Surviving Radical Vet Industry Changes

In each episode you’ll hear from host Mary Schwartz and passion driven individuals on their ideas, best practices and stories on surviving radical vet industry changes. We will provide you with actionable tips on adopting a CareFirst Approach.

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Recruiting Quality Veterinary Talent and Keeping a Healthy Team with Andrew Luna and Rebecca Rose

Hiring the right veterinary talent is a unique challenge, and a common struggle for veterinary practices is not only finding an amazing candidate with the proper skills needed to put care first, but also someone who fits in with your team dynamics. If you own or manage a veterinary practice, you may have questioned how to attract qualified candidates while competing with other practices. How can a clinic show their value, mission, and purpose in the hiring process amidst the hiring crisis taking place in today’s market?

In this episode, you’ll hear from Andrew Luna, founder and CEO of Hound, as well as Rebecca Rose, Outreach Specialist for Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice. Along with your host, Mary Schwartz, they’ll discuss practical solutions to set veterinary leaders up for long-term success and find your dream candidate.

Also, in honor of Pet Insurance Month, we welcome special guest Melissa Gutierez of PetsBest Insurance to give some insight in how to talk to your clients about pet health insurance.

Check out the PetDesk, in collaboration with Pets Best and CareCredit, The Cost of Pet Ownership and How to Prepare September 2022 Content Pack!

Subscribe to this podcast today to never miss an episode, and share with your veterinary colleagues!

Mary Schwartz: Welcome back to Simple, Interrupted, a podcast about radical veterinary change! I’m your host Mary Schwartz and this is episode 2. On today’s show, we welcome veterinary recruiting pros Andrew Luna, CEO of Hound and Rebecca Rose, RVT. We’ll be talking about attracting the best talent, improving clinic onboarding, how to keep your entire staff happy, and more! But before we get started, we’ve got special guest and pet insurance pro, Melissa Gutierrez from Pets Best to offer some tips on helping your clients adopt pet insurance in support of National Pet Health Insurance month.

Mary Schwartz:
Hey Melissa, I'm so happy to have you with us today to share some pro tips to help clinics get pet parents to understand and adopt pet insurance.

Melissa Gutierrez:
Hi Mary, really happy to be here with you.

Mary Schwartz:
Great. Well, share your wealth of knowledge with us. I know we're all excited to hear it.

Melissa Gutierrez:
Sure. I'll start by saying I have a long history in insurance. I've been in insurance for going on about 35 years, and in many ways I have found the time that I've spent with pet insurance to be, I think, the most rewarding. There's lots of reasons for that, but I would say in the US pet insurance is still an emerging industry. About two and a half percent of pets in the United States are insured, and there are many reasons for that but what we have begun to see, even before the pandemic but it was really accelerated by the pandemic, was a lot more pet adoptions, a lot more people really thinking of their pets as a member of the family, and so along with that we've seen a real increase in the cost of care. The good news is that there are many, many options available for pet care and to keep your pets healthy and to extend their lives, as the audience certainly understands.

Melissa Gutierrez:
At the same time, there are costs that go with that, and it is certainly, especially in times of inflation I think, the costs and the increasing cost of care become a challenge for many families. Pet insurance is an optional product. It's not how we think about insurance like we do auto insurance, which we all have to have because it's a liability, but pet health insurance is an optional product and it's pretty simple the way it works. Essentially it's for the most part a reimbursement model, so the pet parent will go to the veterinarian, have the procedure, pay for the procedure, and then typically is going to submit the receipts to the insurance company for reimbursement.

Mary Schwartz:
Okay. What would you say is the number one factor holding pet parents back from adopting insurance?

Melissa Gutierrez:
I think many people don't actually know it's available. It is amazing how often people will say, "I didn't even know I could get pet health insurance for my pet." There are really three types of insurance primarily for pets. One is accident only, and that is typically very, very affordable, but that's going to provide coverage, not for sicknesses, but more for accidents, and you can think of common accidents.

Melissa Gutierrez:
Then there is accident and sickness insurance, which is going to be a broader coverage and is going to provide protection for both, and then there are actually wellness plans, which are more preventative, for vaccinations and well visits and that kind of thing, and those plans come in different combinations, but I would say largely most people just are not aware that that type of coverage is available, so I think vets can play a very big role in helping pet parents know that the products exist.

Melissa Gutierrez:
Many veterinarians we talk to don't want to endorse a particular insurance, which we completely understand, but I think there are many opportunities to have the conversation when you're doing a new pet onboarding, for example, when the pet parent is checking in for a visit, when there are treatment options being presented, or even just having brochures in the lobby.

Mary Schwartz:
Sure. Absolutely. Getting pet parents to be aware that it's an option before they actually need it.

Melissa Gutierrez:
Yes.

Mary Schwartz:
Obviously clinics can do some things to make pet parents aware, but where can clinics guide pet parents to actually learn more or get more information on how to utilize insurance, because I know myself from being practicing in clinic that often you get questions like, "Well, what's the deductible?" or, "How much is it per month?" or things like that, which at clinic you have no way to know that, especially if you don't know which provider's the pet parent's looking for.

