Veterinary Blueprints

#7 - A Conversation with AAHA CEO Garth Jordan

January 09, 2024 Bill Butler Season 1 Episode 7
Veterinary Blueprints
#7 - A Conversation with AAHA CEO Garth Jordan
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Unlock the secrets of veterinary practice success with Garth Jordan, CEO of the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), who joins Bill Butler, on a compelling journey through the landscape of veterinary innovation. Garth's career leap from biochemistry to association leadership has armed him with a vision that's reshaping the future of veterinary care, one data point at a time. We delve into how AAHA's Just Cause and Veterinary Visionaries are not just buzzwords but actionable frameworks fostering industry growth.

We discuss a monumental AAHA study that polled over 15,000 veterinary professionals, highlighting key strategies to boost job satisfaction and curb turnover. It's an expample in using aggregated data not only as a benchmarking tool but also as a beacon to guide veterinary practices towards a thriving, retention-rich work culture. Garth and I unpack these insights and share compelling stories of transformation, proving that operating a successful veterinary practice goes beyond the numbers—it's about nurturing the human element too.

The conversation doesn't stop at data; we also explore the future, peeking into how AI may soon revolutionize veterinary medicine. As Garth shares, embracing AI could mean personalized member experiences, optimizing the use of AAHA's resources, and possibly redefining the landscape of veterinary services. Join us and borrow a leaf from AAHA's playbook on small changes leading to grand outcomes, as we navigate the complex yet rewarding terrain of veterinary practice management.

Guest Info
Garth Jordan
CEO -American Animal Hospital Association - AAHA
garth.jordan@aaha.org
https://www.aaha.org/
LinkedIn - Garth Jordan


Host Information

Bill Buter – Contact Information

Direct – 952-208-7220

https://butlervetinsurance.com/

bill@butlervetinsurance.com

https://www.linkedin.com/in/billbutler-cic/

Schedule a Strategy Session with Bill – Strategy Session


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Speaker 1:

So if you're bleeding as a practice, you're bleeding out. You're losing people left and right. The top three or four things to start to think about are the factors that are pushing people away.

Speaker 2:

Welcome to the Veterinary Blueprint podcast brought to you by Butler Vet Insurance. Hosted by Bill Butler, the Veterinary Blueprint podcast is for veterinarians and practice managers who are looking to learn about working on their practice instead of in their practice. Each episode we will bring you successful, proven blueprints from others, both inside and outside the veterinary industry. Welcome to today's episode.

Speaker 3:

Welcome to the Veterinary Blueprint podcast, where animal health meets business and entrepreneurship ideas and insights. I'm your host, bill Butler, and today we have the distinct pleasure of having Garth Jordan, ceo of the American Animal Hospital Association. I bet everyone screws that up, garth. Everyone just says ah-ha, everyone knows what it is, it's much easier to say ah-ha.

Speaker 3:

Much easier to say ah-ha. So since taking the helm at ah-ha in 2020, garth has spearheaded a number of initiatives that have added value and growth and membership to the members. I'd like to name just a few of those since he's been launched under his leadership, they've launched ah-has just cause, which is a humor-centered approach to simplifying the journey of excellence to veterinary practices. Veterinary visionaries, a consortium of over 60 organizations collaborating on challenges within the industry. Ah-ha benchmarking, which is a data analytics tool for veterinary practices. Then they've also implemented a cohort-based approach to their practice accreditation, which has doubled ah-has annual capacity for accreditation. It sounds more like a 15-year career at an association out of a three-year one. We'll get into that a little bit. Garth's expertise is leveraging ah-has. Leveraging ah-has core offerings has not only fueled membership growth over the last number of years, but has also facilitated expansion, including new markets in Japan and South Korea. For today, we're going to focus on what's on the horizon for ah-ha and the veterinary industry with Garth Jordan. Welcome to the podcast, garth.

