Content from: Saskatchewan Business Magazine October 2017
When Lisa Swallow joined Stapleford Health and Rehab as a staff member in 2007, she was a recent graduate from McMaster University with a Masters in Physiotherapy and years of experience including supporting the Regina Thunder Junior Football team.
After just a year at Stapleford, Lisa was offered an incredible opportunity to become a part-owner of the well-established clinic after the existing owners decided to step aside. Lisa, along with Stapleford colleague Kiley Bourns and therapist Alison Matsyk, jumped at the chance to own their own business. The three shared ambitions to bring a modern, evidence-based approach to treatment through manual therapy and exercise. It was a great opportunity for first-time entrepreneurs to make their mark through innovation.
Today, the business is a multidisciplinary centre that uses a team approach to the many services they offer, including physiotherapy, massage, chiropractic care, concussion management and acupuncture.
In 2012, the enterprising partners capitalized on an opportunity to expand their business. They purchased a clinic from a retiring owner 125 km away in Weyburn, a location they knew had growth potential. Lisa says, “That was when I began to really experience the challenges of balancing my time and responsibilities as a therapist with those of being an owner. I struggled with trying to manage two places. There are so many challenges that come with growth, and I began to realize I needed some additional skills to manage them.”
Communication is crucial to growing a business – owners need to be able to communicate not only to clients but to their teams. As a shy, unassuming individual, Lisa sometimes struggled with communicating her priorities and vision to her business partners and staff, and empowering them with her ambitions. “I needed some guidance and grounding on leadership communication and basic management skills. I didn’t have a typical business background, yet I was running an expanding business.” Lisa knew she could benefit from the right type of coaching, but she wasn’t sure where to find it. When TEC Chair Linda Allen-Hardisty invited Lisa to a TEC event with other small business owners, Lisa knew that she had found the solution. “There was an instant camaraderie that grew out of having similar challenges, even though they came from different backgrounds and industries. It was a group of peers that I could run issues and concerns by and get some good advice from.” She joined Linda’s TEC group immediately.
A year later, Lisa’s confidence in her leadership abilities is growing along with her business acumen. “The difference has been profound. I’ve been able to deepen my knowledge in all the areas that we had been missing as a leadership team – finance, strategic planning, managing growth and human resources. TEC has helped us to focus on the priorities.” She says that understanding the foundations of creating a good workplace culture has helped with meeting the expectations of staff.
Lisa has gained insights from her TEC colleagues and leveraged the resources provided by expert speakers. “As a business, we have even been working with one of them on developing our plans for future growth and getting our financial house in order to achieve those goals.”
Perhaps the greatest testament to Lisa’s development as a leader has come from her business partners, who have not only noticed her evolution as a business leader but have benefited from her learnings. “We are all clearer on the separation between working in the business and on the business, which was a critical lesson for us as entrepreneurs,” says Lisa.
In fact, Lisa’s partner Alison is now planning to join the next TEC group launched in Regina. “As a team, we have seen the value of how this kind of learning can help us to grow as business owners.”
And the team’s future plans for Stapleford Health and Rehab? “Our goal is to maximize what we have now and keep growing from there.”