OGDEN — Ron Inkley has survived both a waning economy and a momentous shift in the photography and imaging field and lived to tell about his success.
“No industry has changed as much as ours in the last 10 years,” says Inkley, 83. “I have been in the same business for 63 years, but now it is in a completely different environment.”
Inkley started his business in 1947 with a loan from his father, selling photographic merchandise. Within three years, he had paid back the original loan. Over time, the business expanded to include 21 stores in four states.
A Salt Lake City native, Inkley moved to Ogden in 1958, when he was 19, and has been a resident ever since.
“I could be more successful in Salt Lake, but I love Ogden,” Inkley says.
“Ogden represents everything I like. I have always been a fan. The change in Ogden is evident and exciting. I am proud to be from Ogden.”
In 1996, Inkley sold his business but stayed involved in the industry through trade groups and consulting work.
For 55 years, the industry didn’t change much. Then came what he calls the “interesting transition” from film to digital, accompanied by economic upheaval.
Two years ago, he partnered with his son to start a new business, The Imaging Depot, in the heart of downtown Ogden. He now helps with the purchasing, ordering, inventory control and marketing.
Inkley has been involved in the Photographic Research Organization for many years. He has served as its president and is currently a consultant for the group.
Interacting with other photographic professionals from around the nation has helped him keep on top of his industry, he says.
Over the last five decades, he has typically spent five to six weeks in seminars, “learning from peers across the country,” he says.
“They talk of their successes and failures. I’ve watched people make adaptations to the new technology, and I’ve watched others go out of business. There are some people that just can’t make it.”
After selling his business, he stood by and watched the 21 stores dwindle to four.
“Rolls of film drove the business,” Inkley says of the past. “When digital came along, it caught everyone flatfooted.”
Inkley has chosen to “make change a technological ally.”
He says his son, Mat, has been instrumental in helping him keep up with technological changes in the industry. He finds marketing via social media one of the most challenging aspects of his current business.
Inkley has tossed the film rolls and taken to placing images on canvas, metal, rock, wallpaper and photo books. His business offers enlargements up to 33 feet wide.
He says the secret to success in any economy is finding the customers’ needs and filling them, even if it means investing in expensive equipment.
He learned another vital lesson as a 12-year-old when he helped a wealthy elderly man with his gardening. The man made his money during the Depression, purchasing several businesses. When asked his secret, the man told Inkley, “Make sure not to spend more than you take in.”
It’s a simple concept, but one that many people don’t follow, Inkley says.
The national media has created fear in the general public regarding the economy, he says.
“We have had slow times, but not as slow as people might think,” Inkley says.
“Things go on whether there’s a slowdown or not. There are opportunities all the time. Sometimes we just don’t see them. It takes vision.”
Inkley’s vision has led to continued growth of The Imaging Depot, which employs seven. Inkley’s vision is to make The Imaging Depot the best imaging business in the Intermountain West.
“I’m not any smarter than my competition,” Inkley says. “I’m just a hard worker.”
No business is easy, Inkley says, and problems will accompany every opportunity.
“Be ever watchful for the hand grenades thrown at you in business,” he advises. “Recognize your failures. If you don’t have failures, you are not doing much.”