Victoria Rayburn explains when and how to pivot a small business.
Episode 116: When & How to Pivot a Small Business
October 31, 2023
Mary Adkins, Treefrog Marketing’s Director of Operations.
Episode 118: Four Systems Every Small Business Must Have to Increase Efficiency & Growth
November 14, 2023

November 7, 2023

Episode 117: How to Build a Team that Helps Your Small Business Thrive with Ryan & Anna of Refuge & Co.

Spotify | Apple Podcasts | Amazon Podcasts | Stitcher

Building a great team is a strategic decision that can reshape your business, allow you to embrace newfound personal freedom, and ultimately lead to a flourishing enterprise.

But how exactly do you get started?

To answer that question, we are joined by Ryan and Anna Leonard, a husband and wife photographer team and founders of Refuge & Co.—a 13-member, multi-state wedding photography company that believes in creating an unbelievable client experience that is a refuge for the clients they are blessed to serve.

In this week’s episode of Priority Pursuit, Ryan and Anna guide us through the ins and outs of how to build a team that helps your small business thrive.


How the Right Team Can Transform Your Business and Life.

It’s relatively easy to point to certain moments in time and say they changed your life, but how often can you say that something completely changed the trajectory of your future?

For Ryan and Anna, building an associate team did just that.


More Business Opportunities

When the couple was working independently, they could theoretically photograph 50-70 weddings a year, and that’s if they did one or two every weekend—which isn’t always the best option. Because of these limitations, they found that they were having to turn away potential clients just as often as they were able to book them.

This led them to wonder what they could do to allow people to still have the Refuge & Co. experience they wanted to share while staying true to their schedule. And, that’s where their associate team began.

In the realm of photography, an associate team is made up of photographers who choose to work under a specific brand like Refuge & Co. These photographers understand the mission that Refuge is serving and work under the brand to create a consistent experience and product for the clients.

And, according to Ryan and Anna, this associate team has completely changed their lives—in both their business and personal worlds.


Freedom to Work on Other Aspects of Your Business & Life

Before hiring great team members, Ryan and Anna were shooting around 40 weddings a year—which was both a time and mental strain. But, with their associate team, Refuge & Co. can now schedule 75 weddings or more. And of those 75, Ryan and Anna only need to shoot 10 themselves.

While their lives used to completely revolve around booking and working as many weddings as possible, their associate team allows them to take a step back and focus on different aspects of running their business, including diving into the educational field.

It also means they have more time to dedicate to life at home. With their budding team, they were able to grow their family without stressing about being at work or maintaining the top-tier experience they are dedicated to providing their clients. Their daily life looks completely different now thanks to the support they receive from their team.


How to Build a Team that Helps Your Small Business

When it comes to hiring your team, it all stems from what you choose to focus on. For Ryan and Anna, it was important to find the right people who aligned with their mission. This way, they could continue to provide the experience they promised their clients. As Ryan said, you can teach skills, but you can’t teach heart.

Even so, skills obviously play an important role regardless of what industry you work in. Oftentimes, small business owners are hesitant to add associates to their teams because they believe no one can do their job the same way they can. Ryan and Anna had similar thoughts at the beginning, but as they worked through the process, they realized they were lying to themselves.

Consider yourself and how you started. You weren’t always the expert in whatever field you work in now; you had to build yourself up and learn from experiences and procedures. Your team members can do the same—if you have the proper systems in place.

Before you consider adding members to your team, it’s important that you systemize everything that you do. From beginning to end, you need to have your processes laid out and written down so someone else can come in and continue to do the job in the same way you have been.

Likewise, it’s also essential to share the “why” behind what you do and how you do it. Without having this clear path of what people are working towards, you will likely create a dysfunctional and unhappy team that produces inconsistent experiences and products. Even a solo entrepreneur can crush a team of 100 people if there is no clear system or reasoning behind it.


What Building a Successful Team Means for You & Your Business

Success here can look different for different people. While yes, creating systems and building a team can help you book more clients and grow as a business, it can also help you achieve more freedom in life. It allows you to go from thinking, “I need to be doing this, this is my only source of income,” to focusing on life at home—whatever that means for you.

That being said, building a team does not automatically give you a perfect work-life balance. Balance isn’t always possible. It may happen for a split second, but by the time the next second comes along things can be thrown off again.

Rather than trying to accomplish that perfect balance, Ryan recommends finding a comfortable rhythm of ups and downs. You may not be able to control everything, but with a team, you are able to turn those high peaks and low valleys into a maintainable and steady rhythm. Perfect balance may be a fantasy, but you can find some peace and freedom in life with a rhythm.


How You Can Get Started

When Ryan and Anna first started on this journey, they had more questions than answers. That, combined with their experience as educators, led them to want to share their experiences with other small business owners like you who might be in the same place they were.

They have created templates and programs—like their Business Accelerators Program—to help you create the systems you need before you bring in team members. From coaching to email templates, they can give you the tools you need to continue developing your business to unimaginable levels. Check out their website for more information!

Be sure to listen to this whole episode (at the top of the page or wherever you listen to podcasts) to hear more insight and advice from Ryan and Anna about how to build a team that helps your small business thrive. If you’d like to connect with Ryan and Anna, you can visit their website or find them on Instagram (@refugeand_co) or Facebook.


Links & Resources Mentioned in This Episode


Try HoneyBook—the all-in-one CRM that streamlines your workflow—to save 45 minutes per day on admin tasks.



The Priority Pursuit Podcast is a podcast dedicated to helping small business owners define, maintain, and pursue both their personal and business priorities so they can build lives and businesses they love.

You can find The Priority Pursuit Podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Podcasts, Stitcher, and wherever you listen to podcasts.



Did you enjoy this episode?

If so, pin it to save it for later! Follow us on Pinterest for more marketing, business, branding, and boundary-setting strategies!


Join us on “Priority Pursuit” as Ryan and Anna Leonard guide us through the ins and outs of how to build a team that helps your small business thrive.



Leverage Kelly’s marketing experience, insights, and leadership to grow your business.

As the founder and chief marketing strategist at Treefrog Marketing, a co-host of the Priority Pursuit Podcast, a StoryBrand Certified Guide, and fractional chief marketing officer, Kelly Rice has spent more than two decades helping small businesses take their companies to the next level by providing trustworthy leadership and building effective marketing strategies and systems.

She has dedicated her career to helping small businesses succeed because she knows, firsthand, how hard they work to make their communities a better place. 

Still, many people undervalue the strength and ingenuity of small businesses, but not Kelly. She believes they deserve to have a marketing partner and strategy that works as hard as they do.

Is outsourcing a marketing director something new?

What do fractional CMOs do?

Who needs a fractional CMO?

What are the benefits of hiring a part-time marketing director??

When should you partner with a fractional CMO?

Are there limitations to a fractional CMO?

How do I find a qualified fractional CMO?

How much does it cost to partner with a fractional CMO?

parallax background
parallax background