On Wednesday, March 8th, 2023, Matt Salois, President of the Veterinary Management Groups (VMG), joined GeniusVets Co-Founder, David Hall, for a conversation about Weathering the Storm: How to thrive during economic uncertainty. For anyone who missed it, or wants to see it again, the replay is now available here:
Today, it is my distinct pleasure, my honor to be welcoming to our show, Dr. Matthew Salois, who is the President of Veterinary Management Groups.
Matt is currently the President of VMG, where he's responsible for enhancing the economic and cultural success of more than 2,000 veterinary member practices. Between 2018 and 2022, Matt was the Chief Economist and Head of the Veterinary Economics Division of the AVMA, where he applied his skills in economics, business, and communication to support the daily lives of veterinarians. Prior to that, he served as the Director of Global Scientific Affairs and Policy at Elanco Animal Health. Matt is also an adjunct professor of applied economics at the University of Florida, where he previously taught and advised graduate and undergraduate students, earned his Ph.D. in applied economics from the University of Florida and holds a master's degree in economics and a bachelor's degree in health services administration from the University of Central Florida.
Matt, thank you so much for taking some time out of your extremely busy schedule to join us here on The GeniusVets Show.
Fantastic. introduction. Well, I hope everyone is as kind to me at my eulogy as you just were with that introduction, so I appreciate it. Thank you.
You've had an absolutely just really phenomenal career up to this point and now the organization that you are leading. As someone who came to this industry seven and a half years ago as an outsider, I was so lucky to have found the business partner in Dr. Michele Drake, who not only is one of the top veterinary practice owners in terms of performance in the country, but she really credits so much of her success to having been in VMG, and having learned through the VMG programs, and been with her colleagues, and worked on her business, not just in her business, and really instilled in our company what a tremendous benefit and asset VMG has been to her throughout her career. So just an incredible organization.
Absolutely. I couldn't agree more with the accolades you just shared on Dr. Drake. She's phenomenal and embodies so much of what we support in VMG with respect to entrepreneurship, leadership, what you can do when you put your wherewithal to it, right? To your point, David, around being an outsider, I think we're all outsiders at one point in time, right? At some point, we become an insider, myself included here. So I would just emphasize it's so wonderful to be a part of this profession of veterinary medicine. I know you had a life outside of it. So did I. But once you find yourself in this space, you never want to leave because the work is so meaningful, and the people are just so genuine and authentic. There's no better place to be.
It's just so true. First of all, I mean, I love really smart people and doctors, they're just brilliant. But in veterinary medicine, what's so unique... I mean, unlike the dental profession or maybe plastic surgeons or so where brilliant doctors as well, but more money-motivated and running their businesses a little bit different, you do see differences where in veterinary, it's so passion and purpose-led. Just the overall people are just the most ethical, wonderful people. I'm just blown away and have really just fallen in love with the profession truly.
I have learned so much as well from veterinarians and just veterinary professionals in general. A lot, obviously, around the practice of economics in a practical, tangible way to make it come to work for veterinarians and the veterinary practice. Goodness gracious, don't put me in a room with a bunch of other economists. I'm not sure that's my happy place. Surely, it's not with a group of dentists either because I eschew going to the dentist more than I probably should. But I think what makes VMG work is part of what you described is just it goes to that authenticity and genuineness that is veterinary medicine, and it's also bringing together a group of like-minded professionals that have a desire to strive for excellence and make the world, their practice a better place for their clients, for their staff, obviously, for themselves as well. They are able to do this in practice by supporting one another, and it's just such a wonderful thing.
Something that I had to learn, really, as I got into veterinary medicine was you have these brilliant doctors, and they're running these thriving businesses, but as most veterinarians will admit, I mean, they didn't go to business school, they really flourish under the veterinary medicine, but sometimes their propensity to delegate different tasks that just go with the business management leads to not working on the business as much, and working on the business instead of in the business is such an important part of making sure that you have a growing, thriving business.
We've been very lucky and worked very hard to become a preferred partner of VMG and have worked a lot in the organization, and we have, certainly, I'm sure, a lot of VMG members here today joining the webinar, but I'd really like to take this opportunity because there are a lot of practices out there that are in our audience who are not currently VMG members, and I'd love to dive in a little bit with you and help people understand what VMG is as an organization.