Melissa Gutierrez:
Yes, yes. Oh, it's a great question. I think one of the really terrific things about pet insurance and about access to information is this is largely a digital purchase. Most people find out about pet insurance online. Most great resources, there's many great resources, PetDesk being one resource, many marketplaces and information hubs that are available digitally, and so the nice part about it is there's a lot of content out on the web and a lot of resources that can help people get educated about what is available to them and a lot of quoting tools that would help them understand options that are within their price range.

Mary Schwartz:
Perfect. So ideally we get pet parents to understand what insurance is and how it can benefit them, let them do their own research and figure out what kind of insurance works best for them, but absolutely encourage them to also couple that insurance with something like wellness plans so that they can be covered not only for the day-to-day, but also for the unexpected.

Melissa Gutierrez:
Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. And we are really passionate about making pet insurance available to the people who need it the most. I think this is one of those situations where there are people who will choose to self-insure, but it's really important to have affordable health plans, pet health plans out there, and I can say there are many good options to choose from that are very, very affordable.

Mary Schwartz:
Perfect. Well, is there anything else that you feel that pet parents or that clinics should know about pet insurance before we are done chatting here today?

Melissa Gutierrez:
Your audience may know this, but I'm still blown away by it so I'll share it, and that is in 2021 we know that over $124 billion was spent on pets in the US, and we also know that about almost $35 billion was spent on vet care, and I think the biggest one of all is that over 70% of US households own a pet, so we've seen tremendous growth in the pet insurance industry. We expect it to continue growing, and I think the magic is that the best time to purchase this insurance is when the pets are young and healthy. That way we don't have to worry about preexisting conditions or sicknesses, things that come on that would not be covered. Once your pet's already sick, that's not the best time to buy insurance. You want to have the insurance before they're sick. So to me, that's the really important piece.

Mary Schwartz:
Exactly. So getting those puppies when they walk in the door at eight weeks old and getting them on insurance day one is the best value for the pet parent in order-

Melissa Gutierrez:
Yes.

Mary Schwartz:
... to keep that pet healthy.

Melissa Gutierrez:
Absolutely.

Mary Schwartz:
Great. Well, thank you so much, Melissa. I really appreciate your time.

Melissa Gutierrez:
Thank you, Mary. Very nice talking with you.

Mary Schwartz:
You as well.

Mary Schwartz: I’d like to thank Melissa of Pets Best for joining us to discuss Pet Insurance Month. If you want to learn more, be sure to check out the resources linked in the show notes.

So in honor of Pet Insurance Month, PetDesk has created some resources to help veterinary clinics talk to pet parents about insurance. Find these resources in the show notes.

Now we’ll be joined by veterinary recruiting pros Andrew Luna, CEO of Hound and Rebecca Rose, RVT. They’ll share tips about attracting the best talent, improving clinic onboarding, keeping your entire staff happy, and more.

Mary Schwartz: Welcome, Andrew and Rebecca. It's great to have you today. Why don't you tell us a little bit about yourselves and what you've been up to lately?

Andrew Luna Well, thanks for having us, Mary, super excited to be here with you and PetDesk. I'm Andrew, I'm the founder and CEO of hound. We're building the future of work veterinary medicine. I've worked in this industry for over a decade, and I'm very excited to be building technology to support the people who work in this profession.

Rebecca Rose Thank you for having me as well, I'm a veterinary technician. I've been in the veterinary community for 35 years as a credentialed technician. That's a long time. Thank you.

Mary Schwartz Amazing.

Rebecca Rose Within that period of time, I've done nearly everything there is to do as a credentialed technician to include writing the book on Career Choices. I've managed practices, I've been an industry partner. I've seriously done everything there is. I love my career and I'm so happy to have a discussion on how to keep our teams together healthier longer, and what we can do as practice owners and managers to make that happen.

Mary Schwartz Yeah, absolutely. I am really excited for the perspective you guys are going to bring to today's discussion and focusing on primarily recruiting, advertising yourself, and keeping your current employees and new employees happy, onboarding them appropriately and all that good stuff. Let's dive right in with the hard question, how do you attract qualified applicants to your clinic? These can be DVMs or credentialed technicians, even front desk staff have to be qualified these days with the amount of stress they're under. So, in a market that's not an employer's market, how do you do that?

Andrew Luna Rebecca, I went first last time. Do you want to kick off or should I go? Awesome. Awesome. Well, yeah. In today's market, it is definitely the talent market. It's no longer an employer's market on the supply and demand. We don't have enough supply, enough talent for all the jobs needed to be done within this industry. It makes it pretty hard as a recruiter, as a independent practice, to find talent for your practices. I think what this industry's been quite used to doing is passively posting jobs and waiting for people to apply to those jobs. AVMA released a statement that said that 66% of their jobs receive zero applications and another 28% only receive one or two. So, the old model is simply not working, it's broken. And it quite frankly will probably never go back to the old days where you can simply post jobs on Indeed or other platforms and let people come to you.

