ken’s art can be purchased as very large limited edition prints, or in breath-taking collections published in book form or on DVD. With a dedicated team behind them, he and Pam love working in and on the business they started in 1986.
|Get Up Early (Click to watch)|
Watch the video clip.
Ken Duncan says that there is no substitute for long hours. Often he heads out to take pictures before the sun comes up. Here he was leaving an early session on the Sydney Harbor.
Refer to the video clip when answering these questions:
Q: What does Ken Duncan’s definition of art tell you about him?
A: He believes in God.
Q: What is the mission of his company?
A: To show the beauty of God’s creation.
Q: Who is his business partner?
A: His wife, Pam.
Q: Can you list the revenue streams?
A: Sales from five galleries and the Web site which offer limited edition prints, custom framing, books and DVDs.
Q: What advice does he offer to people who like to take pictures?
A: Get out of bed!
Business growth questions:
Q: Does Mr. Duncan’s advice for photographers apply to all of us who work every day?
A: Certainly. Getting ahead is not only about getting up early but it is a good place to start if you have challenging goals. While Ken Duncan literally does get up early, we suggest this advice is more about a way of thinking than it is about setting the alarm for 5 am. Workers who get an early start probably complete assignments on time, and have enthusiasm and fresh ideas. His admonition to, “Get out of bed” is not just about the time of day; it is about getting things done.
Ken Duncan says he gets up early to get great photos because he wants to be ready for what might turn out to be a spectacular light show as the sun rises. Being first to see the sun rise might be a metaphor for being first to market with a new product or service. Ken Duncan also teaches us that being early to offer super-wide, high-quality pictures has been a brilliant business idea. A search of our library would produce many successful small business owners who were first to market with an exceptional product or service. Getting up early then can mean that your business is in the lead.
If you decide to be first to market, you must prepare for a long-term ramp up to profitability. Ken kept expenses low and prepared himself to live simply because taking pictures was more important to him that making a lot of money. Fortunately, Ken has ended up making more money than he ever dreamed he would and he has grown his company way beyond his startup expectations.
Q: Do you think the corporate mission, to show the beauty of God’s creation, is risky? Do you think it limits his growth?
A: Yes it is risky, but it is completely authentic and comes from the hearts of Ken and Pam.
This is the beauty of being a business owner. Your mission statement is not written by a committee or venture capitalists or attorneys. The reason outside experts might say this statement is risky is that there are plenty of people who do not believe in God. They do not believe in creation, they believe in evolution. Experts might say that Ken and Pam are offending a part of the marketplace by boldly including their statement of faith in their corporate mission.
What does the Bible say? It tells us to boldly testify to God’s grace and glory.
I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. (Romans 1:16)
Pray for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given to me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. (Ephesians 6:19)
Peter and John praying for their fellow Jesus-followers who were being harassed by the religious leaders in Jerusalem: “Strong God...Take care of their threats and give your servants fearless confidence in preaching your Message....” (Acts 4:29)
Go into the world. Go everywhere and announce the Message of God’s good news to one and all. (Mark 16:15)
- What is the mission statement of your workplace?
- Does it talk about what you do for customers?
- Does it inspire you?
If possible, bring up the web site. You will see a link to "The Sanctuary." This is where the company preaches the gospel through Ken’s photographs. It is breath-taking. Very few of us Jesus-followers can draw people to God like this because of the nature of our work. However, can Ken get you thinking of how you can be a light pointing to Christ in and through your work?
Brainstorm: What specifically can you do at your work that could point another person to Christ?
Share with the group things you are already doing or a new idea that comes to mind now.
One of Ken’s favorite scriptures that shapes a core belief for him is Romans 1:20: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities -- His eternal power and divine nature -- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”
Q: Why do you think a photographer would gravitate to this scripture? Can it be an inspiration to us all? What do you think it means?
A: Ken Duncan travels the world with his camera and seeks to find the most extraordinary scenes. When he arrives at one of these places, he must step back and say, “Wow, God. Thanks for making this!” Or he might think of Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Or he might linger with King David on Psalm 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Or there’s Psalm 104:31, “May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in what he has made.”