Would you mind starting off by telling us, and sharing the purpose, the mission, and the culture of VMG?
Thanks for that opportunity, David. Really appreciate it. Before I do that, just a lot of what you said just resonated with me, and I think the thriving aspect of creating a thriving practice and a thriving business, it's not unheard of for VMG practices to be spoken of in such a wonderful manner, which is fantastic around being some of the best of best so to speak. I think it's important to convey too that thriving doesn't mean you're thriving every day, every hour, all year long. Our practices certainly have their moments in which they're struggling too as any business and any individual finds at a given point in time, and I think that emphasizes the importance of the community that VMG creates is that opportunity to cultivate relationships with other owners to share not just in the successes so that others can learn from that, but in the failures and in the struggles too, and to create an environment where you can be vulnerable and learn from others around how they overcame some of their struggles.
Really, that gets to your question too around the culture and the mission of VMG. I mean, it's really to create a pathway for the pursuit of excellence in all its wonderful ways, shapes, and forms for a practice and a veterinarian with ownership in their practice. The analogy I often like to use, and some may have heard this before if they've listened to me before, and so I'll apologize in advance there, but I like to use the analogy of the great redwoods and the sequoias, right? We were just talking before we started to record around your time in California, so I'm sure that you've seen them, right? I've yet to see them in person, by the way, and that's on my bucket list, for sure.
If you can get the image in your head of a collection of great redwoods, I mean, they're so impressive, right? They're a perfect analogy for VMG because the arborists, the experts on trees will tell you, physically speaking, the physics of redwoods don't make any sense above the surface of the soil. Right? They are far too massive, too tall of an entity in relation to the depths of their roots, which are actually quite shallow for them to physically stand, and so they should just topple over if not on its own, but certainly, when the storms of life come, heavy winds and rains, and things like that, but they don't.
The reason they don't fall over is because, one, they grow in communities, and two, beneath the surface of the soil, even though their roots are relatively shallow compared to their tall size above their surface, they're interlocking with one another, forming connections, and those connections reinforce their strength beneath the surface, creating a structure that is so strong that it can withstand nature and the storms of life as they come by. To me, it is just a wonderful picture of how VMG works because we have these great practices and some that are certainly envy of the profession, but this doesn't happen by mistake. This doesn't happen on its own.
The community that's created, and this gets to what you were sharing about Dr. Drake, within VMG creates a support structure to help enable... Certainly, not the only factor. There's a lot of factors there, but it's certainly a supportive factor that helps create this pathway for this pursuit of excellence to reinforce one another, and it just comes down to this concept of community and the importance of having relationships with peers, with colleagues, with other like-minded professionals to help reinforce that practice, that business, that learning experience.
It truly is this amazing support group. I thought that the concept of being modeled after the study group concept, both very familiar to doctors going through school, and get a study group together, and tackle these new concepts, these challenges, these things we have to learn to get where we're trying to go, and taking that, and forcing practices to practice owners to get out of their practice where they're constantly being bombarded with questions and things that they have to take care of to get out to work with their peers on the problems they're having, other people who have gone through it, who have experienced the same thing/problem, maybe solved those issues, and can help them, and reinforce that way. Just an incredible concept. Would you describe a little bit about it?
What's the actual functional experience for someone who is interested in joining VMG? What are the different things VMG does for them, and how does that work?
Happy to. I think there's three primary goals of being a VMG member, our goals as an organization to our members, and the first one is providing a community. We touched on that just earlier, to create a conduit where a culture of excellence can be created and cultivated, and ultimately, lead to a renewed sense of empowerment of the practice owner to learn from one another's experience and wisdom. The second one is we are an organization really dedicated to supporting the business aspects of veterinary medicine through our portfolio of industry partners, our commercial offerings. We have a buying program that we're really proud of that creates leading edge savings with our preferred partners, and they also, in turn, support the study group experience as well, which is a wonderful two-way partnership that works for everybody. Then, the third one is supporting the best medicine and patient care through an ever-expanding set of resources, access to expertise, and continuing education and professional development courses as well.
When someone comes in... and you mentioned there a few things. One, you talked about the Purchasing Program, which I can say as a preferred partner, as someone who's been a vendor to VMG and is really connected with, and spoken and worked with a lot of the others and a lot of VMG members, I can definitely speak to it. I think it's the industry's leading program of its kind that helps practices truly just save an incredible amount of money. I understand that, and that benefit is really clear.
