Dr. Melissa Lockwood, the founder of Heartland Foot and Ankle Associates, has guided her patients with varying foot problems since opening the practice in 2008.
Heartland Foot & Ankle doesn’t think you should have to choose between a practice with advanced treatment options or one with a relaxed, family-first atmosphere. Its mission from the very beginning has been to give its patients both.
As a doctor, a mother and the only female podiatrist practicing in the area, nothing is more important to Melissa than ensuring all her patients — from toddlers to great-grandparents — feel comfortable, welcomed and well-cared for.
That philosophy extends to everything they do, including the quality of treatment options, friendly service, and the personal attention they give to every patient, young and old.
“My husband, Scott, and I started the practice in its infancy,” Melissa recalls. “He was working full-time in a corporate accounting position and then, over time, we expanded both the business and then our family, which led to a lot of what we needed and wanted when it came to a Virtual Assistant.
“I listen to, and participate in, a ton of different podcasts about self-growth and entrepreneurship. I'm involved in a couple of different mastermind groups, and one specifically relates back to some foundational things entrepreneurially from Dave Ramsey. And they had some interesting information about BELAY.”
“As I was trying to juggle planning for a work trip, scheduling the children's flu shots, and then looking at my mess of a calendar. And I pride myself on organization. I was like, ‘I don't even know when I can schedule this or where it could go.’
“It was such this overwhelming feeling of dread opening my email, and I have all these obligations that I wasn't meeting because I didn't have enough hands, ears and eyes. I really like to be as hands-on as I can be, [and] I was failing so I needed to do something.”
Enter BELAY Virtual Assistant Tess Presnal.
Melissa has had three BELAY Virtual Assistants throughout her engagement — keeping a consistent Tuesday morning meeting schedule.
“Our initial 30-day project was [to] fix my calendar and email and see if we could organize it in a different way so that I didn’t feel overwhelmed and that things ended up on the calendar that should be there,” Melissa says.
“We literally took my calendar away from me. I am not in charge of my calendar. If you need to change or schedule something with me, everything gets CC’d through Tess.
“Scott and I — and even my team to an extent — were shocked with how much relief everyone felt as we had another person, even at 10 hours a week, really just helping us clean things up.”
One of the projects Melissa always had in the back of her mind to do was Christmas cards.
“I hadn't sent out Christmas cards in probably five years,” Melissa says. “I just didn't have the bandwidth to sit down and put everything in some type of digital format.
“[My first BELAY VA] had me mail her all of my Christmas cards and envelopes from people for the last five years, and she organized it and put it in an online form that we can make Christmas cards from.”
Melissa and her husband were both looking for someone who could come in and help manage them and their lives
“Both Scott and I say we need somebody who is going to manage us,” Tess laughs. “We manage seven other people and two children. And Scott will often say, ‘And Melissa manages a third child,’ which is him.”
“We definitely needed somebody who was gonna be a little bit more managerial toward us. Taking that initiative to be like, ‘I'm noticing your Tuesday looks insane. Can I suggest we take this off? I'll reschedule it.’”
“I would feel so bad about rescheduling something because I committed to it. And she doesn't feel bad about it. She’s done an excellent job at that.”
On one of her saddest days when her mom passed away, Melissa was able to lean on Tess to help coordinate arrangements.
“She passed away on Valentine's Day. And because that was a Tuesday, we had our call with Tess that morning,” Melissa remembers. “She knew that she had been sick because we had talked the week before and [when I told her what had happened], she said ‘Okay, what can I do?’
“I gave her the name of the funeral director and she coordinated everything. I didn't have to do anything for that. She handled me with kid gloves, and I felt such peace.
“Our whole family jokes, ‘Well, God bless Tess.’ Tess got it all coordinated. She booked all the hotel rooms.
“I cannot say enough about that, about her and the engagement we've had with BELAY. I think I probably would've gone insane had I not had that assistance.”
Tess has also been able to take over some of the HR pain points that Melissa identified in the beginning.
“Our HR manuals have been completely updated,” Melissa says. “Our process and protocols within the practice have [also] been updated.
“Tess is coordinating all of the team travel. We're going on a conference, the whole office together, and she is coordinating all of that and putting conference contracts together and managing and triaging all those things.
“I think the team really appreciates just having that one more person. If I'm not available to connect with about semi-urgent, or even mundane, things, [they] send stuff to her.
“We have a trip coming up next month, and Scott and I are gonna be out of the country for two weeks. The team feels very confident in messaging Tess about questions, and Tess feels very confident in knowing what to tell them to do.
“Empowering everyone to be able to manage [the practice] without me physically being there has been a great step forward for everyone.”
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