Recorded: Welcome to the ReWork with Allison Tyler Jones, a podcast dedicated to inspiring portrait photographers to uniquely brand, profitably price, and confidently sell their best work. Allison has been doing just that for the last 15 years, and she’s proven that it’s possible to create unforgettable art and run a portrait business that supports your family and your dreams. All it takes is a little rework. Episodes will include interviews with experts from in and outside of the photo industry, mini-workshops, and behind-the-scenes secrets that Allison uses in her portrait studio every single day. She will challenge your thinking and inspire your confidence to create a profitable, sustainable portrait business you love through continually refining and reworking your business. Let’s do the rework.

Allison Tyler Jones: Hi friends, and welcome back to the ReWork. Today’s guest is Lesa Daniel of Gregory Daniel Portraits in Florida, and her studio manager, Pat Chivers. Pat is legend. If you’ve heard Lesa and Greg speak, talk, you’re going to have heard about Pat. Because I’ve heard so much about Pat, I wanted to have her on the podcast with Lesa without Greg to talk about how they divide up duties in the studio, how they found each other, and how their relationship has worked.

Allison Tyler Jones: Because I know many of you are wanting to either add to your team, maybe you’re a solopreneur, and you’re getting ready to hire your first employee. Maybe you have some employees and you’re wanting to change the duties, or maybe there’s somebody that you need to let go and you need to shift things around a little bit. This is a conversation about creating a team, expanding a team, the kinds of qualities that you want to look for in an employee, the kinds of qualities you probably don’t want to look for, and some really common mistakes that entrepreneurs make when they’re new in their business and hiring for the first time, and sometimes the second time and sometimes the third time. Sometimes we just keep making the same mistakes over and over again. This conversation is going to help you not do that, so let’s do it.

Allison Tyler Jones: Well, in the podcast studio today we have two very special guests that I have been trying to get on for a long time, and this has been percolating in my brain for many months. We have Lesa Daniel of Gregory Daniel Photography, and we also have her studio manager, Pat Chivers. And so grateful that you fine ladies are here with me this morning. I can’t wait to talk about working with a small team, how you guys do it. I’ve heard Pat is legend. Can we just say that? Pat is legend. She has been talked about so many times I feel like she needs to be on the podcast. Here we are. Welcome, Pat. Welcome, Lesa. So glad to have you here.

Lesa Daniel: Thank you so much.

Pat Chivers: Thank you.

Lesa Daniel: Thank you.

Allison Tyler Jones: Tell us, Lesa. Let it out. Tell us, give us the rundown on the studio. What’s happening? What are you guys doing? How do you do it?

Lesa Daniel: Well, our studio is a very small luxury brand studio. We are not high volume. We really focus on spoiling, as you call it, our clients. These are your words, but to just treat our clients like they’re the only one that exists. I try not to ever bring other clients into that. I always try to make it so they feel like I must be the only one this whole entire year for this family.

Allison Tyler Jones: Oh, I love that.

Lesa Daniel: We definitely do that. We are a three-person studio that we make it work because the three of us are very different. Greg and I are very different in our skill sets, in our personality types, and Pat makes the third side of the tripod.

Allison Tyler Jones: I love that, so tell me about that. Tell me more about because you’re very different in what you like to do. Not just what you’re good at, but also what you enjoy doing.

Pat Chivers: Yes, yes.

Lesa Daniel: Yeah, that’s true. Well, I am the face, as I have said in many seminars. Greg is the name. It’s Gregory Daniel, portrait artist, but I often believe it should be Lesa Daniel instead of Gregory Daniel because I’m the person they see from the very beginning to the very end. I’m every client transaction, every client touch point. I’m the one. I am their consistent factor.

Lesa Daniel: Pat is what we lovingly call our air traffic controller, and she controls the logistics, the studio as a whole. She is our air traffic controller and the one that tells us what to do and how to do it and that kind of thing.

Allison Tyler Jones: She’s really like a chief operating officer?

Lesa Daniel: Yes, she is.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah, okay.

Lesa Daniel: Yes, in charge of logistics is based what she is. Greg is our “CEO”, which is a visionary role. He has the ideas of what he wants this place to be and to transfer that to us to make it happen. He also is our artist, and then he also…

Pat Chivers: He does a lot of the production.

Lesa Daniel: Yeah, thank you. I was going to say he does the actual production of the actual pieces.

Allison Tyler Jones: Okay, so he’s capturing the images, right? He’s the photographer and then he’s retouching, painting?

Lesa Daniel: Yes.

Pat Chivers: Printing.

Allison Tyler Jones: Printing.

Lesa Daniel: Printing, stretching, framing. He does all that.

Allison Tyler Jones: The production, okay.

Lesa Daniel: Yeah.

Allison Tyler Jones: Okay, and then you are, hi, you want to book a session all the way through to here’s your consultation to, you actually are in the session, correct, Lesa?

Lesa Daniel: I am. Yeah, I am.

Allison Tyler Jones: You’re assisting but also helping with clothes and posing and all of that, and then the sales appointment after to select?

Lesa Daniel: Yes.

Allison Tyler Jones: And then both you and Greg are going to install, correct?

Lesa Daniel: Correct.

Allison Tyler Jones: Okay.

Lesa Daniel: Yep. Yep, I am at every single one. I tried many years ago to back out of some of them, but it didn’t work. I am at every one of those. When Greg is working, whether he’s hanging a portrait, whether he’s actually doing the portrait, he’s thinking about what actually he is doing. I’m the chit chatter. I am back there talking to mom or talking to dad to keep them essentially from asking quick questions, which then takes his mind off of what he’s trying to accomplish.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right, yeah. I always say I’m trying to distract them from the fact that we’re putting holes on their walls.

