Is it possible to jointly run a multi-million dollar international business and also have a happy marriage? A Tallahassee couple insists it can be done and they’ve now written a book that contains their secrets.
Bob Knight said he was an FSU student in 1976 when he started taking party pictures for a fee in order to pay his way through school.
“It started with the sororities at Florida State,” he recalled. “I started the business when I was 19. Within a year, we shot our first commencement ceremony, which was the first commencement ceremony photographed in the state. And pretty much today, if you go through a commencement ceremony, whether it’s high school or college or community college in Florida, you pretty much have to come through us. And we now do that 40 years later for 2.5 million graduates a year in 48 states and 8 Canadian provinces.”
One of Knight’s client sororities at Florida State was Alpha Gamma Delta. In 1979, its treasurer was named Gail.
“I scheduled all his photographers and that’s how we met,” related Gail Knight. “He needed some help so I started working for him and our relationship went from there. I graduated and moved to Miami and then we got engaged and moved back to Tallahassee.”
Gail went on to become chief financial officer and human resource manager of Bob Knight Photo while still in her 20s. As the company grew into a $100 million dollar juggernaut, so too did the pressures on the firm’s leadership power couple. Gail Knight said it was an ongoing challenge to keep their relationship healthy away from the office.
“So we had to have some rules. One of them was we didn’t talk business at home unless we both wanted to hear it. We kept it together that way.”
Another marital success secret, says Gail Knight, was knowing when to start withdrawing from the business and ultimately step away totally.
“We took on an equity partner in 2007 and then completely sold out in 2018. So that’s when we found the time to write the book.” That book, entitled “Married to It,” chronicles the way the Knights were able to keep both their business and marriage intact for all those years. At the same time, Bob Knight said the work’s many references to Tallahassee and FSU will be of great interest to fans of both the school and its community.
“Everything we have, we owe to Florida State,” he insisted. “And developing super-cool relationships with President D’Alemberte, President T.K. Wetherell, (President) Bernie Sliger was the first one who hired us. We have photographs of everything for Florida State and Tallahassee. Governors, the Legislature, tragic events like the Ted Bundy murders. All the pictures that ran of the victims were all our pictures. It’s really a documented history of Florida State and Tallahassee as well as our marriage and our business.”
And even though the book has only been out a few months, Knight said he and Gail have been a bit surprised by the acclaim it’s attracted.
“We weren’t focused on making a book that was going to be widely sold. That’s only become an afterthought. We have sold a bunch of them and have had lots of offers to go on the lecture circuit. The Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce is going to help us with that. So we may go on the tour!”
But before heading out-of-town, the Knights will be doing a hometown book launch on February 12th. That will take place at Holy Comforter Episcopal School starting at 6:00 p.m. It’ll be hosted by Midtown Reader, which in full disclosure, is an underwriter of WFSU.