These verses explain the Romans passage, right? If we just look at what God has made for us to see with our own eyes-- the oceans, the mountains, the rivers, the waterfalls, the trees, the flowers--then we will understand the “invisible” qualities of God. For example, God made the ocean, the sun, the moon and the stars. The ocean tide goes in and out with rhythm and predictability, thus, we learn that God is predictable and steady and dependable. The sun rises, God is there. The moon rises, God is there.
Ken is agreeing with Paul, the author of Romans, that we are “without excuse” when it comes to giving God all the glory and praise for all of what we enjoy. It is clear that Ken and Pam are all about giving God glory in, at, and through their work.
Q: How do we know that Ken and Pam’s business is making profits?
A: With five retail locations and 54 employees, we know the business generates sales. We know that the business grew slowly and carefully adding locations and new equipment by re-investing profits. After years and years of sacrifice and dedication, they are no longer struggling artists.
Q: Business is about earning profits and unfortunately the word profit has been tainted by some who believe that the only way to earn a profit is to deny, starve, cheat or in general harm either customers or employees. What is the difference between earning profits and greed?
A: All profits are good when customers receive value. The more value the customers receive the more they come back and tell their friends to buy from you. It is greed that causes leaders/owners to take too much of the profit out of the company when those dollars are needed for expansion.
We have seen incredible greed exposed in the ENRON, WorldCom, Tyco and HealthSouth cases which are all publicly traded companies. Over-the-top excess flaunted by CEOs has made those of us who love capitalism sad. How could these bright, creative, energetic leaders abuse their investors and employees?
Greed is rooted in fear and solipsism. The thinking is, "I may not have enough for myself so I better take it while it is here." Or, "I am the beginning and the end of this company. Every other person is simply doing what flows from my direction. Therefore, I get all the goodies."
Michael Novak has written at least 25 books about capitalism, and if you read him you will learn that his theory is leaders must have a moral compass. There are too many day-to-day decisions being made in running a business to have a rule for every situation.
Q: Can greed work over the long haul?
A: For Jesus-followers greed doesn’t work short-term or long-term. For those who do not have a Biblical worldview, greed can work very well for a very long time. If you are greedy you may have more cash and toys than another person, but so what? You can't build a strong business that will outlive you and be greedy at the same time. Excess cash must be invested in people, real estate, technology and the best equipment available.
Capitalism is the only proven system that can lift people out of poverty. Capitalism, and therefore business, is not about greed, it's about creating value. We see greedy people running businesses and they spoil the game for those of us who love helping everyone around us to be prosperous.
Federal investigators have reason to believe that the business Bernie Madoff started in the early 1970s was always a fraud although in his confession Madoff says he didn’t start his Ponzi scheme until the early 1990s. In June of 2009 Bernie Madoff began serving a 150-year prison term after being found guilty of losing $65 billion that was entrusted to him by investors.
In an article by the New York Observer I read that Bernie Madoff was, “not-entirely-devout.” However, the President of New York City’s Fifth Avenue Synagogue at the time of Madoff’s arrest, Ezra Merkin, trusted Madoff with his money and encouraged others in the congregation to invest with Madoff. Various newspapers reported that this one congregation’s members lost $2 billion.
In the book, Betrayal: the Life and Lies of Bernie Madoff, the author says, “He wasn’t a particularly observant Jew. He rarely went to synagogue, didn’t engage in religious rituals and rarely talked about his beliefs.” The book also reports that in 1996 Bernie’s wife wrote a book called, The Great Chefs of America Cook Kosher. The only problem is she hired a ghost writer, and while a photo of her in her own kitchen made it look as if she kept a kosher kitchen, it was all a lie.
While it would be easy to observe behavior and note that Madoff himself didn’t do things that religious Jews do, he had a friend in Mr. Merkin who was President of Fifth Avenue Synagogue, which his grandfather had started in 1958. So as the author says in Betrayal, “Madoff wasn't ‘Jewish enough.’” Madoff had a fake religious patina which caused other Jews to trust him to a fault.
Greed is not usually this spectacular. We now know that Madoff will die in jail, one son committed suicide and the other son and Madoff’s wife are estranged from him.
