In This Episode
A support network is a great thing, but having a mentor – someone who has faced the same challenges as you, someone with a lifetime of experience that you can learn from – can elevate you to an entirely different level. Despite this, it can be extremely challenging for veterinarians to find mentors.
This week on the Veterinary Innovation Podcast, Shawn and Ivan are joined by Dr. Aaron Smiley, the co-founder of VetMed 2.0, to discuss the benefits of mentorship and an innovative new way to connect veterinarians to mentors.
Dr. Smiley recommends The Idea Book by Fredrick Haren.
- The benefits of the consolidator Vetcor
- Hackathons and harnessing collective intelligence
Shawn Wilkie: You’re listening to the veterinary Innovation podcast. My name is Shawn Wilkie and along with my awesome co-host. We interview amazing gifts every week Ivan. Are you there across the ocean sir?
Meet our guest – Dr. Aaron Smiley of Vetcor
Ivan Zak: I am in Ukraine indeed. Although we did have last podcast. I think we recording Ukraine, but I had to go on a family emergency here again, and I’m in Zach and I’m introducing. Dr. Aaron Smiley who is the co-founder of vet Med 2.0. He’s a chief of staff advisor at that Core consolidator group. He’s a chief of staff at two hospitals Devonshire Veterinary Clinic and G station animal hospital. He’s a president elect of the Indiana veteran Medical Association and holds a doctorate and bitter medicine from University of Illinois personal information that we uncovered is that Dr. Smiley had two First jobs out of vet school. He was equine ambulatory and and mixed large animal practice for the Amish community and he is recent musical favorite is folk. Do Johnny swims album Moonlight Sean Why don’t you open up with the first question?
Shawn Wilkie: Ivan I’ve actually I’ve got a question for you. How is your day going? Well if I rated them out of 10, I think by experiential Ukraine, it’s probably 10 by the fact that happened to me probably a three, so I was visiting my deadly ill grandmother at your hospital and while I was visiting her my backpack with all my equipment was stolen from the trunk of the car, including my computer iPad and everything. So I’m looking at next six to seven days do all my work from just the cell phone that I thankfully bought a charger for in the Ukrainian store. So it’s pretty good day. Thank you for asking.
Shawn Wilkie: It sounds like you’re not going to the park today my friend. Dr. Smiley. Welcome. Welcome to the veterinary Innovation podcast really great to have you here the first question that I just can’t help myself but want to ask what was it like working with the Amish?
Dr. Aaron Smiley: When the unemployment got high but the Amish have such a tight knit community that they don’t move and unemployment. Got up to 23 percent while I was up there during the downturn. So it’s interesting as far as in very utilitarian. And as a veterinarian, I learned a lot of practical skills and how to be tough. So I appreciate that it definitely not Disneyland and when you walk through or you as a tourist, you kind of drive through Amish land and everybody did their buggy to get this fence at like oh, well, this is very quaint, but they are actually real people that choose to ascribe to that type of a community in that way of a lifestyle and it’s not the easiest thing. So I tell people I have a million stories in about three years of work. I didn’t want to do it for the rest of my life, but very very grateful for the experience.
Shawn Wilkie: Well, it is really interesting. Yeah, it’s totally incredible. It’s really interesting for us because our podcast is all about Innovation a lot of the time we talk about technology and you know talk about the complete opposite direction, you know, it’s anti-technology. And what was it like to work as a technologist to some degree? Yeah, given your background in this world that was completely absent of Technology.
Dr. Aaron Smiley: It was the technology but not necessarily Electronics, right? Basically the overall arching theme was if you can read you can do it. So there was always Innovation going on because there were limits that they would put on themselves. So I never felt like as far as in practicing that I didn’t have anything that I needed because obviously they didn’t put any limits on me but watching them work and watching them innovate open up my mind that it doesn’t necessarily have to mean the latest gadget, right? It can be innovating with the tools that you have at your disposal. And if you can read and you have a you know, a lot of simple machines you can get a lot of stuff
Ivan Zak: That’s well said I can’t wait to dive into the whole vet Med 2.0 the idea behind it the business model that there is one behind it. And what is it all about? Can you tell us
The benefits of the consolidator Vetcor
Dr. Aaron Smiley: So looking at Veterinary mentoring and I serve on a couple of boards University of Illinois alumni board and then the Indiana Veterinary Medical Association and it seems like we’re always trying to take a swing at mentoring and students when they get out. What do you know tends to rank high on their list of things that they would like and in my interaction with new students and their new veterinarian I ask them. How are you going to get a good Mentor and inevitably they Mark that up as part of their job search. I hope I get a good Mentor in my job search and in my experience in practice. It’s very rare to be able to find a good boss who’s also a good Mentor because it takes so much time and energy and so different different ways that we third party whether it be the State Association or a local Association tried to get people together that have common interest but inevitably kind of fizzled out and so with the idea behind veteran 2.0 is what if we created a Marketplace for mentoring because the mentors do put a lot of time and money and energy into it and they have such a wealth of knowledge. What if there was a nominal fee that allowed mentees match with mentors of their choosing that’s incredible. That’s a very interesting approach who is the pair on the platform and I just want to dive into the business case. So the behavior is the mentor or mentee for the 90 of the payer and what we’re going to setup is like a dollar a day.