Lesa Daniel: Exactly. Exactly. I think it also makes the experience so much better when you have someone who’s really interested in them, and I ask one million questions about them. Partly because I’m nosy and partly because they like that, too.

Allison Tyler Jones: Well, and you are genuinely interested. That’s who you are.

Lesa Daniel: I am.

Allison Tyler Jones: You like to connect with other people and have relationships.

Lesa Daniel: I am. It’s not fake. If it’s fake, it doesn’t work. That’s who I am. But Pat’s role, you can give everybody your roles.

Pat Chivers: Sure, sure. I’m the one in the background. Have an office behind us, and I am called the air traffic controller a lot. Every Tuesday we have our meeting, and we go over a wipe off board that’s really more permanent than wipe off. But we have every client that we are getting ready to photograph all the way down to delivering their portrait, and we check it off. We make sure we all know where we’re at every single week. We laugh about if they’re gone out of town for a week, well, on Tuesday I’m in front of the board going, “Okay, Pat, now where are we at with Mrs. Smith?”

Allison Tyler Jones: What are we doing this week?

Pat Chivers: Paperwork, make sure things are where they’re supposed to be. I do all the supply management from ordering pencils to ordering printers. If I come in and there’s an empty roll of tape, I know I need to order that and then throw the empty roll of tape in the garbage can. I also do the bookkeeping. We use QuickBooks online, which has worked wonderfully for us. I know what bills are due. I know when people make their payments. I do dashboard reports for them so they know where we stand weekly, monthly, year to date.

Allison Tyler Jones: I love that. That’s invaluable to be able to-

Lesa Daniel: It’s invaluable. We’ve often joked because no one wants anybody else’s job. I don’t want Greg’s, I don’t want Pat’s, she doesn’t want mine. We all say if somebody quits, which she’s not allowed to do and she knows that, if somebody quits, the studio has to shut down. Because I do not like numbers, and Pat’s very aware of that because a lot of times my numbers don’t always make sense. She’s like, “Lesa, what are you thinking on this?” And so she catches it. I say to our clients, “This is what it is, but as Pat keys it in, she will double check all my numbers. If anything is askew, I’ll let you know. But I believe this is correct.” She handles all the tax information for our accountants, the whole thing. Even our accountant says, “Oh my gosh, Pat’s amazing. She’s got this down to a science.”

Lesa Daniel: We don’t micromanage her. She owns her role, as Greg says. We are team players. She owns it. If the printer in there, if the studio printer, not Greg’s canvas printer, goes bad, she just orders another one. If she needs something for her job, she just gets it. She doesn’t have to ask us. She doesn’t have to tell us. She doesn’t have to justify.

Lesa Daniel: I feel the same way. I can get the clients in that I think we need to get in. Pat doesn’t ask me, “Why didn’t you call so-and-so?” Now if somebody’s hanging out in our Tuesday morning meeting loop and she’s like, “Lesa, this name’s still up there. Why did you not close this particular account,” or whatever, we have that push-pull relationship. Where she can say to me, “I’m still looking at Mrs. Smith on here and she’s not off yet. Why not?” Or I can say, “Pat, I thought we ordered that.” She’ll like, “Oh, okay. Let me double check.”

Lesa Daniel: We do push and pull each other, which is an accountability system, essentially. That keeps us from falling through the cracks. But yet at the same time, no one feels micromanaged, except Greg maybe.

Allison Tyler Jones: Who needs to be micromanaged, let’s be honest. Sometimes on occasion it would be good for him to be micromanaged by women.

Lesa Daniel: By two women. He has a office wife and a real wife, so he has two. But let’s say he prints a test print. Pat and I will come in with our little cup of coffee and our Sharpies and we just mark it up. I’m like, “I don’t like this. I don’t like this. You need to change that. I think it’s too dark. I think it’s too light. What’s this little dot? What’s this thing?” He’ll say, “Well, that’s their shoe.” It’s like, “Well.”

Pat Chivers: Sorry.

Allison Tyler Jones:  It looks weird, yeah.

Lesa Daniel: We don’t like it. That’s how I think we micromanage Greg is doing some of that, but that’s also what we would call quality control. I think all eyes on all products helps because Pat’s the least emotionally attached to the images. She wasn’t there. She doesn’t know what happened. She doesn’t know why it happened. She can look at it with completely unbiased eyes.

Pat Chivers: And typically, and we were talking about this the other week because we were marking a test print for Greg, and I realized I look at it as though this is my family. This is my family portrait. It’s going to hang on my wall. Would I be happy with this?

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. Is there something about that that’s distracting or going to bug you? That shoe that’s underneath that flower looks like it’s growing somewhere where it shouldn’t be, yeah. I think that’s so helpful because as the artist, especially when you’re… He’s not just capture, he’s got the digital painting and then the painting on top of it, he’s 75 layers deep on that image. He really is lost in the forest many times. You can’t help it if you’re doing your job, so you’ve got to have somebody else that can come in and say, “Okay, that’s weird. Why does it have three hands?”

Lesa Daniel: Right, right. I can’t say that we’re always real diplomatic when we say it, and I need to work on that. The other day she said, “Greg, if you really want my opinion, am I going to lose my job? Because I think this needs to change.” I would just flat out say it, but it’s just different personalities. She’s a little nicer than I am when it comes to some of that.

Allison Tyler Jones: Well, you’ve also been married a long time. Sometimes you just need to say what it is. I don’t like that.

Lesa Daniel: I don’t like that.

Pat Chivers: I don’t want to hurt his feelings because I know he’s put all this time into it and to say, “Oh, this doesn’t look right to me for…” I don’t know why, but it does. I mean I don’t know why, but I don’t like it. You don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings, but you want it right, too.

Allison Tyler Jones: Well, the thing that I’m hearing a lot, and I think is just a hallmark of a great team, is that when everybody owns their job, they’re proficient at what they do. You guys trust each other, that you know that Pat’s not going to book her trip to the Caribbean on the AmEx on the like-

Pat Chivers: Maybe.

