The GeniusVets Show with Heidi Rooney

Welcome to the GeniusVets Show for veterinary practice owners and industry pros. At GeniusVets, it's our mission to help veterinary practices thrive, and this webinar and podcast supports that mission by giving a platform to the best and brightest minds in the veterinary industry, where we identify challenges facing veterinary practices today, discussing ideas, insights, and solutions that practice owners need to know about. If you like today's show, that's something we'd love to know. Feel free to send an email to [email protected] And make sure to check out the wealth of resources available to veterinary practices at


Hello, everybody. Welcome to another episode of the GeniusVets Show. I'm your host, David Hall, co-founder of GeniusVets. Whether we're speaking at conferences, my partner, Dr. Drake, with her book that just came out, is really all about this. And there are some companies out there that are really doing some amazing work to help practices address these issues, and it really all comes down to building an amazing culture in your practice. This is something that over the past several years, has really just been heightened and brought to the forefront.


Everybody's talking about culture now. If you go back, like, eight years, almost nobody was talking about this, but some great studies came out that showed building a good culture is really good business. And this is what today's generation really looks for is a lot of ways to make money in this world.

How you do it and how you spend your time really matters. And so if people are going to dedicate their lives to you and your business, they really want to be bought in on the mission, the culture, the values that your business really stands for. It makes a massive difference. And when you do this well, not only does it make a better place for everybody to work and a more enjoyable place to spend your time, but it really drops the bottom line and makes it a much more profitable business as well.

The big question is, how do you do it?

So that's that's some of the stuff that we're going to address today. You really have to get buy-in from your team, right? You really have to understand how they are thinking, feeling, and doing. What feedback do they maybe have for you and for other team members?

So, thankfully, there is actually a platform out there that really does an amazing job. But before we really get into talking about that stuff, I want to introduce you today to today's guest, a brilliant, brilliant person who is ontributing to this space in the industry, Heidi Rooney. Heidi is one of the key designers of Vetoquino’sl VetPowerment. She's worked at Vetoquinol USA for nine years, and currently, she manages the solutions development department.

So, without any further ado, Heidi, thanks so much for joining us!

Heidi Rooney

Hi, David. Thanks so much for having me. Really appreciate it.

David Hall

So, you and I have had the opportunity to talk about this topic a lot. I love how much you dove head first into this and have looked at challenges that veterinary practices are facing and created what I think are some really cool solutions for this.

Let's talk a little bit about what's happening in veterinary practices that are problematic and aren’t always easy to identify.

Heidi Rooney

Yeah. Absolutely. So, from 2021 forward was an interesting phenomenon. We were in COVID. We learn now we weren't even close to being out of it. And that was when we are really diving deep into researching the industry and what is going on? What is the stone in the chute? And it's even hard to simply put it as a stone in the chute. Because if it was really a stone in the chute, you just take the stone out and you fix it.

But we are finding that the problem was far greater than that. And it was not directly in the research that we did. The problem was not directly based on the practice of medicine. So it wasn't like in human health care when COVID hit, and it's like, oh my gosh. There's so many problems now because COVID happened.

And it's not necessarily the perceived threats to business, such as e-commerce, coming into the picture. Right? That was a really big stress for quite some time. It still is for some, but not the root cause of the problem. Overwhelmingly, the biggest problem facing clinics was staff burnout, emotional health, stress, overworking, and all sorts of related problems, that were they're just intangible.When you're looking for them, you may not see them. But the bottom line is they absolutely have a tangible impact on their business.

David Hall

You know, we talk about burnout a lot, and there's a quote I use in one of my presentations, and I can’t name the studies off the top of my head, but I've got them cited in the presentations. There's several studies that were done, and they really showed that one of the biggest things burnout is related to is not so much that they're being overworked for long hours and the stressful situations, but it's that they don't feel that their work is really tied to, or they feel disconnected from their teammates and from the mission, the purpose that they are doing all of this for. And when they feel really, really intimately tied to that that mission, when they feel intimately tied to that mission, when they feel that they are really part of a cohesive team that's all working towards that mission, people can work longer and harder and farther and press themselves without feeling burned out, to an amazing degree, really.

