Webinar Wednesday With GeniusVets - Season 2, Episode 1: Ginni Hamele

Ginni Hamele of TVC on Webinar Wednesday by GeniusVets

 

Hello, this is David Hall, co-founder of GeniusVets, and welcome to the future of independent veterinary practices, Episode One. This is the second season of our Webinar Wednesday interview series and our podcasts, and I am just so excited today for this interview and to welcome a fantastic guest.

 

 

 

 

So, this past year, the largest veterinary owned purchasing cooperative in the United States, The Veterinary Cooperative, also commonly known as TVC, named Ginni Hamele, as their new president and CEO. Ms. Hamele is an accomplished leader in animal health, who spent the last nine years at CEVA SANTE ANIMALE in various roles where she gained extensive knowledge and experience in the animal health industry.

 

And prior to CEVA, Ms. Hamele held positions with Boehringer Ingelheim and GSK. As President of TVC, Ms. Hamele will be leading veterinary medicine's fastest-growing cooperative. With services and support designed for independent veterinarians both at TVC and here at GeniusVets, we've recently begun a relationship with them to support the organization and member practices.

 

And I have to say, thus far, I am incredibly impressed with the entire organization, with your team, your vision for the future. Thank you so much for taking some time out of your very, very busy schedule, which actually I know recently has become I don't know if to say it's become less busy and cleared or even more crazy because you're actually dealing with COVID right now.

 

True story. COVID is surreal, I'd say it got crazier because unfortunately, work doesn't give you a free pass when you're sick. And so not only do I have COVID, but my husband and one of my two daughters does, as well as my brother's entire family. We don't know where we got it, we're all very, very careful. But just goes to show anybody can get it. We are lucky and that the symptoms have been mild. But I am a little foggy but powering through. The most unsettling piece of COVID is you just don't know. You don't know how it's going to affect you. And it's a little bit scary like that. We're coming to the end of the active period, per se. Actually, my oldest daughter just went back to school today. So she's been cleared by the CDC and the county to go back to school.

 

I'm asking everybody, a couple of questions here to kick off the interviews this season. What are you most looking forward to once COVID is completely over and we can go back to business as usual?

 

I think first, that business as usual is going to have a different face, it's going to look different than how business as usual was on March 15th, 2020. But it's interesting because as I came into the year 2020, I like to pick a word every year that kind of guides my thought processes, and my actions and decisions, and just my overall approach to the year.

And it's funny, back in 2019 I was sitting there trying to figure out what that word was going to be. And it became really obvious to me that it should be focus, 2020, focus. And so I went into 2020 with a clear focus on things I wanted to accomplish, directions I wanted to go. And I had no idea that the greater good would provide such clear focus with COVID because what I think COVID did for all of us was hit a pause button and made us really look at where we wanted to spend our energy and what was really, really important and it's okay to say no to things and we had, I think just grown into such a busy, busy life and a busy, busy space that we were running 24/7.

And all of a sudden, all that shut off, all of that calendar noise kind of shut off. And it really gave me the opportunity to really focus back on what really is important and people thought I was crazy when I decided to take on a new job in the middle of a pandemic.

But it was a passionate calling to me to come to the support of our independent hospitals, on a personal level, coming out of COVID I cherish the memories and the experiences I have with my family. And we can't wait to be able to just travel and go see things and do things as a family, we've really... I love to be home, I discovered that with COVID that I really kind of do like to be home, I'm a little bit of a homebody.

Though I didn't know that before going into it, because I was always on the go. And as much as I love being home, I'm ready to go out and to see people and be face to face. I can't wait to hug my dad, to be very honest, his health has been compromised. So he's kind of stayed away from all of us. But I can't wait to hug him once the heat of the pandemic has passed.

 

What's your word for 2021?

 

I knew you were going to ask that. It's going to be "purpose". Everything's going to be done with purpose. I hesitated because I've been kind of bouncing between purpose and intent. But I used intent a couple of years ago. So this year, it has to be purpose.

 

Throughout the past year, with all of the craziness, COVID, political tensions, stresses, what have you done or what do you do to protect your mental health?

 

Gosh, crazy times, right? The one thing that I have done that has had a significant impact on my mental health going through all of this is turned off mainstream media. I remember, probably 15 years ago, a mentor of mine said he no longer watched the news. And I remember looking at him going, "How do you function in today's world if you're not watching the news? How do you know what's happening?" And he's like, "You'd be surprised. I just don't have to listen to the sides battle it out. They take the same issue, and they spin it each way."

And the political tensions, the COVID, it's scary, and it's serious, but I shut off the mainstream media. And lo and behold, I still catch everything that's relevant. And everything that I need to know I just don't have to go through the filter of mainstream media, and it has been an eye-opening relief to shut a lot of that noise off.

