As vetrehabbers, we are disadvantaged from the start in business. Firstly, we were generally not taught any business skills, and secondly, for most of us the business side of things is just not our priority. We want to do what we trained to do – treat animals. So although we know we should be improving our business skills and concentrating on marketing our practices, often this gets pushed down the list because teaching that paralysed dog to walk is just more important. And I get it.
When I opened my vet rehab practice, I found it hard to wear both hats – the therapist’s hat and the business owners hat. And let’s be honest, the therapist’s hat is so much more fun.
The first few years of my practice were trial and error. I made a lot of errors, but each one led to growth and learning. Gradually, I started to make better decisions. However, my practice only really took off after I started asking for help. That is, when I found myself a mentor.
I had always made my business decisions alone. Then I met my husband, Graeme, a successful entrepreneur who ran two businesses at the time. I started to reach out to him for direction and guidance. It was great to have someone supporting and encouraging me, sharing my highs and holding me up during my lows. I am not sure if this is a woman thing only, but we tend to make decisions with our hearts. This is just not good for business. Graeme was the person who set me straight in these times and helped me remove emotions from my decisions. He showed me how to think and act tactically.
Graeme used to call me a ‘worry-pot’. He still does, actually. I am a worrier. If there was ever something to worry about with my vet rehab practice, I had thought of it. It would occupy my mind constantly. Graeme would offer reassurance and guidance and I soon realised that I was wasting energy on all my worries, because most of the time none of the dreaded situations came to fruition. And even when things did not turn out perfectly, results were never as terrible as imagined!
Also, I learnt to plan. I had a Plan A, for the best-case scenario, and a Plan B, if Plan A did not work out. I had a solution for each of my worries, so worrying diminished. Graeme helped me brainstorm each of those potential solutions. Having him to chat to was so reassuring.
Sometimes it was tricky because vetrehab practice is not like any small business. There is an emotional component to what we do that cannot be denied. I would get frustrated at times, feeling that Graeme just didn’t understand how my practice worked. But eventually he got it, and his understanding and ability to apply business sense to a huge variety of situations gave me tremendous confidence. His mentorship fast-tracked my practice.
Would I have got to the same place eventually on my own? Probably. But it would have taken years to become successful if I’d had to learn through experience alone.
Fast forward to today, and we now mentor each other. We each have our strengths and we tap into each other’s ‘gold’ to help and support one another.
I am fortunate enough to mentor several vetrehabbers, and although initially I am the one who offers the guidance, what amazes me is that as they gain confidence, they grow so rapidly that I end up learning from them. Without exception, they have all made huge strides in their businesses and are reaping rewards as they go. I believe that it is sound mentoring that makes the difference.
How about you? If your practice is stagnating, if you are not seeing the growth you expect or are lacking the confidence to make the big decisions that will take things to the next level, a mentor may be exactly what you need.
Where do you find mentors?
Well, there are business coaches who charge for their services. They usually have experience with lots of small businesses and have valuable knowledge and insight to offer. The challenge is they don’t usually understand the veterinary rehabilitation field – but then it’s your job to educate them. Most cities also have business centres that offer support to small businesses. Do a Google search in your area.
You might also identify a successful vetrehabber in your country whom you think you could learn from and reach out to them. You might be so forward as to ask them straight away to be your mentor, or you might prefer to build a relationship with them which grows over time into a mentoring one.
These kinds of relationships are usually built on friendship foundations, so don’t see your mentoring as a business transaction only and just take advice. Think of ways you can give back for that person’s time. You might volunteer your time to assist them on cases or projects, share their Facebook posts, or just be there for them when they need it.
Conferences are great places to meet mentors. Get out there and meet people and talk to them. Be clear about what type of mentor you’re looking for. A clinical mentor, for instance, might not be the best person to help you with your business. You might find two mentors – one for your business and one for your cases.
The point is, we all need someone. Mentoring is a very special kind of relationship where both parties have your personal and business growth at heart – and where sound, practical advice backs up that care and commitment. We really cannot do without it. You may feel that the advice of friends and family is enough. My advice is, find a mentor who is not quite so personally connected. A good mentor will understand your challenges and enable you to see the things you cannot currently see. Mentoring makes a difference!
Onlinepethealth members, did you know that I offer free business strategy calls to each and every one of you? Click here to email me and let’s set up an appointment.
If you’re interested in learning more about the business side of running a vetrehab practice, please join us in the free Facebook community, The Business Veterehabbers.
Watch our Business Basics Training this week with Sasha Foster, to learn more about mentorship and coaching.