Courtney Post: Welcome everyone to Let’s Vet Together. Today I am super excited to have my friends and colleagues on the podcast, Dr. Rob Trimble, Dr. Cat Foret. This is a treat for us. We talk every day, all day, but this is a special occasion that we’re going to actually record one of our crazy conversations and share it with our network. Before we really get into the reason we’re coming together today, could you both introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about the treat that you brought with you today?
Rob Trimble, DVM: Yes. Cat, you go first.
Catherine Foret, DVM: Sure. Well, my name is Catherine Foret, and I’m a veterinarian. I live in Louisiana, and it’s a really fun time to be from Louisiana. We got Mardi Gras happening, so I brought my mask.
Cat: I’m going to do the whole Zoom with this mask on. Does that work?
Courtney: Please do. Yes, please.
Catherine: Laissez les bons temps rouler. We’re going to let the good times roll, and yes, that’s what I’m excited to talk about a little bit about GO, and life, and how it’s truly letting the good times GO.
Courtney: Love it.
Cat: Yes, that’s me.
Courtney: All right, Cat bringing the Mardi Gras fun. There’s a lot of good local food that goes with Mardi Gras too. Which-
Courtney: -that’s a bucket list item for me is to really-
Cat: Oh, come on.
Courtney: –to experience it.
Cat: All of it.
Rob: Beignets, get some beignets while you’re down there.
Courtney: Everyone has time to plan Mardi Gras. Tuesday is in fact for when we’re recording this right now, it’s next week guys.
Cat: Yes, it’s this week, big things happening. Quick trip through the donut shop this morning because we were running late, and we said that’s what we will do. This week the popular item that they were already sold out of was, everybody knows what a kolachi is, but these are boudin-stuffed kolachi, so it’s like Cajun jambalaya mixed in there.
Rob: Sounds delicious.
Cat: It’s already sold out. Good stuff.
Courtney: Good stuff. All right, Dr. Trimble.
Rob: Hey, guys, I’m Rob Trimble. I’m a veterinarian as well. Graduated in 2013. Private practice for a couple of years, and then very quickly got sucked up into the Bay Area, where I started doing animal healthcare startups, house calls, and telemedicine. Little bit of app development in there. Played around with the nonprofit world with the VEA, that’s where I met Harbor for the first time at the Veterinary Entrepreneurship Academy. Now I’m here full-time at Harbor.
Courtney: It was our meet cute Rob.
Rob: What’s that?
Courtney: It was our meet cute, like in a romcom. It’s when Rob met Harbor/Suveto was all because of the VEA
Rob: That’s right. Now I get to do this full-time at Harbor, building educational pathways, and really exciting and immersive shared learning environments that bring students and early career veterinarians together out of isolation. Bringing them together, building community through shared learning opportunities that ultimately attract some of the best talent in the world to Suveto. That’s what I’m waking up every day doing.
Courtney: That’s what we’re going to talk about today, is that, specifically the early career veterinarian in this incredible, really first of its kind program that we are embarking on this year that Dr. Trimble and Dr. Foret have been at the center of. Before we do, Rob, what is your local treat that you’re sharing with us today?
Rob: My local treat. When I was in the Bay Area, it was known for wine. It’s not too far away from Napa. Here in Fort Collins, Colorado, where I live, we have really good water, thanks to the the Poudre River. We’ve got some really good water, and actually because of that really good water, it’s attracted a ton of breweries. We’ve got like 25 or six different breweries in Fort Collins. It’s insane. My special treat is a local beer from the Black Bottle Brewing Company just up the road here. Black Bottle Brewing Company in Fort Collins.
Cat: I need some of that down here.
Rob: Scuba Steve. It’s a classic for anybody who’s gone to Colorado State, they’ve probably have had a Scuba Steve. That’s my local treat.
Courtney: Here I would have thought that Fort Collins and Colorado in general would attract breweries because of your captive audience, and the really fun and folks that are so active, they need a lot of hydration, not that because it had really special water. I’ve learned-
Rob: It’s a yes and.
Courtney: –from you today. Colorado’s water is to beer as New York City’s water is to bagels.
Rob: Ah, there you go. Okay, yes.
Courtney: The New York City bagels are so good-
Rob: That’s right.
Courtney: –because of the water. Wow. Well, fun. Thank you for both bringing some local flair with you. As I mentioned, today we’re really going to isolate a conversation around early career veterinarians, and what we have embarked on this year at Suveto, which is Harbor GO, or our Graduation to Ownership business fellowship. We rewind a little bit and say, we’ve had this wonderful relationship with veterinary students, and Rob and his team have created incredible programs to really develop and allow students to explore their entrepreneurial energy, and business fundamentals, and community while they’re in school.