Dr. Aaron Smiley: So $30, the mentor can have as many mentees that she would like as she can basically she can handle with the margin that she has in her schedule. And then we’re going to do is limit the interaction to the platform to the app so that the mentor still can keep up good boundary. So the interaction will be You know as far as unlimited text messaging between a certain set of hours and then like a weekly video called it would be a half an hour. And our hope is is that says the information that the older generation or people that have been out in practice can start to matriculate down at a greater rate to younger graduates and even as far as I’ve been out of pack of ten plus years. I’d still love to have a mentor that 10 years nineteen year to be able to ask questions as far as what does it feel like as your kids get older and parenting in veterinary medicine and house it Trent when you get bored, in fact, you know, how did you fight that off throwing all those kind of questions?
Shawn Wilkie: Yeah. It’s amazing. The whole idea of mentorship is huge as a technology entrepreneur. I’ve been lucky enough to have some incredible mentors and almost by accident I had was mentored when I was in my early 20s by this guy named Charlie Keating. He had created a company called Maritime cable who ended up selling to Shaw cable, which is the largest. Which is the largest cable company in Canada and this guy was incredible I’d walk into his Board Room. You know, there was 30 chairs in his board room. And I remember the first time I went in I said, I’m here to see mr. Keating and I heard him holler from across the wall send Em in so I go in and he’s sitting at the court room table. There’s literally 30 chairs and there’s two guys sitting with them and I said I said nice to meet you. I’m sorry. I’m not interrupting anything. He said no now sit down. He’s like these are the people that keep me out of the jail. And I was like what’s happening here? And so he said, yeah. This is my accountant who was the head of Grant Thornton the largest accounting company in Canada and his lawyer and he described them as the people that kept him out of jail in the things that I learned from that guy in I would say a combined total of maybe 10 hours, you know have stuck with me my entire business career to date. So the idea is super solid, especially in this highly specialized field awesome.
Ivan Zak: So with that do you have a traction and what do you The what do you think is the more be I assume that the mentees is the I never actually know the word but that’s because I’m a foreigner but didn’t entities. That’s a new one for my vocabulary. The demand comes from them. So what is your traction? Like are you where you are the product cycle? Are you having any customers or you are you still in infancy stage? Where’s where is it?
Dr. Aaron Smiley: We’re in infancy stage. So we’re in as far as beta and to sign and then we’re going to do our hope is to do the grand launch in conjunction with the avma leadership conference in Chicago in January. So I’m speaking at that event and that’s when we hope to launch the app. So we’re isn’t see right. Now. I’m getting people to do early time. That’s awesome. And with your relation to the Consolidated group, are you able to test it on the customers or on the network within the organization? There? They are they aware or they collaborating. Hopefully, this is okay that we will publish the cast talkatoo in organized veterinary medicine Applause the entire profession do not specifically with any consolidation group or any practice. It was just people looking for mentors, but the inability to find them like you told a story that was brilliant that you just stumbled into a boardroom with His Brilliant person, right? Not everybody has that Stroke of Luck. So how can we use technology to be able to bring wealth of knowledge in the mentor to the mentee who desires that wealth of knowledge and it feels like it’s a very small theft case
Shawn Wilkie: And this is the question I have is like it’s a great idea. How like were you sitting around beers in a napkin or like where did this come from? I just do I call it around. So I just like to think and I can’t be you know, I mean if they need and fill it. You could write ideas always flow together I’m saying. Oh, well, it kind of feels like a dating app. Like what would it look like in nobody’s dating but you know as far as basically it’s just two people that want to be able to pick each other. That’s all we’re talking about. Well that technology is easy to get to and so what the cultural hurdle the cultural hurdle is that they’re beyond eteri transaction. Oh, okay. Well, are there any other sectors of the economy that pay for coaching or counselor? Yes all the time. Oh, okay. So I guess it was just those small steps and hungry conversations with different people is how the idea came about
Shawn Wilkie: Is this the first piece of software that you’ve built
Dr. Aaron Smiley: We’re partnering with a company called never settle. So then I’ve got the Wizards of smart who make everything work. That’s awesome.
Shawn Wilkie: Yeah, it’s a conversation that we had to a couple episodes ago with Stacy Stan T. We’re just like, you know, you’re a veterinarian and you know, you all the sudden you decide that you’re going to make a piece of software and its really interesting, you know. Sting, you know, the software world is so challenging, you know being involved in so challenging for startups. Now, you know, it’s building software. I think it’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. Yeah.