It is overwhelming. It is. Because like you said, it comes from everywhere. Now I don't want anyone, I don't want to give the impression that I'm not in tune, because I am but I just choose where and what I'm going to let affect me because there's only so much I can control. There's only so much that you can actually digest and try and figure out how to manage through. And so it was interesting, shutting off mainstream media.

I still get plenty of news and other places, but it's not so polarizing. And I feel like I'm a little bit insulated from some of the inflammatory. It seems like the media like you said, if it bleeds, it reads, and they grab ahold of things and try to sensationalize it in order to create buzz and noise and it's not always the real story. And so it's learning how to navigate through that and to pick your sources and control the controllables.

 

I want to change directions a little bit and get into some industry stuff with you if that's okay. So the first big topic I want to talk about. Trends in the industry. I want to talk about consolidation. This is something that really concerns us here at GeniusVets. We really care about this and it's concerning. Let me ask you, why do you think that practice owners are selling to consolidators?

 

Everything that you just said, that's the reason I came to TVC was I felt this strong desire and a need for someone to step in and really help protect the independent hospital owner. The reason I think that consolidation is happening at the rate that it is is at least twofold.

One, it's easy, right? We've got a whole network of independent hospital owners who are getting to the point in life where they're ready to step back, or they're looking for what that next step is. And it has become increasingly difficult to find someone that will purchase a clinic, in large part because the voice that's in the university setting, talking to that next generation of veterinarians is in large part the corporate entities because they have the ability to consolidate into one voice. And it's a really-it's a big challenge. And it's one they're winning.

Really I have respect for the corporate consolidators because they figured it out. They found the opportunity and they got into those university scholastic settings and said, "Hey, you're going to medical school, you're not going to business school, come out here work for us, we'll handle the business part. You just get to practice medicine." I mean, as a vet student, how amazing would that sound. You mean I don't have to take on the stress of trying to run a business. I'm coming out a quarter-million dollars in debt anyway, I can't buy a practice.

It looks like that's my best option. And there's no one in there on behalf of all of the independent hospitals because it's hard to have one voice. When you're talking, TVC has 4100 hospitals, and think about the effort that has to go behind that to create a single voice on behalf of 4100 hospitals. And therein lies a really big challenge. It's really hard for an independent hospital to have a voice in a scholastic setting to talk about their opportunity.

But that's one of the spaces that I think is in great need of someone to be able to step up and show that hey, there is a future in independent hospital ownership and we'll help you understand how to accomplish that. And it is attainable because right now as a vet student, all they're hearing is the easy button. This is what happens when you graduate school, you come work in our hospitals, we run the business, you do the medicine.

 

Dr. Drake is always fielding applicants. And when she sees somebody who looks really great, they at least get to know them a little bit. She talks to a lot of associate vets that are working at these various corporate hospitals. Many times, they come out thinking, "I'm going to practice medicine, the doctors in this industry, they're so about practicing high-quality medicine," when you get into a corporate setting, it's very like, "No, this is the way that we do things." Like you're applying our corporate formula to move our corporate products and to do our things to a large extent.

 

And I think to that point, David, it's the ability to have an influence over your day-to-day versus given the marching orders and you do it the way they... In large part, have designed you to do it. Because they've got a formula that they're following. When it's an independent situation, had a lot of say, there's a lot of job satisfaction in building something on your own. A lot of pride goes into that.

And at the foundation of veterinary medicine, that's what it was at its core, they built their own businesses, they had a lot of pride in the care that they delivered and the involvement into their communities. And as of late, that's been challenged, because the corporate playbook is easy. And when independent hospitals feel constantly challenged by something new in the industry, and they don't know who's really there with their interest at the heart of all the decisions that are made. It gets to be a battle that a lot of them at the end are like I just I'm done.

Corporate consolidation shows me an easy playbook. I can't find someone to buy my practice. That's the easy button. I guess it just is what it is. And it's back to the newspaper example you had where, are they just going to accept it? Are they really willing to stand up and challenge it in order to fight for the passion that they have in their industry? And really, what drove them to be independent owners and why it's so important to try and hold on to that legacy of that and the value that, that brings to the industry.

After 20 30, or 40 years, these veterinarians have had great careers, they saved a lot of animals, they did a lot of good, and now they want to retire, right? And what are their options? They've built now a business that's thriving, that's been in an industry, that's been going through 20% growth for the past 20 years. There are other options out there, and I know that's something you guys are starting to explore with and for your members.