As a member comes in, they get assigned to a group of their peers, right? You have a bunch of groups.
There's some sort of curriculum, at some sense, they go through, and at some point, they're self-directed. Can you describe a little bit of that part of the experience?
Absolutely. So we have about 1,500 plus members in VMG here, and our approach is to divide them into individual small groups of individuals about anywhere from 15 to 20-ish, give or take, veterinarians, and they come together twice a year for two to three days at a time. They engage, and there's a lot of those things that you just mentioned. There was the open discussion and sharing, of course, but a lot of the intellectual capital that's shared and created comes down to the invitation to different content providers, experts across leadership management, human resource, talent management.
We also engage in financial benchmarking as well, partner with KSM and work with wonderful people like Terry O'Neil and leverage our unique Datalink platform there to provide a really clear, crisp conduit for our members to benchmark off one another and again, in a very safe environment. All of our members groups, the members that are a part of each individual group are geographically disparate so that there's no competition, no shared market between all of them, and really creates that ability to share and dig deep into some of those finances there.
I'd say through that financial benchmarking, through the group purchasing program, our preferred partnership program, a lot of the direct economic benefits are plain as day there, and so we've got a really strong ROI on membership just from that alone, which is quite significant. The harder aspect, of course, to measure is just the intellectual capital and the experience that you get in these study groups that you can then put into practice in your clinic, in your hospital, and then seeing things like increased staff engagement, reduced turnover, better profitability, increased efficiencies because ultimately, while the quality of life of the veterinarian has improved through these study group experiences, they're taking decisions, making actions in their practice to make it a better workplace not just for themselves, but for their staff and certainly, for the experience that their clients have and their patients.
Those aren't easy things to measure, but I will tell you, while we've certainly have members leave VMG because they've sold their practice or they're retired, time and time again, I have heard from members, "Can I be a part of VMG? I don't want to leave my friends," because through the process of this, they create these lifelong friendships that just have unmeasurable value here which, again, to be a part of that, to witness it is just a hugely wonderful thing.
I can say that's really true. I've had the opportunity to speak at a bunch of different VMG group meetings over the years, and we have a number of them scheduled already this year and certainly doing a lot of that. Every time that I go, it's one of the things, provide some content during the day, and go through things, and discuss them. I love the way that members are able to jump into a topic, and it's not just what's being presented. It's how they work off each other, but at the end of the day, everybody goes out for dinner.
I mean, the relationships between the people in these groups when they first joined the group, and you'll see a new member just joined, they don't really know everybody yet, and you can see the dynamic in the group. Everyone is being nice, and they're getting to know, but it's get-to-know-you conversations, and then you see the members that have been in these groups together for years. I mean, they really count each other among their best friends. They treat each other like real family. In fact, I know a number of members who have gone on and bought vacation properties together and all sorts of stuff because they really forge these great relationships as they build these tremendously strong veterinary practices.
When a member first comes in, I know that there are two different experiences. One is if they're getting put into a new group that's just starting, and then there's also the process of getting evaluated and evaluating existing groups because they need to get invited into a group and find one where they settle in.
Can you tell us a little bit about the grouping experience? If they're going to get into an existing group, what is that like?
Yeah. Absolutely. So a lot of this is depending upon where in the journey that a prospective member is at when they join VMG. If there's a lot of experience behind them, they're an established veterinary practice, they're looking to be with a group of veterinarians in a similar state that they are, we'll actively try to place them in an existing group. As I mentioned, we've got members that sell, that retire, and so openings come up across different groups in a given year where that opportunity exists.
Then, we're also actively creating new groups as we get a large cohort that might be in a similar position or stage of life, stage of ownership there. We also have new groups that cater to a specific aspect of veterinary medicine. So we've got groups specifically dedicated to ER, specialty hospitals. We recently launched one related to dentistry, and so that was where we created a new group there fully dedicated to that aspect. We're looking to launch one on veterinary orthopedics, for example, and creating some new groups more recently fully dedicated to early career owners, those who might just be a couple of years or just getting established as a practice owner. So tailoring and customizing that study group experience for them so that they can leverage the unique learning that they have at their point of their career.