We realized that we needed this really distinct path from vet school into our amazing Suveto veterinary health hospitals. We had an opportunity to create an impactful program both for the students that are entering into it, and soon to be early career veterinarians, but also our Suveto veterinary health hospitals, and what impact this program could have on them. I will open it up to each of you, and say for our GO program, Graduation to Ownership. What makes you individually excited for that? Cat, I’ve heard you talk about what this program means to you, and I’d love for you to share that today.
Cat: The story of going out and doing it all by yourself, and starting from nothing shouldn’t be how most people’s stories start. You should try to surround yourself with really smart people, and gather information, and take something that’s already good, and mold it into your great. As you get out as a veterinarian, your focus should be on what type of medicine are you going to practice? How can you spay a dog, and then go take care of a cat, and then check somebody into the hospital, and then answer, call the client who has a question?
That’s where your focus should be. However, some veterinarians are really interested into who they’re going to be, not right when they graduate, but in a couple of years. So many will put medicine on the forefront, and only focus on that, and then business a little bit later. I think you can blend them beautifully together. That was my story, I only practiced medicine for zero days without considering business. It really was from even prior to graduation, taking business courses, coming up with our game plan, writing things on napkins, working with my spouse who’s also a veterinarian to come up with our game plan.
So that was always our trajectory. We started from the ground zero on a couple things, and that’s just not, in today’s fast-paced world, where students are graduating vet school so much smarter. We know so much more about the human-animal bond, and how to effectively communicate about medicine, and their pet, and acupuncture. I mean, veterinarians are graduating with more degrees than just being a veterinarian. The business aspect, we need to make the mom and pop, or the corporate thing, really cool and fun, and we need to make business fun. I had a couple of years where it wasn’t really all that fun. I had to pick and choose what I was going to do, and I really think GO is changing that. I know GO is changing that.
Courtney: Super exciting. What about you, Rob?
Rob: Oh, man.
Courtney: What excites you about this program?
Rob: How long has this podcast again?
Courtney: I’d like everyone on this podcast to know that Dr. Rob Trimble is in the heart of creating all of the content, and how is this going to show up, and what is the cadence, and how do early career veterinarians need to learn as Cat said, how to spay an animal, and turn around, and check someone into a room, and also pick up the phone, and talk to a pet owner about a patient they may have seen last week. All of that is being built into this experience within GO that Rob is really at the center of the creation site of.
Rob, what makes you most excited about this program, both from when this idea started last year to where you are today?
Rob: Oh man, if this was an hour-long podcast, I’m not sure it would be enough time to really start digging into all the reasons I’m excited about this program. I guess if I could distill it down to one word, it’s probably freedom. One of the things that really attracted me to Suveto was that it is giving more opportunities and more options for veterinarians to pursue what I would consider a sense of freedom through ownership.
Ownership of their own hospital if they want to pursue independent ownership, or if you don’t want the full weight of ownership on your shoulders, you can pursue this shared ownership model that we’re building now with VO Vets, or even with VSOP, giving every single veterinarian and soon-to-be employee within Suveto an opportunity to experience ownership of their hospital.
Equity ownership, a small piece in their ownership of their hospital. The thing that’s attracted me most to it is that we’re not just teaching professional skills, and medical skills, but we’re teaching young veterinarians how to exercise freedom through owning their decisions, through owning their careers, but that doesn’t come naturally. A lot of people, we’ve come up in organizations where you come to work, and you say, “Well, tell me what to do, boss. Give me the checklist.” We’re flipping that on its head, and we’re saying, “No, we want to train you to be able to be the person that decides, and to own that decision, and to lean in, and have the accountability that comes with it.” That’s scary. That’s leadership development.
We’re teaching the professional skills, and we’re teaching the medical skills, it’s all woven into this really robust series of case studies, but underlying this is this environment that we’re trying to create between the GO student, and between all the people that they’re working with in their practice between the GO student and their peers. Our students at this point, they’re professional veterinarians, but creating that environment where I think community development can grow, through which learning and development can grow, and through which we can grow owners, because I think that’s really what I understand to be the future of Suveto, is owners, and owners, and owners.
Cat: You hit something for me. I’ve worked with one or two veterinarians, and then at sometimes 16 veterinarians all in the same practice, but if I knew that Dr. Mike was trying to really get good at oral surgery, I’m going to start sending him cases. I’m going to say, “Hey, what are you having trouble on? What are you doing great in?” Getting him in front of the staff, we’re going to encourage him. I just had a light bulb moment. I know that the practices that our GO team members are working at are now going to encourage them, and get behind them, because they know that’s their want. I just had another warm, fuzzy feeling about that.
