Almost by definition, photographers—like most artists—tend to be soloists. We go out and shoot what WE see, without much use for others’ opinions. Oh, sure, sometimes we have to pretend to listen to others—clients, for example—but even then, we try our best to put our individual mark on things.
It’s not uncommon for us to use assistants, of course, but it is also not uncommon for us to think of them almost as another piece of equipment, a sophisticated tool used to help capture our vision. Whether that’s good or bad is between you and your assistant. But what happens when you grow enough to have more than just one?
That’s where things can get tricky. Hiring the first employee is important, but by the time you get around to the second or third, you already have machinery in place. The new hire has to be able to mesh. That may require more attention from you, right at a time when you’re busier than ever (that’s why you’re hiring, remember?). But NOT spending the time could be a costly mistake,
Like any small business, you depend on repeat customers to keep you profitable and sustainable. But we live in an age of extremely tenuous loyalty. The actions of your employee might not reflect your core philosophies, but it could mean the difference between success and failure for your business.
Think about it: have you ever decided not to return to a merchant because you were dismissed or treated rudely by an employee? The stakes are even hiring when you’re talking about something as personal as photographs. Like it or not, any employee who has contact with your customers represents YOU, as far as outsiders are concerned.
Why Teamwork Matters
One bad apple might not spoil the whole bunch, but it can affect your internal productivity. Negativity spreads quickly. When one individual is taking twice as long to complete work or constantly complaining about the workload, it affects the entire studio. Efficiency takes a major hit and other team members become unnecessary stressed.
There is much truth in the old adage that we’re only as strong as our weakest link; the smaller the group, the more you feel the effects of one person who isn’t pulling his or her weight. Again, a positive atmosphere is key and teamwork is essential. It’s your studio, so it’s your responsibility to create a team dynamic where everyone contributes, and everyone understands their contribution.
Building a Tighter Team
So what can you do to help turn your business into a smooth-running machine? What can you do to build trust and teamwork? Well, for starters, forget clichéd games and so-called team outings: research has shown these seldom work. The most important factors in building teamwork often happen behind the scenes. True teamwork is based on shared accomplishments, not forced participation in events that often lead people to feel even more isolated
Here are some real ways YOU, as a leader, can create a stronger team:
- Avoid making bad hires from the start: A simple background check can quickly uncover things like a falsified resume or a negative employment history.
- Be sure employees are very clear on their job responsibilities, any measurable metrics, and exactly what is expected of them.
- Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. To ensure your business runs smoothly even with an absence, train all employees on the responsibilities of their fellow team members.
- Employee reviews aren’t just for giving feedback: they’re also an excellent time to identify weak spots ranging from employee behavior to process inefficiencies.
- Be flexible. This is more than an open-door policy; give your team a stake in the company’s future. Consult them on strategies and plans…you might be surprised how much they know.
The bottom line is, teamwork isn’t just people working in the same place. It’s people working together for the same goal, where the total is greater than the sum of the parts. For that, all you really need are people who are willing to learn. If you’ve got that in place, you’re already a step ahead of the pack.