When you're starting a new group, the first four meetings or so which typically spans the first two years because the groups will meet twice a year in some destination city, the first four meetings or so, the first two years is a set curriculum. Right? You're establishing some real tenants of, "Hey, here's the things that you need to look at," systems get in place, and they can evaluate?
Can you explain what goes into starting a new group?
The first couple of meetings, for sure, are standard content like a financial bootcamp, and KSM and Terry O'Neill are huge, great supporters there, bringing in fundamentals around leadership and management, how to have frank, candid communications. All of those things are some of the basics there. Increasingly, the unique flavor of every group comes out of that, around the things that come out of discussions in their groups around what they want to focus on next.
Then, that provides the opportunity for them to have a more established home rule, so to speak, on what happens in their group and at their meetings. What content do they want to focus in on? Who do they want to invite in and learn from? What do they want to create as the key issues that they discuss and move towards? So it's just this wonderful environment where there are some clear 101s that can happen early on so that no one feels lost and everyone is on the same page as to where they are in their journey. Then, the opportunity to become more unique and take on a personality of their own as a group as they explore and understand what it is that they really want to focus in on.
Yeah. It's like once they're set, it's almost just like the organization has this tremendous library of resources that are available, and they can say, "Hey, we're interested in this topic, that topic, this topic," and you've got content providers, and support, and all of this stuff that they can pull from, coordinate with, and put on these really incredible meetings.
What resources are available to VMG Members?
We've developed, over time, a great volume of content providers and gotten the combined and collective feedback across a lot of the groups around what this person focuses on and what they really do really well, and have this data bank or library, so to speak, that we can share with our groups and say, "Hey, if you're struggling or not quite sure, here's this fantastic list of content providers that have shared their wisdom at other groups. You might want to look into them." Of course, always looking for other leaders, subject matter experts, key opinion leaders to bring them into the fold because the universe of knowledge is always changing. There's always a new piece of information, new insight, something new to share and learn from.
You had mentioned Datalink, and I wanted to ask you a couple of questions about that because I know that a few large organizations, I won't say exactly who, but have shared with me that in their member surveys over the past few years, when they're asking members and saying, "Hey, what are the things that you're most interested in?" the concept of benchmarking has come up a lot. There's a few tools that have been out there in the industry, and some of them have been questioned in terms of their data accuracy and stuff like that, but Datalink is something that VMG developed and I know developed along with KSM for VMG members and is something that just is really just a core, incredibly strong program that VMG has been running with its members for a very long time, and its members really look at it as like... I mean, this is what tells us what's what and what we need to focus on.
Tell us a little bit more about what Datalink is and how practices use it.
It's a platform that VMG is really proud of and should be. I would say the importance of data, and I think the general awareness of the value of generating insights from data, it has definitely been there in veterinary medicine for a long time, but I think more recently, it's undergone a renaissance. I think part of that was driven by COVID when we were just seeing this tremendous volatility of what was happening in our market, in our industry, and the need to start to pay much more close attention to what was happening and why, more importantly, and then even more importantly, what actions to take as a result of what we're seeing in the data.
There are a lot of different platforms out there that provide some analytics and benchmarks. What makes Datalink and continues to make Datalink unique is that we benchmark across revenue and costs, and so are able to come to a normalized EBITDA number, which is just really important when you're trying to look at profitability. You need to see both sides of that, what's happening from a revenue perspective, obviously, in terms of input into veterinary care and demand for veterinary care, but obviously, it's important to understand your cost structure and where maybe opportunities for efficiencies could take place.
Datalink provides that, and then the additional reassurances through audit that we partner with KSM on to make sure that every data is being reported accurately, that it represents and is comparing apples to apples and lined up to the AHA chart of accounts provides a remarkable degree of precision and then assurances that this data represents exactly what we want it to represent.
It's not just a tool. It's not just a veterinarian relying on a tool that's extracting data and them saying, "Well, I guess these are the numbers. It's getting really a lot of additional care and expertise in helping them be assured that that data is accurate. It's painting an accurate picture and helping them interpret it, right?
Yes, that's right, the interpretation, and that's the key here and understanding the actions that need to happen next because the interpretation is where the insight is. Then, it's the need to even go a little bit further than that which is, "What am I supposed to do with this insight? How does this inform my next steps, my action as a practice owner?" This is where the benchmarking is really important because there's shared insight in that, seeing where someone might be winning and conversely, where you might be losing in your practice and saying, "I see that you're really doing well here, and I'm not. Tell me more about what you're doing to be so successful in this part of your practice." Right? Those aha moments are so... This is the extraordinary value of intellectual capital here because then you can take that learning, implement it in your practice, and then start to see instant change there.
