Each year, PTN honors a photo retailer as our Dealer of the Year. This year, we’ve chosen Stan Bedford and the team of Bedford Camera & Video, with six locations in Arkansas, as our Dealer of the Year. Bedford Camera & Video displays the cohesive teamwork, innovative ideas, and business-savvy marketing, a passion for photography, and genuine care and support for its employees that embodies a Dealer of the Year.
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.
Bedford’s—like many other photo specialty stores around the country—have photographers on-staff. These creative employees are often running to off-site shoots that Bedford Camera & Video does to help others in the local community. In fact, store managers are expected to fill each month’s calendar with community events.
“It’s not only correct for business, but it’s correct in the community,” says Stan, of his philosophy of helping others. Photography is an exciting industry and its given Stan and his staff the opportunity to help make an impact in the lives of others. “Photography is the perfect medium,” he says. Bedford Camera & Video brings its expertise to the table—and leverages that with media coverage and partnerships to benefit the community. These efforts keep the Bedford name visible in the community, and the positive PR received is invaluable.
While we were in Arkansas, visiting with Stan and the rest of the Bedford family, photographers and others in the company shared some of the recent events they’d helped with, including: the Sebastian County Humane Society’s “Paws in the Park,” the Alzheimer’s Association’s “Tinsel and Tails” event, the “Prom Angels or Project Guardian Angel,” local Soap Box Derby events, children’s portraits with Santa, and the recent partnership with the Arkansas Game & Fish Foundation photo contest. Bedford’s was a major supporter, providing the printing of a large exhibit at the University of Arkansas which displayed photos taken on 9/11 of the attack on the WTC in New York City. Bedford’s looks forward to working with these organizations to help important causes, yet at the same time realizing that the community appreciates and does a lot of business with them because of this commitment. Additionally, supporting State Fairs, Air Shows, Rodeos, Golf Tournaments and other events, Bedford’s recognizes the importance of these events to the quality of life in their state.
Oftentimes they provides a photographer and printing. Sometimes they print flyers and posters—but whatever form the support comes in, the Bedford logo is always prominently visible, alerting the community to their efforts.
These goodwill efforts also extend to the photo retail community. Jeff is very active in both the IPI and PRO buying groups as a board member, speaker and mentor. Jeff and Steve also lecture at PMA and PRO events. Participating in PRO and IPI offer “a tremendous advantage to helping dealers put money in their pockets,” says Jeff. “We wouldn’t have the gross margins we do today if it weren’t for the buying groups. We thought we were big time buyers, and we were, but the buying groups really helped us level the playing field. It’s impractical today for an independent to be profitable and not support a buying group”