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Veterinary practice: All in the family
A father and son team keep their personal and work relationships working with practice.
Practice manager Lee Griffith says working for his father, Dr. Scott Griffith, at The French Quarter Vet in New Orleans has been a unique and rewarding experience. However, a lot of things needed to come together to keep their personal and work relationship working.
"We know each other on a much more personal level than if he was just another employer," Lee says. "I know his tendencies and he knows mine. It gives us some good utility when we're trying to communicate because he may be saying one thing, but if he means something else, I'm a little more in tune to cut through it all and get to the point of what we're trying to figure out."
An unexpected boon of their new working relationship was the talent they each brought. "One thing that works is, we both love the idea of being on the front edge of things. We like being early adopters," Lee says. Because he's from a generation raised on technology, Lee was able to take his father's ideas and make them a reality—from creating a Facebook page to the practice's website.
"He'll have ideas about what he wants to do, and I'll have a good understanding of how to implement it," Lee says. "And then whenever we're at the point of making decisions, he's got nearly 30 years of experience in running practices successfully across the country that we can tap into. So it's nice. He never wants to hold back what we can do. Instead, we're willing to pull the best out of both ends of it."
Lee embraces the role of taking his father's big ideas and implementing them. He also plays a critical role in evaluating the business side of decisions to make sure they're cost effective.
The key to making this idea exchange successful is simple. When they began their working relationship several years ago, they agreed on their game plan: stay fluid.
"Just because something works well one day doesn't mean six months down the road the environment won't change," Lee says. "We make a point to avoid locking ourselves into a set way of doing things. And it can be stressful at times, because we do tend to fluctuate our protocols, and the team members are always trying to keep up with our latest and greatest project. But at the end of the day, it's really great. Over and over again we're still getting fantastic feedback from clients and employees who just love coming to work."
Make time to check in
Obviously working together meant Lee would spend more time with his father. But they couldn't have predicted how it would enhance their family life. When Dr. Scott launched his practice in the French Quarter, he created a foothold for the family to enjoy the best part of the town, Lee says. The lure of the quarter also drew Lee's younger brother, who studies business at Loyola University New Orleans.
"On a Friday afternoon when I'm closing up shop, my brother might poke his head in the office," Lee says. "The practice has done great things for the relationship between my brother, my father, and I. We see a lot more of each other now, because we have a place to enjoy ourselves after work."
With the plethora of great restaurants to choose from, they often enjoy mealtimes together. Or during away games for the NFL's Saints, they'll choose a fun location in the quarter to watch the game.
"Even though it's often low-key, we get to hang out and be together a lot more than we did before," he says.
While their work and personal relationship might seem idyllic, it's actually a product of careful construction, Lee says. To keep family relationships positive in the workplace, Lee says you have to be able to talk about problems when they crop up.
"I recommend setting a time to go to dinner every six months to evaluate how the work relationship is fitting into your personal life," he says. "You don't want problems to consume your relationship. And when work gets busy, you're less likely to take a moment and evaluate your working relationship. So predetermining a time to audit how your relationship works can really help."