In March of 2012, Allen Stanford was found guilty of running a Ponzi scheme that lost $7 billion of his investors’ money. After the arrest was made, his father was interviewed by the Wall Street Journal and said, “Allen is a smart guy. I hope he’s not a crook. He wasn’t raised to be a crook.” Born in Mexia, Texas, Allen was raised going to a Southern Baptist church and he attended Baylor University, which is affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas. This is where he met the man who would become his partner in crime and the two would, according to a January 28, 2012 article in The Economist, “fleece the flock.” Stanford used the same technique Madoff perfected: he swindled people who thought he was one of them.
Stanford was sentenced to 110 years in prison, so like Madoff, he will die in jail estranged from his wife and children.
Madoff and Stanford were taught right from wrong. They had solid religious training. What happened? One lie led to the next and the next and the next. We have to guard our hearts and minds to push out and back at evil.
Greed is sin. God says it plainly.
Jesus lists what pollutes a person, “obscenities, lusts, thefts, murders, adulteries, greed, depravity, deceptive dealings, carousing, mean looks, slander, arrogance, foolishness.” (Mark 7:22)
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. (Ephesians 5:3)
The greedy man curses and spurns God. (Psalm 10:3)
Greed is sin and we will not live greedy lives without suffering consequences.
Your sin will find you out. (Numbers 32:23)
- Does it upset you when a competitor seems to be getting ahead of you?
- Are you jealous of others who seem to have more cash flow than you do?
- Could an artist like Ken Duncan easily be jealous of other artists?
- Do you make disparaging comments about wealthy people?
- Do you try to buy the newest gizmos to “keep up with” friends and neighbors?
- Do you assume that someone who has built a strong company is greedy or cheating someone?
- Do you think that greed can creep into your heart?
While millions of Godly business owners strive to grow their companies, win more customers and increase profits, a few bad leaders taint their hard work. Be proud of your growing company and do what the Duncans do, step back and give God the glory for your success! Look how one hard working and faithful man’s life played out to his end.
He (David) died at a ripe old age, having enjoyed long life, wealth and honor. (I Chronicles 29:28)
|Control Your Processes (Click to watch)|
Watch the video clip.
Ken Duncan tired of trusting others with his art. He decided to invest big bucks in the technology and machines needed to take his work from the camera to the customer.
Refer to the video when answering these questions:
A: How long does it take Mr. Duncan to take a picture?
Q: Could be hours, days or weeks as he travels the world. When he arrives at his location, it can take hours to set up and sometimes days of waiting for the right conditions. Then when the conditions are right, he still has to sit still to wait for just what he hopes will be the perfect split second to open the shutter. He said that most people don’t have the patience to get good pictures because they want it, “here and now.”
Q: What has Ken Duncan done along the way to make sure customers can buy a picture that has the "WOW" factor?
A: He took over the processing of his pictures and the publishing of his books.
A: What happened that pushed Mr. Duncan to take on the complexities of publishing?
Q: He was disappointed in the quality of his first book. He felt the publisher cut corners and it argued that people can’t tell the difference in what Mr. Duncan wanted and what the publisher produced. The publisher thought that price is what drives people to buy a book and Mr. Duncan disagreed with that strategy.
Business growth questions:
Q: Why would an artist want employees and expensive equipment?
A: It might seem strange to see an artist fooling with employees and expensive processing equipment. We tend to think that artists are moody and private, but they are driven to achieve perfection.
Artists can see in their mind's eye what they want. When vendors failed to match up to his expectations, Ken convinced Pam, his wife and business partner, that they should spend half a million dollars to outfit a world-class photography lab. When we compromise we suffer from a dumbing-down effect.
It’s a matter of integrity for Ken. When he knows something can be better and he doesn’t invest and work to make it better, he feels he is not just letting down customers and employees, he is letting God down. Remember that the mission of the company is to show the beauty of God’s creation. Ken has given himself a very big, motivational mission that he will never be able to finish, and this pushes him to strive for perfection with integrity.
Samuel certainly set a good example. After decades of leadership, not one person had one bad thing to say about him.