Allison Tyler Jones: Wait, was that an option? Greg knows that you’re not saying anything that is mean-spirited, that you really want the best for the client. I think you all have that trust. And then also just that peace of mind that you know, Lesa, when you and Greg are out, that it’s handled, that Pat’s got it. Nobody’s going to fall through the cracks. There’s no client that’s going to be wasting away on the whiteboard. It’s going to keep moving forward even if one of you forgets that you’ve got the fail-safe somewhere in the group.

Lesa Daniel: Yes. Greg calls that the Swiss cheese theory. Swiss cheese has lots of holes in it, and sometimes if it all lines up exactly right, something will fall all the way through the hole to the bottom. And so by having the whiteboard that keeps this one layer, that keeps that from happening, by having three minds on it…

Lesa Daniel: Because sometimes we’ll say, “Mrs. Smith, who was she?” Because Pat hasn’t dealt with her before. She’s not met her. She’s like, “Who is that?” I can say, “Oh yeah, she’s the one that has the three kids that was out at the park.” She’s like, “Oh, okay,” so it just keeps all three minds going. Keeps us all together and intact.

Lesa Daniel: The oddest thing happened this morning. I went from an appointment to here and I happened to just turn on my podcast, which I keep on all the time of different ones, and it was Donald Miller popped on. He had Mike Michalowicz on.

Allison Tyler Jones: Love it.

Lesa Daniel: Mike Michalowicz has a new book out, and he was talking about being an entrepreneur. He said that if you are an entrepreneur and you’re doing it all on your own, you’re doing it wrong. I thought, oh wow, how true is that because you can’t know how to do everything really well.

Lesa Daniel: I realized that there are financial stipulations to being able to have other people help you, but we found that if we tried to do it all on our own, our business just wasn’t as successful. Pat’s been with us for almost 24 years, and another woman who was with us for 20, 25 years. That makes us sound really old, but they overlapped.

Allison Tyler Jones: It makes you sound like the great people really because people don’t stay around for 24 years if you’re a jerk.

Lesa Daniel: Well, that’s true, but it has to go both ways. I mean-

Allison Tyler Jones: Totally, yeah. And she’s-

Lesa Daniel: It has to go both ways. It does make a difference. Because like I said, I don’t like to do the book work. I don’t like to do the logistics. And so if I did that when I was in charge of that at the very beginning, I didn’t for one do it well. For two, it would take way more time than it needed to take because I didn’t like it. I would either put it off to where there was a 911, or I would hem haw around because I didn’t want to do it. So then I didn’t do the job that I do well. I didn’t do it because I was too busy fussing or what I didn’t want to do.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right. You have this open loop that’s draining your creativity because you, “Oh, I need to get to that. I need to get to that, and I don’t want to do it.”

Lesa Daniel: Right.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah, and then also, I mean, pat, you keep us out of jail. Let’s be real. You got to have somebody… That’s why I tell photographers all the time: you got to have somebody that’s going to keep you out of jail. Because Al Capone could shoot people in the street and not go to jail with witnesses and not go to jail. But what did they get them on? Tax evasion. It’s like you have to pay your taxes. In order to pay your taxes, you got to know what the income is and all the things. You got to have somebody that can do that for you. Now, you don’t necessarily have to have an employee that’s doing that. You could… What’s the word I’m looking for?

Lesa Daniel: Outsource.

Allison Tyler Jones: Thank you. That’s the word. Yeah, you could outsource that. I think it’s interesting how we all have smaller teams and we divide up the tasks differently. Each studio has a little bit…

Allison Tyler Jones: We call it the bucket. We have bucket lists, so we make a spreadsheet and we have everything that has to be done in the studio, whether it’s a touch point for a client or every little task. And then at the head of the top we have, let’s say, Pat, COO, or studio manager. For us, it would be me, Ivan, Stacey, Chelsea. And so everybody has their bucket. And then we can move those tasks around, especially when you bring somebody new in. Because that new person is going to have different abilities that they can do, they’re like a different Swiss army knife. And so sometimes you could take something off that maybe Pat’s been doing something that she doesn’t love. You could switch that.

Allison Tyler Jones: I like that. The spreadsheet has worked really great for us to be able to just move those tests around. You could do it on a whiteboard as well.

Lesa Daniel: Yes, absolutely.

Allison Tyler Jones: Or with Post-it notes.

Lesa Daniel: We’ve never written our jobs down. But if you’re starting off and trying to figure it out, or if you’ve been doing that a long time and you just feel like we need clarity, that would make sense. I think at this point in our business, we trust each other enough to say, “I don’t like to do this.” You did something, I don’t even remember what it was, maybe a month ago or something. She said, “I hate doing this.” I thought, well, then somebody else needs to do it because if you hate it, you don’t do it well so somebody else needs to do it.

Lesa Daniel: This morning in the same podcast, I didn’t have very long to drive, but Donald Miller said his first person that he hired for being on staff was a person who was just like him. That’s your nature. It’s because you want validation, really. He hired somebody just like him, and he said and it just did not work. Well, no, because you’ve got two people who are fighting over the same-

Allison Tyler Jones: Same things.

Lesa Daniel: You really have to separate yourself. We found Pat, she was in our Sunday school class. She and her husband were in our young married Sunday school class back when we were young, married.

Pat Chivers: Young, married.

Lesa Daniel: And then she worked at my girl’s school, which was associated with the church, but she worked at the school. You could just tell that she was very, very organized and she could talk to people, so we knew that was a good thing. Greg just kept saying, “I know we’re supposed to hire her.” And then she had moved to the church office to work at the church office, and I said, “I am not going to go to the office and try to remove her from the church office to work for us. I’m not doing it.” He is like, “Yes, you are. Yes you are. She is a person we need.” And so I happened to see her in the hallway one day, and I said, “Just to let you know, Greg thinks you need to come work with us.”

