I’m not gonna lie – owning my own business with my hubby is a pretty cool gig.
Nay, it’s better than just cool.
When we dream, we dream together.
When we travel, we travel together.
When we shoot, we shoot together.
We when we wake up, go to bed, work all day, eat our lunch, make our dinner, go to meetings, head to happy hour, and scoot around town – you got it – we’re TOGETHER.
As my cheerleading squad in high school would say, “that’s a whole lotta togetherness.”
And most of our friends ask us, “Ummmm, how do you do it without, you know… strangling each other?”
There’s so much that goes into that answer (we’re best friends, we know our boundaries, we keep business outside of the bedroom), but there’s definitely one key thing that has helped us succeed as business partners while keeping our marriage intact.
The Power of Closed Systems
When it comes to ‘sleeping with your business partner’ (as my friend Lizzy calls it), Jeff and I are big believers in closed systems.
By sticking to this kind of internal organization within our business, we’ve been able to avoid contention and frustration on several levels – business and personal.
What do I mean by closed systems?
A closed system means that our roles in the business are completely separated from each other – we don’t have to rely or wait on each other to get a job done.
For example, I am in charge of the blog for our business, so that means that I edit the images that go on the blog, I write the posts, I schedule the blog calendar, I promote the posts via social media, and I approve anything that relates to the blog.
In fact, my job title is Chief Deputy of the Blogosphere and Blogosphere Relations. (It makes me feel super official.)
This kind of autonomy means that I don’t ever have to rely on my husband in order to do my job well.
I don’t have to pester, nag, or generally harass him over job tasks, which builds an atmosphere of trust, confidence, and faith in the office.
We avoid tons of fights this way – BUH-LEIVE me.
I don’t have to wait on him, and he doesn’t have to wait on me.
We just get stuff done.
You May Need to Restructure
Many times, the biggest objection that I hear from married photographers when I talk about closed systems is that in order to close a system, one of them will have to learn a new skill set.
For example, when I took over the blog about a year into our business, we quickly realized that my newbie self would have to learn how to color correct our images in order to manage the full system.
Editing was a completely foreign skill to me, but Jeff patiently taught me everything I needed to know until I could take over the photo editor role in our business.
Which is a role that I still hold to this day (and yes, that role is a closed system too).
So don’t be afraid to learn new skills in order to close a system.
You’re a business owner. If you’re in this for the long haul, then you need to do whatever it takes to build an efficient, flexible internal structure that will be able to expand along with your workload.
Jeff was the person that already knew what he was doing with editing and image management, but if we were going to close the blog system, I had to step out of my comfort zone early on.
But in the end, that major restructure helped our business thrive when a much bigger workload came along.
Play to Your Strengths
The key to creating closed systems is playing to your unique skill sets.
I thrive on day-to-day task management, so not only am I the Blog Goddess and Photo Queen (when you create your own job, you get to create your own name), I also double as Ms. Office Manager and Madam Album-Sauce.
Jeff is the forward-thinking strategic CEO-type, so he’s the IT Genius, Financial Guru, and Branding / Marketing Gentleman (and Scholar).
So maybe closing a system doesn’t mean that one person has to learn how to edit, but one person could learn how to write for the blog.
Or perhaps it means that you need to rethink the blog so that it doesn’t focus on writing, but focuses on a different strength one of you exhibits.
Is one of you really good at discovering fun, relevant content on the web? Like finding music, art, videos, or inspiration your ideal client would love?
There are a lot of ways to get creative when it comes to separating your job roles, so don’t feel like you have to structure your business exactly how we do.
We’ve just found that a big part of our success – both in our business and in our marriage – has been closing our systems.
And the best part about keeping functions so isolated?
If you decide to hire employees or outsource a certain piece of your business, each job role detaches itself so easily that you’ll be amazed.
You might even do an Irish jig of joy in front of that brand new employee. I mean…