In sales or marketing, if your inbound funnel is slim to none, you don't sit and wait, what you do is you outbound. This is called active recruiting. On top of having people outbounding and sourcing candidates actively for your practices, it's also very important to make sure that they're recruiting into facilities that are going to make sure that these employees are satisfied and engaged. You cannot out-recruit poor culture. So, it's very important to make sure that there's a focus on the entire employee journey.

Rebecca Rose I'm going to second the piece about poor culture. When you have a team that loves doing what they do and doing it together, man, expand upon that, really latch on to that synergy and the passion that they have for being a team, knowing their purpose, understanding the vision of that practice and where they want to go, and knowing that that team is actually going to be some of your best recruiting.

I currently work with a team that I love to be on and I'm out there doing reviews. I'm out there just touting the onboarding. I'm out there touting how wonderful it is to work with my team. When that is occurring and it's happening organically from within your practice, that's when those team members are going to be checking out your announcements.

But also making those announcements, we might be talking about this in the future, but stand out. It's not about, "We have the technology. We have the team. We've got the location." No, it's about, "We want you to grow within our practice. When you step into our practice, we're going to have this fantastic culture and we're going to continue to help support you with proper onboarding." I might be getting ahead of myself, but really it's not about you and your practice. It's about how is that team member going to thrive within your practice?

Mary Schwartz Yeah. Shifting the focus from employer benefit to the team benefit. So, how can a manager hiring team and the team at the clinic show their value, their mission, their purpose, not just throughout the job ad, but throughout the whole hiring process?

Andrew Luna So, there's something called the moment of arrival. The moment of arrival is a piece of the entire employee journey. It's pretty significant. If you just take a step out of vet med and look at any moment of arrival, you show up at a hotel, you always have a really great experience, they're very welcoming. You feel like you belong there. So, whenever you look at onboarding in veterinary practices, one very important thing is making sure that the new team members feel very welcomed and accepted into this new practice.

You can do this in many ways through recognition, through announcing this new employee, through celebrating them with a welcome pack or gift, maybe a signed card from the entire team. Just making sure that this moment of arrival is very, very important and powerful in making them feel secure in this new job. From there, I think it's also very important to have a detailed and outlined onboarding process. You can't wing it. So you have to make sure that this is maybe a checklist that includes everything that this new hire needs to go through in terms of onboarding documents or gifts, or what are the first training steps that they need to have completed as they join the team. I think having that detailed process with a huge focus on that moment of arrival is really, really powerful during that onboarding experience.

Rebecca Rose Absolutely. I'm thinking again about how, in the past, I've had my own business. I was my own boss for 14 years. I had a consulting group and coaching group and we'd go into veterinary hospitals and help with these announcements and onboarding and training and all of that. I loved it. Then when COVID hit, I was like, "I think I'm ready to be an employee again," which was a big, big, big jump and leap of faith. When you're your own boss for 14 years, you're considering, "Gosh, am I going to be a good employee or not?" Thankfully, I am.

But I also looked at it from the standpoint of who am I and what do I bring to the table? Then, what was that onboarding experience? So knowing that I had and coached and supported other teams in creating onboarding, when I was onboarded at Lap of Love, my current employer, did a fabulous job. To Andrew's point, I was well received, we had a specific onboarding track and this is all virtually, too. I met everybody in the department. It was a week-long training session on their vision, their values, who they are, where they want to go.

But onboarding and training doesn't happen in just one week or six weeks. It's a process. Especially if you're on a growing team, what does that continual morphine and onboarding look like? It's not just a one and done, but I would even have to ask of those in viewing or listening to this podcast, do you even have an onboarding system, even have training in place? Because if you don't, that's a big red flag for anybody that you are interviewing. The fact of the matter is if they don't ask you for onboarding as an interviewee or training, that's a red flag, too. Pretty much, pretty much.

Mary Schwartz Yeah. This is a key component to keeping employees is making sure they're properly trained and feel confident in their job. Yeah. Andrew, I want to go back a little bit to that moment of arrival. Of course, we just talked about it in terms of when that employee's hired, first day at the practice and what that looks like. How could we create something similar to that in the actual interviewing process? How can we do something to make that employee feel like this could be a great fit for them before they even hit it off?

Andrew Luna That's a great question. I skipped it in the intro, but I've worked in vet med for a long time. Part of that included being a tech at emergency hospital. It also included managing a group of veterinary clinics before eventually exiting to a consolidator.

In that time, I hired and managed well over a hundred people, lots of fun, also lots of stress and lots of work to build that group of hospitals up. One thing that we always made sure to do whenever we were interviewing people, the first thing we do is we bring them into the clinic and just to break the ice, give them a tour of the place. So, the first thing we do is just walk them through the entire Hospital. They start in the lobby, see what that experience is like for the customers and interact with the reception team. Maybe go into an exam room, show them where they'd be working in the exam rooms, show them the treatment area, surgery, break room, hopefully have a nice break room for the staff members. You got good parking, whatever it might be. Just show them where they're going to be spending majority of their time every single week.

