How to work together without killing each other – by Donna Archibald

March 29th, 2012

Donna and Mark Archibald, the charismatic husband and wife team, really know their way around the wedding business. Shooting together since 2003, but friends for much longer, Archibald Photography has been featured in multiple publications and have received many honors in the industry. This dynamic duo is also a part of our Zenfolio Pro Team. Today, Donna Archibald addresses the question on everyone’s mind – how do they work together without killing each other? Read on to find out…

How to work together without killing each other – by Donna Archibald

The question I am most often asked by friends about running our photography business is what it is like to work with your other half. The fact that Mark and I live together, have two kids together and run a successful business together seems to be a constant source of fascination for other people.

On some days, we must spent just about every waking and sleeping minute in each other’s company! We have a photographic studio within our home and aside from shooting client assignments or client meetings in the studio, our working time is spent sharing an office. In fact, we actually share a desk as we make use of a huge vintage partners desk. Partners desks were made with drawers on one side and drawers and cupboards on the other, making it possible for two people to work on the same desk at the same time.

For some people, working together might sound like a dream come true. No more office politics or unreasonable bosses. Just you and your significant other working towards a shared dream. For others, it just sounds like a nightmare. Friends tell me that their time spent at work is a welcome reprieve from their partner!

I won’t pretend that Mark and I working together has always been easy to accomplish. Even the happiest of couples don’t always agree on everything and you have to be sure you have a really strong relationship (and a good sense of humour!).

There are many rewards to working with your partner; flexibility, trust and spending more time together. If the idea is attractive to you then I would say that there are a few important factors to consider in making your family photography business successful.

Don’t step on each other’s toes. One of the best reasons our particular partnership works so well is that we have complimentary skills; Mark’s award winning photography skills combined with my background in business and marketing. We each have different strengths and weaknesses and whilst there might be many areas of the business where we need to work together, it makes sense for us to take overall responsibility for specific areas. In our business, Mark takes responsibility for photographing and editing whereas I take responsibility for client contact, marketing and order fulfillment. Over our years working together, we have settled into a very compatible way of working that now just comes naturally.

Be flexible and have respect. Although you might agree on each other’s role within the business, you still need to have a huge amount of flexibility. You need to communicate well and really, really listen to each other. If there’s a tight deadline in our business then we would both work together to make sure something gets done. It’s important that you don’t try and compete with each other, but respect each other’s talents and areas of expertise. And in many ways, you also have to tolerate each other’s differences – with our shared desk arrangement, Mark has to accept that my side of the desk is mostly in (organised) chaos!

Create a boundary between your personal and business lives. It’s really important that you have separate interests outside of your photography business because being in each other’s company 24:7 could become monotonous for even the most robust of relationships.  Non-stop talk about your business can be a real mood killer! It’s healthy for your business and for your relationship if you set aside some alone time or time with separate friends. Much as our business is our passion, it’s important to us that we don’t let it consume us and our family life.

I would honestly say that Mark and I respect each other more by working together towards a common goal. I hope if you take the plunge to work together that you find, as we did, that the intensity of the experience strengthens your relationship with each other.