Having graduated from vet school, a career in mixed practice beckoned. It’s all I knew and (I thought) it was all I wanted. Reading ‘James Herriot’ as a Scottish lad growing up in a suburb of our Capital City, on paper the hectic life of a rural veterinarian was hugely attractive. I was strong at science and always had a passion for animals and the outdoors, ideal… or so I thought.
My first job was a baptism of fire. Becoming ever rarer, this was a truly mixed practice. From Alsatians to Zebras (local zoo!), we had the lot. I was fortunate to have fantastic bosses, who supported me every step of the way. I wouldn’t call it a learning curve, more a climbing wall. I look back on those two years with nothing but fondness; I honestly believe it sculpted me as a professional and the person I am today.
Don’t get me wrong; there were dark times. Times when I was close to hanging up my stethoscope and taking the first bus out of town. Honestly, it crossed my mind! But this experience moulded me; it was when I learnt the most about myself. My strengths, my weakness, what makes me happy and what doesn’t. It was a shock to the system when 12 months in I realised ‘this might not be me forever’. What was a vet to do!?
I took time working in small animal practice, working overseas, did some marketing qualifications and worked in pharmaceuticals. Why still the itch?
I discovered the topic of fascinating topic of entrepreneurship. Facebook advertising was obviously doing its job, as my feed became inundated with personal development programmes and courses. I ignored most, but one post caught my attention. ‘Entrepreneurial Spark’, the world’s largest free business accelerator programme. I applied and got an interview; I didn’t even have a business idea, I just wanted to peek inside this exciting and brave new world.
Accepted onto the programme, I was overwhelmed with excitement and frozen with fear simultaneously. I talked it through with friends and family; it was clear what had to be done. I would’ve regretted not taking the plunge, I jumped in with both feet. “There’s no time like the present.”
That was eight months ago. I’ve discovered the startup world is a treacherous and lonely place. There are many pitfalls, but I can honestly say I have zero regrets. I thought I would take the time to write down my biggest learnings from my participation in a business incubator.
1. Every startup is a tech startup
I had this premonition that the tech companies were the rock stars of the startup scene. But it soon became apparent that every business has an element of tech, no matter how simple or complex.
2. Ideas mean nothing
There are thousands of good ideas and products out there, but unless you mastermind an electrifying strategy, you’ll be treading water until the gravy train dries up.
3. It’s all about the people
I trawl newsletters, youtube videos, books, searching for that essential bit of information that gives me the edge. I was hoping the resources and presentations that run alongside this incubator would reveal the secret sauce; what it takes to become successful and fulfilled.
It didn’t take long to realise, that it’s all about the people. The relationships, the mentoring, the collaborations, the ideas, the support. I try not to turn down an opportunity; you never know who might be listening or who you’ll rub shoulders with.
4. The vet profession could learn so much
If you’ve read any of my previous blogs, I touch on this a lot. I truly believe it and am often snubbed for saying it. The vet profession needs to open its doors to other sectors for inspiration and assistance. Yes, there are things that without veterinary training you cannot necessarily comment on. But we could take so much from other sectors; management, leadership, innovation, HR, technology, mindfulness, well-being, time management, lifestyle, the list goes on.
5. Stay in your lane
People can see inauthenticity and it’s not attractive. Don’t try to be something or someone your not. I continue to work on my own self-awareness, but accepting the importance is a start. My time in an incubator has allowed me to rediscover my passion for the animal health sector and those within it. I’m excited by the movement of professionals who are redefining what it means to be a vet in 2017.
6. Have a clear story and mission
The most successful individuals, startups, businesses and people I’ve met over the last eight months, have mastered the art of storytelling. Whether they realise it or not, they’re passionate about the journey and can visualise the destination. Understanding the importance of an endpoint to navigate the course, is an essential ingredient for a deliciously fruitful startup.
Those are my biggest learnings from my time in a business incubator; it’s been a great ride and the start of something special. Nothing to it but hard work and patience. Thanks for reading, feel free to get in touch if you would like to know more.