We go through that, let them see some of the team members have some of those interactions. It's also important and helpful that whenever you are having people come into the facility, you let your team know. Maybe tell them a little bit about this candidate who's coming in, so that they're not met with, "Why are you here? Who are you?" It should be a pleasant, welcoming environment for them to have that experience during the interview process. That as you are going through the interview, we all know, we've all done. Interviews are weird, they can be clunky, there's nerves or anxious. What I always really like to do is just to make them feel comfortable, just start out with origin stories and understand who they are as a person. We are far more than our job titles and the work that we do every single day.

It's really important to help that person feel like, "Hey, in this moment, I see you as a person, we're here to have a conversation. Hopefully it's a good one and we give you a job. But if not, I'm glad I met you and super excited to have done so." Those are some of the things that I would always do when we would bring people in for interviews. Just make them feel very, very at home and comfortable.

If you want to go the extra mile. I mean, we had cold brew on tap. We had beer in our lobbies and we would allow the interviewees to come in and have maybe food or a drink with us. So, it's entirely up to you on how you build that experience. Experience design is very important and if you're getting serious about finding ways to improve that employee experience from end to end, recruiting and retention, it does start here at that moment of arrival and yeah, Mary, you're definitely right. That does also happen simply coming into the clinic for interview.

Mary Schwartz I love that you guys broke bread with your candidates. It's kind of a good bonding moment, right?

Andrew Luna Yeah. Definitely. I think it just helps get rid of those nerves. Whenever you get rid of that, you see the real person. Instead of this fumbly, nervous, stressed out interviewee.

Mary Schwartz Absolutely. That's such a hard thing to weed through, too, when you're interviewing not only from the candidate side, but from the employer side, it's like a new relationship, a first blind date, you just don't know who that person is yet and how you can break those walls down and figure that out within an hour or two hours is always so important. How can a manager speak with a candidate and see how they're going to align with the clinic's current vision and goals? Because of course you're putting on your best face at an interview, always. So, what are some key things that a manager should be looking for in that case?

Rebecca Rose Well, I think even coming back to do you as a manager and your team share similar values, similar vision? Is it defined? And even that mission on what we do together as a daily pump up, how we show up? How we treat each other as professionals? And be able to really articulate that from the get-go, knowing that that truly is where they're going to be for that time in their career.

Oftentimes I ask veterinary teams about what is your mission? They don't know it. So, even as a practice manager, being able to consistently convey that, "These are our values, what do you value? How does this meld with your idea of career advancement and the values that you are bringing to the table?" I think values and even those interpersonal soft skills, which we often try to hire for, it's very difficult to articulate what those are.

So, yes, we want someone that's going to show up on time, that has the drive, is committed. But when I ask practice managers typically about those interpersonal soft skills, "How are you going to hire for them? What do they look like?" It's difficult to articulate. So, when you do want somebody who's communicative, is a problem solver, does team building activities. If you talk about team building activities and they start to roll your eyes, that might not be the best fit for you.

But being really clear is to walking into that conversation as a practice manager, our values, the things that we do want from our team members, the way we do treat each others as professionals, how do you treat yourself as a professional? Showing up on time, strong work ethic, community based, just let it flow. And to Andrew's point, too, being relaxed. So, even for you as the practice manager or the person that's doing that interview, being relaxed yourself and helping that mood be settled, because we know interviewees are nervous and we want to break that nerves and help them feel relaxed and embraced.

Mary Schwartz So, we've gotten to the point where we're in the interview, but before we can even get to the interview, we're looking at resumes, we're figuring out maybe the resume can exhibit some soft skills, always good to be able to find ways to exemplify those in your resume. What kinds of things should a manager be looking for even getting to the point where they're going to set the interview? What makes a good resume from the manager standpoint and also from the candidate standpoint? How can they craft an eye-catching resume without hitting Canva too hard?

Andrew Luna Well, I'll start by saying something that would kind of go against the general convention, which is that I hate the resume. I think the resume's outdated. It was intended to be printed out and handed out. You walk into a town center, walk into these small businesses and hand them your resume. So, there's been really no innovation in a resume for, I don't know, a hundred-plus years. So it's interesting to me that this is still the model that we're all going through. We're expecting for candidates to be able to, you're a veterinary technician or a DVM, are you good at, you mentioned Canva, are you good at any of the other design technologies? Probably not.

If you use the other platforms, for example, Indeed, whenever they go and build their resume on there, it comes through all wonky. The format doesn't look nice for the employer. This experience is quite poor also for the recruiting manager or for the recruiters. So, for me, I hope that some point the industry can move away from this outdated resume and move to something more modern, like a profile with matching algorithms and so on.

