034: Nancy Ray - Building and Leading an Associate Team

March 6, 2018

034: Nancy Ray – Building and Leading an Associate Team



Today’s guest is a film photographer and business educator based in Raleigh, North Carolina. She and her husband Will run a photo team comprised of three wedding photographers and one family photographer and parent two beautiful girls. This woman is a leader that inspires others to shoot film as well as hybrid and to grow their teams through her programs Foundations in Team Building, Foundations in Digital Photography and Foundations in Film. She also has an online shop where she sells fine art prints and ebooks on topics like how to organize your life, your home, and your business. So welcome to the podcast,  Nancy  Ray!  



  • What is an Associate Program?
  • Pros and Cons of growing a business
  • Mistakes made as a leader
  • Common mistakes other photographers or leaders are making
  • What is next for Nancy Ray Photography?

What is an Associate Program?

Nancy has been a photographer for 10 years now. Five years ago, she reached a season of fatigue and realized she and her husband could no longer do it all themselves. Being at full capacity and unable to balance it all, she decided to hire a team of photographers to share the load of her business. She first started by hiring an intern, which showed Nancy that she was able to bring someone in to help her. Eventually, she hired two photographers as associate photographers under her brand. She trained both photographers to be able to shoot weddings on weekends that Nancy is not available. One person can only do so much, if you are going to scale your business this is a great way to do it! Knowing it is the right time to hire someone else, can be so hard to navigate. If you feel as if you are going to burn out soon, it would be a good time to think of hiring someone. Also, being in a good spot financially is very important to consider before hiring.  

Pros and cons of growing your business

The pros are being able to share your load, and taking off some of the load of others. Sharing the burdens and joys that come with doing work and business is another pro to having a team. After working for yourself for so long, it is nice to be able to discuss and dream with other people. The more minds you have the more creative ideas you will have. Not only is it more beneficial for the business to have a team, but it is also more fun! The cons are having to rework your mindset completely. Nancy likes to work alone, and learning how to focus with others in her studio has been challenging. Also, learning to delegate can be difficult, which has been a growing experience for Nancy. Being able to trust others with the task that you pass on to them is very important. 

Mistakes made as a leader

Nancy recently sent out an email that compared and contrasted her old work, in attempts to help beginning photographers by showing how far she has come with her images. After getting a negative response from someone who knew the couple in her beginner images, Nancy agrees she did go about sending this email in the right way because every wedding day is special to someone. Learning from mistakes is the only way to move forward and create better content. When Nancy first began training her team, she placed one photographer in wedding photography, when really her strong suit was family photography. Knowing where to place your team members so they can thrive is important. As a leader, when Nancy senses that something is off with the team, she immediately brings it to the surface and asks if there is anything that needs to be discussed. Keeping a humble mindset and think “How can I help bridge a gap after a mistake has been made?”, is a quality of a good leader. If you leave things festering you may build up walls, get angry and eventually burn out.

Common mistakes other photographers or leaders are making 

A common mistake Nancy has seen with other photography team leaders is not having a thorough enough hiring process when building a team. Nancy holds 6-7 interviews before offering a position. It is so important to get to know someone very well on the front end. Hire for character, not for talent. Also, it is common to see photographers work themselves into the ground and they quit before they ever consider hiring someone while others, are scared of the thought of being a leader and having the hard conversations. Anyone can be a leader, especially if you are hungry and humble to learn. Do not be afraid to communicate and make mistakes!

What is next for Nancy Ray Photography?

Nancy has a strategic plan for financial, wedding and family goals. But now, Nancy is really focusing on listening and serving those who follow her because good businesses serve well. Nancy has ideas for new products, but they are based on her personal opinions. Now, she is focusing on what products can serve others by asking what she can offer people and then she will build products and courses off of that information. Although she does not know the exact courses that will come, she is excited to learn how to serve people in new and different ways.

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way” – John C. Maxwell 

Foundations in Team Building

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Milenial Money Podcast
EntreLeadership: 20 Years of Practical Business Wisdom from the Trenches
Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, Second Edition

Showit – User-Friendly Web Design Platform: Use code MAGIC for 10% off your subscription!
Black River Imaging High Quality Online Print Site: Use code MAGIC for 20% off your order!

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