For about four years I was Power of Attorney for my mom, Susan. She was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease nearly 13 years earlier. After struggling with all things Parkinson’s she basically handed off her life to me. I was now in charge of all the decision making for her while also running my own business. Some days it felt like I was running two.
There were all the meds, two brain surgeries, neurologist appointments, finances, selling her house and moving her to independent living, then to assisted living followed by skilled nursing and end of life care. She passed away a few months ago at the age of 67.
She was my mom, I loved her, so of course I did it…and I learned a lot…a lot about running someone else’s life, a lot about life and people in general…and yes, a lot about how to better run my own life and my commercial photography business.
All along I carried this tattered leather binder with me. It was a constant reminder of the tasks at hand that needed to be done for her. Always full of that week’s most important stuff… forms, applications, medical bills, banking info, legal documents, appointments, insurance cards, contacts, to do lists and just about anything else I could squeeze into it. As the years went on the binder got more and more worn out – much like my mom – as we traveled on numerous trips to hospitals, rehabs and appointments.
As I look back I can honestly say that I learned more about running my business throughout this ordeal than I could by reading some biz guru’s book or by taking a class.
This was my business 101…with a twist. Here are just a few of my correlations between business and life lessons.
The absolute biggest take away over the years while caring for my mom was to keep moving forward. Stopping to dwell wasn’t healthy. Always keep looking ahead and always move forward in life and business. What needs done today? What needs done next week, next month…six months? You can (and should) pause and reflect on things to hopefully avoid repeating a mistake but just keep plugging away. Decisions need to be made, sometimes quickly with minimal time to think or react. Go with your gut, make the decision, and move on. If in hindsight it wasn’t the best choice simply correct your course, fix it, apologize (if need be), and just move on. It happens. Clients understand.
The team approach
Another life lesson is to always take a team approach no matter what. You simply can’t do it alone. Ever. With my mom, I relied on an all-star team of medical professionals to educate me and thus help me make those tough choices for her. The top doctors, surgeons and nursing home staff were always by my side as was my wife, Erin, when the big decisions were being made. If I didn’t understand something, I would ask… sometime several times. I listened and learned. In business, I always love to collaborate with my clients during photography and video projects. Ask lots of questions and get answers before proceeding. Listen and learn what their needs are. Getting the professionals on the same page from the get go is not only beneficial to the client but also allows for a more streamlined workflow and solid final product. I create my crew (and at times work with client’s marketing and creative folks) based on the scope of the project…again a team approach relying on the professionals to create the best outcome and in our case, content.
This sounds simple but I really struggled at times with my patience throughout my mom’s illness. More times than not the decisions I ultimately made did not work for my mom. She didn’t want to make the decisions (and towards the end couldn’t)… but she also didn’t want to follow my lead or trust the team. That said, you also need to be very patient with clients and customers. Some don’t know what they want but always know what they don’t want. It’s a process that circles back to taking a team approach, collaborating and moving things forward to reach the desired goal.
No matter how difficult things seemed to get I was still in charge…like it or not. The phone kept ringing with someone asking what to do. I was her Power of Attorney and now the executor. Decisions and remaining loose ends still need taken care of. In the business world, just as in life, you need to be in charge during the good, the bad and ugly (hopefully not too much bad or ugly). Take the lead and show your clients you are confident and competent to handle their projects.
Lastly (and there are many more I could mention), being organized (yeah, with that ratty binder always at arm’s length) and keeping on top of my mom’s medical and financial circumstances was critical. I was proactive as much as possible whether it was following up with the doctors or nursing home staff or just carefully reviewing and paying her bills for her. I was also very careful to keep her finances separate while maintaining all her records and receipts …much like in business. Being in business (and staying in it) requires similar, meticulous organizational skills.
We learn a lot from our parents over the years and sometimes we don’t grasp it all immediately. Helping my mom has helped me. Oh, and that old beat up binder got tossed. I’m moving forward.
What life lessons have you experienced that carry over into the business world?
(Jason Minick, is owner/photographer at Minick Photography, LLC)