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Are you running your photography business as a partnership? Whether you run it with your sister, father, spouse, or a best friend, nothing can be harder on a relationship than running a business together IF you don’t put in ground rules from the beginning.
Start With A Common Vision
When you run a successful business, you work every day with a goal in mind. As a partnership, you have to have a common goal you are striving for. Take the time to sit down and map out your vision, and what you hope to accomplish over the coming months and years. Look for things that energize the both of you, and will keep you working together instead of apart.
Make Sure Each Partner’s Needs Are Addressed
When two people start a business together, they each have different ideas and aspirations. While your vision is a long-term big goal, make sure you focus on the steps you’ll take to get there too. This is where each partner can do things he or she is best at, and can help the business grow towards a common goal.
When Andrew and I started building our business together, Andrew loved the photography side, and was happiest out in the park or at a wedding shooting. I loved the marketing, and seeing how much publicity we could get in our local community. I enjoyed being the assistant at weddings on weekends, but during the week, you could always find me designing a new marketing piece, or networking with a potential referral source. We knew where each of our expertise’s lie, and were happy to push each other into our proper directions.
Utilize Each Partner’s Strengths
When you first start out in business, you start out with one overlying love – and that’s the photography side of things. You usually go into this business because you love creating images. But along the way you can find other things you are passionate about. Maybe you love the marketing side of things, and designing new brochures for your business. Maybe it’s speaking, and you love nurturing new photographers along the way. Or maybe its one field in photography – babies for instance. Maybe you build a charity that helps newborns, and use your photography to create something new within your community. Whatever you love, whatever you become passionate about, use that to help define your vision along the way.
Find Your Limitations And Fix Them Before They Get Out Of Control
Inevitably there will be things that neither of you like, and neither of you are good at. Maybe you both hate accounting, payroll and taxes. Maybe you are both weak at creating a system for your business. Or maybe you both avoid the sales process, and leave your sales to chance. Don’t let these things get out of hand. Recognize your weaknesses, and find a way to fix them. Hire someone when possible, or take training courses to make you stronger in certain areas. Because there are two of you, it’s sometimes easier to recognize weaknesses in others, and find solutions before they become problems.
Set Company and Individual Goals
Once your vision is in place, establish company and individual goals that allow each of you to achieve personal results. Individual goals should always support the company goals, but they can allow you to stretch out and be yourself.
For instance, if your goal is to be a six figure wedding studio, maybe one loves wedding photography, and one loves portrait work. One could photograph weddings on the weekends with assistants, and one could do studio work for engagements and trash the dress sittings.
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Review and update your goals along the way as you find things you both want to pursue. Also make sure you know what each will do so there is no question about who is accountable for what.
Handle Disagreements and Frustrations Immediately
Whenever you work closely with someone, there are bound to be disagreements. Handling them effectively is the key to keeping the relationship strong and healthy. Business is business, and you must learn to separate your business and personal life as long as you run a business together. Don’t let frustrations fester; instead deal with them as soon as they happen. You can even close out each day discussing the positives and negatives from the day, and how you’ll use that to grow more positive in the future.
Build A System To Keep Things In Order
When each of you is working on your own projects and commitments, it’s easy to expect things from the other person that they can’t deliver. Be respectful of each other’s time, and put a system into place that allows all work to be completed on his or her schedule.
Andrew and I use an online project management system that allows each of us to add tasks, and assign priorities to them. We can add notes and comments, and communicate through the comment sections of each project.
While it might seem like a system like this is too much when you’re sitting 10 feet from your partner, what it allows you to do is communicate the importance of things on your plate, and yet allow your partner to be conscious of his time commitments too. When you know its in writing, and everyone can see what needs to be done, you avoid the redundant questions that can quickly get on the other person’s nerves.
Define Job Descriptions and Roles
Have you and your partner clarified who does what? If not, you may be operating under false assumptions. By establishing job roles early on, you can quickly define who will be in charge of what. Lack of clarity is what causes disappointment and frustration down the road. The sooner you deal with things, the less friction you will face in the future. This will also help you establish where you are weak, and where you could use some help by hiring a specialist. It can also help you down the road when you are ready to hire your first employee, as you will have specific tasks defined.