My Accidental Success Story

Posted on January 31, 2015 by Lynn Henderson

I didn’t do this for money – it was really an accidental success.

When I gradated from Vet School, I planned to work in small animal general practice for some undetermined amount of time. I gave the briefest thought to pursuing a specialty like surgery, or perhaps to owning my own stationary practice one day. Certainly at graduation, I did not know any mobile companion-animal veterinarians and becoming one myself was not anywhere on my radar. This was exactly the way it went for the first few years post-graduation.  I worked at a small animal hospital in Barrie, Ontario for just over a year before becoming pregnant with my daughter. She arrived two months earlier than expected, and thus abruptly ended my time as a more-than full-time small animal associate veterinarian at this practice. After maternity leave, I thought I could return to the career I knew pre-baby, but was rudely awakened to the reality of parenthood when my 1-year-old was afflicted with diarrhea on and off for the entire first month I was back at work. This lead to many last minute sick days on my end, and finally a resignation of my position in favor of motherhood.  

It is perhaps a topic for another book entirely, but being ‘off’ work for a few months led me to feel itchy and stir-crazy. I needed to get myself back into veterinary medicine in some capacity. In retrospect, I’m not sure if this was because my brain needed it, my bank account was suffering, or my ego needed to feel that I was something more than a ‘stay-at-home-mom’. This latter possibility shames me now as I look back. These days I often wish I could find a way to be home more often, spending more time with my daughter, and doing ‘less-important’ things like cooking and cleaning. Those chores have now become my happy place, my getaway from medicine and business ownership – but I digress. 

I began locuming at local practice – a term referring to part-time coverage of veterinarians looking for time off. I knew of a few sole-practioner/practice owners for whom vacation or personal time was only an illusion. Most of whom I contacted were open and even excited about the prospect of having a vet such as myself offer to work a week here and there, or even a day or two weekly. It worked out for us both – I was able to make a bit of money and keep my hand in the game, and my colleagues were able to take some much-needed time for themselves. 

Locuming was an excellent learning and growth experience for me – both professionally and personally.  If you are a veterinarian you will understand that not all practices are created equally. If you are not involved in veterinary medicine in some way, you now know this little fact also. Every practice must adhere to the very basic guidelines laid out by the governing body in their area. Other than these rules, every practice owner will tailor their practice to their own beliefs and interests. This ‘personalization’ encompasses the ethics of the practice, the equipment and training budgets, the drugs and protocols employed and the billing scheme.  If I had to synopsize the skills I gained from my time locuming, I would say that I mastered the fine art of adaptation, while also learning to stay true to my bottom line. To elaborate slightly, that means I was forced to use medications that may have been less familiar to me, as well as how to quickly establish relationships with new staff at each shift. There were times however, where my veterinary instincts and ethics were challenged by what I was being asked to do, and the passive-aggressive woman inside me had to learn how to stand up both for what I would, and what I simply WOULD NOT do. All in all, I truly believe that these experiences created in me as spirit of adaptation and an acceptance of the different ways in which people see and live within the world. I do not know if I would have been as well-suited or as eager to venture into the world of house-call practice without this training. 

I attended the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) convention in Atlanta in the summer of 2010. I met so many remarkable practitioners in such a small window of time at this conference; Veterinarians doing incredibly creative, and satisfying things with their skills. I was engaged and enthralled. The potential areas of medicine I could engross myself in – acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic, rehabilitation, and house-call work, surrounded me. These veterinarians were focusing on the areas of practice they loved, and crafting lives for themselves in incredibly creative ways.  I returned to practice excited to build on my experiences and  with plans to possibly integrate some of these ideas and techniques into my future practice. I started to wonder how I might practice veterinary medicine independently, and as I believed it could be done.   I wanted personal experiences for my clients – I needed a mobile license. A mobile license? I had never really considered such a thing. And what was required to obtain such a license? – Not all that much in the way of equipment, an inspection by the college and the payment of required licensing fees. And that was that.

 Within a few weeks, Henderson Mobile Veterinary Services was born.  Initially, I saw my  new mobile practice as a convenience – as a ‘hobby’ that I would offer after work occasionally. As soon as I began marketing my services through local flyers, online, and via word of mouth – it seemed to take-off! People were excited about the idea of a veterinarian coming to their pets. Owners with difficulty driving, or with getting their pets into the car, cats that panicked after a car-ride, and most dear to my heart – the geriatric pets whom need not visit a veterinary clinic when palliation and end-of-life is the primary care goal. it was a whole new world of possibility for me! I no longer required a ‘job’ at a veterinary clinic, and found the freedom and personal connection to my clients through house-calls so much more rewarding. 

Alas,  Henderson Mobile Veterinary Services was not the planned-out entrepreneurial success I am often credited for – it is what it is, and I am able to do what I love because you all wanted these services and supported me every step of the way! 

This is the long story of why I always say that HMVS was an accidental success, and as brave and smart as everyone THINKS I was – I was an accidental entrepreneur. It turned out to be a great idea, with tons of potential to be realized – but not because I was a visionary ——because I was in the right area at the right time, and because my wonderful clients throughout this community allowed me to succeed. 

 

Many Thanks!!!!

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