Yeah, we're actively pursuing resources and solutions in that space. Because it's real easy with a corporate consolidator or the partial consolidation for them to show their playbook and show how that happens. It's really hard when they're looking to try and find an associate or find someone that would potentially be interested. And again, it goes back to having the voice in the up and coming generation and showing them that it is a possibility and they don't have to come to the table with millions of dollars to buy a practice.

Unfortunately, the practices that are most attractive to corporate consolidation are the super, super successful practices, which is a loss to the independent ownership family, I call it because they're they're picking them off, and they're moving them to the profit house of a corporate consolidator because they are so profitable, which ultimately just damages the independent industry because you're taking out those as mentors, you're taking that out of our bucket of resource and in who we can rely on to lead the next generation. Those that have figured out how to blend medicine with best business.

 

So if this is a problem that we want to tackle, and we want to affect some change in a direction we'd like to see, what do you think would cause more practice owners to want to maintain ownership?

 

Interesting. I don't think that the want is not there. We recently surveyed our organization and all of our members and it overwhelmingly came back 97% of those surveyed said they did not want to sell to a corporation. That they really wanted to pursue and look for an independent owner to take on their practice when it was time for them to move on. But at the same time, they came back.

The next question was, "Where are you in your transition planning?" And a lot of them are like, "Well, I know I should start, I just haven't. I'm not quite sure how to go about it." They're looking for direction, they're looking for support and resources in that journey. So by and large, most of them don't want to sell the corporate consolidation. But they're put in that position because they don't know where else to go. They don't know what the other options are. Because corporate consolidators are very... They come forward and say, "Hey, we'll show you how. We'll do it." And they make it really, really easy. There's no one there making it really easy to transfer ownership to another independent.

And that's, unfortunately, all lost in the space. I think, by nature, there isn't anyone that can step into that space, and be the voice to help them as independence navigate through that.

 

One of the things is this also, if you don't put in enough thought it says a business owner, you don't really put in enough thought of what's the transition plan? What is the exit strategy until you're like, "Okay, I'm kind of wanting to exit now."

 

I see. The transition planning should almost be for the life of their career, it can't be five years before they think they might want to believe daily practice or turn over the reins. It's a full journey, transitioning should be a full journey and not just a task in order to sell your practice.

And it's because no one has really helped them define how to go through that. So by the time they start really thinking about it, the window is short, and corporate consolidations easy, they've got it figured out, it's a shorter window. And it's an easier process on the face of it I think. Overall, I don't think it needs to be any easier process. It's just no one has developed the process from independent to independent.

 

Can you describe a little bit, what type of support services and things are you planning to do to leverage the power of TVC, your incredible team there to help your members deal with this issue?

 

I've got an awesome team, who is incredibly passionate about the independent owner and everything that they do, that's at the forefront of their thought process on any decisions that we make. The true spirit of a cooperative, I think is a strength for TVC. Because a lot of times these resources that they wish that they had, they're just out of reach for each individual hospital.

But as a cooperative, we can attain those resources and then give them back to them in a much more manageable and digestible, and financially attainable space than if they were to try and create it on their own. So we're looking at when it comes to transition planning, helping them understand that it's a journey, what that journey looks like, all the different things that they should be considering or looking at, all the different types of transition opportunities, and what those look like.

And then being a collective voice to the scholastic system, to advocate on their behalf so that the upcoming students don't feel like independent ownership is unattainable. Don't feel like their only option is to go work in a corporate hospital, that there truly is the opportunity to work in an independent space. And actually, the benefits and the joy in owning and building your own practice, what those really look like and how they can actually attain that.

So we're looking at not only facilitating the journey all the way through, we're looking at creating and developing the other side of the equation, we've got all of the independent hospitals, but who's got the other side of the equation, and right now the independent hospitals don't have a space in that other side. And so we're looking at doing that.

And we're also looking at facilitating the full-on transaction, helping the new owner understand how to get financing, how that works. Buyout options how to make that work for both sides of the equation, offering guidance in that space, and also, if they need some business support, while they're going through the transition, while they're working through the transfer of ownership, the transfer of best medicine, taking on those reins, again, and training, business training to those new owners because they're coming out of medical school.

And that's one of the challenges and one of the really intimidating pieces is DBMs went to school for medicine, CEOs went to school for business. And where corporate consolidation is really strong in the CEO suite and that business, they also have the DVM piece, independence has the DVM medicine piece, but who's there to provide that guidance on the business.

So go through all spaces that we're actively exploring resources in, and we've got some really big ideas that I believe are really attainable for us, in order to deliver some valued resources that can really make a difference in the transition planning process, and what those transactions look like.