Pat Chivers: I told her, “Put my name in the hat,” because I would think there’s probably 10 women in line for the job. She called me that night and said, “No, he was serious. He told me three times to call you. I told him no.” I said, “Okay. Well, let’s talk,” and here we are.

Lesa Daniel: Yeah, yeah.

Allison Tyler Jones: I love that. Well, okay, so there’s so many things in that little story. Going back to the Donald Miller thing, I think it’s so true when you’re a micro business, basically you’re just working by yourself and you think, “I probably should hire somebody.” I think sometimes, especially if you’re creative, you overvalue your own traits so you do hire yourself in a way. And then like you said, it usually doesn’t end well.

Allison Tyler Jones: We undervalue the things like, oh, I don’t like numbers I don’t like… We’re dismissive maybe of other people that do numbers rather than saying, “Oh look, there’s somebody that likes numbers. Let’s get them.” Because when you’re a freewheeling ADD artiste, you’re like, “I don’t want somebody telling me I’s and cross my T’s.” But your I’s need to be dotted and your T’s need to be crossed. You just need to probably not be the one doing that. You need to have somebody that thinks you’re great and thinks the vision of the business is great but keeps you out of jail and keeps the I’s dotted and the T’s crossed.

Lesa Daniel: Yes. Something I failed to mention is that they were also past clients, so she loved what we did.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. Well, the fact that she said, “Put my name in the hat with all the other people that would…” A million girls would want this job, right? Devil wears Prada.

Lesa Daniel: Right. No, we hadn’t even looked at anybody else, but she was a past client so she knew the outside of the business, and so it wasn’t super foreign to her. I realized the whole thing is a gift, that she is a gift. We realized that and that the way it worked was a gift.

Lesa Daniel: However, we’ve often said that if we were looking for somebody, we might look for somebody from Chick-fil-A because they have been trained to be people oriented or client oriented. You would just need to find someone who has the skillset at Chick-fil-A that you don’t have. To me, that’s a great pool of possible staff members.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah, it’s my pleasure. They know how to say that. It’s my pleasure.

Lesa Daniel: Yes, and they’ve dealt with the public, they’ve dealt with people saying, “This isn’t right,” with all the things. They’ve learned how to handle situations. To me Greg’s always said I would just drive through Chick-fil-A and start looking at those folks there and say-

Allison Tyler Jones: If Chick-fil-A had handled the COVID response, dude, we would’ve been out of that thing in three months. Those people have got it down.

Lesa Daniel: They’ve got it down. They’ve got it. They’ve got it.

Allison Tyler Jones: They’re so awesome. The other mistake I feel like that I have made being an entrepreneur and hiring people is the micromanage is, well, first of all, you’re scared to spend money. You’re scared to pay somebody else a wage because somehow you feel like, well, what if I don’t have enough work and I still have to be paying them? There’s just a whole lot of scarcity feelings surrounding that.

Allison Tyler Jones: And so then you bring somebody in and then you sabotage them because you never either really train them properly or you never give them enough autonomy to just let them go do their job. You’re constantly like, “Oh, you’re not doing that right.” You can really mess it up by just being on them all the time. Nobody wants to work for somebody like that, but I’ve totally done that. Or because you don’t want to pay a lot, you hire somebody that’s marginalized, somebody that maybe couldn’t get a job somewhere else, or-

Lesa Daniel: That’s not your case.

Allison Tyler Jones: No. But I just am thinking of some of the mistakes that I’ve made. Oh, well, they’ll work for cheap. They don’t really want to work a lot. Maybe they’re not all the way in, but they’re cheap and so they don’t ever really fully commit. I think there’s a lot of mistakes. I just think of myself. Obviously you guys have not made those mistakes

Lesa Daniel: Oh no, we have. No. In our overflow between Frankie who used to work here, and unfortunately she passed away, and that’s how we lost her, so she was still working here at the time, but she and Pat overlapped. That worked out really well because I think she probably taught you a lot about how we work and do things so it wasn’t necessarily coming from us. We were very grateful for that particular situation. That worked really well. But with Frankie at the beginning, we probably did some of that, what you’re talking about, and then backed off. I would say it’s probably more me that would do that than Greg.

Allison Tyler Jones: Oh, for sure.

Lesa Daniel: Yeah, Greg is much more, “Okay, this is your job. These are the theories that we are going on. This is how I want you to handle it. Go.” And then we would refine as we would go, and we would refine in our Tuesday morning meetings kind of a thing.

Allison Tyler Jones: I love that.

Lesa Daniel: I really, really, really if you have staff suggest you have a once a week meeting just to say, “Hey, I’m not sure we’re handling this right on the phone,” or, “I’m not sure we’re handling this right on whatever,” and then everybody’s on the same page. We’ve done different things. Years ago, we did some things with Donald Miller. He had something every week he would put out, and we would take that, dissect in our business. Or Greg would read a book and we would dissect it in our business, and every Tuesday we talked about how can we implement that? How can we implement the things that the Ritz does? Different things.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah, just constantly do a lot of that doing better. Pat, I mean I realize you’re sitting next to your employer, but I know that you have a unique relationship. When you came into the business, what did you think it was going to be? Was it different? What do you think about why have you stayed for this many years?

Pat Chivers: Okay, so I was in banking for 10 years and then in our church for 10 years. I told them when I was getting close to my 10-year anniversary, “Well, it’s 10 years and one day, I’m still here.” And so I brought that kind of information with me. At our Christian school, there was maybe 10 families who were past due. I’m like, “No, we’re not going to do that.” But I did know Greg and Lesa from church, and that made a difference.

