Dr. Henry Hart, senior partner of Westover Animal Hospital, pets Angus, his yellow Labrador. He says his job brings new challenges every day.
“On the Job With ...” is a regular feature of Sunday Inc. Today’s Q&A session conducted by Jim West is with Dr. Henry Hart, senior partner with Westover Animal Hospital.
NAME: Henry Hart
POSITION: Senior partner, Westover Animal Hospital.
EDUCATION: University of Georgia, doctor of veterinary medicine.
FAMILY: Hart and his wife, Ann, have two sons, Hank and Tom.
Q. If you were fresh out of school, what would you first do in searching for a job?
A. The first thing would be to decide exactly what I wanted to do. A lot of people don’t put enough importance on that. My mother told me, “Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.” Life’s too short to spend it doing anything but what you enjoy. I’m not a coat-and-tie kind of guy. That was always a given for me.
Q. What was your first job?
A. I grew up on a dairy farm, so I was driving trucks and tractors and milking cows from the time I was 9 or so. My dad paid me for the things I did. When I was 16, we decided it would be best if I got a job somewhere off the farm. My first one was with a construction crew around where I lived in Americus. I was framing houses, and I really enjoyed that. At the end of a day, I could see what we had accomplished.
Q. What was the first thing you bought after you got your first paycheck?
A. I don’t know about my first job, but I’ll always remember what I bought working at a small animal clinic in Miami. I was about 25, and as soon as I got paid I got rid my old VW and bought a green Mazda 280Z. It cost $8,600 brand new.
Q. Who was your role model or mentor in your current job?
A. This Miami practice I mentioned was pretty special to me. There were two partners: Drs. Kitrell and Rainey. I studied under both of them at UGA, and they had decided to start a practice together. Dr. Kitrell taught surgery, and Dr. Rainey taught medicine. In a way, I got to continue my education with these two great vets. I learned surgical techniques from Kitrell, and Rainey not only knew a lot about medicine but he was a great business person as well.
Q. How has the recession
affected your business?
A. It’s more important than ever to save money, so some of our clients are going to the Internet for their medicines or taking shortcuts in other ways. We sort of saw all of this coming and tried to prepare for it. There’s a lag between what happens and when you feel it. To answer your question, let’s say it hasn’t hurt us much, but we’re running a lot harder to stay even with where we were.
Q. If you could turn back the clock on one aspect of technology (email, Internet, cell phones, etc.) what would it be?
A. Right out front, I’ll say that I absolutely think that social networking is a waste of time. People must be bored, I guess. There’s a difference in being alone and being lonely.
Q. I am up and going by ...?
A. I’m up at 6:30, then I take just long enough to read The Herald, watch a little Fox TV and I’m off to the clinic.
Q. Favorite hobby or activity outside of work?
A. It’s funny how sometimes the things you used to hate are relaxing to you now. We have a pine plantation near Sumter County, and I like to drive a tractor and plant and burn. I put out some food plots for deer and wildlife. For 18 years, I enjoyed playing keyboards in Relapse, a band I was in with several different musicians over that time. I left the group not long after my good friend Russell Martin died.
Q. If you could take back one business decision in your career, what would it be?
A. I should have known better than to buy that oceanfront property before the bubble burst. I was probably being too greedy, but I never risk anything I can’t afford to lose. Hopefully, we learn from those kinds of things.
Q. What’s the best thing about your job?
A. Every day is different, and so boredom is seldom a problem. I never know what’s going to walk through the door. I don’t treat large animals or zoo animals, and I’m not a specialist. But I know enough to treat, to some degree, almost anything that can be wrong with small animals. In that way, my daily experience is extremely varied. I’m a jack of all trades. Physicians are challenged by general practice vets when they get them as patients, though, because we always think we know a lot about what’s wrong with us.
Q. What’s the worst thing about your job?
A. It bothers me I can’t be right all the time. After all, they call it a “practice” for a reason. I’m still bothered by death and dying, although I’ve gotten better through the years, I think. When euthanasia is what’s left, I’m privileged to help that animal through the process. That’s how I think about it now.
Q. The most beneficial course you took in school?
A. It wasn’t the courses but the teachers that were most beneficial to me. The best ones showed me that learning could be fun and that knowledge is power. In my memory, the best teachers were also the hardest. They challenged us to learn.
Q. What would be your dream job?
A. I’ve thought I’d like to work in a “think tank,” where I don’t have to really work but just come up with ideas all the time.
Q. Finish this: “On the first anniversary of my retirement I see myself ...”
A. I don’t see myself retiring. I might be doing something else, though, after I re-invent myself.
Q. What is the one trait a business leader cannot be without?
A. Courage to believe in yourself — to be able to deal with failure as well as success. I don’t care how good your ideas and executions are, you have to be able to succeed one more time than you fail.
Q. What do you see as Albany’s greatest economic challenge?
A. That one’s easy — getting more companies to come to Albany and hire more people.
Q. What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in your business over the past several years?
A. As the world gets more complicated, people who like animals have been realizing that our pets bring us more satisfaction than just about anything. As a result, they’re more likely to take good care of them
Q. What was the best vacation you ever took?
A. This summer my brother and my two sons went to Costa Rica and caught sailfish and yellowfin tuna and ziplined. It’s fun, but it’s scary, too — especially at first, and for somebody afraid of heights. They don’t have all the safety features they have up here.
Q. Any parting words of wisdom?
A. Strive to be happy in three areas: Where you’re living, who you’re loving and what you’re doing.