We're working towards something like that. But for now, the masses still adopt a resume. So, in order to stand out, I mean, Mary, you mentioned it, Canva's a really great resource. You can have almost no design skills whatsoever. Go on Canva.com, they have free templates for building a resume. So, really, really great solution there if you're looking to have something that really stands out.

I think it's also important that in that resume, you do a couple of things to showcase your skills, both hard and soft skills, but then also showcase the deliverables, the results, the things that you did at those practices. We all know what a veterinarian can baseline do. What a veterinary technician or receptionist baseline does, day to day in a clinic. But it's important to highlight some of the big wins in each of those roles. Did you implement some protocol? Did you put in place some kind of internal employee review solution within the practice? I think it's important to highlight those big wins in the resume and not just list, for example, soft tissue surgery and exam room management and all this stuff. Because I mean, yeah, you're a vet, you're a tech, you're a receptionist, we know what you typically do.

Rebecca Rose I'm going to echo Andrew's piece about their resume. When I was managing veterinary teams and hiring, I still put a lot of faith and I wanted to see a well-created, well-crafted cover letter, which you can still do in Canva and other places as well. Bring that creativity, let it flow. You had asked too, Mary, about how can a hiree, someone who is filling out their information on Indeed or somewhere along those lines, how can I stand out? Well, tell me a story, as a manager, I want to, as to Andrew's point, tell me what you've accomplished. That's not so much easily done in the resume. Tell me who you are. Tell me what you believe. Give me some information about where you want to go, what you dream of doing, how you see yourself fitting within this practice, how this hits on all of the cylinders.

Maybe it's team utilization, maybe they are community oriented, maybe there's something in the mission value statement that really resonates with them. Bring that to light. I want to hire people that have goals, that have opinions, that have ideas and that are those creative entities and people that I want to bring on to my team.

Mary Schwartz I would love to dive a little bit more into the creative side of this with both of you. Obviously, we can't ditch the resume model quite yet. It's what most employers expect. But, Rebecca, you mentioned having a really engaging cover letter, telling your story, talking about your own personal mission and goals in life, really important to show your personality to an employer. What else can candidates do? Anything from LinkedIn to different methods of presenting a resume besides the traditional, in a fantasy state maybe?

Rebecca Rose I'll hop on that one, because I do believe all veterinary professionals need to, should have, can create LinkedIn profiles. That could even be a part of, as we know, the electronic connection. Even within all the things that I do, I drive people to my LinkedIn profile, which is beautiful and colorful and creative and drives my passion for what I do within the profession. Within that cover letter, if that's a requirement, I would definitely say, "And learn more about me from my LinkedIn," and drive them to my LinkedIn. Or even maybe you've written reviews for other places that you've worked for. This sounds a little counterintuitive, but the best time to be looking for a job is when you're growing within one job. You don't wait until you're totally burnt out to a crisp, fried, to find that next job. I know that sounds really difficult for people to understand, but you just want to keep elevating and growing and grasping and elevating where you're going within your career.

Andrew Luna I'd also add there several platforms built specifically for veterinary workers to join, hound is one of them, we're a newer company. On that platform, sorry for the plug, on our platform and others, it actually is kind of going away from the applicant model and more into a recruiting model. For example, on one of these platforms, you can build a profile, showcase yourself, like Rebecca is saying, list something about you, tell your little story, give a little blurb, list your skills and so on. This technically is what is replacing a resume. From there you have engagement and outreach from employers.

That can be an independent practice. It can be a consolidator group. It can be a consulting group, for example, that is trying to help practices fill their needs in terms of staffing. I think being visible on those platforms is really powerful. It also, quite honestly, in today's market, is great for talent or for job seekers, because there is so much demand from the employer side that, I mean, I've even heard from some people that they're getting recruited too much. They have too much opportunity, too many job opportunities that are coming to them. Quite frankly, I do think that that is the new normal.

I think that the new normal will not be people having to waste tons and tons and tons of time putting together applications and changing or formatting a cover letter or resume to match the employer that they're trying to get a job with. That used to be a thing. So the standard thought was, let's mirror your resume and cover letter to the job to which you're applying to. That's a ton of work. I mean, you can talk about hours and hours and hours of work that's going into this for candidates.

That no longer is absolutely necessary in today's market, where there's so much demand for workers. The workers do have a really great starting place. I think for a long time in vet med, we've had this experience where the candidates, the workers didn't feel respected, didn't feel paid enough, felt like they were getting the short end of the stick. I'm very happy to see that this industry is waking up to the needs of our people and starting to innovate in terms of how are we recruiting people? How are we showing them that we're going to do better for them? It even goes, if you just look at the traditional job ad, it's usually paragraphs and paragraphs and paragraphs about what we need you to do for us. And sometimes nothing about what the practice will do for you. That's backwards, it's broken, it's not right. And it is changing, which is great to see.