Pat Chivers: But I remember the first day I came here, it dawned on me the times that Greg had photographed our family. It was exciting to come in to have us photographed. It was exciting when you come in to look at the portraits. It was more exciting because we lived down the street to come pick them up, so we came and picked our things up. I remember, and probably not every day because you drive in with things on your mind, I need to do these things today, but exciting. I still have an excitement when I drive in because I know this is a safe place. It’s a fun place. They care for me as much as I care for them.

Pat Chivers: Greg had said something early on that Tom McDonald, a photographer mentor of his, had told him long time ago. Always say thank you to your employees when they leave. Greg said, “We’ll always say it.” If we’re not here when you leave, we can’t say it. But even if they leave to go to a location session, say. When they leave, they say thank you so much. He said, “We may say it sometimes in haste, but when they say it, that gives me a great feeling that they do care for me.”

Lesa Daniel: And we mean it.

Pat Chivers: And they mean it. They don’t say it to be saying it, but gives me a great feeling and then I leave happy.

Allison Tyler Jones: I love that. Well, what about the overall, I mean you know what they’re trying to do, the brand? Do you have any client contact at all?

Pat Chivers: Very little.

Allison Tyler Jones: Very little? Okay. You’re just I would call the grease in the wheels. You’re just behind the scenes just keeping it all going, making it happen. How do you feel like your role fits into that overall luxury brand?

Pat Chivers: I rely on Greg and Lesa.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. Well, they could not do what they do without you.

Pat Chivers: Even the first thing came to mind is packaging. Because there’s portraits that I package up and I think about…I don’t know if you know Ron John Surf Shop. Their biggest one is in Coco Beach, Florida and it’s full of tourists. I was in there a few years ago and bought a bathing suit for myself. The girl making $8 an hour rang me up, very nice, walked around the corner, handed me the bag. That’s part of my catch. If I was the client, how would I want to look at my portraits that are being opened? And that’s how I pack things.

Lesa Daniel: Sometimes she’ll say, “I don’t like the way we’re doing this packaging. It feels not right to me.” I think as far as how she approaches her job for luxury, she will say, “I don’t think this looks right or feels right.” And so she has the freedom to say, “I think we need to think about changing that.” We’ll go, “Great, what do you think we should do?”

Lesa Daniel: Because she will shop at a store where they will treat her with a glass of wine or champagne or whatever. She’ll say, “I was there and it was really nice.” Okay, great. Let’s apply that here or what have you. She has the ability, even though she’s the behind the scenes, to say I think we need to up our game on this. For instance, we take our framed small portraits, she wraps them up in black tissue paper, put a sticker on them, puts them in a bag because we used to put them in their box.

Pat Chivers: The box that the frame came in. They get boxed in boxes that we order. They’re black boxes. His name is embossed onto the box, wrap that up, then that box doesn’t just get handed to them. They’re in a black bag that also has his signature on the front of it.

Lesa Daniel: She did all that. It just looks cheap, so she did the upgrade. That’s how I think that her role applies to the luxury brand. Does that answer your question?

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah no, absolutely. I mean, basically Pat’s bringing her whole self to her job. She’s bringing her in retail as she’s experiencing the world and extrapolating and bringing all the goodness of every experience she’s having out in the world and bringing that back. Carting those nuggets of gold home to you to use in your business, which I mean how can you ask for more than that?

Lesa Daniel: Right, right. That’s why she’s not allowed to quit.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right, I know. You’re obviously-

Lesa Daniel: Yeah, and we’ve told her that for years, you’re not allowed to quit. If you need to go on a two-week vacation with your husband, go. But you’re not allowed to quit.

Allison Tyler Jones: Quitting will not be tolerated, Pat.

Pat Chivers: Not an option. Well, and the joke is for me, I’ll say, “I don’t own the business but I’m 125% in.”

Allison Tyler Jones: I love that.

Pat Chivers: I think if you treat it like your own, then the wheels keep spinning.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. Well, and you’re a rare find because it’s not usual to find that, for sure. But that’s why you’re the legend, Pat.

Lesa Daniel: Yeah, that’s why we talk about you at all. Because people say, “Well, how do you handle this?” “I don’t know. Pat does.”

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah, that’s Pat.

Lesa Daniel: Where do you get these boxes? I don’t know. Pat gets them. When we’re teaching a class, I’ll say, “Just be by your phone because they’re going to ask me questions that I can’t answer, and I’m going to say, I don’t know. I don’t own that process. I’m going to send it to Pat.” I’ll call her-

Allison Tyler Jones: Text Pat and I will get back to you.

Lesa Daniel: Where do we get this? How do you do this? Yeah. Because it would take my time to figure out what she’s doing, and she does it well she doesn’t need me to stand over her and figure out what to do. I can back off and let her handle it. Many people laugh at us. You don’t know how to do that? Nope. Pat does it.

Allison Tyler Jones: No, and really and there you go. There’s another entrepreneurial thing, right? We have some badge of honor that we can do everything. It’s like honestly, I feel like the more successful our studio has been, the less I know how to do some things.

Allison Tyler Jones: If I had to retouch something right now, we would be in a world of hurt. I don’t even know the latest Photoshop things because that was never my strong point. I never wanted to be retouching. Stacey is genius. She knows it all. She’s getting into all the AI stuff and fun things like that, and I’m like, more power to you. Love you so much.

Lesa Daniel: Yes.

Pat Chivers: Knock yourself out.

Lesa Daniel: Yeah, please don’t ever leave.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah, exactly.

Lesa Daniel: Please don’t ever ever.

Allison Tyler Jones: Just stay forever.

Pat Chivers: One thing, Allison, my husband says is I have people for that. And he does. I told Greg like a week later something came up. I said, “Greg, you have people for that. That’s me. Or Lesa. That’s Lesa. You got people for it.”