“As for me, I am old and gray, and my sons are with you. I have been your leader from my youth until now. Here I am. If I have done anything wrong, accuse me now in the presence of the Lord and the king he has chosen. Have I taken anybody’s cow or anybody’s donkey? Have I cheated or oppressed anyone? Have I accepted a bribe from anyone? If I have done any of these things, I will pay back what I have taken.” The people answered, “No, you have not cheated us or oppressed us; you have not taken anything from anyone.” (I Samuel 12:2-4)
Samuel didn’t lower his standards or do what others thought he could get away with. Compromise does irreparable psychic damage to us and to everyone in the enterprise. When we all know our product/service could be better but keep doing the things that are easy, we become smaller than we could be. We miss a huge opportunity to tap the genius of employees. We end up being price rather than quality driven.
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men. (Colossians 3:23)
One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. (Luke 16:10)
Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways. (Proverbs 28:6)
Where there is no vision the people perish. (Proverbs 29:18)
Ken said he had to convince Pam that this outlay of cash was a good business decision, not just a new toy. It’s good to have a partner, board of directors or others you trust to help weigh decisions. I can imagine that an immature Ken could have stopped his feet, protested that he must have all the newest equipment because he is an artist and can’t possibly compromise his high standards. That behavior would be narcissistic and could easily take the company down.
Instead, the two worked through the pros and cons of expanding into publishing, and the decision proved to be a catalyst for growth.
Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others. (Proverbs 12:15)
|Deliver Quality (Click to watch)|
Watch the video clip.
Ken Duncan is old enough to remember when he did everything by hand. He is smart enough to look for and purchase the technology he needed to deliver quality over and over and over without having to do anything by hand after he had snapped the picture.
You should add technology to as many steps in your processes as you can afford.
What comes to mind when you hear the word "technology"? For most of us, it's computers first, followed closely by the Internet. But technology's role in small business is just as important as marketing and finance. Technology is the ultimate enabler. You can do more in your business, and you can do it faster with less error if you incorporate technology in your everyday business operations.
- Are you taking advantage of the latest technologies to codify the intellectual capital of your business?
- If you arrived at your office, and all your information OR all your money was gone, what would be more devastating to you?
- What parts of your supply chain are weak?
- What can you do to make them perfect?
Imagine what Ken Duncan Galleries would be like if these owners had decided to play it safe and just stick to taking pictures and selling them. Can you add to this list?
Q: What did Ken say about the transparency we saw in the video?
A: It has to be treated carefully as it can be worth $200,000. This is because it is the one shot he chose from his time taking pictures of this field of sunflowers. If he sells limited edition prints of it for $1,000 each that offer could generate 3,000 sales adding up to $300,000. Knowing these numbers, you can understand that the $500,000 spent to create the lab was a practical business decision.
Remember, Ken and Pam have been in business since 1980. They started out with just Ken’s camera equipment. They carefully grew with retained earnings, and while they trust God to take care of them, they didn’t ask God to deliver millions of dollars on their doorstep. They’ve done the hard work, day in and day out, to deliver quality, build a loyal base of customers, and manage every penny carefully.
Prayer: Father, you are the creator of everything including digital scanners, big film, ink and printing presses. Thank you for this amazing world you give us full of wonder and artists like Ken. We pray now that you will give us eyes to see your glory, ears to hear your call, hands to be creative in our work, and feet to go the way you have for us to go. Give us curiosity to look inside the details of our work. Help us to see where we can improve the processes of our work. Help us to see the new opportunities you have for us to put our minds and hands to. In the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
|Follow Your Heart (Click to watch)|
Watch the video clip.
To realize his dream of taking super-wide pictures, Ken Duncan gave up a great job with big sales commissions. He sold his possessions and went “bush.” In Australia “going bush” means that a person is getting out of the city, getting away from modern conveniences and venturing into the wild outback. People do this to clear their minds and think without the distraction of our noisy civilization.
Refer to the video when answering these questions:
Q: When Ken Duncan is taking pictures of water, rivers, lakes, and seas - what is he thinking about?