Yeah. It's funny because sometimes it's obvious things that seem obvious once you see them. But if you haven't seen them, it's not something that's gotten your attention, your focus on in your business. It can just get past you. It can slip past you. It can be something that you never paid attention to and have it pointed out, and all of a sudden, it sees the light of day, and it becomes obvious. It becomes something that needs to get focused on. As a business owner, I mean, there's a thousand things going on that you have to pay attention to, and it's easy to not see everything. I think that that whole community, the processes, the data, the help looking at that, the opportunity to discuss it with your peers, I mean, really fantastic.
Increasingly, I sometimes think we fall into the trap of we're supposed to do this on our own, and I just think, "Goodness, there's nothing..."
Biggest mistake I ever made starting a business was like, "I'm going to do it alone." Oh, man. No way.
There's nothing further from the truth. I mean, life is not designed that way, I think, at the end of the day in our homes or in our offices, for sure. It goes to something you said earlier too, David, around the need to... and agree with this totally around leveling up the degree of education in our curriculums around business, and management, and leadership. Yet, still, that's not going to give you all the answers to be successful because if successful could be taught in a book, we'd all read it and be successful. Right? There's so much more than that in the world when we're actually trying to put it to practice, and that's not unique to veterinary medicine. I mean that, that's everywhere.
Goodness gracious. The most I've learned about economics was outside of my degree, right? I think a lot of us could say that across any profession that when you're doing it, that's where the real learning takes place, and what you need there, what you in that moment is the collective wisdom and experience of others to help guide you, to help mentor you, to help shepherd you to make sure that you are making the better or best possible decision because how could you expect to do that on your own? Right? We all have blind spots, right? You don't know what you don't know, but hopefully, there's someone there that you can interact with that's been there or been in a similar circumstance or experience. Then, they can share that with you, and that's where the learning and the success takes place.
Ultimately, these businesses are human-run and human-operated for other humans, and that human element is always going to be a little bit messy. You can take the most perfect plan, and as soon as you get some people involved, you're going to have to make some adjustments along the way, and so this help looking and identifying those things. It's just so valuable. I really want to get your insight because you do preside over this organization with such a broad set of not only data, but relationships, and you see what's going on in the industry with a unique perspective that very few have.
We know that coming out of COVID over the past few years, a lot of veterinary practices, most, I would say, have been stretched at the seams to points where cracks are showing that they didn't know were cracks. Bill Gates had this quote many years ago. He said from stage, and I really remembered it, he said, "Small businesses always want to scale. They always want to grow, but small businesses are typically full of a bunch of problems that aren't problems when you're small. But as soon as you start growing, those problems will show themselves, and they can become very big problems. So you got to be ready to solve those." I think with the growth, a lot of those things have shown themselves over the last few years. A lot of practice owners have been scrambling to identify and address those, and we're moving, things are changing.
What do you see as the biggest problems overall that veterinary practices are facing now and likely to face through the rest of the year?
Oh, goodness, and here, here's another one for the next hour at least, right? I swear this could be an entire course/seminar in a college somewhere. So many lessons, right? I mean, this year, oh goodness, these last three years have been, oh, never, ever as transformational, I think, in any of our lives. There's been a big yo-yo, quite honestly. I think early on in the days of COVID, we're like, "Here we are." You look at what's happening in e-commerce and omnichannel. We've fast-forwarded to the future, 10 years, but we're also seeing now how things are yo-yoing back. Right? I mean, in 2020, 2021, it was heralded as the new remote virtual office environment. Yet, here we are in 2023 with a lot of organizations, companies trying to pull people back into an office location and struggling.
I think the biggest challenge that we have as a profession and just as an economy and society is understanding what the new work environment looks like. What is the new culture of work? What is our new workforce? Certainly, we've got our pains in the veterinary workforce, but I think that's going on everywhere, and we've got... I believe not just in veterinary medicine, but again, in our economy, the clash of the generations are happening here where traditional views on what a solid day's work look like looks like one thing to one generation and looks like another to another generation.