Heidi Rooney

You're exactly right We know that we use the term burnout almost to an ad nauseam amount. Right? But what does that actually mean? People are feeling less motivated. They're taking more sick days. They're just, “ I can't even.” They're not happy.

But we have to take into consideration client irritability. Everybody is short staffed. Wait times are longer than ever, and pets are becoming more and more part of the family. Right? And so when you're feeling stressed because Fido has a broken toenail and you aren't getting addressed right away, you get mad and frustrated and question how could Fido not be at the top of your priority list. Well, it's because there's a hit by car in the back, and you don't see that. You don't realize that. And so now you're taking out your stress and your anger and your pent up frustration about, who knows, maybe you have marital problems. And it just comes out.

And the people in the vet industry, within the clinic, I should say, more specifically, are taking the brunt of that. And the bottom line is that turnover, to me, means quitting. And not just quitting, but leaving. Leaving our industry at an unsustainable pace. And as corporate leaders in the industry, I feel very passionately about needing to do something. We need to step up and do something.

David Hall

Absolutely agree. And a lot of people are stepping up in different ways, trying to come up with programs that are helping, trying to teach practice owners and managers how to how to conduct themselves in different ways, and lead the team towards fostering a better culture. But some of these programs, I have to say, I don't want to just come out and anime very specific, but one in particular is getting pushed out there a lot. I'm hearing more and more from practice owners and managers who have gone through it that they they come out of that feeling more victimized and more beat up than even when they went in. Feeling like it's creating more of a victim mentality. Instead of actually empowering them to really solve and to come together and to create stronger connections with their team members and things like that, that it's more blame shifting and less empowering.

So, I think there are a lot of different approaches out there, and maybe to each their own, but some, it seems to me, seem to be having a lot better effects than others.

Heidi Rooney

There are several bits of research out there. I know I have some done by Shanafelt in, like, 2010 and 2015 I think there are two different white papers, but essentially, burnout can result in negative patient outcomes. In human health care, physicians experiencing burnout had more self reported medical errors, poor patient outcomes.

And then later, Shanafelt did a paper where he was talking about leadership. And so back to that victimizing approach, my philosophy is and always will be that leadership and encouragement and empowerment and just building people up and having that confidence to break through the burnout is going to bring you so much further than saying, “Oh, the world's out to get me.” And in Shanafelt's paper it talks about keeping people informed, encouraging ideas for improvement, providing feedback and coaching, and then recognizing quality job performance.

And that combination leads up into really great leadership. And in that, you're going to keep that team together. And my gosh. Like, if we don't have a great team within a veterinary clinic, imagine things that could go wrong. This is typically folks who are working in tght quarters. There are sometimes multiple people on one patient. And imagine somebody who is in a responsible party holding or restraining the animal while somebody else is in a very vulnerable position, to be bitten, for example. And the person holding the pet is just feeling down that day. They just got yelled at by a client. Their head's not in it, and they're not thinking of the person that is right there that's about to get mauled in the face.

I don't have to elaborate further for you to have an imagination to see what could go wrong there. And that's just one of a zillion different examples you could you could possibly think of.

David Hall

Absolutely. You know, one of the things that Dr. Drake talks about a lot when we're speaking in different groups is about building a leadership team and running meetings in practice to try and create structure in the practice that can align the team. Showing that you can create this culture and move it forward. And something that's always, to me, really, illuminating is how often we'll be speaking to a room full of veterinarians and ask, “How many of you even run meetings in your practice?” And it varies, but it could be as low as 20% of the practice owners in the room that even run meetings at all. Maybe I think the highest I've ever seen is around 60%. There's always a significant amount of veterinary practice owners in the room that just don't even run meetings in their practices.

