All in the Family

By Margaret Price

Family practices make it work at work

 

More and more practices are rejecting the notion of a traditional office environment in favor of a more non-traditional setting. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see multiple family members working in the same chiropractic office. From fathers and daughters to husbands and wives, and all family in between, many practices are seeing the benefits of working with family members, including increased trust, a higher level of respect and a close-knit office atmosphere.

And while there’s no question that working with family members in a professional setting comes with its own unique set of challenges, many chiropractors have concluded that there’s no better way to practice than by keeping it all in the family. 

A Common Purpose

Kimberly Roberto never envisioned herself working alongside her husband, Fred Roberto, D.C. Before joining West Cobb Chiropractic in Powder Springs, Ga., as Nutrition & Wellness Consultant and Operations Manager, she worked in the corporate world at General Electric while her husband, a 1994 graduate of Life University, finished school and got his business off the ground. “Once that happened and with the birth of our second child, I quit my job and became a stay at home mom,” she says. But as her husband’s practice grew, she became more and more unhappy and unfulfilled in her role. “We had a third child and as a few years went by, several things happened. My husband was putting in tremendous hours doing what he loved, but I felt like the office was taking him away from his family. As a result, I became resentful of the office. Not only that, I became envious that he had this undeniable mission and purpose in life, and I felt like I didn’t.” 

Finally making the decision to overcome her unhappiness was just the change she needed. She began working in the office part time and found the work fun, challenging and exhilarating. “It gave my life the purpose I was looking for,” Roberto says. As a result of her new-found passion, she co-authored a nutrition book for the Maximized Living Foundation and continues to educate the public, their patients and other doctors on nutrition. “Had I not stepped out of my comfort zone and identified my true calling, I can’t imagine where I would be right now,” she says. “Being given the opportunity to work with my husband every day and to share such an important purpose is an unbelievable blessing.”

These days, the Robertos enjoy a fulfilling and productive work and home life by adhering to a few simple rules. “We live and breathe the principles of Chiropractic and the other essentials of being and staying healthy and well,” she says. “Our family life is an extension of our office as we lead our patients by example.” While the lines between home life and work life can become blurred, Roberto says it’s important to compartmentalize. This includes becoming aware of and communicating your needs in order to put office issues on the back burner and focus on the family and each other.

The Robertos believe that although it can be challenging to work with a family member, it is also very rewarding. “Because we not only have jobs together, we are also serving people together, and have a common purpose and calling,” says Fred Roberto. “It is an amazing life and a very unique life. Much of what the chiropractic philosophy is all about is very much contrary to most of the rest of the world. It is very helpful to have that built-in support system at work and at home.”

A Passion for the Practice

For Claire Boos Griswold, office manager of Boos Chiropractic in Tulsa, Okla., one of the most important aspects of her career is interacting with patients and other staff members in a professional and respectful manner. “There is an obvious difference between the other staff and me, though. I’m allowed to call the doctor ‘Dad’,” she says. 

A graduate of Palmer College of Chiropractic, Howard J. Boos, D.C., believes that working with family members can transform an ordinary practice into an extraordinary one, but it requires a shared purpose, a strong work ethic and open communication. “Everyone has heard sad stories of businesses comprised of one or more family members holding positions solely because they are a family member, contributing little to no value to the company and creating ill-will from the other staff,” he says. But, he adds, when family members share the same conviction and passion, it creates a great atmosphere for staff and a place that attracts practice members.

Life at Boos Chiropractic is truly a family matter, as Claire’s professional-familial interaction extends beyond her father. “To be honest, living with a family member that I also work with has its pros and cons,” she says. “In my case, my husband is currently interning in my dad’s office. I enjoy getting to spend additional time with my husband and seeing him work. The only trouble we have is that our work can become more of our life than it should. It’s easy to bring work home, and since both of us bring the same work home, it’s almost like a continuation of our day.” In order to combat the work-play dilemma, the Boos have been consciously looking for new things to do outside of work to keep healthy boundaries in place.

Above all, the Boos believe that the business works because they are very tight knit and honest with each other, and they all have the practice’s best interests at heart. “The other advantage in working with a trusted family member is just that; they are trusted. They have a vested interest. The job is not just a paycheck,” Howard says. Claire adds that having multiple family members on staff often creates a feeling of trust and love that patients are drawn to. “I think that chiropractors prefer to have family on staff in the beginning because of the combined passion for the practice. I also know from experience that patients who may be a little on the fence about care feel comfortable and welcome in an office that has multiple family members on staff,” she says. 

An Added Certainty

Meet the Livingoods, a family whose name is their philosophy. Having known he wanted to be a chiropractor since the eighth grade, Brandon Livingood, D.C., enrolled at Life University, earned his Doctor of Chiropractic degree in 2007, and, along with his wife Rebecca, relocated to Colorado Springs to join the team at the family’s practice 100%, A Chiropractic Wellness Center. In August of 2008, they opened up a North Colorado Springs location, with Rebecca serving as chiropractic assistant.

Livingood agrees that setting boundaries with family members is crucial to success. “We agreed from the start that office life and family life are two separate things,” he says. “We made a pact to always treat each other with respect in front of the patients. We also try to discuss office matters for the first 30 minutes after we leave work and then shut everything from work off for the day and just enjoy each other.” 

Working so closely with his spouse has certainly been an exciting challenge. But to make matters more interesting, Livingood’s mother, Colleen, came on board recently as office manager. “Most people say I am a better man than most to take on such an adventure,” he jokes. “But in all honesty, I love it.” He notes that a few ground rules were set early on to keep a very professional interaction among all family members in the office, such as referring to each other as “Dr. Livingood” and “Colleen” instead of “Mom” and “Sweetie.” 

Undoubtedly, working alongside two family members has presented a number of issues, but Livingood has quickly learned the value of patience and communication in both a personal and professional setting. “My biggest struggle as the leader of the practice is finding good ways to lead, train and expand the abilities of my family members,” he says. “It seems easier to take the strengths and weaknesses of other employees and build and tweak them to become leaders in the practice. But teaching and training someone who used to change my diapers, that’s a little harder. I try to be more patient with the family as we grow and learn to get better together. It has allowed me to learn new ways to communicate more clearly and use different techniques I may not have ever used to train and lead my team.”

Despite the challenges, Livingood says he wouldn’t have it any other way. “Having two people I trust with my life working in my office certainly gives me an added level of certainty,” he says, although he notes that such a situation isn’t for everyone. “Adding a family member into your practice is not the right thing for everybody. It takes a mutual level of respect between both people. For some it would ruin their marriage and their practice. For others it is the best decision you could make. Certainly for Rebecca, Colleen and me, this has been the case.”

No matter what their respective challenges and issues may be, it’s clear that the Robertos, the Boos and the Livingoods are making working together—and living together—work. They say that family is the tie that binds, but each has found that a family practicing Chiropractic together is the tie that binds for life.