The danger that we have is to point fingers, and criticize, and say, "You're wrong, and you're wrong." The reality is, is what's happening is a redefinition of values here. That's unsettling, and that's disruptive, and it's the reality. So I think what we need is a tremendous degree of one grace for ourselves and for each other, but also to do what we can to be inclusive and understanding of individual needs that maybe we didn't know about before or we couldn't appreciate because we're in this new environment.
Absolutely. A sea change, a sea change of culture, and this redefinition of values, and what do things mean, and setting expectations. Right? I think that the greatest source of turmoil in people's lives is expectations not being met. "Were those expectations even correct to hold in the first place?" is being redefined, so very odd time.
It is. It's redefining the future of work, quite honestly, which represents a really exciting opportunity because we're in this moment here together, you, me, VMG members, everyone, GeniusVets, and have an opportunity to move it in a direction that really brings everybody to a state of thriving here. I think that's the thing too is this notion of what "thrive" means is evolving. I think not that long ago, it was. Well, it's growth. It's profit. Right?
If you've ever read Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth, which I would wholly recommend, it's at what point is it less about growth and more about sustainability and thriving as a business, as an organization? Because if you just look at nature, even a tree knows when to stop growing. Right? So shouldn't it be the same with a business where you understand, "Yes, it doesn't mean you're off the hook with respect to profit and growing that, but at what point does that mean as an enterprise that you're more focused on the fundamental unit here, and what does thrive look like?" and paying attention to those measures, to turnover, to engagement, to client satisfaction, to quality of patient care. I mean, those are the things that are transformational. Those are the things that we should be looking towards.
So workplace satisfaction, right?
To the profession, being able to handle the challenges that they're handling on a daily basis to address the problem that organizations like Not One More Vet are trying to take head on, which is just the burden. I spoke recently at a VMG group meeting in Colorado Springs, and it was an emergency hospital group, purely emergency hospitals, and it was the first time... We have emergency hospital clients, but that was the first time I had been in a room with, I think, 10 different practice owners of those, and all of them, massive facilities, tons of doctors, really large, and something, a statistic that I heard for the first time from them is that they can expect among the hospitals that were in there, they have somewhere between a 25% and 40% rate of losing the patients that come in because they're emergency. It's not like they're coming in for just checkups.
That means that those doctors on staff are dealing with something that I hadn't given a full weight to of what that means in those people's lives and how they're dealing with it on a daily, regular basis, let alone the stuff that normal practices deal with when someone is shocked that they're actually getting a bill that is the size that it deserves to be because you are in a medical facility with a team of doctors who are working on your head, and you didn't realize that it's going to be a substantial medical bill, and maybe you can't afford it.
So what do they do? They take to the internet. They take to Twitter. They take to Facebook. They go to the review sites and start blowing up their practice, and the turmoil that that causes people. I mean, there's just a real, I think, need to look at the practice and make sure that it's really taking care of people the right way and creating workplace satisfaction so that they can make it through the day without having those mental challenges be quite as challenging.
Absolutely. I think veterinary medicine has always been a hard place to work because of those things that you just laid out. Right? You are dealing every day with loss of life, and it is healthcare. Right? This is a healthcare arena and all the complexities and challenges that are pertaining to the delivery of healthcare, and it's so much more because unlike a typical GP medical practice and human medicine, the veterinary practitioner/practice owner is also charged with managing that unit as a business. It has to be economically sustainable, right?
When you are employing people, which can be in the dozens or even the hundreds, their livelihoods are dependent on the economic sustainability of that practice. I think oftentimes, we demonize or don't like to put forth the priority of profit, but that's important because if you're not profitable, if you're not economically sustainable, other people's livelihoods are at stake here. Then, if you're not economically sustainable and you don't remain in existence as an organization that delivers healthcare to pets and patients in need, you will not be there to deliver healthcare to pets and patients in need there.
I mean, there is a real tangible function and need to prioritize that and ensure that you are delivering that, that commitment. That's hugely complicated because you have this healthcare component, deliver the best medicine, and then you have this other component of being the best business you can. It just makes everything a lot more complicated, and that goes back to what we were talking about before, David. It's like you can't do this alone. This is where the role of community comes in to help balance those demands on your time and your attention so that you can lean in on others where you're feeling like you don't have it all or you don't have all the answers.
