Veterinary Medicine is a Family Business, too!

One of the things that drew me to this profession was that I figured I would never get bored.  Between the many different types of pets we see – hamsters, guinea pigs, regular pigs, chickens, llamas, dogs, cats, and reptiles, it is always an adventure in our office.  We have funny stories, joyful days, and of course some sad times, but I was also drawn to this profession because it gives me an opportunity to run my own business.

I come from a long line of small business owners and entrepreneurs, and I think it runs in both my blood and my wife’s blood.  My grandfather ran his own independent insurance company, as did my father.  My wife’s grandfather started and ran a successful industrial distribution company, and my father-in-law started his own law firm.  So naturally it seemed fitting I would run my own veterinary hospital.  And actually it was these people who convinced me that I could do it.

When you talk to small business owners, you will typically hear about the joy of running your own business.  You will hear how it is great to be your own boss and how you get to do things your way, and how your failure or success is up to you.  They do, however, typically leave out the part about the long hours, hard work, and constant worry/sleepless nights that all small business owners go through.  And one detail we sometimes forget to mention, but typically all cherish, is the fun of working with family members.

I am so fortunate that I get to expose my kids to the work ethic that it takes to run a small business.  They go with me to visit patients on the weekends. They have been with me on lots of emergency calls.  As they get older, they will be allowed (or according to them, forced) to do all the glamorous jobs at the hospital, such as shoveling cages and the never-ending cleaning that we do, but I love having them around and watching them grow through hard work.  (The free labor is a bonus!)

The other great thing about our hospital is that I also employ my Dad, my father-in-law, and my wife.  (And when I say “employ”, I use that term loosely!) My dad is the most overqualified handy man you could have.  He comes here to do all the odd jobs that I cannot seem to find time for, such as fixing toilets, hanging pictures, repainting walls that get scratched up, repairing cages, and honestly everything else that needs fixing. His only payment (and yes, I have offered) is coffee.  He is a “jack of all trades” and also doubles as our photographer for our “Pictures with Santa Day” and a great business advisor.

My father-in-law is an attorney and has been an invaluable resource to me.  You don’t think of veterinary practices as needing lots of legal advice, but let me tell you, every business needs a trusted, honest lawyer on their side.  I have worn him out with my questions over the years, and his patient consultations have been so helpful for many business decisions I have had to make.

My wife Courtney also got drafted/forced to work here as well.  She is the ultimate behind-the-scenes worker.  She does all of our marketing and is also my editor (people who know me know that my spelling is terrible!).  She also does all the other really boring tasks, such as going to Costco for trash bags, keeping our plants looking fresh at the front, and coordinating all the decorating.  This is on top of raising 3 kids and still working for her own family’s company!

So for me, having my family around and helping with this business has been an unanticipated joy of this profession.  The days where my dad is here fixing things, my father-in-law and I are working through a decision via email, the kids are serving as after-hours technicians, and my wife is working on promoting the business brings a smile to my face.  This place could not operate without family!


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