 

I want to talk a little bit about something that's a little bit upstream from the issue that's happening, it's very, very much affecting that space, which is data, the explosion of data over the past decade, in veterinary medicine, data tracking, aggregation and sharing of the data. And the way that it's kind of going on, there's a number of companies now that have been developing tools reliant on getting an API into a practice management system. So you got various APIs that are reaching into the pins that are extracting data for various purposes. When do you think data sharing becomes a threat to independent practices?

 

Great question, because what is our most powerful commodity right now in the world? It's data, right? Everybody wants the data. Because that's where you find the opportunity. And it is concerning for exactly what you're saying is these data aggregators can collect all this data. And maybe they're not, at this point in time looking at maybe pet owner level data. But what they are looking at is the overall trends and finding ways to wedge themselves into the equation and push the independents out, because the independents don't have that great big view, they've got their view of their hospital.

And they can maybe see a trend in their hospital and look for an opportunity, but they don't necessarily see the great, great big picture, all rolled up into one, it's a very challenging space for them to try and analyze and operate in. And that's where the bigger business, the data aggregators, that's really a strong benefit and an advantage that they have when it comes to looking at the data and analyzing the data.

Benchmarking is also a problem. Because the independent hospitals, just because they're in the black, what percent is the right percent, right? And so how do they benchmark against what is good, better, best in the industry, and all of that falls back on the data and how to use that data. Data is so powerful, but if you don't know how to use it, and you don't know how to analyze it, it's just a bunch of numbers. And it's just a bunch of data.

And, unfortunately, I think the aggregators and consolidation are far surpassing the independence in the power of the data because they've got access to more, they've got access to bigger data, and they can roll it up and really identify overall trends. And that's exactly what's happening. They're finding where those cracks are, and they're wedging in, and they're going to continue to wedge and expand their space in there, and therefore continue to push the independence outside of that circle on a more consistent basis.

I wish I had a perfect answer. I don't have a perfect answer. But one of the things that I challenge independent hospitals too is who has their data? And what are they doing with it? And how are they looking at it? One of the things about TVC is our hospital data belongs to our hospitals. And TVC has no interest in selling a product or a service to a pet owner at all, our interest is solely to support our independent hospitals.

And so it's important to me for them to consider who they're giving access to, to their data, and what's going to be done with that data. Because as the aggregators get more and more data, the independent hospitals will be pushed further and further away from that analysis.

 

So I'm wondering with TVC, in particular, you have vendors, you have a lot of very powerful vendor network, you have a lot of companies who could potentially be threatening that really want to play a role in your organization and serve your members and all of that sort of stuff. And so you're in this policing situation, you got to... You want them involved, but you got to keep them on silent. How much information do maybe your vendors or other participating organizations outside TVC have to potentially access that information or that data?

 

Great question. First I want to say that we are so grateful for all of the manufacturers and service providers that do partner and support TVC, we've got a great, great lineup that truly believes in the independent hospital and want to work with TVC. Because they understand that by doing so they're supporting the independent hospitals in an ever-changing and challenging space.

As far as the data going out, really, at this point in time, the data that our manufacturers see on behalf of TVC hospitals is really purchasing behaviors, because that's what our relationships currently really are. We're looking to further support our hospitals in evaluating and managing their own data so that they can find the opportunities in order to capitalize on the resources that are available to them.

TVC, you mentioned something that I want to grab on really quick, and you had mentioned who the shareholders are? Who are the decision-makers and who's driving those decisions? And one of the unique things in the TVC space is our shareholders, our hospital owners, they're the ones that own TVC, which is such a unique space. And one of the reasons I was so drawn to TVC is because of who I answer to on the decisions that TVC, as an entity, make. It's the shareholders; they're the hospital owners. They're the independent veterinarians that own those independent hospitals.

And every decision that we make, I sit back and I look to see how it's going to affect them. I'm not worried about a stockholder that just bought the stock on the market somewhere, and that I have to answer to them, I've worked for big business where we, our stockholders were very different than what our shareholders are at TVC and the influence that has on decisions and the influence that has on directions that you take the company.

But because our shareholders are truly each independent hospital, it gives us a really unique space to make the decisions that affect them with just their sole interest in mind. It's really how we make the decisions.

 

It's so great. It's something that attracted us at GeniusVets to your organization so much, because when we're looking at I mean, how can we help the most people obviously, networking and partnerships, and that sort of thing, we want to find what organizations that really align with organizations that seem to share the same vision and mission as we do. And when we looked at yours, it's like, this really is the perfect rebel alliance. You couldn't possibly be scooped up by a big massive consolidator, because it doesn't work that way. Because your members are your owners, it just wouldn't work, you guys are going to stay independent, really focused on that forever.

