Most small business owners don’t have a contingency plan should they get sick or injured and are unable to run their business for an extended period of time. So when tragedy strikes, it helps to have a supportive partner who is willing and able to keep the business going.
Six years ago, Kelly McGrath’s life was thrown into utter chaos when her husband Luke, was diagnosed with a highly-aggressive form of throat cancer. Luke was told his chances of survival were less than 50% and his only hope for survival was an extensive course of chemotherapy.
Bed-ridden and unable to run the business, it was left up to Kelly to look after the couple’s two small children and a burgeoning food franchising business.
Kelly told Australian Women Online, “It was an incredibly difficult time. Trying to balance caring for the kids with Luke’s sickness, and his business he was so passionate about.”
“I knew it would give Luke a lot of peace of mind – which was so important given his condition – if I made sure the business was in safe hands while he faced such a big battle.”
While Kelly was an integral part of the company’s foundation three years earlier, her own career as a patent attorney consumed the majority of her time. But when Luke got sick, Kelly set about ensuring his business, the Australian Franchising Corporation (AFC) group, continued to prosper.
She left her full-time job, leaping headlong into the business world, and took over as General Manager, running operations, procurement, marketing, franchisee relations, and everything in between.
“Truth be told, I am a real nerd – study had always been my forte – so my business acumen wasn’t as refined as it could have been,” Kelly says.
“It [taking on AFC] was a very steep learning curve, but I threw myself into it headlong, and the more I learnt, the better things got, and I really started to enjoy it.”
Under her directorship AFC continued to grow and propser. “We would have seen our business crumble were it not for Kelly,” said her husband Luke.
Kelly enjoyed the role so much she stayed on at the company full-time for four years, long after Luke had won his battle with the Big ‘C’.
After giving birth to their third child Sophie and with the support of her husband, Kelly decided it was time for a career change. In 2011 she gained admittance to study medicine at Griffith University in Queensland.
“Study is my ‘me time’ and as nerdy as it sounds, I enjoy it and I’m good at it,” said Kelly, who is now only a couple of practical placements away from becoming a qualified doctor.
“I can’t wait to finish. Luke and I are already talking about the potential of a business venture incorporating health, so that’s an exciting prospect.”