A s we enter adulthood and get on our career paths, we don’t often take time to reflect on our choices and trajectory in life. I analogize it to being in a river with a strong current.
We can get swept along in a career without really stopping to consider if it is the path we really want to be on. In my work as a business advisor, I often consult with business owners and other professionals to take a “time out” and really consider their journey. Sometimes our timeouts are unplanned, and I was recently reminded of this in my interview this week with Dr. Mike Manning, who is the founder and owner of Mississippi Vein Institute.
Manning grew up on a cotton farm in Drew, Miss., and went on to complete his education and medical training at Mississippi State, the University of Mississippi Medical Center and Wake Forest. For 13 years he was a practicing anesthesiologist and served as president of the Mississippi Society of Anesthesiologists and president of Physicians Anesthesia Group. However, in 2007 his life took an unexpected turn. He suffered a severe left ankle fracture, which involved 100 days in an external fixator, and he was unable to practice anesthesia for four months. He noted, “It was during that time that I began formulating the idea that would become Mississippi Vein. I always had the spirit of an entrepreneur, but practicing anesthesia provided me no way of realizing it.”
His time in the external fixator was very challenging. Manning candidly noted, “If you had told me at the time that something really good was going to come out of that experience, it would have been a pretty tough sale. But, the Lord works in mysterious ways.” During this time, Manning connected with Dr. John Kingsley of Alabama Vascular and Vein, who was an early leader in endovenous laser ablation. Manning noted, “John took a very personal interest in me and things moved very fast because of my relationship with him. John taught me the technical side of providing vein treatments, but it was my wife, Scarlette, who mastered the business side of the vein business.”
Manning spent the next year and a half practicing anesthesia full time and building Mississippi Vein at night and on the weekends. He said, “100-hour work weeks were the norm for me during those days, but that is what it took to get Mississippi Vein off the ground.” He struggled with the timing to leave and go full time into his new business, but when he considered the patient feedback they were getting, he knew it was time to go, so he left anesthesia for good on 9/15/2009. Since then, Mississippi Vein has grown rapidly expanding to 15 employees, another physician, and re-locating into new space in Madison. The clinic now serves patients from all over the state and surrounding states.
Manning’s advice to other leaders and entrepreneurs is to be passionate about what you are doing and maintain a sense of excitement and a sense of urgency. He also wisely noted, “Become an absolute expert in your chosen endeavor and never stop learning.” Manning also believes in the importance of having a great team. He emphasized, “Hire the very best staff that you can afford and value them; they will be the very best business investment that you will ever make.
Manning’s passion is contagious, and he certainly is a great example of how you can make a very successful mid-career shift to follow your dreams.
While the path is never easy, it absolutely can be done with hard work, focus, and the right team around you.
» Martin Willoughby is a business consultant and regular contributing columnist for the Mississippi Business Journal. He serves as Chief Operating Officer of Butler Snow Advisory Services, LLC and can be reached at martin.willoughby@ butlersnow.com.