With a new baby on the way for my family, so many different things about this subject are always running through my mind. This post is a little less animal and veterinary focused, and a bit more personal, so feel free to skip this one if that is not your cup of tea!
My husband, and your soon to be local house call vet extraordinaire, will tell you that I always have said that, for some reason, I really wanted to be an entrepreneur. My biggest issue was that I did not know exactly what I meant by that, as owning a full size veterinary clinic did not feel like the path I was looking for. I am not the most patient person when it comes to waiting to figure things out, so I spent countless hours thinking both in and outside of the veterinary field for an idea that would feel right. And just like “they” always tell you it will happen, one fateful day it finally dawned on me – my favourite appointments to see are house calls…what if ALL I did was house calls?!
With a lot of support and encouragement from more people than I can count, the birth of that idea got me started on this entrepreneurial journey that I would not trade for the world.
But back to the real subject of this post – how has this helped, or hindered, my ability to try to be a good mom, a good vet, and a good business owner? I am going to try to make it simple by breaking it down into each category.
How can I be a good business owner?
It is surprisingly true how somehow owning your own business feels a little bit like having another dependent. Without you, it can’t run. If you don’t continuously nurture it, its development will be affected. If you don’t continuously pour resources, both financial and emotional, into it, it will suffer noticeably.
Trying to be a good business owner is doing your darnedest, always, to not just stick with the status quo. To take those spare moments, when maybe you’d like to be taking a breather, to brainstorm things you can improve, or new things you can do to spread the word, or even to catch up with accounting…haha. The bonus about all of this work, though, when you’d like to probably be playing, is: if you have chosen to build a business that you truly care about, you want to do these things! You should, of course, sometimes choose to play instead, but at least some of the time you won’t feel like you are doing these things because they are your job. You will be doing them because you’ll be excited to see the ways that it pays off, and you will take pride in seeing your dependent flourish as a result of your concerted efforts!
Probably one of the hardest lessons to learn is: no matter how successful your business is, sometimes your efforts do not pay off immediately. Sometimes you are struggling to keep up with bills, and doing something that is costly, but you truly believe is worthwhile, and it will seem like its not working for a long time before you can see the benefits. If you truly believe in what you are doing, don’t give up when there are not immediate results, but also try to look at things as objectively as possible (ask for opinions!) and be willing to adapt and change to things that may work better! Being open to change and growth makes all the difference!
How can I be a good veterinarian? (or whatever your primary role is outside of “business owner”)
For me the answer to this is simple: I am so much happier being a vet in this particular way, that I know it is making me the best veterinarian I can be. When I used to work exclusively in a clinic, that particular environment did not allow me to use my strengths in the profession as much as I think I needed. What I love about house call practice is getting to spend lots of time with my clients, getting to know them and my patients. I love seeing pets in their own environment. I love helping people who would otherwise have difficulty getting their pets into a clinic. This is not to say that vets who work in clinics wouldn’t value these things as well, but it truly feels to me like the environment where I get to engage in one of my favourite things: getting to know people.
This is just one small part of being a professional and a business owner at the same time, however. The real question is, how do you find the time to do both?
This comes down to a couple of big things: good time management, and GOOD HELP!!
I don’t think I can stress either of these things enough. Time management is not an easy thing for everyone (including myself), but it is integral to work very hard on this. In order to essentially have two full time jobs, and still have work-life balance, you need to establish boundaries for your time, and structure for the time you have dedicated to work. Make lists, get good software or calendars that remind you of the important things you need to do, keep track of everything you do get done, and establish routines and protocols for how things work so you’re not always scrambling to figure these things out. And again: ADAPT. If something isn’t working, find a better way to do it. If you notice the same issue coming up repeatedly, take the time to figure out why, and fix it! This kind of problem solving can seem time consuming, but the time it saves you to fix the problem makes it MORE than worth it.
