Taking a Leap of Faith: Career Advice from Michael and Stephen Shirley

 

In episode 4 of The Bend, Debbie had a virtual conversation with TWO leaders within the veterinary space who also happen to be brothers: 

Michael and Stephen Shirley. 

Michael and Stephen are Rutherford County, Tennessee locals who both have an interesting history, holding various careers leading up to where they are now.

With a B.S. in Animal Science, Michael worked his way through related careers until he eventually met and married his veterinarian wife, Dr. Amy Shirley. Together they purchased a declining veterinary practice which they transformed into today’s stellar Family Pet Health.  Michael serves as the Practice Manager, and his wife as the lead veterinarian. Michael and his wife make the ultimate team– he wants to run a business and loves to talk to people, while his wife loves medicine and wants to work with the animals. They’re a match made in heaven!

Stephen says he “wanted to do everything and nothing as a kid”, which has resulted in exploring many fields throughout his professional life. He’s always circled back to marketing and communication, and is currently working towards his master’s degree in Communications. He was “lovingly strong armed” into a position as a Customer Care Representative at Family Pet Health that was meant to be temporary, but he has remained with the team for the love of the job.

Their parents, who were also business owners , raised them with an understanding of how to manage a successful company. While Michael manages the business, Stephen is able to apply his people skills to making sure the business is well received.

As Michael says,

“Having employees who think like owners is a rare trait.”

That’s why, at Family Pet Health, employees are encouraged to think like owners. 

Michael makes sure he knows where his team members want to go by: Asking them what their goals are. Checking in with them regularly. Making sure their job means more to them than the convenience and money. 

Michael believes in giving your team the power to handle things that are delegated to them which means less micromanaging and a business staffed by confident employees. 

Debbie reveals a pathway to change during her conversation with the Shirley brothers. Both Michael and Stephen are familiar with taking a leap of faith towards a career that involved risk. So, how did they overcome that challenge? 

  • They didn’t fear failure. Michael talks about purchasing his practice, and while there was a chance it could fail, he knew it was in the best interest of his family in the long term. Stephen also discusses how making a career change wasn’t all that scary for him because he had done it before, so he had confidence that it would work out again.
  • They believed things would be okay. You can ALWAYS pivot in your career. If something doesn’t work out for you, you DO have other options. Keep that in the back of your mind when taking a leap. 
  • The Shirley brothers set goals that aligned with their priorities. And guess what? Your priorities could change someday! That’s life.  Set goals and take the opportunities that line up with your goals and what you value.  

These notable ideas are only the tip of the iceberg! Episode 4 is packed with so much knowledge and insight that you may even want to watch it TWICE to be sure you didn’t miss anything. Debbie, Michael, and Stephen spoke more at length about taking chances, delegation, core values, and career changes.  

For more wisdom from the Shirley brothers, check out the full episode of The Bend.