Courtney: Well, and Cat, that’s exactly actually what I was going ask the both of you next, is, how do you think that this program will shape two things? One, the profession and the industry? What do you think the future looks like because of this program? Before that, what do you think the impact, and really the experience will be like for hospitals that have a veterinarian coming to join their team that is participating in this program?
Cat: Oh. That’s like a disco ball, so many facets to that answer. I remember so many answers. From experience, when we have an extern in their clinical year at our practice, everybody’s trying to be on their Ps and Qs, and talking about the life cycle of the fleas, a little bit more detailed. It is just exciting when somebody wants to learn something, you want to be a part of their story.
I really think the collaboration and the excitement, I’m excited to see how it flips upside down so many businesses, not just veterinarians, restaurant, dentist, medical human world. You start at the ground, and you work yourself up on that management ladder. No, we’re saying, you don’t even know how to effectively spay a client-owned cat [laughs] maybe that’s going to go home the same day, but you’d want to sit in on our leadership. You want to know what our P&Ls look like.
You want to interview technicians and see how you can make their days better. Wait, you’re just now getting here. I think it’s going to be really refreshing to realize that you can be taught how to be an awesome leader at the beginning of a relationship, at the beginning of your career. That’s one of my most exciting things, is to truly see a new veterinarian in their field challenging the status quo of a practice. I think that’s really foxy.
Courtney: What about you, Rob? How do you think this will impact the profession long term? Again, first year, we have nearly 30 early career veterinarians coming to this program, potentially a handful more. This is a program that is going to continue to compound over the years. What could this program alone do for the profession?
Rob: Let me start with the– I think it was maybe the second question, the hospital experience, and we’ll weave that into how it shapes the profession. For me, I think one of the things that practices who are hosting a GO participant will notice right away is that not a lot changes in the initial month. Just onboard them like you normally would any other veterinarian.
It’s not like we’re jumping out of the gates and dropping a bunch of different stuff on you all at once. No, that’s not it. We’re trying to take the burden of mentorship, and growth, and development off of the practice leaders while still including them, and immersing them in that process. How do you do that? That’s a balance point. I think what you’re going to see initially is a sense of normalcy.
It’s just like bringing on any other veterinarian, but you’re also going to find that there’s this, because of the program the students are going through, we’re creating an environment that helps to, I think one, inject a sense of curiosity and energy into the practice, and because it’s this two-year program, it’s sustained over a period of years. I think practice leaders will have an opportunity where they can lean into asking some open-ended questions to the rest of their team that maybe a GO student brings up and say, “Hey, I noticed that we do this. What’s the reason behind why we have this process, or why we think about it doing it this way?” It’s not necessarily because they’re trying to fix anything, they’re trying to understand it.
They’re trying to understand your thought process, and how you grow and learn as a practice team. That’s just going to be a really awesome opportunity I think for really robust, meaningful, highly engaged conversations to take place at the practice level that ultimately can drive innovation if you lean into it. Now, how does that impact the future of the profession long term?
Well, you get enough practices that are all engaged and energized by this idea of growth, and development, and looking for opportunity, and seeing the work of your life not as drudgery, but as a learning opportunity, as something that’s exciting, that you wake up to go to every day because you get that spark of dopamine and serotonin from all your community that you’re at at your practice.
I think we have a way in the future that we can re-energize the veterinary community, and I think inject a sense of optimism and hope back into the future of this profession, because my uncle is a veterinary practice owner, my wife’s a veterinarian, her aunt and uncle are both practice-owning veterinarians. It is really important that we keep, in my mind, ownership in the hands of veterinarians. I think the more people that lean into that and see the opportunities with it, the more of an optimistic future I think we’re all going to be able to see.
Cat: You said the word own a few times, and it’s even in our name, Graduation to Ownership. One of the biggest threads of this, we hear the word ownership, and we think you own the building, you own the practice, it’s your equipment, but another part of GO is about owning who you are, and giving yourself the freedom to say, “No, I am going to go do yoga today. No, I am going to GO get my finances in order.”
This program is really developing people so we’re mentally healthy, we’ve set great boundaries, and well-being is one of our Suveto pillars, and it’s something that we are unwavering in on our foundation of what supports us. It’s got, again, that disco ball of fun, and all sorts of angles. It’s ownership of our personal and professional lives.