 

I love that you described it as a rebel alliance. And I love to be a little bit of a rebel and a disrupter. And what's fun about the space we occupy, is it is, we're a little bit of a rebel, we're a little bit of a disrupter. And we're a little bit resistant to the pressures of the trends, right? We're out there fighting for the independents, and in holding our ground on that space. And I'm not looking to sell TVC, I can't, because our hospitals are all independently owned, and TVC itself is owned by those hospitals.

And so it's not like I could just go sign a piece of paperwork and sell the rights off to all these hospitals. That's not how this organization works, which is really part of the fun of being part of this organization.

 

So educating yourself and really understanding you need to align with organizations and with people and get help that from people who are very much aligned with your own concern and what's behind them. I think those are some of the big takeaways, what about you? Anything else you could say to anyone who's watching about how do they alleviate their concerns that may arise from this conversation?

 

I think just being very aware of who you're sharing your data with, why you're sharing it, or why they're seeking it, and how it's going to be used and analyzed, I think just be responsible. It's such a valuable resource, so protect it fiercely and protect it responsibly.

 

So I want to ask, what are your thoughts on some of the issues facing these independent practices? Like for instance, for example, staffing, how to attract good staff, what do you say to that?

 

Attracting good staff, I believe the independent hospital, that's a big challenge for them, and it's tied back to their ability to market the opportunity that they have, and then to find the right people, and then develop those people. Leadership training, holding on to the culture, making sure that you're hiring to your culture, are all real big challenges in an independent space.

And also finding, finding people that want to work in an independent space and understanding the value that they bring and the impact they'll have in an independently run hospital versus a job they're kind of punching in and out of in a space where maybe they don't get a lot of influence over the direction. And what happens day-to-day. Those are big challenges for an independent owner.

Staffing is a big concern, because a lot of times, as we squeeze the profitability of these independent hospitals, it's harder and harder to have the resource to hire the people that you need and to provide good wages in order to keep them employed. That's a whole nother ballpark of challenge. And it's something we've kind of done to ourselves within the industry.

If you'd like help establishing a better culture within your practice, try our Veterinary Staff Culture Workshop led by GeniusVets Founder Dr. Michele Drake.

 

Practically, because not many independent practice owners or even managers have the background that you have, and your approach and thoughtful consideration to things like this, how would you interview for culture, skills and diversity, and all those things. Give a tip on that.

 

A lot of times... The best thing to do in interviews is to take the emotion out of it. And go in with a really clear lens to look for and challenge your applicants on how they view the culture of a healthy work environment. And to really identify that. Right now I think sometimes that they don't get into that, number one, they've never gone through interview coaching, most likely, I come out of a situation where we did have interview coaching because I come out of a business side of things, and looking for habits or personality traits that fit well.

And knowing that diversity is a strength, diversity isn't a challenge, the more diverse you can have your team, the stronger it's going to be. And everybody can come together to create a really strong, unified unit, if they're all the same and it's just to your personality wise attracted to. That doesn't make for the best team. Sometimes you need the disrupter in there that can make you think about things a little bit differently.

And I think sometimes that's scary. Sometimes that's really scary, especially when our independent hospital owners, most of them are the DVM that's also practicing medicine, and they're so busy trying to provide the best medical care that a lot of times the business operations, especially staffing, we all know what it's like to have employees and the challenges that come up with employees and trying to offer the best support in an HR space or I added employee level.

Think about how hard that is when you're trying to practice the best medicine as well. And your main focus is to keep your clients healthy and offer the best support to those that are ailing and then all of a sudden you're charged with managing staff dynamics, and development, and leadership, and fostering the culture. That's really hard. And that's even harder when you don't have anyone there to help and support you and you're trying to figure it out on your own.

And knowing where to turn to for that help. That honestly is probably one of the biggest challenges, they don't know where to turn to. Because time and time again, the industry has shown them that maybe who you thought you could trust, maybe you shouldn't, maybe you can't, because things change, and you never know which way the winds going to blow that's gonna change a trusting relationship, or somewhere that you felt was a safe space for you to occupy and it changes. And now, where do you turn to?

 

You also talked about how to train staff to be great, continue coaching, personal development. Talk about that for a minute, what should independent practices be doing in terms of a plan? And how should they approach? What resources should they be reaching out for whether with TVC or without in that space?

 

Yeah, I think training, if you talk to him, a lot of the training is job level training, the tasks that they're tasked with, how they accomplish those, and how that fits into the bigger picture of the hospital that they're operating within, what's really hard is leadership training, and how to develop them to the next level. How to train them to build the culture, how to... A lot of times in an independent hospital, a lot of the individual that's tasked with the practice management are just really accomplished techs that do their jobs well and show a lot of initiative, they're identified by the independent hospital owners, as someone that really works hard, has that work ethic, the ability to learn and the willingness to learn.