And as an entrepreneur and as a business owner for a long time, I don't understand how you can really run a team of people consistently in a multifaceted, very involved process like the veterinary practice without having meetings and and having that type of structure to discuss what's going on and what needs to be fixed and where are we having breakdowns and where are things going well and just discussing what's going on. But I think that one of the things that comes up a lot of times is concern for practice owners and managers who maybe don't really know how to run well-structured meetings is that feeling of, “I have to come up with with this all on my own, and it's me constantly coming up with a new game plan and a new script all the time. So I don't want to say the same thing all the time or whatever.”

And I think one of the key things that's missing there and one of the things that when you add this, it makes the whole thing work so much better is you have to have feedback. You have to have a feedback loop. You have to be getting feedback from your team. You have to know how to collect feedback in a way that you're not creating a lot more work for yourself. You're actually getting a feedback loop that all of a sudden now it illuminates. It makes sense about what you need to talk about next. What people got, you can clearly see what worked and what's going well and where maybe you thought you communicated well, but clearly, it didn't really click for everybody, and you need to address that and continue working with your people. And it's always a process, but if you don't have a feedback loop, I mean, it's really hard to move things forward.

And so one of the things I know we adopted GeniusVets a long time ago, and I've always had in various businesses is pulse surveys of the team. It's taking the pulse and being like, “Hey. Where do you guys stand on different issues?”

Tell me a little bit about your perspective on creating feedback, what poll surveys are, and how they work.

Heidi Rooney

Sure. I want to rewind a little bit to what you said of a leader thinking that they have to come up with their own agenda all the time. And I think it's just such a misconception: I'm the leader, so I need to know what's going on. Meaning something is just going to slap you in the face, and it's gonna be, “Uh-huh. That's going on. We need to put on the agenda and talk about it.” But the truth is, there's so much going on that you aren't privy to, and that doesn't make you less of a leader. That just means you do need this constant feedback loop.

And I like to say people are like cats, and they try to be stoic, not really show vulnerability with feelings. You know, we've all heard, I'll fake it till I make it. And it's just so detrimental because we are pushing under the rug the things that really need to be exposed. And clinics will typically start doing an annual survey, let's say. (In the corporate world, this is quite popular, as well as doing the annual feedback survey.) It's a great step in the right direction, but its shortcoming is that it's just once a year. For example, you wouldn't just look at your bank account once a year. Right? I guess maybe if you're in denial, that would be a good place to just look at it once a year…

But the pulse surveys here's another analogy. Think of a pulse survey as like a blood sugar monitor: If you're diabetic, you don't just check your blood sugar once once a month, once a year. That would put you in all sorts of trouble. So you really need to know what's going on continuously, and you don't need a ton of data. You just need data that gives you a solid understanding of change from that baseline. And that is just one of the problems with so many of the tools out there addressing organizational health is that they might do this very infrequent touch point and then hand you the results. And you're like, “Well, what the heck does this mean?”

It's like if I brought if I brought my dog to the vet, they did some blood work and just handed me the sheet says, “Okay. We did your blood work.” Alright. Can we interpret this? What does this mean? What's a treatment plan? Is my dog going to die? Is he okay? You know, what's what's gonna happen? And so we've really tried to foster and build above this pulse survey and then also the information that comes along with it afterward. So, just really important to have the baseline and know where the delta is, whether for good or for bad from that baseline so you know what the heck to do about it.

David Hall

You know, it's funny because this isn't new in other industries. And you've talked about human medicine, but in virtually every other industry is that exists. I've been doing these types of things for a really long time, and I think that think that's true a lot of times of some of the things that are not court of veterinary medicine, but are more on the business management side that maybe this industry has been a little bit slower to adopt or whatever.

But when you're taking some of those concepts that have been proven out and used for a long time in other industries, then applying them in Vet Med, it's also not just an, “Oh, take this and apply it,” because it really is a very unique industry with unique personalities and challenges and all of that.

Talk a little bit about what you went through. What considerations, challenges, and things did you encounter, and how did you adapt to make it unique and special?