A: He said that waterways remind him of God’s love for us: pure, freely given, unconditional, and utterly life-giving.
Q: How did he get the picture of the boat on the very blue water?
A: He had to camp for two days on top of Mt. Amos and wait for a break in the light.
Q: What is his definition of patience?
A: Ken said, “Patience is relaxing and enjoying the moment and getting into the rhythm of what’s happening around you.”
Q: Why did he start taking pictures?
A: His father would try to take family pictures and his father took so long that Ken offered to take the pictures.
Q: How old was he when he decided he really loved photography?
A: His father gave him a chance to take family pictures and by the time he was 16 years old, he was in love. He used the camera to help him overcome his shyness. He felt safe behind a camera walking up to a pretty girl and asking if he could take her picture.
Q: When did Ken start making money from his photography?
A: Since his parents couldn't afford to buy his supplies, in high school Ken had to sell his pictures if he was going to fund his hobby. This was excellent training and Ken learned what people would pay for. He sold pictures of cute girls to boys and pictures of cute boys to girls.
This was his first lesson in market demand.
The cash flow from sales kept him going and this experience helped him get the high paying job of selling photography equipment.
Q: What did his parents give him that was free and priceless?
A: Belief in himself. He said they encouraged him and told him he could do anything that he wanted to do with his life.
Q: What did Ken Duncan give up to do what he really wanted to do?
A: Money. He gave up a job that paid big commissions which made him wealthy as a young man. He said, “I had it all but I had to sell everything and go find the meaning of life. I’m going to take my new camera and photograph Australia.” This took courage however. We know that this is much easier to do when you're young, with no wife or children. Ken figured he was only risking his own time when he went into the bush of Australia.
Ken prayed, “Well, God, if you're real, you know, it'd be really good to get a bit of help because this money thing's not really doing it for me.”
Ken might have been thinking 2 Chronicles 20:12. It says, “I do not know what to do but my eyes are on you, God.”
What does the Bible say we are to do when we are confused and frustrated?
If you search for God with all your heart and soul you will find him. (Deuteronomy 4:29)
When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen. (Jeremiah 29:12)
Be anxious about nothing. Be prayerful about everything. Be thankful for all things. (Philippians 4:6-7)
I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. (Psalm 40:1)
How are we to come to God? Humbly.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3)
What does God promise to those who love him?
Whoever follows Jesus will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. (John 8:12)
God will keep me in perfect peace as long as my mind--and my imagination--is stayed on him. (Isaiah 26:3)
Light shines on the Godly and joy on those whose hearts are right. (Psalm 97:11)
God will give you all you need from day one if you live for him and make the kingdom of God your primary concern. (Matthew 6:33)
God started a good work in you and he will bring it to a flourishing finish. (Philippians 1:16)
- Would anyone like to tell about a time when they asked God for a new direction in their work?
- Is anyone in the same place today that Ken was when he went on the surfing trip?
- Has anyone here quit everything and sold everything to pursue a new path? If yes, what happened? Did you do this out of your own frustration or did you feel God directed you?
Did trusting God teach you something about God you had never experienced before?
- Have you ever thought of patience as being getting into the rhythm of the situation? Does patience mean getting into God’s rhythm?
- Did you have parents or others in your life who gave you confidence? If yes, who and how did they do it? If no, can you look for a mentor to help you in the area of confidence? Can this group be an encouragement to you? Could this group be an encouragement to every member?
Q: How does learning about Ken's experience make you feel?
A: If you are doing what you truly love then his life is validating to you. If you are not, his life may make you frustrated or sad that you haven't found your love or that you know what it is and you're not doing it. If you already own a business and have employees, take this idea another step.
What can you do to make sure your employees are realizing their dreams in life? What talents and abilities do your employees have that they could exploit for their own personal and financial growth? How can you facilitate their success? Are you working on your own dreams? Are you having as much fun as Ken Duncan does when he works?
|Do It Your Way (Click to watch)|
Watch the video clip.
Ken walked away from large contracts through New York City agencies. He had to follow his own path, do his own thing, and answer to a higher calling. God’s creation was calling to him and it was loud and clear. Thus his mission became to show the beauty of God’s creation.