And they slot them into that spot. And they graciously take on those responsibilities, and they tackle them, and they do a great job. But what they probably don't get so much of is additional leadership training, because they by taking on a role like that become a leader in the hospital, and helping develop them. Because we know the more you can develop a person in their skill set, the more influence they'll have on what surrounds them.

And if we can help the independent hospitals develop leadership within their hospitals, and that training, which by the way, is really probably expensive training for an independent single hospital to acquire, that's again where the power of the cooperative can come into play, whereas the cooperative, we can create these resources that they can tap into, for a fraction of what it would cost them to try and uncover it on their own.

And just by using the collective power of what we are, and what we bring to the table, culture training, there's some training that can go on to teach people how to foster culture and keep it healthy and how to manage conflict, how to empower your team to make a difference and empower them to feel that they have the ability to make the right decision.

All of those things are training, that's really hard sometimes for the independent owner who's, again, practicing medicine, and trying to make the books balance so they can keep everyone employed, and they keep the practice healthy. Those are kind of things that come along that aren't at the top of the list of priorities for that independent hospital owner, but are just as important, but harder to tackle.

 

The bigger problem is just not utilizing staff to their fullest. Doctors doing both the doctor stuff and a lot of the stuff that, that tech should be doing and some of the stuff that the other administrative staff should be doing. Getting everybody trained and having the faith and not only can they do their job, but they can do it in a way that responsibly has those leadership qualities that make it a good valuable cog in the whole system of that practice. So important, and then it frees up the doctor's time. And that ends up being at the bottom line revenues of the business in amazing ways.

 

Absolutely. And that goes right back to the training, the leadership, the development and empowering them to perform to their optimal level, not letting the doctors and stuff perform, like you said tasks that others are totally qualified in doing, but having the faith and having the confidence that they can perform up to a higher level because you're empowering them to do it.

And you're giving them the support and the guidance and the training that they need in order to perform up to that level. Because they will, I strongly believe that they will step up. And they will perform to those highest levels if those expectations are set really high. That's just the spirit of the independent hospital owner, the spirit of those that choose to work in independent hospitals.

 

So this brings me to something that is, it's all very, very tight in here, right is how to retain great staff. Something that Peter Weinstein shared with me last season was a quote, which was he said, "A lot of practice owners out there are worried about training staff, and that will have them thinking of what if I spent all this time training them and they leave?" What advice do you have to your members and independent practice owners about how to retain great staff?

 

I love that quote because I think investing in them, we shouldn't fear them leaving us by us investing in them, we should fear what they don't deliver if we don't invest in them. And one of the best ways, time and time again to hold on to an employee is to make them feel valued. To make them feel that they're part of it, make them feel that they have a say in what's happening, and how better to do that than invest in them.

And I truly believe that if you invest in them, and you make them feel valuable, and you empower them to make a difference, and you empower them to have a voice that's heard, they'll stay. And that's my advice to the independent hospital is show them that you value them and invest in them and they will, in turn, invest in you and invest their time and their energy back into you because they feel that they make a difference. And everybody wants to make a difference. Everyone wants to feel valued.

It's a lot of pride and a lot of ownership. Even from staff, not just the independent hospital owner, but the staff. A lot of pride in building what they built, you talked to Dr. Michelle Drake, and she talks about the Drake Center and the pride that her entire team has, and what they've built and how that ties them all back to the success of that, they feel that they bring value to it, they feel that they make a difference and that holds them there. That ties them at a very core deep emotional level to what they've built.

 

When we started GeniusVets, we thought, okay, now we're going to build a big staff. And then little by little handing it off to now it's really run by this amazing staff and they're incredible, but that those points, figuring out where those points were, "Hey, stop trying to do it all and then hand it off and say just keep this running," because that's not very engaging, but having the faith to say, "Hey, this is overall what's going on and I can give you as much direction as I think you need but take it and run with it. Build something there." And let them do it.

 

Right. And listening to you and the pride in your voice just in what you shared, because you've built this, and you've built people up so that they understand their value, and they're performing at a very high level. That's one thing I would love to empower our independent hospital owners to do; don't be afraid to assign those tasks out, empower them, trust that they're going to perform at that high level, and what better satisfaction, especially when you look at what veterinarians truly are at their core, right? They are just helpers, they just want to help. They are so compassionate. And they deeply, deeply care about what they do, which is by default, it is a blessing and a curse in their role.