Yeah. It's so much to bring together, and the role that I've chosen to play, that we've chosen to play here at GeniusVets is understanding that whenever you bring this group of amazing humans together to tackle the challenges that are going to be facing every day in, day out in a veterinary practice, well, so much of them... You have to have great communication. You have to understand you're bringing... and what VMG brings is this level of sophistication and understanding the strategies and the things that they need to be able to focus on, to run... actually, what it means to be a successful business, a strong business, a thriving business, but then also, we want to make sure that they not only have that great plan, but they're communicating it through to their staff. They're educating their clients in a way that their clients need.
I mean, so often, I have found that veterinarians are so focused on the service delivery because that's what they do day in, day out. They're focused on the good medicine, and that's what they love, but they also have a little bit of a tendency to forget that veterinary care is about information first, and service is second because if you want to make that animal's life better, it starts by making the human understand that animal a whole lot better and what their needs are. When that happens, they're willing to come in and give greater care. They're going to listen better to the veterinarian, and they're going to understand what the veterinary hospital is doing more and be less prone to being upset by things. It makes everything go around a lot better.
Totally agree with that. Absolutely. I mean, at the end of the day, while we are a business about animals, we are a profession that is... It's people. We're a people business. You deal with clients. You deal with staff, with colleagues, and peers. The conduit to any successful relationship with any human being is communication. I think I'm making up this number, but I would swear to it that 9 out of 10 disagreements can be attributed to poor communication. It's not what you say. It's what they hear, and so we have to be really careful about not just conveying the message, but it's understanding the need to convey the message.
We get so caught up in the busyness of the day that we may not take the time to explain to our teams why the schedule looks the way it does or to explain to our clients why we're recommending a certain course of care for their pet. But that's the moment that bridges the gap between misunderstanding and understanding, and that is where the relationship is cultivated. It's in that communication. It's so simple, but yet, it's so powerful.
So much, so much. I wish it was always simple, but you're right. I think that you really hit on it in that you can say something to somebody. It doesn't mean that they're hearing what you say. Everybody has a little bit of their own understanding of each word, even. I mean, what they're saying. Communication is very imperfect, and so hope to first perfect is understanding your intention on that communication, and then getting better at doing it, and checking in with people, "Are you picking up what I'm putting down? Are we on the same page with that?" and being consistent with those sort of things.
As I hear you speak, Matt, I mean, it's just so obvious to me why you've been made the head of this incredible organization and that you're leading it. Can you tell me just a little bit before... I know that we're getting tight on time here, and I know how busy of a guy that you are.
Can you give us a little bit of a perspective into what you're tackling with VMG now, what you think the future holds, what you're introducing for your members, let's say, going forward this year?
I appreciate, that and thank you for the kind words. I think it's preparing for change and making the decisions necessary to continue that race for relevance. I mean, that's every organization. That's, I think, every enterprise, every business, even every household. Honestly, it's having to reimagine themselves in this new environment just in different ways, and it's making sure that we are adapting to the needs of our members from a VMG perspective because their needs and priorities are changing as well, and this goes back to communication.
It's tireless listening here. Listening not to respond, but listening to understand the needs of our members and how we, VMG, as an organization can support them in this new environment which, honestly, is still in a state of transformation. The dust has not yet settled from the events of the last three years. We're still working through that, and we're going to have to be ready for that. At the same time, this is a good problem for us as an organization. It's managing the growth that we're experiencing. Last year was the largest single year of new members that we've onboarded ever, which is just wonderful and amazing, and so we're recruiting, we're opening new positions, we're going to be hiring so that we can assure that we've got the resources and the internal bandwidth to support that growth.
I think we are on the verge of a renaissance of ownership here in veterinary medicine, and I think more broadly in our economy. Right? We saw that in the year after COVID with the largest new small business entrepreneurial permits ever in our economy. I think there's a revival of innovation just around the corner here that we're experiencing, and it's wonderful to be a part of that. I think, yes, we've got some bumps and some challenging areas ahead for veterinary medicine and for our economy, but I will remain, forever and always, the person that sees the light at the end of the tunnel.