A: How did Mr. Duncan hit on an idea that has been such a commercial success?
Q: He went inside himself and realized that his true love is taking pictures. Big pictures.
Also, his work experience taught him that he didn't want to sell photography equipment; he wanted to use the equipment. Ken Duncan's panographs are making him and all of his employees a good living because they are unique. His pictures are in fact, breath-taking. His work is a result of his willingness to know himself and take action on what he knows.
He quit the job he had selling equipment. He purchased one of the newest cameras in the world and went into one of the most beautiful places in the world. On that trip, he created a portfolio that grabbed the attention of New York City agents.
A: What happened to him in New York?
Q: A wise person at the Center for Photography in New York warned him not to let the art directors at ad agencies and the agents who handle talent turn him into a clone. The man said, “What you are doing is very different. Don’t let them turn you into another one of their photographers.”
Q: What decision did Ken Duncan make that firmly established his business model?
A: He told the New York agent to take a hike.
Q: What was the New Yorker’s reaction when Ken refused to do the work?
A: She said, “People kill for these assignments.”
Ken was hearing a bigger call than the phone call from New York. He was listening for the voice of God that spoke to his heart.
Rather than be paid a commission to shoot pictures for National Geographic and others, Mr. Duncan defined himself as an artist, not a freelance photographer. Ken Duncan takes the pictures he wants to take. He prints them. The world would say that Ken Duncan is in charge of his talent and his business. Ken would say that God is in charge.
It might seem like the perfect life. Here's a person who does what he wants to do when he wants to do it, and people pay him. Good for Ken Duncan that there are enough people in the world who love his pictures and who will pay him $6,000 for a signed large print. Here at Small Business School we have done many stories about successful businesses that make and sell just what the founder wants to make and sell. This type of business finds its sweet spot and it can grow solidly and typically slowly.
Except for all the usual problems every business faces day-to-day, the Duncan's run a love-in. Customers love the products, Ken loves making them, Pam loves the customers and employees and life is, on balance, beautiful.
- Is Ken Duncan lucky?
- Does God love Ken and Pam more than he loves you?
- Does their success and open witness for Christ put more pressure on them to walk the walk?
- Do you feel safer at work if people do not know about your faith? Do you think if no one knows you are a Jesus-follower you won’t have to meet any expectations?
- Was success a straight line for the Duncans? It is for anyone?
- What role do you think trusting God has played in their lives?
- What can you say you know about their faith from looking at their Web site and watching just a few moments of video?
Prayer: Father, we confess that our faith is too small. In our minds our lives are big but when we look at the grandness of your creation we realize we are so small. Help us be still and know that you are the God of creation, the God who made each of us and that you can be trusted in all things. Give us big faith in you and help us to get over ourselves and over our small, safe lives that stunt our growth. Put away worry and fear. We empty out now our tiny vessels and ask you to fill us with your mind, your heart, your vision and your plans for each of our lives. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.
|Knock On Doors (Click to watch)|
Watch the video clip.
Nothing happens until something's sold. Period. Business is about creating and maintaining customers and that means plenty of people have to give you money for the product or service you offer. Ken wasn't afraid to sell his photos by going from door to door.
Q: What did Ken and Pam do that most artists are not willing to do?
A: They sold Ken's work themselves and learned how to build a strong, sustainable company. Several months after Ken told the New York agency to get lost he went back to the bush of Australia to take more pictures. To fund this second trip, he sold his house. He put every penny and then some into developing a product line. Next, he and Pam convinced an upscale hotel to allow them to run an exhibit in their lobby.
Ken's enthusiasm for the project won over the hotel management. They gave Ken and Pam a room to stay in and complete access to the hotel lobby for the show. The hotel took no money for the space and took no sales commission. They figured the people coming to the exhibition would spend money in their restaurant and bar and maybe even come and spend the night in the hotel.
The "overnight" success of this exhibition emboldened the couple and they have not looked back. They have become fine business people who know how to hire and keep great employees. They know how to manage cash and when to invest. They divide and conquer the tasks and they love and respect each other.
Q: What can passion and enthusiasm do for your ideas?