Heidi Rooney

So, we know there are oodles and oodles to choose from on the corporate side as you mentioned. But for the veterinarian side we knew a few things. It had to be fast, had to be easy to use, had to be reliable, and really because, veterinarians by nature are just data driven individuals. We knew that we had to have really, reliable, and almost surgical ways to drill down data. One of my favorite ways to say it is we're taking, qualitative information, and we are turning that into a quantitative number. And vets typically really like that because they don't know how to deal with feelings. But you give them a report with some numbers on it, and they can handle that! So we know that vets don't have desk jobs. That was certainly taken into consideration in the development of that. We knew it would be important to have, leadership videos specifically from successful veterinarians and other industry experts. We wanted the content to be relatable, incredible, and that's what we did.

And looking at the tools that were in the market, what were our favorite parts of each one of those? Of those parts, what are applicable to that industry? And we smashed them all together and made our own.

David Hall

Tell us a little bit more about the platform of VetPowerment.

I've seen this now and what you guys have done. It's first of all, it's beautiful. Having done pulse surveys for a long time and seen them in our business, understanding how I would never ever run a business with employees ever again moving forward without having a pulse survey to make sure that I was consistently had an easy way that was very light and easy, but an easy way to gather employee feedback on whatever issues are going on other employees and on business issues, in issues we have going on, whatever it may be, and getting that feedback loop. I mean, I would just never consider running a business again without having a full survey type thing in place.

Dive in and tell us a little bit about the platform: how it works, how long it's been out, and what you guys have really found from veterinary practices using it.

Heidi Rooney

Definitely. Well, thank you for the compliments. VetPowerment by Vetoquinol launched in January of 2023 at VMX. And on the line of VMX and WVC, David, you've been to several, CE discussions about how to improve culture, camaraderie, etcetera, how to increase engagement. And, really, it's the bottom line is engagement, engagement, engagement. Right? And so that's where we were like, how are we going to get this engagement? Because Vetoquinol identified that this burnout and understaffing was really causing an issue within our industry. Our territory managers reporting back. I can't even talk to so and so. They're so busy. They're whatever. They're out today. And Vetoquinol, was so passionate about this that they were willing to move me into a position, along with a couple of other team members, to really invest in making change.

And before VetPowerment even existed, we hired a market research company to do focus groups to really understand what is going on within the practices and how can we address it. Once we got that information, looking at other secondary, tertiary feeds of research, the ideas of VetPowerment started coming to light. As I mentioned before, we were looking at all the different existing tools on the market, and we decided that, you know what? We need to engage the team because engagement is really the number one thing everybody's talking about.

So engagement's easy to say, but how do you do it? Is it once a year? What questions do you ask? Is it having a pizza party? What the heck does engagement mean? And so with VetPowerment, we engage the team with a once weekly survey. Now I know everybody is going to hear once weekly and survey and go, “Oh my gosh. That is so much. I can't do it!” But the truth is it's so quick and easy. It literally takes your team three minutes or less to complete it, and it’s 100% anonymous.

That's another important point I want to make just about engagement in general in a healthy organization. People need to feel comfortable and safe giving their true opinion. Because if they don't, you're not going to get a true opinion. And it's just like business intelligence or bad data in, bad data out. So we want to have good data. And once we collate this data after, we start with six weeks of time, so doing six weekly surveys, we have enough data to export our first report. And in that report, the VetPowerment team works with the clinic to identify really great things you're doing, identify opportunities for improvement, and then what are those low hanging fruit that we can address right away pretty simply in just a very palatable step-by-step format because this is not something that can be accomplished overnight. Right? We need to break it down, and we're with you the whole way.

Now in that, we're developing a treatment plan. Right? So that's kind of step three of our four step protocol. We develop a treatment plan. We have this resource center with so much information that I mentioned before. And then finally, if you are just ticking away, your scores are up, and your culture and camaraderie, engagement, and participation are high. We're going to certify you into a VetPowerment Certified Practice. And the significance of that is everybody is having trouble recruiting and bringing on new talent. First, we don't want your good talent to leave. That's the best way not to have to recruit is to keep the people in the practice that you already have working for you. And then the second best tool is to set yourself apart by saying, “You know what? I really value people, working here. You are a human being. We work together as a team,” and having something like a VetPowerment Certification can put you at an advantage to other, folks looking for talent in the market.