It's been a hard three years, and if we're feeling tired, well, show ourselves some grace. Let's allow ourselves to feel that. There are amazing days ahead for veterinary medicine, for practice owners, for veterinarians, and technicians, and managers, and all of the wonderful people, CSRs and assistants that are part of this. It's not disconnected. It's wholly connected to the fact that the pet continues to have this growing place of love and a position in our families that I think COVID also emphasized and taught that this component of owning a pet, it's not just that. It provides so much of a bond and supports us in so many ways that more and more are coming to it. So it's just there's greatness abound. I don't want to dismiss the challenges. We've got them, and we could talk for an hour or two on all of them, but we still have an exciting future ahead.
Yeah. The veterinary industry has proven through the past few recessions to be quite recession-proof to a large extent, and I think that coming off of a few years where people certainly were forced or at least given the opportunity to deepen their bonds with their pets and realize what an important role that they're playing in their lives further just strengthened, I think, the future of the veterinary industry. I fully believe that we are on the, as you say, path to resurgence and a renaissance in the veterinary industry.
I think that there are some really interesting reasons why I think that we're going to see a whole new batch of veterinary practices opening up over the next couple of years, and I'm really looking forward to that. For those that are, for those that are still have their current practices and looking to strengthen them, or thinking about opening a new one, I just can wholeheartedly recommend that they turn to VMG as an organization to help make sure that they really maximize the opportunity of veterinary practice ownership, truly.
Fantastic. Thank you, David. I know I'm just a data point of one, but I will tell you. Since COVID, I went from two to six cats, so that's just a... I know. It's just one example there, but I'm just saying.
That is fantastic. I haven't allowed my family to continue expanding on the mini farm that we have going on. I have been asked a number of times, and I'm sure it's going to happen before too long. They've been wearing me down. We've got a very large dog, a cat, a tortoise, and a few other animals if you count fish and things like that.
That's right. It's wonderful.
Play a great role in our life. Matt, thank you so much, again, for taking some time out of your busy day and for sharing some of your wisdom. For anyone who's out here, just before you go, anyone who's listening, what can someone do?
If they're not a VMG member right now, what can they do to explore the path to becoming one or explore the organization?
Yeah. Fantastic. Thank you for that. Reach out to us. Go to our website. Complete a form for more information. Megan McDaniel, our Director of Member Services. Dr. Chloe Magaldino, our Director of Group Development and Recruiting. They'd love to hear from you. We can share their email addresses. Feel free to even reach out to me. I mean, I'm on LinkedIn. Shoot me a note. We'll get you connected to the right person.
Hey, you're a great follow on LinkedIn, by the way. You share some dad jokes. You share some funny takes on the world and some wisdom along the way as well. It's a really great mix.
Yeah. I appreciate it. Humor is in the eye of the beholder, right? If I make myself laugh, I guess that's good enough.
I love it. I've shared a couple of your with my kids. They loved it as well.
Awesome. Thank you.
Big fans over here. Well, hey, again, thanks so much, and everybody, I strongly recommend. We're going to have some checkout links. In fact, let's go ahead and drop a link there in chat. There you go. We are in the webinar replay. We're going to have links, so make sure that everybody has a smooth path to getting to the website, check you guys out, and explore membership. So to everyone who has attended here today, I know that you got a lot out of that. It's just absolutely fantastic. If you have any questions, please reach out to us here at [email protected].
If you're a veterinary practice owner or a manager, I'm not sure if you're aware of this, but you currently right now have a full-page profile for your practice that's live, already live at geniusvets.com . It's true. Every veterinary practice in the country has a full-page profile and these... For thousands and thousands of veterinary practices, their GeniusVets profile is actually showing up higher in Google search results than their own website for their brand name in their local market. It's amazing.
The idea here is we want to give independent veterinary practices an advantage. We want, when somebody goes looking for veterinary care or pet care advice, that all roads are leading to you. It's a free resource. We'll never charge you for it. It's just one of the many ways that we're trying to put our best foot forward, do what we're really good at, and helping veterinary practices thrive. So check it out. Go to geniusvets.com/start. Look up your profile. Claim it for free. We're here to help you out.
Join us next week. I've been super blessed to have so many leaders in the veterinary industry seeing the webinar, reaching out to us. We've got an incredible lineup coming up. So, on a weekly basis, we're going to be bringing you wisdom from some of the best movers, shakers, if you will, people who are thought leaders in the industry. So continue to check it out. I'm your host, David Hall, co-founder of GeniusVets, saying see you next time.