In This Episode
The world is more connected than ever, but our current technologies allow us to talk at people more than talk to them. The subtleties of communication, hand gestures and facial expressions, get lost in translation.
This week on the Veterinary Innovation Podcast, Shawn and Ivan are joined by Catherine Haskins, co-founder of The Bridge Club, to chat about creating a video-focused community, as well as how quickly normalcy might return to the veterinary conference world after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Check out Ms. Haskins’ book, Nicknames.
Ms. Haskins recommends Work Like a Producer by Bonnie Curtis.
- Building a Video-Focused Community
- The Future of Conferences Post-COVID-19
- Expanding Towards Telemedicine
Shawn: You are listening to the Veterinary Innovation Podcast. My name is Shawn Wilkie and along with my awesome co-host we interview the innovators in the veterinary space every week. Ivan, why don’t you go ahead and get us started.
Ivan: Hi, I’m Ivan Zak, and I’m happy to introduce Catherine Haskins. We’re gonna talk about building a community of veterinarians. Catherine is a co-founder of the Bridge Club. She’s also a founder of the Haskins Consulting. She holds a bachelor’s degree in public relations and journalism from the University of Northern Iowa. She also authored a children’s book, “Nicknames”. And all the proceeds from that book go to the charity that rehabs the children’s playgrounds. We wanna start maybe, with, tell us a little bit about a little book that you wrote?
Catherine: So I wrote a book called “Nicknames”, and it was for my young daughter when she was very very young. And what we found is that all parents tend to use the exact same nickname at some point with their child. And so this book takes you on a journey of the various nicknames we give our children, and what they also call us, and what those meanings mean. And then ultimately, the bottom line is that we all end up having the exact same nicknames that we give each other. So it’s a fun little book, my very very good friend illustrated this. It is, in fact, me, and my husband, and my daughter in the book. It’s fun to see yourself in a caricature. So it’s a fantastic book. And again, all the proceeds go to rehabbing playgrounds and putting them into underserved parks.
Ivan: Awesome. Sounds like we should be careful with the, with the nicknames to our children. So I have a new-born daughter, she’s two months old. And I call her a grandpa, cause she has hair almost like mine, but she has a little bit more in the back. So
Catherine: Oh my gosh.
Ivan: So my wife is not happy about it. But I always say it’s a grampy. Cause she always cries, so it’s a grumpy grandpa. So, anyway. I hope nobody use that
Catherine: Later in life, later in life, that will be a thread to share.
Shawn: That’s the best thing about podcast, you know. I’ve been now, we’ve got a digital record of you calling your daughter a grandpa. This is awesome.
Ivan: Yeah, I hope she never finds out. So, Bridge Club. Some people say that it’s a combination of Ted Talk, LinkedIn, and the Book Club. So being primary, primarily video-focused, were there any challenges to building this community? And tell us more about how did you build it, what inspired you, when did it start?
Building a Video-Focused Community
Catherine: So, the bridge club, let me start at the beginning of like how it initially started. So the Bridge Club actually started as a very casual networking event within the veterinary profession at conferences. We’ve all been to conferences where our schedules are so full, we never get to see the people we really want to see, the people we wanna spend the quality time with. And we always run around going “Maybe I’ll see at the bar later, let’s connect”. And it just never happens. So my co-founder, Brenda Andresen, also saw that, and what she did, she rented out a bar, and she called all the people she thought were wickedly cool, happy to say, I was one of the first. And brought us all together. We didn’t know one another. And it was an opportunity to really engage with one another. And this went on for about you know, 8 years or so. At any conference, we would get together, but then as happens with many things, the world starts to change, and people’s schedules pull them in different directions. And so it had a death, if you will, it died. But then 4 years ago, she and I were batting around ideas, and you know, we said we should do something that we then called “Bridge Club”. And it was called the Bridge club for a funny reason back then. It was called that cause we all had administrative assistants, it’s funny how the time changes so much that most of us don’t have those anymore. But we had administrative assistants, and those folks would see something on our calendars. And we tried to move it, and with it being called the Bridge Club, the would go “Ooh, I don’t know what that is. I’m not sure if I can move that off of someone’s schedule. It doesn’t seem I know who’s in charge of that to move it”. So that was a primary reason, but her mother played bridge. So she thought “That’s a cute little name”, and we called that. It evolved over time since then as to why we kept the name “Bridge Club”. But we felt there real need and desire for this profession to connect and engage at a different level. We know that most people use their cellphones to text message, and we have become a society where we talk at one another instead of talking with. Good news for the podcast, it gives us the opportunity to have conversations, but with time as it’s moving faster and faster, we just see the text messages as the fastest way. And we know that depending on what study you look at, about 90% of all communications is lost because 90% of it is non-verbal. So if you’re having a conversation, and you’re missing my hand gestures. You’re missing the look on my face. Or if someone like myself, I have a very deep voice, so, therefore, I can sound very authoritarian at times when I’m actually