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Harness the Current

Access Continuum’s Leadership Model for leading through novel unknowns

Continuum Consulting Services LLC

A year was up, and it was time to get my VW into the shop for the annual oil change and tire rotation. Waiting for someone to check me in at the dealership, I noticed an all-too-familiar look on the guy’s face who had come in just before I did. You know what I mean: the expectant looking around hoping someone will come to assist soon, the frequent glance down at his watch, and the tension on his face rising with every minute that passed. My assumption was confirmed when the attendant came in, and the man explained about his conference call that was about to start at 2:00.

I too planned to work and had brought my MacBook with me to make good use of my time in the waiting room. After an hour of getting things done, I looked up to see the same man settling in for a wait, and I decided to strike up a conversation about the challenges and joys of working nomadically, always having to be creative about finding space for meetings and conversations. I discovered his name was Doug, retired from a veterinary career during which he had built and sold several practices. 

As the conversation continued, words of wisdom began to pour from him, and before we knew it, I had moved to a chair next to him and begun taking notes. He was happy to share stories from his years in business and the key learnings he felt made the greatest difference in finding success. I resonated so much with his thinking that I wanted to share it with you. 

Consider how these nuggets of wisdom from long-term experience apply to your type of business. 

Let it Go

There are some people you just cannot work with – it doesn’t mean they are bad people or that you are a bad person, it’s just a bad match. If you are in that situation, find a way to transition the person out of the job, hopefully with grace. If you can’t do it gracefully, just do it: let them go and move on. Think about: When have you found yourself in a ‘bad match’ situation? What did you do about it?

Pass it On

If you cannot do something well, pass that business along to someone who does. It feels counter-intuitive, but the trust you create will raise your value in customer’s eyes. This can be challenging, especially for an entrepreneur–you want to capture all the opportunities that come your way and figure out a way to do it. But, ultimately, isn’t it better to focus on what you do best and recommend someone else for the job? Think about:  How are you playing to your strengths in your business? Are there areas you might productively pass on to someone else?

Know your Boundaries

Define the boundaries of your business carefully and watch out for potential opportunities that may look good but can become toxic for your team and organization. If you find you have taken on something that isn’t a good fit, shift it to another organization, maybe one where you can make mutual referrals. Think about: Where might some aspect of your business be creating too much stress for your staff?

This last bit of wisdom was unclear to me, so I asked him to share an example.

He said that in his veterinary practice, animal husbandry (overnight and longer-term hospitalization of animals) could increase revenue but would also increase the strain on his office staff. The service would require more cleaning work and 24/7 care of the animal’s needs. 

In his commitment to staying away from business that was toxic to his team, when he started into a case that might require extensive hospitalization, he would refer the case to someone who specialized in caring for recovering animals, or he would equip the owners to provide care themselves. It was their choice, but he was not going to burden his staff with that work because it stressed his team too much.  

“My staff is small, very talented technically, and has a high job satisfaction rate because they are using their technical skills on a constant basis. They are playing to their strengths which energizes them, and they are getting lots of warm fuzzies from the client base for the great work they do.”

Douglas Homolka, DVM

Thank you, Doug, for your words of business wisdom and for keeping me company in the VW waiting room that day. I love learning from people who have walked the path I’m walking as a business owner and entrepreneur.

By Wendy B. White

Wendy B. White is co-founder and partner with Continuum Consulting Services. She recently launched Let’s Choose Love, a social movement that provides a forum for sharing ideas, resources, new philosophies and stories that she hopes will challenge, stretch and inspire us to expand our thinking and possibilities for the future.