That's how they fall into veterinary medicine a lot of time is because of that deep passion and compassion that they have at their core, and wanting to help. And so I encourage them, help your staff, empower them, give them the agency to take on responsibility, you'll feel better at the end of the day knowing that you've built that. Not only the business, but the people, and they'll stick around because you believe in them. And everybody wants to be surrounded by people that believe in them.

 

I'd like to, again, shift the conversation a little bit, and shift back to TVC. And give you a few minutes, because there's... I know, we have a lot of TVC members that are joining us here today. But we also have a lot of independent veterinary practice owners from around the country that aren't TVC members, or maybe don't even really know about TVC. So could you take a minute to just share with us, the mission of TVC, and how it's different than other group purchasing organizations in the industry?

 

Absolutely, the GPO space has gotten really crowded, right? TVC was founded back in 2012. And at the time, the main challenge that the independent hospitals were facing was purchasing power and education. And so that was the founding mission, the founding principles were to provide resources and support in purchasing, and in education.

And although that remains core to our foundation, and it's not going to go away, the challenges that hospitals face now are evolving, and they're different. And it's... When we ask the hospitals, and we look at industry trends, and we look at what's happening, the transition is a big concern, practice management, and the business support and education is a big concern, as is mentorship and who to go to, to help them bounce ideas off of each other, to put them in a room, to let them benchmark off of each other and share great ideas in a space where they can collaborate together as independent owners.

TVC is different than other group purchasing organizations, because we're owned, we're cooperative, and we're owned by our members. And at the end of the day, every decision we make is on the foundation of how it impacts that independent hospital owner in Arkansas, or how do we better support them. In the grand scheme of things, I hope that someday the industry sits back and they look at TVC. And they say, "You know what, when the independent hospitals were really under fire when a lot of pressures were coming to consolidate or sell outside of another independent owner and they needed support in transition, they needed support in business education and practice management. Man TVC really stepped up into that space and became the collective voice and offered the solutions that the independent hospitals so desperately seek, yet don't know who to go to, to provide them that really have their success and longevity as the driving force behind the providing of those types of resources."

 

There's a ton there even to unpack. For instance, just as with your DNA starting as highly focused on the GPO side, on the group purchasing organization side, which involves obviously looking at the industry's vendors, and saying, "Hey, here's our membership. We're this many strong, and our members are willing to consider, they all kind of agreed to take a look at our vendors." You have to put them through a whole process, the vendor selection process, and decide, "Hey, are these worthy of our members or not? Can you tell me a little bit about that process you actually take vendors through so people can have an idea, is this just hey, we sign up, we write you a check, and now we can start selling to your group, or is this something more?"

 

It is something more, David, and thank you for asking. I have a list right now of literally hundreds of vendors that have reached out to TVC that are interested in partnering with us because they believe that there's a mutual benefit that can be had in a partnership. But we're pretty picky, we want to make sure that those that we bring in really truly have the interest of the independent veterinarian at the heart and soul of our partnership.

I want to make sure that they really understand what makes TVC different than the other GPOs in our space, or even the corporate consolidators, and how we operate differently, I want to make sure that our expectations are appropriate, and I want to make sure their expectations are appropriate. I don't sit here with a magic wand saying that every single TVC hospital is going to write your product because I don't run a formulary. It's a different business model than that, but what I can do is we can help you understand how best to partner with the independent hospitals, and we can give you voice and agency in that space, to show them why you make a great partner.

And we're looking, always looking for the best partners in the space of each space, be it technology, be it data, be it marketing. We recently brought on GeniusVets, because we believe you're the best of the best in that space. And we want to make sure that our hospital owners have access to the best of the best resources.

Part of the challenge for an independent hospital owner is how many... Let's just talk GeniusVets, how many work in that marketing space, there's several, you're not the only ones in the game, but they don't have the time, or the agency to go through and spend a lot of effort trying to analyze what works best and compare all the different vendors to each other.

 

So I'm going to have to get kind of a tough question that just occurred to me while you're talking. So some things have changed regarding the GPO space. So TVC started off a lot as a GPO. And absolutely with some, I don't want to say consulting, but additional services and support for its members beyond just like, "Hey, here's a list of discounts that you get from providers or whatnot." So, can you unpack that whole aspect of this a little bit like the shuffle up?

 

Yeah, thank you for asking. I think one of the interesting things that maybe not everybody knows about me is in a past life, I've worked with almost all of the GPOs from the other side of the table at manufacturing. And so we were an alphabet soup for a long time. And there were three initial GPOs really that got into that space right away and found the opportunity.