trying to be very comforting. So if you don’t see those other pieces of who I am, you miss it. So it was very important for us to find a way to take what the Bridge Club originally created, evolve it into a modern-day where we can expand it to the entire profession, and give us access to these non-verbals. Our biggest challenge free COVID was getting people to turn on their cameras. We found that you know, millennials and the baby-boomers were the first to turn their cameras on. Ironically enough, it was the gen X-ers, who didn’t want to turn on their cameras. They felt like well no, I got to be put together. I’ve got to make sure I look good. And we’re still facing that a bit today. Where they don’t wanna turn it on. Especially during COVID, people go “listen, I’m in my swet”. But one of the greatest things to come out of COVID, one of the greatest things, is that people now realize we’re human, and therefore they’re turning on their cameras. And so people realize “catch me as I am. I’m gonna have kids coming. I’m gonna have dogs barking”. And that’s now okay in this world, and we’ve always said at the Bridge Club “We’re people first. And we’re professionals second”. So I don’t care if we’re on Bridge club, and someone asks for the keys of the car, or whatever happens, this is a place you can gather and really network.
Ivan: That’s awesome. And to that note, as you were talking, my son walked in and gave me something. It’s..It’s just perfect timing
Catherine: I love that.
Ivan: But yeah, so that’s wonderful. You know, sometimes I wish sometimes I didn’t see Shawn, the gestures he shows during the podcast, but other than that I think it’s brilliant. So I have a question. You said about you know you did it for almost for 8 years, then it died out, 4 years ago we started. How did you get into veterinary medicine and to the veterinary community?
Catherine: So I have been fortunate. I’ve been now in the veterinary profession for about 20 years. And I’ve always been, which great, partnerships always bring you from the different areas of where you come from. My background is that I’ve always been in the handpocket of the C-suite, and helping them dress and merging shoes. So my background is in public relations, and so I’ve always done issues management, and I was very, very fortunate early in my career to give alined in animal health and to be able to work at a C-suit level. To be able to help organizations navigate different issues. So I’ve been in a profession for a very, very long time, and I absolutely adore this profession. I like, you know, when the, not just companion, I love working in the equine. I love poultry. love, you know, swine. I love it all because there’s nothing like animal health. I’m very fortunate. I do work a little bit on human health. And to see that Bridge that carries over is fantastic, but it started in veterinary medicine, in a result that both that Brenda and I and were developing our careers.
Shawn: So I got a question for you. You know, Catherine, we’ve met, I’m trying to think. Oh, yeah, it was Cindy Sheppard that introduced us.
Catherine: Yes, yes
Shawn: She’s got to be on our show. We got to have her on. She’s great. But after we got introduced, it was just like you know one of these relationships like, you know, we hit it off immediately, and we were throwing energy back and forth asking questions. And all of these kinds of things that happened. And so another question, now that I have you on, that I’d love to ask, is what do you think happens to our trade shows that we got so accustomed to going into now that we’re in this COVID world, things are supposedly going back to normal. I mean, the reason I’m asking you, is cause you’re interacting with so many people in the profession. Are people, you think, open to going back and jumping on a plane and traveling across the country? How quickly do you think we’re gonna return back to normal?
The Future of Conferences Post-COVID-19
Catherine: So, the first opportunity is going to be happening with AAHA. And so they’re actually going to have their connectivity, they gonna have it in Denver. And what they did, they actually surveyed their people. And I give this as a back story for where I’m going. And so they actually surveyed all the members, and I guess, it was almost a 50/50 split, I wanna go or I wanna have it online. And we’ve been talking about it at the Bridge Club a lot. So depending on where you are in the world. If you are in the professional support of the industry, many of us are jogging to get back on the airplane and get back to what we’re used to doing. For the profession, what they realizing is they finally for the first time have access at a much more reasonable cost, to what tend conferences, and get the CE that they desperately want. Or have access to the CE that they didn’t have. So what I see happening is I think moving forward it is definitely going to be a combination of both. I work with the newly formed virtual care association. Veterinary Virtual Care Association. And we will be hosting a very first virtual care summer as well. I think that the numbers are going to be outstanding. I think that numbers are going to reflect that people love the idea. For lack of better tourism, you get to seat in the chair where you want, instead of sitting in one of those conference chairs that have your back hurt. And it allows us to really change the dynamic of how we’re gonna engage with people. But I do believe, in my heart of hearts, that person is still going to take place. We’re gonna have new restrictions on how that happens. But there will be a day, probably 2021, where I can hug and shake people’s hands freely once again. And I look forward to that. I will just declare that I did hug someone the other day, and I almost had tears in my eyes. Cause I haven’t hugged anyone other than my family. So I think we as human beings need that, I think we need to have this connectivity. And we need to figure out how to work with this new world to make all that happen.