Speaker 1:

Garth. Thanks, bill, appreciate it. It's a pleasure to be here. The kind introduction, Appreciate that too.

Speaker 3:

Garth. Well, I was in preparing for the episode and the recording today. I was looking at kind of what you've done over the course of your career. Maybe you want to elaborate on this a little bit. You seem to be a big idea thinker and what you want to do a big idea guy, a visionary and an integrator and implementer of ideas in the industry. Maybe share a little bit in your background and how you wound up at ah-ha and then kind of what you've done since you've been there, highlighting some of those things.

Speaker 1:

Sure. Well, the first third of my career doesn't really pertain to much. I was in biochemistry and environmental chemistry. I was out working in the field in some of the most polluted sites in the world. So if I glow on your podcast you can it's not because I've got a great personality, it's because I was exposed to a lot of nasty stuff in the first third of my career.

Speaker 1:

But the last two thirds I've been in professional and trade associations, mostly in human healthcare. So most people don't really think about the idea of running an association or working for an association as a career, because most people are exposed to it through volunteerism, being on a board or being on a committee. But the last 20 some odd years I've been exposed to running associations in various roles, from membership and marketing to COO, cfo, chief Strategy Officer, and it was just kind of a coagulation of all that experience that when AHA's CEO role came up, I was initially not going to apply because I thought, well, it had a DVM at the helm for almost 90 years, they don't need someone like me. And then I took a whack at it and the board liked what they saw.

Speaker 3:

So here we are they saw a visionary big thinker and thought this guy could do some stuff for us too. Right.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, it's the visionary side of it which I appreciate you saying that. We all know that strategy or vision is wonderful, but it's not very good without execution.

Speaker 3:

So that's right.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I was pretty lucky to come up through this world of professional associations, really on the operational side of things, so learning how or what can actually be done by a small nonprofit with, you know, anywhere between 20 and 130 staff that's those are the organizations I work for. So you need to have a really good balance of your big thinking and make sure it doesn't outstrip your capacity, right. So, or understand where it does and what kind of partnerships you need to kind of bring that, bring the vision to life.

Speaker 3:

In Dan Sullivan who, not how mindset of. If you're not going to do the work, you've got to figure out who's going to do the work or who to integrate. I was just on a call with my marketing team before this and they said, well, based on the stuff you have going on, do you have the capacity to be able to do these things? And I said, well, if I don't, we'll have to. You know, farm that, farm that out. But it's being able to understand how to implement what you've done.

Speaker 3:

We chatted just before the podcast about some of the things that you've done and that was in the intro, and at recent LinkedIn post yesterday about benchmarking plus and I you know, for those who are interested, benchmarking plus is is an analytics tool in a ha. Chewy was a collaborative partner but then Chewy has now decided to go into their own veterinary practice component and I think there's some some conversation about that. So you want to just spend, you know, maybe a minute or two chatting about kind of the process for benchmark plus, the integration with Chewy, and then you know kind of a ha's position on that. There's a very good LinkedIn post. I'll put it in the show notes, but just because it's. I think it's timely for our recording of the podcast here, december of 23.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely so. Just a little history first. Aha is is somewhat well known for a series that we used to publish called vital stats, and within that series there were various things like, you know, pricing, statistics and other things that help practices understand not really benchmark themselves, but kind of understand the you know ratios and various indicators. Right, that was all developed through very manual survey processes. Data that we would publish in vital stats was 18 months old at best. It also wasn't all statistically significant and our members basically asked us through various surveys, you know, improve this. You know, get, get, get into the more contemporary format. So we spent a good almost two years investigating what our options were. And because data in voluntary data in veterinary medicine is not normalized or standardized like it is in human medicine with ICD 10, ct codes, that was really the hard part. We found a partner with petabyte analytics who standardized, had a, had a essentially an AI and algorithm tool to pull data out of a PIM standardized and then put it in essentially like a data lake of standardized data. I'm over simplifying, but you get the picture. So we partnered with them about two years ago to say, well, now that you've solved this kind of data standardization piece. It's easy to build a front end that then allows someone to take their data and compare it against a mass of data, right, which is basically what benchmarking is. And we're doing this at the behest of our members and also understanding there's really no good benchmarking in our industry for any of the data in the PIMs. So we did that, we partnered with them.