A: To grow a business, try Ken's passion on for size. You can see in his face today what the hotel managers saw back in 1981. He has something to share. He is convinced that people need the beauty of God's creation in their lives and he is going to give it to them. Ken reminds us that we will all hear many people tell us, "No." This he says is normal and you can't take it personally. Passion for what you are selling will overcome any feelings of failure and serve as the match to start your fire every day.
|Take a Risk (Click to watch)|
Watch the video clip.
If you keep doing what you're doing, you'll keep having what you're having. Maybe you have read this cliché many times but we don't mind repeating it here. You have to step out and try new things to grow a business that will endure for decades.
Take some calculated risks when the time seems right. Ken took three big risky steps to create the situation in which he finds himself today. First, he refused to work for New York City agents who promised him a consistent supply of work. Second, he invested millions in the equipment he needed to be in control of his entire supply chain. And third, he refused to change the name of a book to please a publisher.
Q: What do you think emboldens entrepreneurs?
A: The ones we know aren't afraid to fail. Also, while it appears from the outside that an owner could be taking on an idea that is too big for them to handle, the truth is usually that the person has been thinking and preparing to take this risk. So you might think someone is jumping off a cliff and they think they are simply walking a narrow path close to the edge.
Entrepreneurs do not take risks; we take calculated risks. We do our research, plan the process, keep our eyes on the goal, and do whatever it takes to see the project through until the profits start to roll in.
As we become more sophisticated, we have bankers and investors lined up to help with the cash that will move us to the next level.
Back in Part 3, we learned that Ken turned down major deals that most people would consider to be the path to the pinnacle of success for a photographer. He listened to the voice of God rather than the voice from New York City. Also, he walked away from a publisher for his book, America Wide: In God We Trust. He had faith that God was guiding him and that faith unleashed God’s power. Passion, enthusiasm, courage, and strength to do God’s will come from Him. It is the Holy Spirit --the spirit of God--that will fire our hearts and point us in the right direction.
Every person in the Old Testament who received the Spirit of God was able to accomplish amazing feats.
God said to Moses, "Take Joshua the son of Nun --the Spirit is in him!--and place your hand on him." (Numbers 13:18)
God said to Joshua, "Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9)
God’s spirit came over Gideon. (Judges 6:34)
The Spirit of God came on Samson with great power. The ropes on his arms fell apart like flax on fire...he killed a whole company of men....He yelled out to God, "You have given your servant this great victory. Are you going to abandon me to die of thirst...?" So God split open the rock basin in Lehi; water gushed out and Samson drank. (Judges 15:14-19)
Samuel took his flask of oil and anointed him, with his brothers standing around watching. The Spirit of God entered David like a rush of wind, God vitally empowering him for the rest of his life. (I Samuel 16:13)
As long as they were in obedience to God, God blessed them. With Jesus, what seemed only available to a few, and what would come and go, is available to all and the Holy Spirit never leaves us.
Jesus promises us the Holy Spirit.
When they were together for the last time they asked, "Master, are you going to restore the kingdom of Israel now? Is this the time?" He told them, "You don’t get to know the time. Timing is the Father’s business. What you’ll get is the Holy Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria even to the ends of the world." (Acts 1:6-8)
Peter said, "Change your life. Turn to God and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, so your sins are forgiven. Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38)
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Romans 15:13)
We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. (I Corinthians 2:12)
- Can someone tell the story of David’s many accomplishments?
Hint: Before he became King, as a young man he killed Goliath and so reinvigorated the entire warrior class of Israel. He went on to kill thousands of men from Israel’s enemy list. He took back Jerusalem from the Philistines, brought the ark to Jerusalem, enlarged his holdings by crushing the Amalekites, Philistines, Moabites, Syrians and Ammonites, and he united the north and south into one kingdom.
- What did Peter accomplish?
