April 29, 2015
Lessons Learned From Business Ownership
Last year we (Garrett, myself, and our kids) embarked on the adventure of opening Garrett's own Chiropractic practice. Well, it's been one heck-of-an-adventure, complete with a move into a new, bigger office just last month! We have learned A LOT in the past 15 months, we have grown a lot, and our eyes have been opened to what it's really like being a chiropractor owning his own practice. I get a lot of comments/assumptions (that I myself used to have) from others about what it must be like, and well......I've discovered that it's not exactly what it always seems. Here are a few things that I've (we've?) learned about owning our own practice that I was never aware of before:
1. You never "clock out" as the chiropractor. Being open from 9am-6pm, I've had several people mention how nice it must be to have Garrett work such nice hours. Well......he doesn't. :) I remember when Garrett was in school, I couldn't wait for him to be finished and have his own practice where he set his own hours, be home by 6pm, and have more time to be with family. Well, while it is nice for him to be his own boss and set his own business hours, he isn't "done" when his last patient leaves the office at the end of the day. He has paperwork, dictating, and a laundry list of housekeeping tasks to do related to the business. Being open for business 8 hours a day usually means a 12-14 hour day of work for him. Our date nights often turn into business meetings over dinner where we spend 90% of the time discussing the practice. Our weekends (at least lately) are often filled with health fairs and other PR-type events. We nearly eat, sleep, drink, and breathe Christensen Chiropractic 24/7. A lot of it is fun, just many more hours and much more work than even I had anticipated! I'm learning that life will probably always be busy and a lot of work; so enjoy the journey, because I don't think it will really get "easier", just different. :)
2. It's not easy being "the boss". Garrett has a job I could never do: hiring employees, worrying about keeping them happy at work, making sure everyone is doing their job well, helping resolve any conflicts that arise (though we've had an awesome staff and very few problems). I have a pretty white personality.....I don't like to tell people what to do and I don't like to deal with conflict....I'd make the worst boss ever. Even though Garrett's pretty good at it and his employees like him, I can see that it's not always easy for him to have to be "the boss" either and it adds stress to his day. It's a lot to take on caring for the happiness and welfare of your employees, so kudos to you, Gar! You're a braver person than I am.
3. It is soooooo nice to have a chiropractor (and massage therapist) in the home! Last fall one of my aunts spent a month up here in Alaska mostly to visit family but partly to have Garrett work on her and help her with her awful headaches. He is that good! I am so lucky that I don't have to wait for Monday morning or the next available appointment (or a plane ticket to Alaska!) in order to see him, and I've needed his help from whiplash pain, to minor sports injuries, to hip pain. While some people are living through a weekend in pain until the office opens, I know I can get help the day I need it, and that is such a blessing! The only downside is that I have to wait until the evenings and weekends in order to utilize his services, but let me tell you how nice it is to have many people's favorite doc work on me whenever I need it, even when he's dog-tired after a long day. Perks!
4. Being successful and busy does not mean we're on the verge of buying a yacht. We've had a great first year and Garrett keeps getting busier and busier--hooray! I've had some people ask when we are going to build/buy a house since Garrett has been busy and the practice is growing nicely. The business is going well, right? So why stay renting a little townhome?! Why not take more time off, loosen the budget a little, buy the nicer brand of toilet paper? Well, I have learned that owning a business means paying employees, paying rent, and taking care of all other business expenses first and then paying yourself last. Being a chiropractor means that once you've paid yourself, you likely have a hefty student loan payment that is larger than many people's mortgages (because unless you have a rich daddy who paid for it, there is no way to get through that kind of schooling debt-free), and then you get to buy your own health insurance (have you seen the cost of private insurance these days?!). So many bills! So yes, we are successful, grateful for our success, and happy as clams.....just nowhere near the buying a house/nice car/boat phase of life yet. Still working hard just to pay the bills, and that's okay. :)
5. Your to-do list never really gets "done". I love writing to-do lists and marking each item off. The to-do list when running a business is never finished and as Garrett says, "I could work for several hundred hours straight and still have things to do!" The key is to just keep chipping away at the list every day and enjoy getting each new task done. There will always be work to do as long as Garrett still has patients, and that's a good thing!
6. Working with insurance companies is about as fun as scrubbing the toilets, emptying the dishwasher, or folding clothes (my least favorite chores). A few months ago Garrett had me start coming into his office to help figure out a few things with billing. It is not easy to work with health insurance companies and get them to pay for a claim (and even more difficult working with the government-run insurances). By the end of my first week and with very little progress, we finally decided to hire a professional biller, because having a headache by the end of every day is no way to live! I think I'll stick to just being a nurse for now. ;)
7. Oftentimes, the business will get nicer things before the home does. My first home appliance purchase was a beautiful washer and dryer....for Garrett's office. The cute chairs I had refinished and reupholstered for our home went to Garrett's office, and any nice furniture/decor/vinyl lettering/beautiful photo canvases I might want for my home have all been purchased for his office. Consequently, the new office is coming together nicely and I can't wait for it to be all "ready" to show-off at our open house later next month! My home however........broken couches, mattresses on the floor, a dining table with only 3 chairs that are all about to break apart. I'm not complaining and am definitely happy with my life, I'm just getting used to the idea that Garrett's office looking clean and professional takes precedence over how my home looks at this point in time.....and that's okay.
8. It is so worth the time and stress to be able to serve others while doing what you love. Lest this post is sounding like it a list of the downsides to running your own practice, it is really worth the time and sacrifice. I love seeing my husband happy doing what he's doing. I love how hardly a day of work goes by that Garrett doesn't come home and excitedly tell me about a patient he was able to give immediate relief to. I love being out in the community and having people stop me and tell me how much he has helped them get out of pain or resolve their carpal tunnel syndrome or restore full function to their once "frozen shoulder". I love the occasional thank-you notes I've received from some of his patients who recognize the time he sacrifices with his family in order to serve them. What a blessing for me to see the fruits of his service and what a blessing to know that he loves doing it.
9. The future is as bright as you can imagine. There are so many possibilities for growth and improvement in the future and the nice thing about owning his own practice is that no one is keeping Garrett from reaching his goals and dreams. I really look forward to seeing how his business will grow and evolve in the next 10 years. Owning our own building? Branching out and working with other like-minded professionals? Who knows! But it's nice to not have limits to what we can do or accomplish because we are the ones who get to "call the shots". Although I sure would like a life with more predictability (and a nice benefits package!), Garrett's professional path forces me to learn, grow, and have more faith and trust through uncertainties, and that is definitely a good thing.