David Hall

When somebody is evaluating a place, this might not yet have enough industry recognition where it's a “bat signal,” where people are are specifically looking for it. But, it's definitely one of those things when you're talking to someone that differentiates you and demonstrates that, “Hey. Not only do we care, we actually have a program in place that that does this, and we can see how we're we're actually doing and how everybody else feels we're doing. We're not just putting on a fancy little show for you here in the interview, trying to lure you in, but this is who we are all the time and how all the other employees are kind of rating us and that sort of stuff.”

I think it's a really powerful thing. And that's what's so important right now is having those differentiating factors. So let's say you've got a vet. Right? They have a little bit of problems in the practice and it's causing some issues for the practice. So they want to get in and they want to try this.

What's the VetPowerment experience like for clinics? How do they sign up? And what's that process like? How do they get going? How do you hold their hand? What should they expect?

Heidi Rooney

The first step is if it's an interaction with our territory manager; maybe they saw us at a show, or maybe they organically found us from this webinar. is where you can go and sign up and do a demo. Once we have the Book a VetPowerment Demo, you'll be working with myself or somebody else on the solutions team. And we have a self guide. It’s live, you get to speak to me or somebody and an email afterward with a short video and some other collateral that you can share with the rest of the team to make sure everybody's on board. If it's just one person saying that VetPowerment is great, not everybody else is bought in, at least from the leadership team. We've seen that not to be as successful. That's one of the big things about it.

For companies that want to work on their culture, if they were to simply say, “We've got this exercise. We're all gonna play hot potato. Everybody, grab your potato right now and start tossing around.” It could be as fun and as wonderful whatever, but you just show up and hand everyone one and say, this is what you're doing now. Like, that's it. You lost them immediately.They're dropping that potato!

So alright. Let's say everybody's bought in and they move forward. They sign up online. They enter the amount of employees they have and their clinic size and whatever. That prompts us that your clinic wants to sign up. We send over a link that is a self guided onboarding course. That is a really user friendly portal to essentially get all the collateral and assets that you might need to help bring this story to your staff.

We have email templates to send out if you wanted to edit them how you wanted, to ensure that this is what you’re looking for. We are literally holding your hands to launch this within your practice. We also have a form to fill out for your roster. And that's really important because we need everybody's first name, last name, email. So that way we can build your custom tailored site. And there is no other site like yours. It's your own URL and it is absolutely one hundred percent your practice. So we get all this done. You set a launch date.

Before the launch date, we have an orientation meeting. So anybody within the practice, it's typically the leaders, they will meet again with one of us just to make sure all your questions are answered; the i's are dotted, and t's are crossed. You're feeling one hundred percent confident going into this. And I'm not saying this to scare you, but to tell you that we are here all the time. We are holding your hand to make sure that you are ready to move on to this next step.

And so then the platform launches.So back to that engagement and how do I engage my people? That takes a lot of thought. What questions do I ask? How often do I ask them? We take all that out of the equation, and the system has more than, like, three hundred and fifty questions that are constantly rotating. Eventually the algorithm gets smarter and finds which questions are more relevant in your practice at what time. And it's like, boom. Monday morning, there's an email in your inbox saying, “Hey. It's a brand new week. Here is the first question of your survey.” You can answer that right in your email and then it it brings up the VetPowerment Portal, your custom portal. You finish the other six questions, and that's it. Like, that is it from a user perspective.

And these are multiple choice surveys, for the most part. Right?