So, I would say that all these things are great to discuss, and it's good to have a resume. You should definitely have one in your back pocket ready to go. But I think that from here and moving forward, we are seeing shifts and changes in the industry where what's been done before is not always going to be the same. Employers are having to be more creative and innovative in the ways that they are accessing their talent, whether that be from employee referrals internally, or from having engagement externally, outbounding, maybe it's having social media presence, using ambassadors. There's so many things that you can do as an employer to really stand out. Instead of this mundane repeat, repeat process that candidates have experience in the past. You now get to stand out as an employer that's bringing opportunities to them, that's bringing experience to them. I could talk forever about experience design, but Mary might have some other questions before I talk about those things.

Rebecca Rose But Andrew, you brought up a great point. That announcement that says your skills as a credentialed veterinary technician will be levied in leadership. And we are looking for a credentialed technician that also has skillsets in dentistry or a passion in education. Looking at not just a blanket job description, we want a credentialed veterinary technician. Yay. Who doesn't, right? But saying, "We're looking for somebody that's really passionate about client education. If your skillsets are in educating clients and educating team members, man, you are the person for us. If your passion lies in dental procedures and dental education and helping the client understand dental care, then your skills are going to be levied to the max for us here. We want you." But really defining who it is you need and want on your team, where is that gap? And then hiring for that leadership, education, client engagement.

Right now, gosh, if there was a position that opened up that says, "We want a veterinary technician to write blogs geared towards clients." Man, I'd be, "Yeah, that's me. I want to do that." And, "We want a veterinary technician that can spend a lot of time with our clients in the exam room or in that consultation room." I'm like, "Yeah, that's me." But digging a little deeper into who it is you want and being really clear about who that is and how are you going to continue to elevate that passion within that practice.

Andrew Luna Any of the employers listening, it sounds like we had a CVT here who's on the market. No.

Rebecca Rose I'm actually very happy with what I'm doing. I'm doing end of life care with Lap of Love. And this is very much, it sounds like a very sad thing to be doing, but I love what I do. And after 35 years in veterinary medicine, end of life care just is a very good fit for me right now. However, in my past, I've done a lot within veterinary communities. So, I know what drives some people, but ask your team members even, of your close contacts, what are they looking to do? How do they want to transform and be inspired within their team? Then create it. Mary, are we going to talk about how working with veterinary technician programs and technician assistant programs, or maybe even the veterinary communities, how building relationships with those organizations are important?

Mary Schwartz I was actually just about to bring that up, Rebecca. Great minds think alike. I was going to mention, to Andrew's point earlier, of reaching to employees sooner in their journey. That's what we see a lot of corporate consolidators doing, right? They're reaching out to first year vet students. They have advocates for their company starting in the first year of vet school. They're starting to do the same with veterinary technology schools as well. So, independent, of course, we see a lot of independent clinics that are really frustrated by the hiring process and finding it very, very hard to get staff. But there's nothing that says that they can't do the same thing, right?

Andrew Luna Absolutely. At the clinics that we managed in Austin, actually, we had a relationship with the vet tech program in town and we regularly had students come to our facilities and then eventually hired them. We also even ran a program for veterinary students, usually third or fourth year students, and built a pipeline where they could come to the clinic over summers, for example, and work with us. Then after graduation, we already have a relationship, we know that they understand our practice and culture and they really love what we're doing and then they would join. We hire them. So, I think that, yeah, there's definitely creative ways, like Rebecca was mentioning, in building these strong relationships with the student body and student organizations. There's no reason not to do it, especially if, for example, every vet is an alum from somewhere. Tap into that school network. We actually did that quite a lot at the practices that we managed and hired some alum from the colleges that our veterinarians previously went to school at. I think it's a great opportunity to fill that talent pipeline.

Rebecca Rose When I'm working with teams or even managers, helping them see you or other team members are great guest speakers within those programs. So, if you have a veterinarian assistant or technician that is educating and that's one of their passions, why not become a guest speaker or offer a class or two within a technician program or the local technician assistant program. As a practice manager, why wouldn't you provide that as a career advancement opportunity for your team members and even for yourself as a practice manager. Speaking at those technician associations, speaking at the veterinary medical association, building up your credibility and exposure, building those relationships in the network within your local community, hugely valuable, hugely valuable.

Mary Schwartz Absolutely. I mean, The first thing that I tell any clinic I talk to that's looking for technicians in particular is that they just need to reach out to the school closest to them. After that, reach out to schools that are digital only, and get a list of students that are near them, that they can go ahead and reach out to even just offer internship opportunities, let them get their skills done at their clinic and start creating that bond early on.

In addition, certainly having clinics offer programs within their own hospital, allowing students or allowing veterinary assistants to go ahead and start going to school. That's a big wave coming with these consolidator clinics and as independent practices, that's something to look to, develop the talent you already have at your hospital into these higher career levels.

Rebecca Rose Develop the talent you already have, team retention, keeping a healthy team together longer. You're singing my song, sweetheart.

