Working With Your Spouse, Part 5

This is part 5 of a 6 part series on husband and wife photography teams. In this series I highlight many of the struggles Geoff and I faced as husband and wife business partners and how we overcame them. Look for the series posts on Fridays.

Divide and Conquer

One of the biggest challenges in running a wedding photography business is the never ending workload. Your business isn’t just taking wedding photos, in fact that is usually the smallest piece. Once you throw in accounting, legal issues, sales, marketing, production, emails, print orders, networking, etc. things can quickly become overwhelming.

Figure out which areas of the business are a match for each person’s skills and talents, and then each person can have an area of focus or responsibility. For Geoff and me, his areas have always been production, everything technical, accounting and legal. My areas are customer service, sales and marketing. We both shoot.

In Case of Staff…

If you have grown your studio to include staff, congratulations. You must be doing something right. However, remember that it can be very confusing from staff to receive different directives and priorities from two bosses. Who’s in charge? Who should they follow? I mean, let's be honest here; if you work with your spouse as a partnership, you probably don't agree on every single thing. Determine who is going to be managing the staff and make it clear for them who is their manager and who they should expect to receive instructions, projects and constructive criticism from. When we hired our first production assistant, I was in the process of transitioning to a more involved role within the business. Even though we thought it was clear, we hadn’t made a point to explain what my role was. She was used to working with Geoff, and suddenly I was starting to give her projects and directions. We only realized how confused she was when we heard her referring to me as ‘the boss's wife' as in, ‘why is the boss’s wife telling me what to do now?'

When you are pouring your heart and soul into growing a business you are both passionate about, it’s only natural there will be occasional fights or “heated disagreements” as I prefer to think of them. That’s fine, but remember to keep it away from the eyes and ears of your staff. It’s very disrespectful to them and extremely uncomfortable to hear the two of you going at it. In order to make sure this doesn’t happen, have a pre-arranged system for handling disagreements when they come up so you aren’t sending mixed signals to team members that are confused about who’s going to make the final call. You can quietly go into another room if possible; otherwise, you may need to discuss sensitive issues after office hours. Remember, this is someone else’s work environment so keep it professional.

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