It is. Yeah. It's like a heat map. Yep. From how much do you disagree to how much do you agree for any one of the questions. And the questions are organizational, leadership, peer to peer and even individual. So it's all about your perception of any one of those things. And one thing I do want people to know who question that it’s a survey every single week, it’s going to get boring. And the great thing is that we've gamified it so that you earn points every time you do a survey. And those points go into a bank, and then that bank can then be turned into essentially currency, and you get prizes from the prize store. So clinics will put in Starbucks gift cards, Amazon gift cards maybe some swag, maybe some free stuff from one of your manufacturer partners. It doesn't take much to get people excited. There's badges. There's trophies. There's leveling up. So you can have friendly competition as well. And that just brings this whole concept of engagement to a fun level where people really want to do it, and they continue doing it for months.

You can build custom questions or you can select from the list of already written questions and say, “I want to ask this one next week, and I want to ask this one every quarter.” So then the questions get answered and they've got a dashboard to see where the answers were, but your team also then chime in with some analysis that kind of helps do that the analysis work for them as well.

So after a clinic has reached that six week threshold because the reason it's magic six weeks is we don't want to just have a snapshot in time and jump to conclusions like we know exactly what's going on in your practice. We want to collate enough data points and enough surveys from enough individuals to know and feel confident in the exports that we are giving you with all the insights. So at that six week point, our team has a report walk through with leadership to interpret results. And that's where we'll go through and look at everything within that period of time and ensure that you're understanding what's going on. We can interpret it from a data perspective, but, of course, the clinic leader has the real life perspective, interesting is sometimes, folks will say, “Oh, gosh. I thought my problems were in this department, but it looks like this department's actually challenged at the moment. I need to put my resources there.”

And just like what you were saying with Dr. Drake where she thought the gal who was mentioning about her pearls looking so great and wonderful was actually the toxic person within the practice. We can identify those things, talk through them with the clinic leadership, and give some tips and tricks on some ways to move forward in that next month until we meet again. And we're always willing and able to have those meetings as long as the practice wants to. A lot of times, they become self sufficient. They understand the data and they know what to do next. But, in other cases and it is really clinic by clinic. Some want their hand held more. Some are more independent, and both are perfect. It's just a matter of preference.

David Hall

I think it's also important to note that this isn't a complaint box. It's not a place where people can proactively call somebody else out or launch an attack against somebody. That's just not really how the system works, right?

Heidi Rooney

No. Not at all. And I think instantly when people hear it's anonymous, they're thinking, oh, there's just going to be a keyboard warrior, and somebody ready to bully somebody else. But what's great about it is and why we encourage such congruency and participation amongst the practice itself and everybody getting involved is that everybody's perceptions are being fed into the system every time somebody fills out a survey. So my one score trying to bash you is now being diluted out by however many other people are in the practice saying you are a good guy, and I really value him on my team. So it it takes the power away from me.

Another thing that's really important to keep in mind is that people are good by nature and want to do good. And so we have to stop thinking that just because somebody can say something bad about somebody doesn't mean that they're going to on purpose just for the fun of it. Like, that's not that's not fun for me, and I wouldn't imagine that that's fun for you. And so I'm not just going to make a habit of that on a weekly basis and say everybody makes my life miserable and it's just not the way it is.

To get started, go to And once you go, it is incredibly obvious where you'd go to sign up for a demo.You can sign up. You can see pricing. You can see the features and benefits of how it works. You can contact us to ask for questions. There's just so much information there. So I encourage you to to go to

If we can just help one practice at a time step in the right direction to tackling this monumental issue and challenge within our industry. And I know we can get there and I am passionate and thrilled to be part of that change.

David Hall

I think you you've built a great thing here. Honestly, if every practice was using VetPowerment, this industry would be so much stronger and better off for it. I'd love to see everybody signing on up and checking it out. See what you think. Let us know!

Check us out again next time. We've got an incredible study that we just completed asking veterinary practice owners. We had, over seventy veterinary practice owners share their thoughts on the trends, the threats, and the opportunities facing veterinary practice ownership. In 2024, we're going to be doing a big series of webinars continuing the series where we're interviewing practice owners and industry leaders, getting their thoughts on all of these different really pertinent things that practice owners are facing right now.

And, to everybody who has joined us here today for this this conversation, we've got another great conversation coming up right after this.

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