Ivan: I have a question about the tribe. One of my favorite authors Seth Godin. He’s talking about forming a tribe as a part of your, sort of, agenda or people form them sometimes without knowing they doing that. But once you form a tribe, people are following you, so it’s been one of those passions that I had around, you know, there was a product that I’ve built, Smart Flow, there was a certain association. But then, Workflow, I was passionate about it, and workflow improvements, you know, it could be, as he talks about,. You know, it could be a redhead ladies club, it could be, you know, in a veterinary profession, we see anesthesia nerds. All those folks are passionate about anesthesia. VetGirl, I mean, she has a mass of following. Which actually, I didn’t like the name, cause when she started, we met, I just started SmartFlow, she just started VetGirl, I gave her criticism on that, wrong. And, and I’m happy to see how it succeeding and what she’s doing. So what is the tribe like behind the bridge club? What is your tribe? And what are the characteristics, if you will?
Catherine: So the number one characteristic of the Bridge Club is that you want to be a part of a conversation. You want your voice to be heard. We have no criteria whether you have to be this position, or this is the role you have to play within the profession. It is anyone who touches veterinary medicine. So if you’re a technician, a practice manager, or practice owner, you run a company. Anything that touches veterinary medicine, we encourage you to come in. And the challenge becomes is are you a sideline viewer or are you actively engaged in the game? We want people who are in the game. And so what we love so much is that they are becoming very loyal followers. We decided to host just arbitrarily a happy hour. We called it a quarantined happy hour. The minute this all started. And do you know that loyally every Friday we have people gathering together, and there is no agenda? Because I feel like more than ever before we’ve lost our connectivity of being able to network. And that’s probably the biggest damage that comes out of all of this. Is that we’ve been working in our own little shells of moving things forward, and people are desperate to find a way to have their voice heard within the profession. So that’s who we are. If you want to be a part of the conversation, then come on it.
Shawn: That’s so awesome. And I’m attending my first this week, so I’m pretty excited. I got an invite. Ivan, I was gonna share with you, but then I got interrupted. So yeah, maybe you should come as well. It will be at 3 oclock in the morning your time.
Catherine: We are making a drink this time. This is, we had it happened organically last week. One of Bridger’s husband was making her drink for her life while we were in there, and so he has a great to be our bartender, and so we have sent out a recipe for everyone to make, and that’s exactly what the Bridge Club is all about. We start and end every Bridge club with a toast, and so we have focused these meetings in every other conversation that we have on really celebrating and understanding, and then listening and engaging with one another. So that’s the important part. So the bartender does play a really important role in what we do.
Shawn: So, Catherine, the innovation behind where you’ve taken the Bridge Club. So you started this in-person conference events. Now, you’re doing zoom calls. In what direction. So I mean, I get the framework, but what’s your desire? Where does the Bridge Club exists in 10 years? What does it look like in the future? Where are you going?
Expanding Towards Telemedicine
Catherine: So we just launched our newest arm. So it’s called “Bridge Club Pets”. And I will tell you, we are going directly to the pet owner. So what we know is that 60% of all pet owners check out doctor google first, or they’re going to a Facebook group before they’re actually talking to their veterinarian. As telemedicine evolved, people are still in the crisis mode where they are having a conversation with their veterinarian or any of the healthcare team. So we want to remove that crisis, and we wanna make it so you actually have a conversation with a veterinary professional. So we launched the Bridge club pets, and it is based on the same concept, but modified. And what this allows us in the chat of what we do, there are always certified, registered, or licensed veterinarians or DWMs in the chat for pet owners to get real insights about their pet. We’re always driving them back to their veterinarian. But the purpose here is to now give the profession an opportunity to talk to pet owners when they’re not in crisis. So that’s the first stage of where we’re going. And then our intention here is to continue to elevate that even further. We wanna elevate the profession as a whole, and right now, because everyone is always dealing with growing their membership, or people busy launching a product or trying to deal with, you know, revenue issues. We are not dealing with the profession as a whole, and the authority that they have. So we want to lift them up, and really give the pet owners resources where they understand that that information they’re getting should come from a healthcare provider. It should not be coming from someone who claims “I know this dog better than anybody else”.