And since then, it became an alphabet soup and everybody wanted a piece of what looked like a really fun space to be in. And back when the GPO is really started up and really started to grow significantly here in the US market about two out of 10 veterinary hospitals, were either aligned to a GPO or to a corporate consolidator. Over the last about eight years, that has changed significantly, and it is about nine out of 10. And so with that comes the pressure from the manufacturers who had a certain relationship and expectation with the GPO's back when they were talking about two out of 10 hospitals and now it's nine out of 10 hospitals.

And so the value that the GPO space has to deliver back in order to keep these partnerships viable and healthy has evolved and it's changing. And TVC is well-positioned to build off the foundation that we had that was really on the group purchasing. But I really don't like the phrase GPO because I think TVC is set up to become to your point so much more and we're taking a bold look at a new direction, not losing the purchasing power because we're 4100 hospitals strong.

There's something to that, right? That's a large group of influence. It's a large group of business and hospitals that we partner with and we support. But taking it from a GPO, a group purchasing organization into a group business solutions partner kind of space where we're looking to provide answers to really what the biggest pressures are now, the biggest pressures have moved beyond just having group purchasing power.

And so the entities have to evolve with that as well. And TVC is well-positioned to do that and really exploring some really interesting spaces. A lot around what we've discussed over the last hour.

 

Are there any particularly notable things you have coming up that you want people to sign up for, participate in, dive into, or learn more about?

 

Yeah, I would love for anyone that's listening to this and is interested in exploring these different resources at TVC is developing, to go to www.tvc.coop... C-O-O-P. \geniusvets. And what we're looking for is we are creating mentorship groups in order to give the independent a space to compare benchmarks, to share best practices, to really give that community support in an independent space.

We're looking at developing, further developing, we're well down that road, but what the transition journey looks like and how to put A and B together, how to put the sellers and the buyers together in an independent space and show both sides that, that transaction is highly feasible and we can help make that happen. And the industry itself will thrive if we can hold on to the heart and soul of that independent ownership.

I would hate for the independent ownership to go away. It's interesting in my intro, you talked about... I worked for Boehringer Ingelheim and GlaxoSmithKline. And I did, but on the human medicine side, and I was involved in human medicine prior to consolidation over there and watched it go through it and left that industry for many reasons, but the biggest one because I wanted to come over and be in a space where we could protect that independent hospital, the independent business owner, from my very core, I grew up in a family of independent business owners, my family still owns businesses. That's what they do. That's what I know. And it's the lifeblood, I think of what makes America so great is that entrepreneurial spirit, to want to make a difference and to own your own business.

And so I highly encourage anyone that's interested in entering to businessmen excellence mentorship groups, transition planning, practice management or business education support to go out to the site I just gave you. The landing page and tell us you're interested and we're happy to share more of what we're developing in that space.

 

One of my favorite TED talks and one that I've shared with my kids, I made them watch a few times, it's one on grit. It's the various studies about how things like IQ is associated with success in life and wealth and things like that. It's not all that correlated beyond a certain point. But the strongest correlator to success overall in life to significant successes is grit. And there's a great... Anybody who hasn't seen that Ted Talk yet, it's a great one to go watch and get inspired by and inspire others with but yeah.

 

It's one of my favorite words because I think grit overpowers any type of education, any type of situation you've been gifted with. Grit can really define and you can accomplish anything if you're willing to put the grit and grace into it.

 

Well, thank you again. Thank you so much for taking some time out of your incredibly busy day. Anybody who is participating who hasn't checked out TVC please go do it. Ginni one more time your website?

 

The website is the veterinarycooperative.coop C-O-O-P, not a dot com. Dot coop. We're a cooperative. We also have an independent landing page for today that helps tie back everything we talked about today and gives you the opportunity to reach out and show interest and we can send some follow up information to you. And that is www.theveterinarycooperative.coop/geniusvets. So those are two ways to get a hold of us. David, it has been a pleasure, I am so honored that you reached out and you asked me to kick off the season when it comes to independent hospital ownership.

And we are so grateful for the opportunity to speak with you today. But also for the partnership with GeniusVets. You guys, I know our relationship is just starting, but you have been fantastic and have really redefined and upped the bar on what partnership really looks like and I'm grateful to you and your organization for the support. And I know that we have a really bright future together, and I'm so excited to watch what we're going to do.

...

Any practice in the United States, you should know that you have a full-page profile for your practice at geniusvets.com you can check out geniusvets.com/start to check that out and to claim your practice profiles, there's a lot of benefits to that. We give away a lot of free stuff, no obligation or anything like that. So take advantage of those things.

And then we'll invite you to next week's webinar as well. So that's it for today. Thank you so much. Please check out TVC, see you here next week. Goodbye, everybody. Have a great day.

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