Speaker 1:

About a year later, they were bought by Chewy and there was some hand ringing over that by everybody, right, it's like, well, this is kind of interesting because Chewy doesn't have, you know, a stellar reputation, but they're, you know, they're in it to try, they realize that they've got an uphill battle and they're going to try to try to be a better partner to the ecosystem. So, after some renegotiating of that contract, after some board conversations with Chewy executives and ours, etc. We moved forward and we do have a great benchmarking tool out there. And then, more recently, chewy, of course, announced that they're slowly going to be getting into ownership of practices. So During all of that, well, we didn't know that. So of course they don't divulge their strategies to us, right?

Speaker 1:

So we still have this benchmarking product with our name on it, and what we've done is we've been very, very clear with Chewy in our legal agreement and in the end-user license agreement. It's the agreement the practice signs when they decide to use the benchmarking tool. And what's very, very clear in that end-user license agreement is that the practice owns their own data, number one. If they put it in, it can only be used for the benchmarking product. That's really, really important. Also, when their data goes into the system, it's anonymized and it's aggregated, right. That's what benchmarking is. No one can see their data. So if a practice participates for a year and then walks, their data is scrubbed out of the system. That's what data ownership is right. So Chewy legally cannot use the data for any other purpose other than this benchmarking product.

Speaker 3:

Aggregation of benchmarking.

Speaker 1:

Aggregation to the identified data for the purpose of benchmarking. Of course, if a practice wants to participate, that's great, but it's purely voluntary, so our members get the product for free, but we're not going to force it on them. If they want to participate, that's great. If they don't like the partnership, they can sit and wait and watch and see how it goes a little bit later, right.

Speaker 3:

So it's not even buyer. Beware of. Hey, Chewy's going to get your data. Hey, this is internal for our association. Now I'm a board member for our local state association and we have relationships and you have to navigate all this stuff because the veterinary community is not exclusive to venture capital, money corporations coming in. I think it's happening across many very successful lines of business insurance human health, animal health, dentistry I think they're all targets for some of these things, and so as an association, you've got to balance support of your members with also working with the ecosystem of partners out there in the world that are willing to assist with some of these projects. And I think the thing that, whether you're going to participate in a program or not, is just understanding where everything is and it's voluntary. So if there's some membership that doesn't want to participate, they don't have to. I guess that's probably the Right, and we have.

Speaker 1:

I mean, when you look at the ownership structures across the board whether it's venture capital, which is a little bit harder to keep a finger on the pulse of all that it is rapidly changing to what Mars Veterinary Health owns, what Covetrus owns, what IDEX owns. I don't want to say it's intricate, I'll put it that way there's a lot of ownership and data is flowing and owned everywhere. So, in that regard, understanding that complete landscape is challenging and I get that. So what we can control is if I'm participating in Service A or Product B or Initiative C, just know for that particular product, service, initiative, et cetera, that my data is confined to that space.

Speaker 3:

Sure, I only. I read the LinkedIn post yesterday and it was the day before I was going to hop on the podcast with you to record this episode. I was like, oh, that's interesting, that's a big post. I can tell you, garth, in the insurance, where I was shocked number one, the length and depth of the clarity, I think, in that post should be commended. And number two, if that was an insurance association, the pitchforks and torches would be out. The insurance agents across the United States would be the hate mail and everything going on. It seemed to be like, hey, thanks for the information. We really appreciate the clarity where I know my industry is a little bit more out front in our vocal displeasure with things. But that's just. I think that's the difference in industry.

Speaker 1:

It might be, and I understand the healthy paranoia around data ownership In any organization in any industry.