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. Well, and you guys very much have each other, which is great-

Lesa Daniel: We do. We do.

Allison Tyler Jones: … which is really great. What else is on your list, Lesa, about your team and maybe a little bit about what you do?

Lesa Daniel: Well, I am very much the people person. The phone comes to me. It comes to my cell phone actually, both the business line and my personal line. Even though it says spam on there, I answer it because some spam is a… Sometimes it’s somebody wanting to inquire and because they’re not in my address book, it shows up as spam. I’m the one that answers all that. Very rarely am I not. Even when we are traveling, I have it on my phone because I just feel like I’m the one that does that. I know what to say. I know how I want that handled. That’s part of my job, the interface, so that’s me.

Lesa Daniel: Most of our clients, when they come in they’re coming in for our flagship product, which is a mixed media, which is… It has not only the photography, it has the digital painting, and then it has the acrylics and water mixable oils on top. That’s what we’re known for in an environmental session. When they come in for that flagship product, I handle them the whole way through.

Lesa Daniel: If they come in and they call and I ask them, “Are you familiar with Gregory Daniel portraits?” “No, I really don’t know anything about you. I just Googled photographer,” and I handle them a whole different way, which is by taking them to… Maybe they will become a commissioned client. Maybe they will become someone who just wants a taste of a Gregory Daniel. Maybe they don’t know who they’re calling and they’re like, “Yeah no, I don’t think this is for us.” That’s fine too because there’s lots of different segments and we fit a niche of very low volume luxury brand, and so they may or may not want that. I handle all that part and guide them to our flagship product.

Lesa Daniel: If they flat out tell me in one way or another, “Yeah, that’s not for me. I’m just looking for something of three generations and my dad’s going to be in town, and we just want a quick picture…”

Allison Tyler Jones: That’s not you.

Lesa Daniel: That’s not me. At that point, I’ll say, “Well, let me just give you some ranges of our pricing and you can tell me if that fits in your budget.” If I give them the range and they go, “Let me get back with you,” that’s great. If they go, “Okay, that’s fine. This is important,” then that’s fine. We’ll do it in the studio. If they go, “Okay, I really want to do it out on the beach,” great. Now, we probably have a commissioned person and I’m going to lead them in a different direction.

Lesa Daniel: It’s very important that we try to guide them to our flagship. But if they’re not interested, then we take a quick U-turn and go the other way. We decide real quick whether we will even fit their needs.

Lesa Daniel: I feel like that’s important for a lot of other photographers to understand that you’re not going to meet everybody’s needs. You’re just not. You could buy a very expensive handbag or you can buy one at Target, and they’re both great. What is your need for that handbag? That’s where we fall as well.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. Well, and I think so often you start with you want to please everybody.

Lesa Daniel: Absolutely.

Allison Tyler Jones: But really when it’s not a fit, you’re not pleasing anybody.

Lesa Daniel: That’s right.

Allison Tyler Jones: Because they’re mad that it costs so much, you’re mad that they think it costs so much but they actually are paying so little compared to what a commission person would pay. It just is not a fit. It’s just not. You just got to have a good fit. You are in charge of that. You are in charge of that: converting those people over, bringing them through the process, getting that started, and then consulting with them, getting the clothes figured out.

Lesa Daniel: Yes, I am the designer. I do all of that. Our clients, if they’re coming to us and they know who we are, it’s not just luxury. They’re after status and we have branded ourselves as such. And so because they’re after status, I will help them design where it’s going to hang in their house, the clothing, where the portrait needs to take place. Because maybe it needs to be at a place that’s important to them, maybe it doesn’t matter, maybe it’s just to go out to the beach. Obviously, we’re in Florida.

Lesa Daniel: We design that portrait, but I do the designing of the basics. The way Greg explains it is he is the artist, but I give him the palette and the canvas and the models. Now, he takes it from there. People often say, “Oh, so Lesa, you post them as well.” Nope, my job’s done. I got him all he needs. It’s his turn to do the rest of the designing once he knows what we’re after, and then he puts it all together.

Lesa Daniel: And then once again, I may be quality control. I’ll go fix hair, or I’ll say a whisper in his ear. Maybe let’s switch it because the colors are… There’s too many blues on one side and not the other. He’s like, “Oh, okay.” We work together that way, but I follow his direction. He follows my direction with the clients and the palette I provided.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah, I love that. It’s very much a team effort

Lesa Daniel: Very much a team effort. But you also need to know that we’ve done this for 44 years. Because we’ve done it a long time, I know what he’s looking for. But I also know what I like and would want hanging up in my home. Together, we work very, very well with that.

Lesa Daniel: When photographers ask us when we’re teaching and things like that, “How would I do it if I did it on my own,” my answer is always I don’t have a clue because we don’t do it on our own. My suggestion is ask somebody who does it on their own because that is not our skill set. Our skill set is to collaborate and work together.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. You’ve been very successful with a very small team. And I think that’s really inspiring and interesting because very often you come into the industry and maybe you hear somebody talking that has some big huge team and you think, “Oh, I need a big huge team.” You really don’t. Don’t need a big huge team. You can really do a lot. Again, it’s just looking at that list of what do you love to do?

Allison Tyler Jones: For me, everything’s with a notebook, right? Sit down and sit somewhere alone and just list. If I could only do part of this, what would I want to do? What do I have to do? What would I have to pry out of my dead, cold hands? For me, it would be they would have to pry the client contact and that reveal appointment, that view and order appointment. Really, I could even give up the shooting.

Lesa Daniel: Really?

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah, I could. Because Stacey shoots as well and she does a beautiful job. I love the designing, figuring out where it’s going to go, what it’s going to be. I love the shooting, too. I do. I really do. But I love that what you’re talking about; that’s talking with the clients, helping them figure it out, talking with them about parenting, talking with them about their kids, the shrinking. I love being an older mom helping younger moms navigate parenting. I just love all of that.

