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Episode 010: The Good, The Hard, & The Myths About Running a Business with Your Spouse with Ryan & Anna Leonard of Refuge Photography

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Anna and Ryan Leonard of Refuge Photography are crossfit buddies; sushi enthusiasts; and a destination, husband-wife photography team based in Rosemary Beach Florida. 

If you meet these two in person or even just follow them on the Gram, you’ll quickly fall in love with them. Between their service-centered hearts, matching PJs, and their frequent use of confetti, Ryan and Anna are essentially the epitome of “couple goals.” 

That said, owning and operating a business with your spouse is harder than most people realize. 

With this in mind, in this week’s episode of Priority Pursuit, Ryan and Anna are sharing what running a business with your spouse is actually like. Spoiler Alert: Ryan and Anna work until 2:00 am far more often than they take sunset walks on the beach. 

While I want to encourage you to listen to this full episode of Priority Pursuit because Ryan and Anna share countless nuggets of marriage and business wisdom in this episode that are applicable to both spouse business owners and simply married couples, you can find a summary of a few of the biggest takeaways from “Episode 010: The Good, The Hard, & The Myths About Running a Business with Your Spouse with Ryan & Anna Leonard of Refuge Photography” below! 

1. Consistent work is what leads to results. 

Considering Ryan and Anna only opened Refuge Photography at the beginning of 2018, it’s INSANE to see how quickly Ryan and Anna’s business has grown! Today, they shoot 50+ weddings around the world each year, employ a team of associate shooters, offer one-on-one photography and business coaching, and are getting ready to host their first retreat. 

Oh, and not to mention, a global pandemic was a thing in the midst of all of this growth! 

In their interview, Ryan and Anna really stress the fact that this almost rapid growth has been a result of (1) God’s grace, (2) consistent work, and (3) not allowing themselves to get too comfortable.

Ryan and Anna’s primary goal is to show up for their couple’s every day (to be a “refuge” for them), but as they get more comfortable in their systems and are able to streamline processes, Ryan and Anna decide what’s next—whether that be adding team members, beginning a coaching program, or whatever else they feel called to do. 

More or less, Refuge Photography has grown quickly because Ryan and Anna continue to consistently make themselves uncomfortable. Now, they don’t intend to live this way forever, and we’ll actually talk more about this below. But, these two work very hard, and that’s why their business has grown so much in just a few years. (They’re too humble to say that, so I’m just going to say it for them!)


2. Focus on your spouse’s positives—not their negatives—& divide responsibilities based on one another’s strengths. 

Whether you’re running a business with your spouse or not, this little nugget of wisdom is something that all married (and someday married) couples should take to heart. 

According to Ryan and Anna, it can be easy to focus on your spouse’s negative traits, but when you focus on the positives, you’ll likely have “a better marriage.” And, when you know what one another’s strengths are, you can divide tasks—both inside your business and in the life you share—based on one another’s strengths. 

To give you a little insight into what Ryan and Anna’s relationship is like, Anna is an Enneagram 1 (the “reformer” or the “perfectionist”), and Ryan is a 7 (the “enthusiast”). As a result, Ryan and Anna are very much an opposites-attract kind of couple. 

It could be easy for them to step on one another’s toes, but instead, Ryan and Anna play to their strengths by allowing Ryan to handle the communication side of their business as well as much of their home and Anna to handle the detail-oriented parts of their business such as editing, scheduling, and managing social media.

By staying focused on one another’s strengths, Ryan and Anna are able to better appreciate one another and get more done in both their business and personal lives. 


3. Decide TOGETHER how hard & long you want to hustle.

Now, what Ryan, Anna, and I don’t want you to do is to listen to this episode and think that the only way your business is going to grow is to hustle indefinitely. Because, whether you and your spouse are in business together or not, your business does affect your spouse and your relationship. 

Ryan and Anna are currently in a season of hustle, but they didn’t just let this happen to them. As a couple, they decided that they would like to spend a few years working really hard so that when they’re ready to start their family, they can pull back and work less. 

Right now, they’re able to work at the capacity they are because they have a mutual understanding and goal. 

In this episode, I share that when Zach and I were at our breaking point, this was largely because I was working without real goals in mind. As a result, to Zach, it looked as if I was working for the sake of working and loved my business more than I loved him

In marriage—whether you’re running a business with your spouse or not—failing to communicate expectations and goals can lead to bitterness, misunderstandings, and tension. 

With this in mind, sit down with your spouse and discuss your goals, a timeline for your goals, and boundaries you both agree upon. You can’t—and arguably shouldn’t—hustle forever, but if you and your spouse have a mutual understanding, it can be easier to hustle and put your head down in needed seasons while having your spouse be your biggest cheerleader. 


4. If you aren’t a spouse team, don’t feel like your marriage is less than. 

Today, Ryan and Anna know that they’re made to be a husband-wife photography team, and God has essentially predestined them to do exactly what they’re doing now. (If you listen to the full episode, this will make more sense!)

This is amazing for the Leonards, but running a business together isn’t right for every couple. And, if it isn’t right for you and your spouse, Ryan and Anna argue that there’s nothing wrong with that.

Because there are so many spouse creative entrepreneur teams out there—especially in the photography industry—it can be easy to think, “Man, if only my husband/wife worked with me, he/she would understand my drive, and our marriage would be better for it.” 

I used to buy into this myth, and I tried to make Zach my regular second shooter. We quickly realized that wedding days weren’t his forte. I was disappointed, but the reality of the matter is that Zach’s many talents don’t translate to being a wedding photographer

And, as Anna says, if Ryan decided he didn’t want to be in business anymore, she wouldn’t force him, because that would be “selfish” on her part. Just like it would be selfish for me to force Zach to want to be part of my business

If you’re a creative entrepreneur who becomes easily envious of spouse business teams, go back and read point two. God made you and your spouse the way He did for a reason. You might not ever run a business together, but you both have strengths to appreciate, and God has other plans for you.  


5. Let your shared values & mission be the driving force behind both your marriage & your business. 

Last but not least, Ryan and Anna believe the one of the biggest keys to staying on the same page both in marriage and in business is to allow your shared values and mission to be the basis of everything you do. 

For Ryan and Anna, loving others like God instructs is the driving force behind the way they serve their clients, the way they show up for their friends and family, and the way they treat one another as both spouses and business partners. 

Whether it’s inside or outside of your business, when you and your spouse have the same goals and vision, you and your husband/wife will be much more likely to be on the same page and less likely to have frequent disagreements. 


Want to hear more from Ryan & Anna? 

If you’d like to connect with and hear more from Ryan and Anna and to see Ryan’s shoes collection and Anna’s very impressive pullups, follow them on Instagram at @refugephotography_alr and @refuge.ryan. To learn more about coaching, their upcoming workshops, and all things Refuge Photography, visit their website here!

Links & Resources Mentioned in This Episode

Discover the four most common marketing mistakes small businesses make and exactly how to solve them! Download our guide.

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Destination wedding photographers Ryan and Anna Leonard share what running a business with your spouse is actually like in this episode of “The Priority Pursuit Podcast”!

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