Ivan Zak: So so the way I’m curious about the way you’re envisioning it to work. So is it going to be sort of a matching sort of program where you you look for interests on your career and then it connects you to the right mentor and their on this platform or is that the idea behind it who act
Dr. Aaron Smiley: So it’ll be a connection and then it will be a continued conversation. We’ve got a framework of what it looks like inside of that month chunk of time to be able to basically achieve goals that the menti set. And so we model it off of like okay ours and a couple different things to be able to mold it into a template that then the mentor and mentee can get together and quickly ascribe goals for the next 30 days so that nobody time is wasted so then it’ll be a month-to-month increments at the mentee.
Ivan Zak: Fine that could be another application for students or new grads or interns per se
Dr. Aaron Smiley: absolutely and it’s interesting as far as the difference. Well as we were going through I had an intern that was with the veterinary Entrepreneurship Academy powered out of the University of Georgia and he did a great job and we talked about what the difference is between job training and mentoring and most veterinarians will get that job training. I mean, it’s very rare for a senior clinician to not help you get the space jump when it’s leading. But what is unusual is for the senior clinician to sit down and say tell me about your dreams you what do you want to do with your life, right that’s rare and that’s a different relationship. So absolutely there’s job training involved, but even more than that mentoring offers a different wrinkle interesting gift really cool.
Shawn Wilkie: So one of the bigger issues and I mean we’ve talked about it before on the podcast is their compassion fatigue that burnout and it seems so interesting that you know, this Innovation around technology and around Jean around mentorship really can help. I mean it’s got to be out of mind for you and your team. So can you dive into that a little bit further that
Dr. Aaron Smiley: I 100% agree? So we come in and we’re talking about mentoring because that’s the needs that the younger generation is articulating and the reality is relationship is the answer to so many of those professional skills right from burnout to compassion fatigue impostor syndrome when you have a relationship with a person that you highly value then there Applause means so much more right? It’s not just your mom saying oh you’re so smart, but it’s a person that you admire going. Yeah, you didn’t do a great job, but you’re going to get up we’re going to do that again and that all the sudden right now we get traction into being able to speak into those really dark latest, but I don’t think any program pants. It takes a relationship. It takes Flesh and Blood to speak into those dark places.
Ivan Zak: That’s amazing.
Dr. Aaron Smiley: So I merged with them. So I was an associate in a clinic that was purchased by them. Okay, she’s probably been seven eight years now and what’s so nice about it is they do what they say they’re going to do and I’ve had multiple conversations with them as far as the highest levels of leadership and their genuine in what’d they say that they’ll follow through and they’re very committed to the veterinarian having local control. And so my interaction with them has been very very positive and because of that local control and I’m so blessed as far as it did give me the freedom to do things like this, right? So I’m still paying dogs in the morning. So I’m so thankful that I get to practice medicine and house. I haven’t had any experience but I have high praise for them interesting. And so what is their message because all these consolidators we had another one from rare breed the new one and then they all we’ll have different sort of direction that they’re taking and I think there’s a close to 50 of them right now. So what is the message that that core is sending out there when they are going and talking to these practices to be acquired. And and how do they feel they’re different local control? That’s that their biggest message. They have you of the veterinarian Remain the veterinarian.
Ivan Zak: So is it the medical side of things or the business? Because from what I understand then there’s you know, there’s various shades of it from from Mars having most of control and then to me Cas and then you trickle down to things like envy that has less control or as they claim and then there’s various degrees of success off of running the business when you have less control. So how they achieving that and is that something on your agenda to help them do they are they controlling the business on the payroll side of things and just the business and then the medicine as separate or house this like, where’s the line? Where do they draw the line between the control and control
Dr. Aaron Smiley: So they’re very much on local control and as a chief of staff so in the two practices that I directly manage I make a whole lot of decisions obviously their guard rails. I’m an exaggeration. Hey, I like to buy a new Mercedes and put that on the company bill. Atkins of collective intelligence of veterinarians I want to dig into that a little bit maybe hear a little bit of the topics that you would have tackled with that kind of collective and and how you even got the idea to do that. That’s fine a very interesting and especially around Innovation.
Hackathons and harnessing collective intelligence
Shawn Wilkie: It sounds like the kind of whole idea of collective intelligence is pretty cool. So you speak to us about that a little bit.
Dr. Aaron Smiley: Yeah. Absolutely. I was at the Texas A&M The Innovation Center are massacres party down there. Elimination in Camp and we brought together ideation Specialists. There’s a center at the University of Illinois for the siebel center. And they’re all about Collective thinking and things need to adapt them in we did ideation the brought engineers and Architects Veterinary students and people from the community and the discusses far as how can we better solve this problem feline inappropriate urination.
Ivan Zak: What were the outcomes
Dr. Aaron Smiley: The computer science people were crazy part. And so what they did is the YTM, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard that but I mean these $25 cameras that are just incredible as far as the algorithms that they can pump out incredible to be able to basically make a chance to see where the cat to the veterinarian. They couldn’t be this good and it’s cheap and sure enough. They are they think they’re incredible.
Shawn Wilkie: Thanks so much for listening to the veterinary Innovation podcast. We’re pretty social people. So you’ll find us on every social media channel. Also, you can check out our website at the veterinary Innovation podcast.com. Thanks so much for listening.