You can have it all. Just not on your timeline: Joël Villeneuve

Joël Villeneuve
Joël Villeneuve

Dr. Joël Villeneuve practices Kanban, a Japanese system for scheduling and efficiency that essentially dictates that a person should only have three things on the go at given time.

“With Kanban, I focus my attention on the three things I have identified as important to me at that time,” she advises. “I can only add something new to the list once I have taken something else off.”

Following the practice of Kanban has helped Dr. Villeneuve manage all the moving parts in her life. As the founder of Revivelife, an integrated clinic focused on longevity medicine and wellness, she is also is a wife and a mother to two teenage boys.

“Revivelife is focused on integrative medicine; it includes all aspects of your life from lifestyle, food and mindset to nutritional therapies, hormones and acupuncture,” she explains. “I call it ‘longevity medicine.’ I look at lifestyle changes to improve health versus prescribing medication as step one.”

After graduating as a doctor of natural medicine, she worked with her mentor, Dr. Don Warren, and was given the opportunity to take over his practice upon his retirement.

Starting her own business, however, wasn’t easy.

“The bank I grew up using my whole life said ‘no’ when I asked them for financing to purchase the clinic,” Dr. Villeneuve says. She was eventually able to find a female banker who believed in her and gave her a loan. She is now in her 25th year of practice.

Even after getting her business off the ground, Dr. Villeneuve encountered other obstacles, including suffering a serious burnout within the first few years of practicing.

“I felt an incredible pressure to succeed,” she says. “I worked constantly, I ate on the road, I gave up exercise and was eventually diagnosed with hyperthyroidism.” It was her mentor, Dr. Warren, who helped nursed her back to health.

“It took one year to recover from that burnout,” she explains. She modified her work days to include a two hour nap at lunch, orchestrated to let her continue running the practice.“I burnt out because I gave up my pillars,” Dr. Villeneuve says. “The outlets that kept me sane, the things I love to do … I gave them all up to put more hours in at work.”

Today she has her list of pillars and they are non-negotiable. “I am not a morning person by nature, but I start each day with exercise and a walk, snowshoe or cross-country ski with my dog,” she explains. “I do these things first so that I don’t compromise them. And I am better off for it … When you work hard and smart, it shows.”

Dr. Villeneuve wrote and published her first book last summer, Power Foods 101, a nutrition tool-kit for wellness, health, longevity and energy.

“I wrote this book for my dad. My parents are ballroom dancers and very active, but they love a good buffet,” Dr. Villeneuve says with a laugh. “I began to notice that when my dad ate on the road his PSA marker (one marker for prostate health) would go up. But when he ate my mom’s home cooking it went down.”

This correlation proved the power of food on health and encouraged her to write a book to share his with others.“You can have it all, but not always on your timeline,” Dr. Villeneuve says.

“I have always wanted to write a book, but my kids were young and needed my attention. Next I was doing a T.V. show – 36 episodes on Rogers over two years – and I just didn’t have time to focus on a book.”She had her first child ten years after starting her practice. She hired a locum and took six months off.

“I was very naïve,” she says. “I came back to a business in shambles; patient flow dropped by 50 per cent and I realized that although a locum takes care of your patients exceptionally well, (they) doesn’t run your business. Only an owner who is passionate about all aspects of the business can do that.”

Two and half years later she had baby No. 2.

“I took one month out of the office, taking calls when needed as I had to stay in touch with the business. You have to make sacrifices,” she says. In order to continue to balance motherhood and her practice, she worked part-time for nine years.

“Life is like an elevator. People get on and people get off. Focus on the people getting on in your life,” she says. And that’s good advice.

Fenix Solutions CEO Jennifer MacKinnon writes a column, Ottawa Women of Wonder, to profile and celebrate local women in business.