Mary Schwartz I love it. We got a little bit off track, but in such a good way. Going back to the interviewing process, what kind of questions are you asking in an interview? What are some great questions for practice managers out there to start asking in interviews that maybe they aren't asking right now?

Andrew Luna I think it's great to understand where their strengths lie. Understand, for example, in your day to day in your previous roles, where did you feel yourself most confident and most comfortable? Just have a baseline understanding of the skillset that these candidates do have. I think on the flip side of that, it's also very important to understand where they see opportunities to grow. That also helps immediately off the bat implement the growth mindset, helping them understand, "You don't have to be perfect. We want to help you grow. You can be vulnerable with us. What are some things that you hope that you could learn here and grow in the role?"

And it helps the employer as they're doing that interview understand, "Okay, this candidate feels really strong in phlebotomy and assisting in surgery, but they didn't have dental x-ray at the last clinic they were at. So, they really like to learn that." Gives you a really good understanding of the skillset that they do have and the skillset they'd like to grow into.

I think it's also important to ask them questions around, like Rebecca's been mentioning, what are some things that you really care about? These are our values, if the clinic has them, a lot of times, they don't have them defined. So, you should please do that veterinary clinics. But if they do have those values defined, it's helpful to see if there's alignment along those values. When you have value alignment within your employees and the employer, you see stronger staff retention and engagement, it's much, much, much more financially feasible to retain team members than to go and acquire new team members. Some of those questions again are just really focused on the hard skills of the employees, the things that they are very strong in and would like to grow into, and then also understanding them in terms of the core values that they do have as individuals.

Rebecca Rose There are lists that practice managers can search for that ask for different varied topics of questions. But I also recommend too that when you've created this unique job description for that unique individual that you're hiring for, continue to grow those conversations in that interview.

Let's say that we are hiring for that veterinary credentialed technician with leadership, but also with education and that likes to be teaching within the organization and maybe even the client education, those are some unique skills. How would you tailor your questions to really pull that out of that interviewee, continuing to elaborate on? Because if you're asking them something that they're passionate about, you should see it, feel it, and really be able to have great participation in that conversation.

Mary Schwartz Yeah. Have it be more of a conversation instead of a list of questions that you're asking. Awesome. A moment ago we talked about what consolidators are doing to get into vet schools and technician schools to grab candidates early in their career lifecycle. How can a regular smallish independent clinic compete with these consolidators that are offering base salaries of 200,000 to veterinarians that most small animal hospitals are not able to compete with or $40 to $50 an hour for a CVT. I want to be very clear here. I think that's absolutely what we should be paying these team members, but there's definitely a disconnect between those salaries and what smaller, independent hospitals are able and/or willing to offer. How can we close that gap and make that money not as important?

Andrew Luna I'll start with a disclaimer, just that 100% we should be paying veterinary professionals more and better in alignment with their true value. It's also seen and known across all verticals in industries that better compensation and retention of your teams leads to better business performance, better business top line and bottom line of your practice in this example.

So we have this misconception that, "Oh, I can't afford to pay my people better." You can't afford not to pay your people better. You end up spending much more money constantly having to recruit new people, train them, get them to a productive level, nine months down the line. It's actually much more financially feasible to actually pay your people better, incentivize them and keep them engaged. Disclaimer there for anyone listening, I definitely think that the people vet med deserve so much more and we're working really hard to make that happen.

Now, back to the original question, Mary, if you don't mind just kind of repeating it one more time. I know I sidetracked there. Would love to get back on it.

Mary Schwartz Yeah. Just the idea that you have consolidators offering significantly higher salaries than most independent clinics. I'm on the same page as you, Andrew, we need to close that gap. It shouldn't be that different between an independent hospital and a consolidator. But as it stands right now, how can independent clinics compete with those higher salaries?

Andrew Luna Yeah. I think that if you look at every single practice and the people working within those clinics, it truly is a community and these candidates are looking for fulfillment in their jobs. There might be a consolidator who's paying great. There might be a consolidator in an independent practice that are paying exactly the same for the role. The employment contract could look exactly the same. If that is true, then what is your differentiator? What allows for this clinic to compete? Obviously, there's some geographical influence. So, if there's a local talent pool, that's probably going to be a good bet.

But one thing that you're definitely going to be able to use as a differentiator is your culture. Is your culture healthy? Do you have great experience built into your practice and into your employment of these people? I think that that will need to be what the focus is on in veterinary medicine, as this market becomes more and more competitive is the experience within your practice.

What does that look like? Are you focused on culture? Do you say you're focused on it, but really don't have a clue? Do you know how your people are doing? Do you have analytics around that? Are you really taking care of the existing workforce that you do have? I do think that that is going to be a key differentiator for employers, even a local, smaller mom and pop practice, that might not be offering as much pay as a larger practice can offer, can still, at the end of the day, provide a better employment experience for an individual. We have to match the needs of all of these workers. Sometimes those workers, maybe they're not so focused on the finances. Maybe they're more focused on being very satisfied at the end of the day. They feel recognized, rewarded and fulfilled in their work.