Rob: You’ll see all those pillars woven into the curriculum every single month in every single case study.
Courtney: Again, you said GO has ownership in its name, Graduation to Ownership, so does Suveto. Suveto stands for Supporting Veterinary Ownership, and I see GO as just one of the many pathways to supporting that ownership endeavor. Whether it’s ownership of your professional journey, honoring your ownership aspirations, if that is independently, or within a more partnership model, or it’s also owning the choice to not be an owner at some point.
And acknowledge that through this exploration that you say, “What I thought I wanted, I may want something different. I have a new interest. I have a new entrepreneurial energy,” that it doesn’t have to be so linear, or so A to B in your choices, and that’s what I think is so exciting about the future of this profession. I’ve been in this industry for many years, and I’ve seen the evolution of how practices transitioned ownership 15 years ago, how they transitioned ownership 10 years ago, and I actually think that this is a moment that we’re lighting a little stick of dynamite, and they’re like, what is currently happening in the profession to say there could be something totally different, and this is your place to explore it.
In fact, that’s what we celebrate and honor here at Suveto, and I think that may also trickle into our hospitals that I know as a team we’re talking about some of these case studies, and some of the learning, and the peer community. We are finding ways that that will show up for veterinarians within our Suveto community currently, because it’s not just isolated to new grads. I think this program is going to be a little stick of dynamite within both Suveto practices, and the entirety of the profession.
Cat: Love it.
Rob: An exciting catalyst.
Courtney: I will ask the both of you this. First of all, Cat, I’ve known you for many years and I think you’re truly one of the coolest practice owners I know. The ways that you’ve challenged the status quo, as you’ve said, and embraced culture, and creativity, and excellence within the walls of University Veterinary Hospital in Shreveport, as an owner, what is your hope for GO participants two years from now? If you could have been a part of this program through all the trials and tribulation, and blood, sweat and tears of your ownership journey, if you could say, “You know what, I hope in the end of this you realize this,” what would that be?
Cat: That there are other people out there like you. I felt isolated. I had my spouse, but there was nobody else who wanted to be cool, have a cool logo, do benefits for your staff, raise your prices so your employees have health benefits. We just did not feel that we could look into the veterinary industry for support of what we were trying to build, and I didn’t have classmates that were wanting to do the same things. To know that there is a group that’s with me, that, hey, I can talk about the flea life cycle to. I can also talk to them about, “Hey, how are you with your P&L understanding? Are you setting agendas? How often are you meeting with the practice manager?” All of those types of things, inventory, pars, and that we’re still working together, and that what works for them may work for me. Just that collaboration, that community, that’s I think one of the neatest things.
I would go to a meeting that I would’ve selected through an online program like HR Bootcamp, drive over to Dallas, and I would meet 10 people, and then we would scatter again. Maybe exchange a number here and there, but they might be in their 30-year difference in their practice. It’s neat that all of our participants are just at the beginning of their journey, and they’re nothing but supported. I think that’s what I’m super excited about.
Courtney: Very exciting. Rob, I ask you this question with a slight twist, that you are by far one of the most entrepreneurial creative, open-minded individuals that I’ve ever met. I’ve learned so much from you, and in your journey of allowing for this ebb and flow of entrepreneurialism, and understanding audiences, and value propositions, and how you teach that and create space for that. What do you hope that the GO participants leave with two years from now that maybe you didn’t have the space to learn in your early years?
Rob: That’s super. To me, when I think about what I hope they walk away with, I don’t know if hope is the right word, because there’s certain things that we’re planning for that they walk away with that I know that they’re going to walk away with. They’re going to walk away with more confidence, they’re going to walk away with more competence. They’re going to be excited for an opportunity to dig into an ownership role. The thing that I guess I’m hopeful for is that they– let me take a step back.
I think there’s two big issues that are facing the broader veterinary profession that are reflective of two similar issues that the individual veterinarian probably struggles with, which is the issue of wellbeing, figuring out how to have a sustainable long-term career as a veterinarian where you can be well and healthy, and the other piece is keeping up with the pace of change, because we know the future they’re going into is characterized by rapid change, frequent disruption.
It’s volatile, it’s uncertain, it’s complex, it’s ambiguous, and that’s scary. There’s a lot of unknowns, but my hope is that by the end of this program, students have not only gotten competent and confident in taking on an ownership opportunity, but that those two things of like, “I don’t know how to be healthy and well as a veterinarian, and I don’t know how to keep up with the pace of change,” aren’t something they worry about anymore, because they know how to step into that, and they know how to lead in that space. To me that’s what I’m really hopeful for.