Lesa Daniel: I like that, too.

Allison Tyler Jones: And then part of that I do love being in that session and I love shooting it, but I really love the client contact part of it. It’s my favorite.

Lesa Daniel: Yeah, me too. Me too. I had a thought a few minutes ago, and I almost forgot to mention it. But I think that when we are looking for someone to work with us, many people think, “Oh, I need to find somebody full time.” Not necessarily. Maybe you need somebody for 10 hours a week, and there may be a mom who has kids in school who needs a little extra money who is willing to work 10 hours a week. Don’t pigeonhole yourself into thinking, “I need to find a full-time employee.” Maybe you just need two different people to do two small tasks that you don’t do well. That’s okay, too.

Allison Tyler Jones: Absolutely. You cut yourself off at the knees, I think, by saying, “Well, nobody wants to work like that, or nobody will take a job like that,” because that’s not true.

Lesa Daniel: Right. It’s not true at all. It’s not true at all.

Allison Tyler Jones: You also said another key word, which is mom, I love moms. Moms, you want to talk about air traffic control. Moms can get it done. I know from an HR perspective we’re probably way off, probably going to get in trouble. But moms, I mean they’ve had somebody barf on them on their nice clothes. They know how to get a kid out the door to school when the other one’s sick. They just know how to do a lot of different things. I also would say don’t hire somebody when it’s their first job.

Lesa Daniel: Correct.

Allison Tyler Jones: Send them to Chick-fil-A.

Lesa Daniel: Right.

Allison Tyler Jones: Send them to McDonald’s. Or if they’ve only ever worked for daddy’s law firm, probably also not that, either. You need somebody who has been pre beat down.

Lesa Daniel: Right, right, right. Yeah, that’s very true. Very true. Pat, in this particular season of our lives, she may not want to work four days, five days a week. Maybe she wants to work three. We can make that work with her workload, great. If there’s time during Christmas where we need her to work every day, great.

Allison Tyler Jones: She’ll do it.

Lesa Daniel: She’s going to work until the job is done and then maybe take…I mean her husband is now taking Fridays off, so she would ask if she could have Friday off. Sure. You get your job done? I don’t care when you come in.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right. Well, and Pat at 15 hours a week is probably going to be like anybody else at 30 because she knows it’s so well and can get in and get targeted and has a conscience about… The Pats of the world are never going to leave you hanging. They’re going to make sure it gets done.

Lesa Daniel: Right. Right, right.

Pat Chivers: It will never happen.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah.

Pat Chivers: The client email me Friday evening, I answered her back.

Allison Tyler Jones: I love that, yeah. I love the church idea too, that so often we think, “Okay, we’ve got to send out some Indeed job posting,” just like we think our marketing needs to be MailChimp. It’s like, no. It’s people that you know or that seven degrees of separation. It’s like somebody knows somebody who knows somebody who is looking for 10 to 15 hours a week. Everybody that I’ve ever hired has usually been some weird little referral, either church or friend, or there’s been something like that that’s like, you know who’s really good at that is so-and-so. And so very often the people that you’re looking for it’s not the most obvious thing.

Allison Tyler Jones: I think for us, for example, you can’t really look for a retoucher because they don’t really exist. But you could look for a graphic designer that knows the Adobe suite and they could be taught to retouch.

Lesa Daniel: Exactly.

Allison Tyler Jones: There’s these adjacent skills that sometimes we don’t look for because, well, I would posted a job posting for this X, Y, Z thing. But if it’s somebody who has the lights are on and they’re excited, I always say they’re on the balls of their feet, not on their heels. What do you need? What needs to go on? They’re a figurer-outer.

Allison Tyler Jones: We’ve just hired somebody new who is a mom. She’s awesome. And she is on her toes all the time. She’s just, “What do you need? What do you need?” Just anticipating needs for the clients not taking note. As she was leaving, the clients we’re leaving and she says, “Let me help you get your stuff to the car.” “Oh no, we’ve got it.” She’s like, “Just keep walking mom. Keep walking, mom, I got these kids. I got this.” She’s not listening to them say that no, they don’t need help out to the car. She’s literally the Sherpa with all the crap on her arms and helping get the three-year-old out into the car even though the mom is saying, “No, no, we’ve got it.” I love that.

Lesa Daniel: Right, and I think finding someone like that who’s a self-starter as opposed to one that just sits around and says, “Well, now what do you need me to do?” Look around. What needs to get done? That’s something that I think is important, too.

Lesa Daniel: I don’t know how you make sure you find somebody who is a self-starter, but someone who is just… Maybe their previous jobs it’s obvious that they can handle whatever’s coming up and they can see this needs to get taken care of. “I’ll do it,” as opposed to, “I’m going to wait for you to tell me to do it.”

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. Well, it reminds me, my dad owned his own business and he was a creative, and he just never did get out of that micromanage. He wanted to be able to touch everything, see everything, and so it literally killed him because he worked himself to death. But every morning he’d get ready to go to work and my mom would say, “Well, can we go do this thing?” He’d say, “No, I got to get down and get line out my guys,” because they’re just standing there cogs in a wheel. Okay, what do you need me to do? He would tell them what to do, right?

Allison Tyler Jones: And so it’s like I realized that is not how I want to do it. And so I’ve had many employees that I’ve told, “If I have to line out my guys, then I don’t need you,” because I still own the job. It’s still in my head. That emotional load is on my head, not on yours.

Allison Tyler Jones: I would rather have to knock you back than whip you forward. I would rather have somebody who is constantly like, “Okay, I did this. I went and did this. I couldn’t get you on the phone, so I just figured this was… I went ahead and bought the flowers. I went ahead and bought the treats,” or whatever. I’d rather be able to say, “Okay, well let’s not spend $50 on the chocolate next time, but good job that you thought about it and did it.” I’d rather have to say, “Okay, stop directing the client while I’m shooting,” but good job being in it.