Good help is probably one of the most important things across the board. It does not save anyone time, money, or sanity to try to do everything yourself. It is hard, when I already compared your business to another child, to hand off responsibilities to other people when you have ideas about exactly how you want things to work. But that’s why you need to be really specific/choosey/smart about who you get to help you! And once you find that person, TRUST them. If you give them responsibility and trust, when you have the right person, this will help them grow as well and they will love your business like their own. The investment is well beyond worth its weight in gold to have someone do the things that can be delegated so that you can focus on the things that you need to be doing. This helps me to be a better veterinarian as well, because if I can delegate other important tasks to someone I trust, then I can put more time into growing as a vet and making sure to do that aspect of my job to my full potential.
And most importantly to me – How can I be a good mom?
This one is probably the hardest for me to qualify because I think, like any mother, I always feel like I could be doing better. My daughter, Maria, is my deepest pride and love and joy. I am so happy to have a job that I enjoy, but there is always a large part of me wishing I could spend every waking moment that I have with her. Alas, I must work, and so this is more about finding the best way to be the best mother I can be while doing so!
Interestingly, time management and good help are two of the mainstays for this advice as well. A third that I’ll add though that is equal parts incredibly difficult and incredibly important, that I still have not perfected, is establishing boundaries.
The advice about the first two points here is similar to the previous section, as both are meant to make sure you use the time that you are actually working as efficiently as possible (leaving as much time as possible free for your family). If you have good systems in place to try to finish work on time, within working hours, and you are able to delegate tasks that don’t need to be done by you, then you can take those spare moments to steal time with your family when possible. Meaning, for example: if I have a random afternoon where I don’t have any appointments booked, I can choose to assign some tasks to my wonderful assistant, and spend the afternoon with my girl. Take advantage of unexpected freedoms! As I mentioned before, some of these moments should be for business focus, but some of them should be for “play” and family time as well!
Now, on to boundaries. It is a major struggle, when you own your own business, to not worry about hurting your growth and success by having to say “no” sometimes. If I tell this client that we are too booked to see them today, will they just go somewhere else and never try me again? If I don’t reduce my prices for this person, does that mean I don’t care? Does it mean I’ll lose this client, and I won’t find any others? If I’m not available outside of working hours to help people, will they not see my service as valuable?
I could go on all day with the things that run through my mind on this subject. But it comes down to this: the most important thing in my life is my family. I started this business so that my quality of life and the time I spent with my family would be improved. This mentality has helped me so much to make decisions in terms of boundaries. Every day I work harder and harder towards making sure that when I’m home, I’m home. When my working hours are over and the phone is off for the night, I’m present with my family. I do not receive notifications from my Facebook page, my e-mail, or the work phone once we are “closed”. I do not want to look back at my babies’ childhoods and feel like it was a blur of trying to work and focus on them at the same time. There are exceptions to this, as sometimes I have so much work piling up that I do have to work into the night, but this has improved as time has gone on. It’s a work in progress.
The final motherhood point I’ll make kind of seems like the opposite of what I just said, but if I am lucky enough to steal an afternoon with my baby, I do have to repeatedly remind myself that even if I do have to have some work distractions during this extra time, it is still better than not having the freedom to seize those opportunities to get that extra time with her. My time off needs to be my time off, but my bonus moments during the workday are just that – bonuses, and I’ll take them, and cherish them, however I can get them!
Being a Momtrepreneurian has been a major learning experience for me, and I think has allowed me to be the best Mom, Vet, and Business Owner I can be, but I am always trying to improve! I frequently have times where I feel like a failure, but I haven’t doubted this path since I started on it. Being a mother of two and handing over some of the reigns to my wonderful husband will be a whole new adventure for me though, so we’ll see how well I do putting some of these things into practice when I am a bit more on the sidelines!
I’d love to hear any tips and tricks any other business owners have or any input on any of it, for that matter J Hopefully this different type of blog post is some food for thought for those interested! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!