Courtney: As we wrap up here, I will ask you both, you have been in the shoes of our third, fourth year students, early career veterinarians, you’ve made choices for yourself as to what is next for you, and within Suveto, we use the phrase, Let’s Vet What’s Next. Again, enter in the little drum sound, but what is your piece of advice for those that are choosing what’s next for them? Deciding, “What is my first job out of school? Do I want to look into the GO program?” What is your piece of advice as far as vetting what’s next, and really exploring what that first leap will be outside the walls of school?
Cat: Rob’s shaking.
Courtney: Rob wants to take it home, Cat.
Cat: Oh, I’m going to have trouble putting this one into words. You might have to pause and come back.
Rob: Let me take a stab. Courtney and I were talking on an earlier call today around how sometimes the journey in business is not linear. It’s not this smooth arc. It might look like it from the outside in, but ask any business owner, and they’ll tell you that the journey is up and down, and sideways, and backwards, and up, in circles.
Cat: Sometimes it’s not moving at all.
Rob: Sometimes it doesn’t move anywhere.
Cat: There is no gas.
Rob: I think there’s a certain amount of patience that if I could go back to my younger self and tell them to lean into that a little bit more, it’s probably that. I’m more patient than my dad was, and he’s more patient than my grandfather was, but still patience rings out as an important variable here, and the reason why I think that’s also important is that I hope the veterinary students that are looking about what’s next is that they don’t get too hung up on that next step being the absolute perfect next step. If it’s one step to the forward and to the side, don’t get frustrated that it’s not perfectly straightforward.
You’re not going to get to your end goal in 100% perfect efficiency, but you can take each step with a little bit closer direction toward that end goal. It might be to the side, it might be to the right, the left, up and down, but you’re still moving just a little bit forward toward that end goal. What is next? You may never know, but you can probably feel that you’re a little bit closer, and a little bit closer, and a little bit closer. I hope the vet students that are out there find a problem that is so big that they have to wrestle with it, and struggle with it for their entire career, and keep taking that step a little bit closer.
Courtney: That could be dramatically different than what the last four years of your life have been. It’s been extremely linear. One year, year two, year three, what do I do in these years to propel myself forward to this end goal of graduation, and I’m a veterinarian? But what happens after that? Any person in their professional life will tell you that you can’t even anticipate the movement it will take to get wherever you are today, and a wonderful piece of advice, Rob.
Cat: It’s a moment of– I’m a goal setter. I write things down. I give myself little deadlines, and I had a great, an amazing, he still is, mentor through veterinary school, who made us write them down, and we got ’em a year or so later, and it really is important as silly it is, put pen to paper. It’s old school. There’s something cathartic about it, and maybe not put that deadline. There’s a very interesting teeter-totter when it comes to medicine.
We are taught big words, and we had to say all these big words in school, and we had to pass the NAVLE, and then all of a sudden you’re going to get in a practice, and you’re going to have to learn to not say the big words to the client because they don’t understand that, or it sounds pompous. Now, all of a sudden, you have to purge information, but not too much information, and it is a little linear in your day in and day out interactions as a veterinarian because your end goal is to improve the lives of those pets and their owners.
Sometimes it’s by practicing amazing medicine and giving them the right prescription so they do feel better, and sometimes it’s just having open conversations because the animal, we’ve run out of options for quality of life. That’s a conversation too. You will make mistakes. I hope everyone makes mistakes as they become a leader, because that’s the only way you get your internal ethical judgment of boundaries. It is very different practicing medicine. There are true ethics of right and wrong. When it comes to management, and leadership, and growth as a human, there’s some awkward rubber band stages where you stretch yourself really thin, you communicate with someone, you talk to somebody, you get a cohort, you get a mentor back involved.
Then you’re like, “Yes, I’m going to keep stretching. I am challenging the status, and this feels good,” or, “No, I don’t like that feeling.” Having those goals written down are really, really beneficial to let you know, where are you in your lane. I’m a big proponent of, “You did it, you’re graduating.” Celebrate that, and then begin to say, “Okay, in two years where I want to be, don’t do the six months and six months and breathe.” Make mistakes. Not medical mistakes, but management, and not too many, we’ll help you there.
Courtney: Oh, this was fun friends, thank you so much for-
Rob: Thank you.
Courtney: -joining, and for talking about this program that clearly we’re all very passionate and excited about. We hope we shared a little bit of that with you today, friends. Thanks so much for joining us, and we’ll talk again soon.
Cat: 100%. Let’s GO! Let’s GO! Bye guys.