Hint: He walked on water; he was the first person to call Jesus the son of the living God, the Messiah. Peter was a spokesperson for the apostles, he was the first preacher, and the first to preach Christ to a Gentile. For 40 years, he put himself in harm’s way to preach the Gospel and the power of God transformed an arrogant man into a tireless and humble evangelist. He healed the crippled, and even his shadow would heal the sick. He wrote I & II Peter to encourage the Jesus followers who were being persecuted, and some say he dictated the Gospel of Mark to John Mark. He outlived most of the other apostles who all died martyred. At the age of 65, he was executed by the Romans in Nero’s circus in AD 67.
Q: As a Jesus-follower, do you believe that God will bless your work as he blessed the work of David, Joshua, Gideon, Samson, Peter, and Paul?
A: If you are walking in obedience, of course! Just remember, blessings do not always come in the form of money or fame. Peter considered himself blessed even on the way to his death.
The most successful human being in history, Jesus, died like a criminal with zero net worth.
Q: Why do you think your life might not be as important as these heroes of the Bible?
A: Your gifts are different and perhaps used more in the background of service than out front for many to witness. However, as a believer your name is written on the hand of Jesus and the more you give of your life to him, the more he will do with you. We are not to seek after fame and wealth; we are to seek after God every day and most especially in our work. Our work is our offering, our service to others. We create value for others if we fix flat tires, teach math or run a restaurant.
Are you willing to memorize some scripture to help you see the power of your work in this world?
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your path. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Jesus said, ‘I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me and I in them will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)
|Keep Stretching (Click to watch)|
Watch the video clip.
Q: What evidence do we have that Ken is consistently pushing himself?
A: One example is that he still gets up early to get the best pictures and he advises others to get out of bed early. To us this is a metaphor for trying and stretching.
Later in the episode, he talks about entering into projects he doesn't have the money to fund but he goes ahead. Remember also that in 1980 Ken quit a good job to explore Australia with a brand new camera. He had been taking pictures since he was a teenager, and he sold photography equipment for years. When he saw the type of pictures he could take with a new piece of equipment, he pushed himself to risk his future on this new camera.
Q: Can all work be considered art?
A: Yes, because quality stretched turns work into art. Ken Duncan literally stretched photos, but more than that, he found a way to print them so that people say, "WOW" when they see them. He told us that if people don't say, "WOW," there will be no sale. Chefs have become the new celebrity class, and we think this is because of the Food Channel, and the general public is in search for the unique. There was a time when a plate of pasta was just that. Now it is garnished with signature flare. Why, because it is fun and it turns the pasta into art!
In your field of expertise, there are new ideas. What part of your time and your life can you/should you risk exploring these new possible pathways?
Most business owners we study on Small Business School lead with quality because small business can't be price-driven. Ken Duncan is teaching us that quality to the nth degree is what we have to give our clients. His photos may be just photos, but by stretching for perfection, he transformed photos into art.
If you take the challenge to be all you can be and inspire all those around you to be their best, is it possible that you, in your reach for an even higher perfection, can transform your work into art? I think so.
To wrap up our study of Ken and Pam Duncan, let's re-cap what we learned from them as persons of faith.
1. Early in life Ken turned to God when he realized that money was not making him happy.
2. Ken rejected the traditional path to success.
3. Ken and Pam boldly, in their company mission statement, declare that they personally have a Biblical worldview.
4. The company Web site offers the plan of salvation through photographs and scripture.
5. Ken’s biography on the Web site includes his favorite scripture.
6. They committed to delivering quality even though it was a financial stretch for them.
7. They refused to compromise with secular publishers.
8. The couple respects each other’s talents and they work through big decisions together.
9. They have grown the business slowly without going into deep debt.
10. They are patient.
11. They are humble.
What work is before you now? How can you serve others?
What do you see that needs fixing? Probably if you see the problem, you can be part of the solution.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for Ken and Pam and their commitment to serve you. Thank you for giving each and every one of us our own unique talents and abilities and help us to use them to bring you honor. Help us to join Ken, and in our lives show the world the beauty of your creation. Let us find the beauty in our work, the beauty in our relationships, and the beauty of your grace revealed in our lives. In your holy name we offer this prayer. Amen.
If you have questions or suggestions on how to improve this study, please contact me. [email protected]
|Ken Duncan Galleries|
Watch the entire made-for-PBS television show about Ken Duncan Galleries as one video.