Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Joining a directorship and having a life?!?!?!

I am currently 33 and just about to buy into an established equine practice.  I have been a salaried director for 2 years having joined the practice just over two and a half years ago with the intention of joining the directorship.  I have worked in 100% equine practice for most of my career (bar a short stint in mixed practice as a new graduate) and have always looked for the next challenge!!  Prior to joining my current practice I worked for four and a half years in a fantastic practice as an equine vet, but felt I had to leave as there were no directorship opportunities and it wasn’t particularly near my family.  I was reluctant to settle into life long term as an assistant, and 3 hours from my family home.  I have always been one of those annoying people who relishes the most difficult option in life.  I remember being told by numerous careers advisors that I should pick a different degree course to apply for as ‘nobody gets into vet school’ (which was true of the college I did my A Levels at), but all this did was spur me on to prove them all wrong.

Having achieved a certificate in Equine Orthopaedics and Advanced Practitioner Status in my previous practice I was then looking for the next challenge.  I decided to look for a job nearer my family and with more opportunity for progression.  I only applied for one job, met my now business partner and decided there and then that this was the right place for me.  The practice needed some modernisation, but I got on well with my now partner, we had a very similar outlook on things and she complemented my orthopaedic bias by being an Advanced Practitioner in Equine Medicine and an experienced stud vet.

Rather naively I thought moving to a new practice with a few more letters after my name would cement me into the practice team quickly and gain me a name with the clients.  This didn’t happen – I still spend time doing vaccinations, being rejected by clients for being new, getting complaints because I didn’t do things in the same way ‘xxxx’ used to.

Joining the directorship has been a HUGE challenge – possibly more than I was looking for.  At times I have gone home and cried after yet another staff member has moaned about lack of communication in the practice, or handed in their notice when we are already short staffed.  The clients have been critical at times too, some of the long established clients have complained about my bedside manner and disliked the new practices adopted (not least that we now insist they pay their bills…).  I have come to the realization that you have to expect everything to be slightly falling apart all of the time – there is always someone complaining, someone leaving, someone off sick, some difficult case that has been pushed in your direction.  I am getting better at leaving it at work and trying to relax in my own time, but it is much harder once the buck stops with you.  I now get to fret about the practice finances, staff members, cars, equipment, H+S, practice standards inspection, accountants and a whole load of other stuff that never even crossed my mind when I was just a vet.

On the whole though I am enjoying it, I am now in a position where I can make decisions – hopefully to the benefit of our team and the business.  I am enjoying learning new skills (last week I learnt how to do the till rec after someone in accounts decided the best time to retire at short notice was when someone else in accounts was on holiday) and find the prospect of growing the business exciting.  I take great pride in every letter of thanks, every favourable Facebook post and tweet, every client who tells me how much they like one of our vets or nurses.  I am slowly winning round some of our long standing clients, but I think it will take time.  Being a director does not fast track you to the top of their ‘favourite vet’ list – you have to clock up years of service like everyone else.  

In terms of work life balance I am finding it hard.  I am writing this on a Tuesday evening several months after I was asked to write it because of lack of time.  I have been on CPD courses learning about putting all your tasks into categories and spending time doing the important but not urgent things – I fail at this mostly and spend lots of time doing urgent unimportant things!!  I am constantly worried about neglecting my friends and family by working too hard, so try to cram lots into my weekends off.  I have managed to maintain some rules from my life as an assistant – I still switch off my work phone when I’m not on call (though my colleagues have my private number my clients don’t), I vowed to take every single day of my holiday allowance every year and my allocated TOIL and so far, I have.  I try to exercise a few evenings a week and spend time with my other half.  I get up earlier so that I can ride my horse before work – meaning I can start the day with something enjoyable and not immediately be greeted with problems (this plan back fires if the horse throws me off which has happened a few times….).  Overall I think becoming a director has been the right choice for me, but it is a lot of work and stress which I don’t think you can appreciate until you make the jump.  My advice would be to find a practice where you get on well with the other directors – they will be your partners – the rest of the team are important but your fellow directors are the people who need to have your back.  I would probably suggest working in a practice a bit longer than I did before taking the plunge, it has been hard to gain the clients trust and loyalty at the same time as the staff, if I had more years of service under my belt I wouldn’t necessarily of had to do both at the same time.