Rebecca Rose Yes, I remember, oh, probably about a decade or so when culture became quite a little buzzword. I was asked by an article, by a magazine, "What comes first culture or morale?" And I was like, "Hmm, what an interesting question." I didn't know at the time, was like, "Hadn't really thought about it." Even though I'd been a credentialed technician for, at the time, probably 25 years. I learned through that research that what comes first is that culture. When I was doing my research, it's like, "Well, culture [inaudible 00:38:32], what is culture?"

What I learned is it's our traditions. When you have a strong culture, when you have strong traditions, when you have defined values, mission, and vision, and that is articulated, and that's where you live, that's where your team understands, "This is who we are when we show up every day and this is how we treat each other every day. These are our traditions." Your morale goes up. When your morale goes up, job satisfaction, career advancement, all of these things go up.

So, yes, Andrew, it is about culture and it is about those traditions. But how does a manager or a team define their traditions? Well, let's just think about it. Do you have potlucks periodically? Do you support each other in continuing education? Do you have training? Do you have team meetings? These are our traditions. That's your culture. Do you have fun? No, we don't show up and laugh at all. Well.

Andrew Luna No thanks.

Rebecca Rose No thanks. Do you have fun? Yes. And your team is jovial when you show up for that interview, that's a start. Does the team talk about the traditions? Does the team support and grow and continue to have career advancement? And do they talk about it liberally? "Yeah, I do enjoy working here," versus, "Don't talk to me. I can't tell you what I really feel."

Mary Schwartz Head down.

Rebecca Rose Mm-hmm.

Mary Schwartz Yeah. I think getting into that culture piece, it's so critically important that the entire team is involved. It shouldn't just be a directive from management and the ownership down to the team. It should be a collaborative experience because that's how you get the entire team to buy in and show that culture off to candidates you have coming in the door.

Andrew Luna Yeah, we're actually, at hound, incredibly passionate about culture. This is something that we're really working toward in the industry and being big proponents of. We put together the culture manifesto. We also put together the ultimate guide for awesome culture in veterinary medicine. And as we broke that down, we found it's purpose, safety, vulnerability, and growth that people are really looking for in their work. If you, as a practice, can really focus on these things, we did put together a guide that can be a free resource for you to get some ideas here.

But by successfully implementing this and improving culture, we find that highly engaged people, they do outperform their peers by nearly 1.5X or 150%, which is incredibly powerful. So, there is huge value in a business focusing on culture and the employee experience. I think that culture is the differentiator when it comes to employment. I think that employee experience and experience design is something that every veterinary employer really should be looking into today.

Mary Schwartz I think that is the perfect message to end this on. Is that culture is the defining experience. Is there anything that I haven't asked either of you today that you'd like to share with us?

Rebecca Rose Not so much an ask, I think for the managers themselves and the owners themselves, the question for them is, how do we become employer of choice? And then dissect it.

Mary Schwartz Yeah, I think that's a great question, for sure. Well, how can our listeners follow you for more information on, Rebecca, your work and, Andrew, your culture manifesto.

Andrew Luna You can find us at hound.vet. It's our website. In our blog, we have a really collaborative community blog. Where we've pulled together leaders, key opinion leaders, experts from across the industry to put together things around everything we talked about today, recruiting, retention, culture, engagement, and just taking care of the people of veterinary medicine. So you can find us at hound.vet. You can also find us on social media @hound.

Rebecca Rose That just sounds so official compared to what I have anymore. I would invite everybody to join me on my closed Facebook page. And everybody's like, "Oh my gosh, she still has a Facebook page?" Yeah and it's a great one. It's Veterinary Teams Living Well and that's what we talk about. We talk about all the things we just discussed from the manager's point of view, the team's point of view, I throw out all sorts of information on self-care, wellbeing. How do you make this a part of your day and how do you make this a part of your team's culture? Perfect segue. Then everybody can find me too on my LinkedIn, Rebecca Rose, CVT. I have a pretty active LinkedIn.

Mary Schwartz Perfect. Well, thank you both so much for your time today. It was a great conversation and I appreciate getting to chat with both of you.

Mary Schwartz: I’d like to thank Andrew, Rebecca and Melissa for being our guests on today’s episode, as well as you, our listeners. We appreciate your support and hope you’ll subscribe to our podcast, Simple, Interrupted, on your favorite podcast app and share it with your fellow veterinary colleagues.

This has been a co-production of Evergreen Podcasts and PetDesk. Learn more about PetDesk and how we’re helping clinics guide their clients to better care at PetDesk.com

A special thanks to the PetDesk team:

Judie Vegh, Jon-Mark Sabel, Kevin O'Leary, and Emily Buickerood Cournoyer

As well as our Evergreen Production Team:

Producers: Leah Haslage and Nijah Golliday and Audio Engineer: Gray Sienna Longfellow

I’m your host Mary Schwartz – thanks for listening.


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