Taking Care of Your Mental Health as a Small Business Owner With Joey Lusvardi of Class Act Cats

As a psychiatric physician assistant, Joey Lusvardi spends his days diagnosing mental health concerns, prescribing medications and providing treatments to his patients with the goal of improving their quality of life. 

But at night and on weekends, he’s focused on caring for a different type of clientele. The type with four legs, whiskers and long, fluffy tails. 

Yes, we’re talking about cats.

“Surprisingly, there’s a lot of overlap between what I do in my day job and what I do with my business,” said Lusvardi, who launched his Minneapolis-based feline behavior consultation service, Class Act Cats, in 2020 after going through some behavioral challenges with his own pet. “It’s definitely been a bit of an adventure running my own business because I didn’t think I would end up in this position at all, but I’m really enjoying it.”

Like many people, Lusvardi did some soul searching during the Covid-19 pandemic and started thinking that he wanted to go in a bit of a different direction, careerwise. 

“Long story short, I realized that my real passion probably is cats,” he said with a laugh. “Not that I dislike people, but I just prefer cats.”

After a veterinarian friend suggested he look into the field of cat behavior consulting, Lusvardi took several classes on the subject to get a better understanding of what makes cats tick and how to train them.

“I already had a fairly solid foundation given my background in psychology and mental health,” he said. “I just tailored my learning more toward cats.”

Now that Class Act Cats is up and running, Lusvardi works with clients both in person and remotely. Some of them are interested in teaching their cats how to do tricks or training them to go into a carrier or sit on command but the bulk of his time is spent doing behavior consultations.

“Folks have cats that have litter box issues, or they’re biting, or there are intercat problems where they’ve had two cats that previously were getting along and now they’re going at each other, or they’re scratching up the furniture,” he said. “I can help them figure out a plan that takes into account cats’ natural behaviors and tendencies and focuses on positive reinforcement and environmental modifications.”


Lusvardi’s Effective Recommendations

Lusvardi aims to make the training sessions pleasant and fun for both cats and humans and he’s having a lot of fun in his venture. However, based on his medical background, he’s well aware that small business owners face their share of stresses no matter how much they love their jobs. If those stresses turn into major struggles, he encourages them to reach out to a mental health professional or their general practitioner for help. But in terms of everyday ways to manage the challenge of running a business while taking care of yourself at the same time, here are a few of Lusvardi’s recommendations: 

  • Set boundaries: Thanks to cell phones, tablets and laptops, it’s almost too easy to work nonstop and that’s a surefire recipe for burnout. Although easier said than done, tell your clients that if they contact you after, say, 9 p.m., you’ll get back to them the next day. Block time off on your calendar if you’re getting overwhelmed and need to catch up. Schedule in a few breaks during the day to simply get up and walk around. “I’ve definitely had thoughts like ‘what if someone wants to book an appointment and I’m not available? Am I going to miss some sort of opportunity?’” Lusvardi said. “But then I remind myself that I’m going to miss a lot more opportunities if I’m not able to conduct my business or I’m so tired that I end up quitting.”
  • Don’t feel like you have to do everything yourself: After launching Class Act Cats, Lusvardi quickly discovered how many tasks were involved in running a business – and how much time they took up. For example, just trying to set appointments with clients led to countless back and forth emails about availability. Not exactly the best use of his time! He recently switched over to an automated scheduling system where he can send clients a link to his calendar and they can choose a time that works best for them. “It only costs about $12 a month and to me, that $12 is worth the time I get back,” he said. Additionally, he’s opted to hire someone to do his taxes. “I know that taxes aren’t my area of expertise and tax preparation is a service I’m willing to pay for,” he said. 
  • Utilize your existing network: When Lusvardi started his venture, he had no idea how many other small business owners he already knew. Now, he’s tapping into his network for advice from people who’ve been where he is and can give him guidance and support. He’s also constantly on the lookout for ways to join forces with other business owners for their mutual benefit. “You never know when you’ll run across an opportunity to collaborate,” he said. 
  • Give yourself some grace: As a new business owner, you’re inevitably going to make mistakes. You’ll question why you said something to a client or wish you’d discovered a helpful resource sooner (for Lusvardi, it was finding out he could get a Google Voice  number for free). Don’t beat yourself up about it or spend time dwelling on the past. “You can only change what you’re doing moving forward,” he said. “Take your experiences and use them as a learning opportunity – that’s the best thing you can do.”


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