Being adaptable, keeping an open mind, and building a reputation for excellence in both the quality of work and of customer service goes a long way for a business owner in tough times. Not being afraid or too proud of asking for and receiving help in extraordinary times is also the sign of a mature, resilient entrepreneur.

One Bradford-based professional photographer/videographer was able to keep his enterprise afloat over the past 18 months due to his remarkable willingness to change tack quickly and effectively, and to maintain his focus on being the best he can be at his job and continuing to do more than expected, even in the difficult times brought on by the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.

As the name of the business quite aptly encapsulates, World Class Photo & Video works to help clients develop, enhance and promote a visual image for their brand or organization. According to owner Richard Yagutilov, who has owned and operated the business for 20 years, first in Toronto, and now in Bradford for the last decade, he and his team are focussed on all aspects of visual identity for their customers.

“We do everything related to photography and video production, so that can include some graphic design, branding, head shots of people, photos of products, photos for advertising, real estate photos and the same thing for video. We do videos for ads, videos for YouTube, commercials for TV online learning videos for colleges and universities, videos for entrepreneurs to run on their websites. I have even dabbled in some wedding stuff as well,” Yagutilov explained.

“A big percentage of my clients are from Bradford and the surrounding area, including Newmarket and Barrie. But we have clients that may have started out in Toronto but moved to other parts of Canada and still want to work with us. So, we will travel all over Canada. Before COVID we would make six or seven big trips a year and have been to pretty much every province in Canada.”

The first big pivot for Yagutilov came when he decided to move from the heart of the big city – downtown Toronto – to the more rural, less ‘busy’ community of Bradford-West Gwillimbury in order to raise a family in the best surroundings possible.

“When I was in Toronto, our focus was on live entertainment and music, as well as advertising. When we moved up to Bradford, it was strictly doing corporate and commercial work for small to medium sized businesses. I moved here because I was starting to have my own family and kind of outgrew downtown and wanted a better place to live and raise a family. I wanted someplace a little quieter and more peaceful where I could be home a lot more, but where there was still a great opportunity for my business because of the kind of active and diverse community Bradford is,” he explained.

It took about a year, he said, but eventually the change in location and change in direction of the business paid dividends and World Class Photo & Video soon became a rollicking success, based on two foundational elements – quality of outcome, and a willingness to go above and beyond for each and every client.

“Looking back at all the iterations of me and my business, there are a couple of things that are really fundamental. One is I do good work. And I think that’s an important foundation and that’s not just me saying it. People can say they do good work but with photography and videography it’s easy to judge because you can look and see for yourself the quality of the end product. I do good work and that helps build your reputation. I think visually what I do is pretty new and creative, and word of mouth gets around,” he explained.

“The other fundamental that has always helped me is that I am not lazy. I don’t know why I have always been like this, but I am always on the go. I’ve always got to keep moving forward and doing something. And I always have been the kind of person who goes above and beyond expectations. I don’t mind doing something for free or for really good deals to get the word out. When you are starting out or have made a big change, doing favours for people, and going above and beyond, is like karma. For me it’s always come back around in good ways – the universe will get to me on the flipside. I add a lot of value when I do something. If I am getting paid for X, I will give them X but also throw in a little Y as a gift or bonus that they didn’t expect to leave a good taste in their mouth. That’s always been a part of my personality.”

The initial weeks and months after the full effect of the pandemic and resultant government restrictions and lockdowns had a significant impact on Yagutilov’s business, as many of clients were either completely shut down, or keeping all costs down to a bare minimum, including for advertising, social media and videos.

But after the dust settled and showing a resourcefulness that seemingly comes as second nature, Yagutilov pivoted once again, embracing aspects of his business that weren’t necessarily priorities before, but which we now key revenue drivers that helped keep World Class Photo & Video open for business right until today, pandemic notwithstanding.

“Things started to pick up when I pivoted again in a small way where we focused more on editing work and promoted that. We encouraged people to do their own filming, send out their rough content and we would create the video for them. That kept us going until the real estate market started to pick up and soon went into full swing with so many companies doing online sales and showings. That kept us going and even though the last couple of years are not as good as before COVID, they’re not as bad as they could have been,” he said.

Early on, realizing he need a little assistance for his plans to adapt and change direction due to the COVID-19 fallout, Yagutilov chose to take advantage of a couple of programs run by Nottawasaga Futures, in partnership with the Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury. First, he participated in the federally sponsored Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF) which was set up as part of the COVID-19 Economic Response Plan established by the Government of Canada. The program fileted funding through FedDev Ontario in conjunction with local Community Futures Development Corporations.

Part of this included a total of $50 million to help small to medium sized enterprises go digital or enhance their digital footprint in areas such as online sales, marketing and improving websites and social media presence. It was this aspect of the RRRF that Yagutilov availed himself.

“We’re still working on it, but I will have new websites and it will give people the ability to book and schedule a shoot online and also be able to give me a deposit online directly through the website. So that’s a big help,” he said, adding that he also utilized a number of hours that were subsidized through Nottawasaga Futures to allow for free business advise to local entrepreneurs related to marketing and promotions.

Also, he received $2,000 from the Bradford Emergency Business Sustainability Funding program, which was allocated by BWG council and administered by Nottawasaga Futures. The funding helped World Class Photo & Video stay financially afloat during the first uncertain months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I felt it was a very easy and very, very easy application process. You just clicked on certain boxes, put your information in and hit send. It wasn’t a complicated or cumbersome thing to fill out and it was good to know if you were approved quickly,” Yagutilov said.

With the enhancements to his business since the onset of the pandemic, when things come back to some sense of normalcy, Yagutilov will have added more revenue streams, streamlined the online aspects of his business operations, and continued to earn the respect and business of more and more clients due to his seemingly endless supply of optimism, flexibility and capacity to do more than what is expected.

For more information, visit https://worldclassphotovideo.com.

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