What Our Family Business Means to Me.



Do you ever feel like you were born in the wrong era?

I think I was born a hundred years too late. For example, I don't use accounting software. Instead, I use a ledger. Next time you watch an old black and white movie notice that the the General Store owner records sales in his ledger. He takes his pencil from his ear, cracks open his little book, and writes down the sale.

I'm like the General Store guy. Every time a family pays me to photograph them it gets recorded in my ledger with a yellow pencil.

The process is nearly sacred for me. I love it.

It's not the money. I don't care so much about that. It's something else.

It's what the ledger represents.

It's all the time I spent dreaming of having a business one day. It's the time spent learning, and the trial and error that led me to this day. It's the nervous feeling of doing a job for people I don't know yet. It's the satisfaction of taking a skill and serving another family. And it's knowing that my family can fill our van with gas, go to the grocery store, and enjoy a day at a Provincial Park or some time at the Y.

When the year begins I start a new ledger and record my goals for the coming months. At years end, I flip through my ledger and everything I've recorded. And I thank God for having such good, honest work.

I keep these ledgers year after year, not in case I'm audited by the CRA, but as a milepost. See what I've done, see how far I've come? When I forget what I've accomplished, I pick up my ledger and look back.

Naomi and I founded Acorn and Oak Family Photography so that we could do meaningful work that we loved, and provide for our family. Our family business is part of who we are. We fill it with our experiences, and ideas, and personalities.

They say that being an entrepreneur means that you can enjoy freedom and wealth on your terms. Perhaps. But we have always longed for meaningful work that would serve other families. We use our newfound freedom to care for our kids and work a crazy schedule. We're still a lot closer to rags than to riches. But we love our work. Our whole life has led us here, and we bring our whole life to our work.

You know you've found what you were meant to do when you're willing to do it day in and day out, even when it's really tough, and you'd gladly do it even if there weren't a paycheque at the end.

On the surface, we don't even look like a business. My office is the bedroom, the kitchen table, the picnic table in our backyard. It's wherever it needs to be. It's wherever I need to be.

Sometimes my office looks more like a daycare, complete with snotty noses that constantly need wiping. No, don't wipe it on that! During afternoon nap time I tiptoe through the house, rounding up my photography gear for an evening photo session. I treasure the hugs and kisses I receive before leaving the office for my outdoor work. After the session, as I'm brushing off sand and removing fingerprints from from my camera lenses, I wonder is this really work? Yes, it's work. And I love it.

I am surprised by the many friendships we've made while "doing business." I judge the value of my work by those friendships more than I do by the money recorded in my ledger.

I never use the word client for families that I photograph. There is nothing wrong with the word. But given our work, our motivation, and the friendships we've made, I don't think of anyone as clients. Because of the way that I approach my work, I have no problem mixing business with friendship. I enjoy the fact that friendships have grown out of our business.

We're in our 11th year of marriage, our 6th year of parenting, and our 3rd year of family business. Our marriage has led to 3 beautiful children and those kids inspired our family business. And without our family business we would be without so many of the great relationships we have.

So I thank God for marriage, and babies, and families that keep growing. And for honest work, and ledgers, and pencils. And for all the names in that ledger that stand for community and friendship and life.