Azlo Customer Story - Christopher Kabat

Christopher Kabat Photo credit: Christopher Kabat.

When Christopher Kabat launched ProAerial Media, LLC (PAM) in late fall of 2019, he set the wheels in gear for an official kick-off in the spring of 2020.

Christopher anticipated that his Las Vegas-based company, which specializes in aerial imaging services — think photography, videography, and photogrammetry — in industries such as construction, real estate, and insurance, to gain traction in the warmer months.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, that ultimately didn’t pan out. In turn, PAM’s launch has been suspended in a frozen state. With so much out of his control, initially he was at a loss on what to do.

He didn’t want to change his game plan — not at first, anyway. “I had worked hard to develop it, and I just wanted to be able to execute it,” says Christopher, who is PAM’s sole owner and senior pilot.

But, like so many other small businesses, as the launch of PAM is on hold for now, Christopher had to shift gears and rework his business strategy. He’s using this in-between period before his business can be in full swing to come up with ways to strengthen his business.

The pandemic has actually given us the time to take a deeper look at some ideas that we had earlier, that we may have had to rush through or table,” he says. It’s given startup businesses like ours a chance to relaunch again — perhaps better than the first time.

Here are Christopher’s tips on how a small business can plan for a relaunch, and on practicing patience during the coronavirus pandemic:

On creating strategies to relaunch

Reallocate resources. Because marketing efforts for his business are currently on hold, Christopher decided to pour resources to flight planning and training opportunities. He’s working on completing some certifications. In turn, he’ll be able to provide 3D modeling and mapping and surveying services for clients by the 4th quarter of this year — far ahead of schedule.

Pinpoint future opportunities in growing industries. Because the wedding industry as a whole has been put to a halt, many spring weddings will inevitably get pushed back to the fall. In turn, Christopher and his strategic partners have devised a growth plan to try to tap into that market.

While not exactly getting into the wedding videos business, they’ve developed a package called “The Plus One.” It’s so wedding industry professionals can offer a drone video to their existing services.

“You can think of it as a white label, aerial drone service,” says Christopher, who has been an Azlo customer since November 2019. “And as a pivot for us, it’s another avenue of revenue that we would be really ill-advised not to ignore.”

Stick to what you love. While it’s important to explore areas where you might want to pivot, Christopher points out it’s also key to stick to what you love and not venture into an arena that isn’t a good fit for you.

For instance: Back to providing drone video services for the wedding industry, PAM is careful not to get caught in the rabbit hole of making wedding videos. Christopher has devoted some time defining how involved he wants to get into different services. “I want to put the drone up in the air, take some footage, give you a memory card and say, ‘enjoy.’ “

Stay lean. As so much remains uncertain, Christopher is sticking to being an army of one. Because it’s just him and a few strategic partners, he hasn’t had to tap into additional sources of financing to stay afloat.

Get hyperlocal. For those whose businesses are geographically limited from COVID-19, Christopher points going from the “macro” to the “micro.” While it is important to cast a wide net and think big, also try thinking of how you can take what you wanted to do on a larger scale to where you’re currently based.

Case in point: Christopher had some expansion plans for the business to get into some more advanced arenas in the drone industry — 3D modeling, surveying, and mapping on large-scale projects. But rather than doing that in, say, New Mexico, how can Christopher focus on, say, just the state of Nevada and turn that into a viable business?

Christopher Kabat Photo credit: Christopher Kabat

On keeping your audience engaged

Keep creating. A serial entrepreneur, Christopher’s other business,is an inbound marketing and creative services agency. He’s been able to put his know-how and years of experience to create content for PAM’s website and blog.

Use what you know. Having a background in web development and content creation for business, and an arsenal of people who work with him in that arena has been really advantageous. He creates all the content for his company’s website, optimizing it for Google’s algorithms targeted SEO keywords in his industry.

Develop unique experiences for your customers. While some small businesses might feel limited in what they can offer their client base at the moment, focus on what you can offer digitally.

Case in point: Since the pandemic, Christopher has put together what he calls E-Scapes, which are snippets of aerial videos and photos of breathtaking, unique vistas shot with drones. These videos have provided a welcome respite — especially from city dwellers who are cooped up indoors during quarantine.

“We just wanted to give you some peace and tranquility that you might otherwise be way removed from,” he says. “If you’re from Manhattan, you've got no hope of finding a 2-feet square to call your own.”

Christopher Kabat Photo credit: Christopher Kabat

On using the most of your resources

Pull from your current resources to get you through. While business from his digital marketing agency has also taken a bit of a hit, Christopher has been fortunate enough to use revenue from his other business to keep PAM afloat. As far as financial resources go, PAM is entirely privately owned, operated, and funded by Christopher.

Look into all existing loan options. In the wake of the pandemic, Christopher says that it’s almost too easy to find financial resources to help him with his business. “It can feel like being a deer in headlights,” he laughs.

As Christopher doesn’t currently have a crew or much overhead — all the equipment for his business he owns outright — the PPP isn’t a good fit for his needs. He did apply for the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) to possibly put toward hiring some contractors or toward more equipment.

Christopher Kabat Photo credit: Christopher Kabat

Making the most of this uncertain time

Get a mentor. During this time, Christopher encourages fellow entrepreneurs to open their eyes to the possibility of finding a mentor. This mentor can help shape their career path.

“It doesn't have to be necessarily in your industry,” he says. “I've met several people in the course of my career that I'd just befriended. We met through client engagement and, and then that just progressed into a personal relationship.”

Stop and smell the roses. In Christopher’s eyes, a silver lining during this time of uncertainty is that it’s forced everyone to slow down. He quotes Ferris Bueller: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

“This stoppage of the clock is unprecedented,” he says. “If we all just went back and hit the ‘rewind’ button to six months ago, and think about how fast everyone was moving, no one had time for anything. It’s great that people can actually slow down a little bit and take it in.”

Christopher, who admits having a hard time being patient his entire life, has learned how important it is to be okay with uncertainty.

“Things aren’t going back to normal. We have to embrace change. We all have a lot more learning to do, a lot more things to accept, and to be accustomed to,” he says. “I think the best thing that we can all do — myself included, and maybe especially — is to be patient.”

Christopher Kabat Photo credit: Christopher Kabat

Jackie Lam
Jackie Lam is an L.A.-based money writer whose work has appeared in Forbes, Business Insider, and GOOD Magazine. She is currently studying to be a financial coach (AFC®) to help artists and freelancers with their money. In her free time she blogs at heyfreelancer.com

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