Lesa Daniel: Yes, just refine it a little bit.

Allison Tyler Jones: Right, right. Yeah, but you cannot train if somebody doesn’t have that on their toes, want to grab the job. That’s untrainable. That’s a character trait.

Lesa Daniel: That’s very true. Very, very true. By watching Pat at the school and then the church, we saw that and Greg saw that. And so he is like, “Ah.” At one point our principal of the school was no longer there, and they made her the principal for a short period of time. When that happened, we’re like, “Oh, well.”

Allison Tyler Jones: There you go.

Lesa Daniel: If she could be principal for six weeks and still stick around, I don’t want this job.

Allison Tyler Jones: That’s where I learned too about there’s Rose that works for the ReWork, who does as our content manager. She was in church with us for years, and she and I had worked together in different auxiliaries. We were never really super close friends, but she was always very much letter of the law. Like, oh no, we need to be doing it right this way. And so that would drive me crazy because I am like, “Let’s free wheel and spirit of the law, not the letter,” this kind of girl. She’s over here like, “Nope, excuse me.”

Allison Tyler Jones: I realized oh no, I need that. I need her on my team. Because nothing would ever fall down on her watch. Never. It was like this is how it’s done and this is how it’s going to be done until somebody says that how it’s going to be done changes. You need somebody like that but even if you’re not that person.

Lesa Daniel: Exactly, and I’m not that person. She is very much so.

Allison Tyler Jones: But that took me a long time to learn to appreciate that because I think sometimes we just think, “Oh, well, they’re just too rigid or uptight.” No, no. We need rigid, we need uptight.

Lesa Daniel: We do. We do. We do.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah. Keep us out of jail, Pat.

Lesa Daniel: Yeah. I’m like, “Oh, well, it’s the 21st. Go ahead and send it out the 22nd.” She’s like, “No, it has to go today.” Yeah, keep us out of jail.

Allison Tyler Jones: That will be a $10 fine, and we don’t want those people thinking that we’re late with our taxes because then they might look into us later, right? She’s thinking of all the possible consequences that could happen of that late 21st filing.

Lesa Daniel: That’s right.

Allison Tyler Jones: We’re like, “Yeah, it’ll be fine.” We’re Al Capone. We’re going to be in jail.

Lesa Daniel: Yeah, that is Pat. She keeps us out of jail on the regular.

Allison Tyler Jones: I love it. Well, it’s an inspiration, and I think our listeners are going to love listening to… I think this just expands your concept of how you can hire it, and I think we can recap some of that. It doesn’t have to be a full-time job. It’s probably somebody in your circle that you already know, either maybe in your spouse’s business, your church, your club, your golf, whatever your network is. What else? Don’t hire yourself.

Lesa Daniel: That’s right. That’s right. I would say have a trial period, wouldn’t you? We did that. We had a trial period to make sure it was a good fit for her and a good fit for us so that way no one’s committed forever.

Allison Tyler Jones: Like a 90 day.

Lesa Daniel: If it doesn’t work, it’s okay. It’s not that you’re a bad person, they’re a bad person, it’s not a good fit. That’s it. It’s not a good fit.

Allison Tyler Jones: I love it. Well-

Lesa Daniel: We had someone that we hired one time and Greg’s very, very, very sensitive to scent. She would wear perfume and we asked her, “Please don’t do that,” and she would wear perfume constantly. We finally had to say, this isn’t a good fit because Greg can’t breathe in his building.

Lesa Daniel: And so she just didn’t even realize she was doing it. She would wear soap that had perfume in it and all kinds of things. And so it was like, “You’re a great person. We’re great people. This is not a good fit. He can’t breathe.” Just simple things like that. Yeah, just give a 90-day trial and make sure it’s a good fit.

Allison Tyler Jones: Yeah, and I think saying that to somebody that the 90-day trial so that we make sure that it’s a good fit for us and for you, that really is going both ways. Because if somebody is not happy, they’re not going to be good for your business. Just like we were saying about clients, if it’s not a good fit, it’s not a good fit. I love it.

Allison Tyler Jones: Well, I appreciate you sharing your wisdom. Pat, it was lovely to talk to you. You look like a million bucks. Even though normally a behind-the-scenes person, you’d be like ponytail and no makeup. She’s like a southern woman dazzled within an inch of her life. She looks amazing.

Lesa Daniel: And she doesn’t feel well so she’s here.

Allison Tyler Jones: I know. Thank you for being here, Pat. I appreciate that so, so much.

Pat Chivers: Thank you.

Allison Tyler Jones: Thanks, Lesa.

Pat Chivers: When I started the job, I was 40. I remember when we made a deal and I told them at the church I was leaving and I thought, “What are you doing? You’re 40 years old. Nothing about photography, other than that my mom would take pictures and this much of the head was missing.” No, I don’t see how this is going to work, but it is. It works.

Allison Tyler Jones: That was probably a real leap for you.

Pat Chivers: Absolutely. Oh, it was. Yes.

Allison Tyler Jones: For sure because knowing the personality type that wants to dot the I’s and be in that safe space. But I think you have landed on your feet because I mean obviously Greg and Lesa are so lovely, and it just sounds like such a great fit. I know I’ve heard so many times how much they appreciate and value you.

Pat Chivers: I feel the same about them.

Allison Tyler Jones: It’s a win-win.

Pat Chivers: It is. It is.

Lesa Daniel: It’s a win-win. It’s a win.

Allison Tyler Jones: Love it. Love it. Thank you so much, ladies, for sharing your wisdom with us today.

Lesa Daniel: You’re welcome. Thank you.

Recorded: You can find more great resources from Allison at and on Instagram at do.the.rework.

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