Continuing a tradition we began last year, Megan and I would like to share what went well and what we struggled with at Shift in 2019.
There is a lot of entrepreneurial folklore about building a business. A lot of it focuses solely on the wins rather than the very real (and often universal) challenges.
We believe it’s important to speak openly about what happens behind the scenes. It will make our business better in all areas. It’s as simple as this: Making anything better starts with honesty.
With that, let’s start with what went well in 2019…
We supported a record number of individuals and couples with therapy. It doesn’t always meet the eye, but we have more sessions happening outside of the walls of our clinic than within it. In the past year, we’ve built our remote therapy team that operates over video through partnerships like Maple and through our Real Campus program. Plus, our clinical team made the most of the space we have.
We did more corporate training than ever before. With the launch of our training wing, Shift People, our hope was to bolster this practice because true mental wellness comes from breaking down the walls between what happens in a therapy room and in our workplaces. The response has been fantastic, enabling us to provide training to brave organizations that are leaders in their industries.
Our therapy team kicked ass. Under the leadership of our Clinical Director, Jaylin, and our Operations Manager, Rasha, we invested a lot of training and resources into our therapy team. In turn, not only have our amazing therapists helped their clients but we’ve also been able to retain and recruit brilliant minds.
We gave back. We provided pro-bono training at a variety of non-profit events and community organizations this year and were able to sponsor TEDxToronto. As a newer company without any investors, it is very rare to be able to sponsor a major event like that. And personally, this was a huge milestone because I (Jor) got my start on this path by speaking at that event in 2015. Coming full-circle was amazing.
We got out of the way. In 2017 and 2018, both Megan and I were hands-on in basically everything that happened at Shift. In 2019, we focused a lot on our vision, values, and operating principles. This meant that we were able to grow an amazing team that could master their own areas of excellence and grow with us. On a workplace cultural note, we saw our team organically develop a culture of generosity, kindness, and joy together. It’s a beautiful thing.
We planned for the future. We have a couple of big steps coming in 2020 that will improve the care we provide our clients and partners, as well as enhance our team’s ability to collaborate and connect. More on that coming soon enough…
Now that the good stuff is out of the way, here are a handful of things that we struggled with during 2019…
We struggled with saying no. Since mental health is so in vogue right now, 2019 brought a lot of opportunities to our doorstep, and it was a challenge to focus on what nurtures the team and supports the business. There were a lot of groups with venture funding coming to us to collaborate on a new product or service. After pursuing a lot of these in 2018, we made the decision to pass on tons of these opportunities and instead focus on our own team and products while prioritizing partnerships that are going well (like with Maple!).
We both faced burnout. Shift is now three years old, but the reality is that both Megan and I have been entrepreneurs for close to a decade. In that time, we’ve often put our wellness last and the impact of that finally hit us. Several other members of our team hit similar walls. For all of us, it was time to practice what we preach and reprioritize our own needs so that we can be our best for our families, friends, clients, and teammates.
We struggled with managerial consistency. Trying to delay the inevitable burnout while working “in” the business (whether with Meg doing therapy sessions or me doing speaking and facilitation), meaning that some things fell off the tracks. Whether it was a biweekly meeting that had to be rescheduled or a project that was delayed, things slowed down. We’ve since made changes to our management structure so that this happens less, fortunately. A lot of people count on us to be steady and it’s on us to be there for them.
We struggled with backend operations. As we grew in 2017 and 2018, we didn’t have the best financial, legal, and operational systems in place. Starting in March of 2019, we started to make some aggressive changes that might not look too exciting from the outside (like getting a new bookkeeping team and a new lawyer) but it made all the difference to us. Plus, in the fall, we began to involve a part-time CFO in big decisions who has helped us immensely with feeling confident and clear on our path ahead.
As I’ve written this down, a couple of other observations have come to mind…
We are beginning to address our struggles sooner. This means that we are both more aware of them and are better able to examine them. This wasn’t really the case in 2018. That little bit of progress is huge for us.
One of the biggest areas of focus for us is now growing our people through new challenges, promotions, and culture. I think in 2019 we truly learned that our business is only as good as its people. To every member of our team, we are so happy we’re on this journey together.
Lastly, we are so grateful to you, whoever you are. Really! We’ve grown primarily because of word-of-mouth. The fact that you have taken a couple of minutes to take this in means the world.
On that note, please have a joyous New Year’s Eve no matter who you’re with or where you are. We’ll see you in 2020!
Jor & Meg
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