Building a Mission-Based Business

Last week I wrote to you about celebrating my 10 year anniversary as a Board Certified Behavior Analysis. In that blog, I took you through the journey of my early career which led to the conception of Instructional ABA Consultants. This week I’d like to share the reason that I’m still waking up with a passion for my company after almost a decade into entrepreneurship.

Starting a Business You Care About

To start, you might be wondering why I wouldn’t wake up with a passion for my company right? I mean, after all, it is my company. I’ll have to explain this by looking at the very start of my business. While I had extensive training and experience as a clinician I had zero experience as a business owner nine years ago; I just had the fire.

I started Instructional ABA Consultants because I was fiercely angry about the lack of care my clients on the crisis team received due to their funding or lack of quality care because of a lackluster BCBA. As a clinician and humanitarian these two things did not sit well with me. Each time I met a family who could not access ABA I was furious for them. Each time I met a BCBA who was not clinically treating a client with quality ABA I was disheartened. ABA helped show me a scientific approach to helping the people who needed it most (my crisis clients with autism); clients who were, at the time, getting the runaround. 

In starting Instructional ABA Consultants I took a chance that my scientific and mathematical mind could in fact build a business. I did not have any experience but I was thirsty for change. Using science and math as the foundation of my business proved easy. I could easily create systems to support multiple funding sources and replicate applied behavior analysis services. To this day I can run spreadsheets and treatment plans in my sleep. What I did not know how to do was manage people. I also did not know how to hold boundaries (personally or professionally). This created quite a ride over the first several years of business.

Learning to Manage People

I have this problem (I believe it’s because I’m a woman) where I feel like when I ask someone to do something and they become uncomfortable somehow it’s my role to make them comfortable. I also have a tendency to see the good in people which means (to this day) I am not the best person to interview new employees. As an empathic person, I will quickly absorb all of their good and potential then digress from the role we need to be filled. While being an empath is often my superpower it’s an incredibly hard personality trait to hone as a business owner. Specifically, a woman in business.

Over the past decade, I have had to become very clear on what my own professional boundaries are, what the boundaries of my business are, and create incredibly clear expectations for my employees. I have met many incredible people over the years, but I have also met various people who are willing to take advantage of me and my business. Learning to navigate these employee relationships to ensure the mission of my business is upheld has been a learning curve for me. To this day I tell myself walking into any meeting, “don’t puff up, don’t shrink down, stand your sacred ground.” 

There are so many variables at play in a business, so having a team that is behind them, a team that implements accountability and compassion is key to my success. I had no idea that dismantling a scientific, social service agency would involve this level of leadership!

The Challenges of Starting a New Business

Once my business was up and running it felt like new challenges would never stop coming in (spoiler alert: I was right). My team and I were constantly analyzing our work in order to create quality outcomes keeping our doors open to all funding sources. My small paragraph on the challenges of learning to lead my employees is but a match to the number of fires I have put out over the years.

It’s not in my natural skill set to manage other humans. Lead? Sure. Mentor? You bet. Manage other people? Nope. I’ve been fine-tuning this skill because I believe in what I have created. I believe that children and parents have a right to the wonders of applied behavior analysis. I believe that funding should never be a factor in access to care. If a human being needs access to essential services it should be provided. Applied behavior analysis is currently the only evidence-based, medical treatment for autism. 

Running my company and keeping it in alignment with our mission always makes me feel at home in my own heart. Throughout the trials and tribulations of business ownership (that is not as easy as math and science) I still wake up every morning excited to log into work. Knowing that we’re not just creating but sustaining change is an amazing thing.

Last week, after a decade of working to help everyone in need, we learned we may finally be able to accept Medicaid funding in Illinois. I strapped my running shoes on alongside my staff while smiling at the sky. We’re good at this. We’re good at providing care to the “underserved.” The “underserved?” Those are the people I love.



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