Shawn: This is so cool. And I love how, you know, with the flexibility of podcasting, we can just do whatever we want. So Ivan, let me connect you with Catherine about your study that you’re doing. And why don’t you guys talk about that. Just a quick second, right during this podcast
Ivan: Well, thank you for mentioning that, Shawn. So I’m hoping this will help this, but it is also helping the profession. We all know about the burnout, and everything that’s happening, it increases rates of suicide, a lot of people talk about it. So I dedicated my MBA dissertation thesis to finding a methodology or comparing some sort of business methodology from human healthcare and researched a lot of lean methodologies applied, and I’m doing research on quantifying a degree of burnout among profession. And it’s also not exclusive to veterinarians only. It’s, anybody who is a technician, the practice manager, the assistant, reception, or customer success manager. So the survey is deployed on multiple channels, we’re pushing it through marketing, it’s LinkedIn. And I’m trying to collect 1000 respondents. And then I will quantify the degree of burnout, and then I will compare it to what the lean done for health care, for human healthcare. And propose that it is a potential methodology. We actually are then trying to apply my new product, but that’s a little bit later. The purpose of this is a dissertation and the quantification of the degree of this problem. So, thank you, Shawn, for letting me speak out.
Catherine: Well, and I will offer this up right now. So, the Bridge Club is about 25,000 members strong. So the idea is that I’m a great asset for that. So let’s definitely connect. We’re happy to share. We cover all on this topic, a great deal from different avenues. It’s very important that we have a conversation. In fact, during, right after all of this sequestering began, we immediately started having the conversation, because what was interesting, and we found, and I’m glad your study is also doing that, is it tends to be, people look at compassion fatigue and all of that. And they look at it just from the perspective of those in the practice. But now, the rest of the profession, for the first time actually hitting in as to what it actually meant. Because they were put under new confines, that changed their emotional balance, so for the first time, we’re noting that the Bridge Club more and more people saying “I need to now attend that conversation that I wouldn’t have attended it before”, and it is the industry practitioners coming in. Because they too are facing, you know, the emotional balance.
Shawn: So yeah, it’s great to connect you guys and glad we can do that. So this is unfortunate. We’re out of time. It always happens. Every week. But I’ve got a couple questions that I’d love to ask you, Catherine, before we wrap up. So you’re an inspiring person to me. The minute I met you, I felt like that. So what some thing that you would share with our listeners that has inspired you. Whether it’s a Ted talk, a speaker, anything that you’ve that you’re think our listeners should check out?
Catherine: So I guarantee nobody is giving you this one, because I live in Chicago. And every year in Chicago, we host a “Chicago Ideas Week”. So maybe it’s a new concept for a lot of people listening to this. And I was very fortunate, several years ago, to attend the Chicago Ideas Week with Bonnie Curtis. And the video is available online, I can actually send it to your fold as well, so they can make it available. There is an entire segment that was done on “I work like A”. It was an underlying for people insert: there was MMA fighters, there was a journalist, there was a philosopher, there were all these people. But they were all in a short time frame. Bonnie Curtis actually is one of the producers on Shindler’s list. And she tells a story of what it means to be a leader. She talks very definitely about when you’re in the midst of struggle when you can’t solve something, how to solve it. And it really, first of all, her story is phenomenal, because she talks very much about Steven Spielberg, and they had to go to him to get the answer. And he solved something, their biggest challenge, within 30 seconds. Well, maybe it was a minute and a half. But the idea of her advice being “Always get someone smarter than you in the room”. And so her entire story, and leadership of what she’s done. And that entire segment of I work like A, underline, is powerful, and I highly encourage people to watch it. Cause I think sometimes we forget the challenges we face or MMA fighter has faced, or a philosopher has faced, and it can really give you an inside of where to go.
Ivan: That’s amazing. And that’s why Shawn invited me here, cause he needed someone smarter than he is on the podcast. So, that’s just the story behind that. The second question that we ask, Catherine, is who do you think we should also invite to the podcast? Do you know any people that would inspire our listeners? And who is that person?
Catherine: One of the greatest people that I would also recommend potentially have on would be Audrey Wystrach. And so Audrey is the founder of ZippyVet, but now she’s a founder of OnedotVet. She’s also one of the founding members of VVCA. She is wickedly smart. She is one of the foremost authorities on telemedicine. Because she’s been herself practicing it for over 30 years. In various forms. So she is one of the coolest cowboy hat-wearing veterinarians you will ever meet in her life. And she has got more energy and insight. And I have to say, honestly, she’s a mentor to me. She has spent time at conferences to sit down with me and give me guidance, she always has time for people. And I just absolutely adore her, so I would encourage you to have her on…