Speaker 1:

I clearly, truly understand that we believe that our ecosystem needs a benchmarking product. If it's not going to be us, I hope someone else makes one that everybody participates in. I truly do. I think that's what it isn't about, and there was a custom implied conversation going on about how much money AHA might be making or got out from Chua. There's no money in this for us. This is purely a member service, and there is power in data, but we're trying to put that power back in the hands of the members and the ecosystem, because when we can see how we're performing not just, for example, within a corporation that has 300, 500, 1,000 practices you can benchmark against yourself.

Speaker 3:

Absolutely.

Speaker 1:

And how good is that? When you're looking at the rest of the ecosystem and part of this is do good for the individual practice to help them benchmark Part of this is really about if we can all participate or we get enough participation it's just good for our ecosystem. Think about a standardized data set that again is aggregated and de-identified. With all this rich data from the practice management systems and the kind of research that you could do on that for academia, pharma, whatever the case may be the opportunities become very, very robust, while we're doing an excellent job at protecting data.

Speaker 3:

I was told in some circles that I'm in my industry, that you have to know your numbers. I'm in a very numbers-driven industry and you have to know your numbers and if you don't know your numbers you can't benchmark against yourself. How did we do this year versus last year? What were our losses? What was our closing ratio? What's our premium and revenue per client?

Speaker 3:

All of these things, and if you don't keep track of that data or look at any of it, you can't plan for growth, you can't plan for the future, because you've got a mindset so you've got to track that.

Speaker 3:

So I think, at the end of the day, AHA should be commended. You should be commended for trying to build a product, because, whether you're doing it internally and just keeping track of your numbers or being able to benchmark, we have some things inside of our industry that allow us to do that Well. I'm glad we touched on that. We had a couple other topics that we wanted to hit on and some of the things that not looking backwards, so to speak, but looking forward in what AHA has got in the future and I know that this is a big topic and some other guests have chatted about it but attrition and retention inside the veterinary industry, animal health industry and for AHA and its members. What are some things that you're looking at or trying to do as far as retention numbers not being so hot and trying to keep people in the industry?

Speaker 1:

That's a good question. So we have conducted some retention and attrition research that's quite unique, but not 100% unique. So I have to give credit where it's due. In July of 2022, mckinsey, a large worldwide consulting firm, published a report called the Great Attrition July of 2022. And if your listeners go Google that, they'll find that report. We took that report and took at least a couple pieces of it and reverse engineered it for our purposes of trying to understand retention and attrition a little bit better in our veterinary ecosystem. And where we have landed with that research, which will be published maybe by the time this podcast hits the streets Awesome.

Speaker 1:

Yep. Where we landed was. We researched about 15 factors, things like compensation, caring leadership, flexible workspace, flexible time, et cetera, career appreciation for your work, career development opportunities. Those are five of about 15 different factors that we researched Across the entire veterinary team. This isn't just DVM focused, it's not just technician focused. We've got medical directors, practice owners, practice managers, vet assistants, csrs, front desk, et cetera. We have statistically significant data from every role, including the entire practice. We got over 15,000 responses and essentially what we asked the core of what we asked was hey, if you're staying where you're at, if you love the practice you're in, what are the three factors that make you absolutely love that practice Top three and if you're thinking about leaving, what are the three things that are making you want to run?

Speaker 3:

And why do you want to leave?

Speaker 1:

Yep, why do you want to leave? Because the three factors are different. It's really interesting because and the top six factors that make people want to stay or make people want to leave are shared among each role, but in different priority and with different intensity. Okay, so you can take a holistic approach to try to retain your whole team right by doing all six factors, All of them.

Speaker 3:

sure, we're going to do, we're going to try and do everything Right.

Speaker 1:

Or you can look at a role or a couple of roles like, oh my gosh, we're just bleeding. You know, we can't keep, seem to keep technicians. You can focus on the role and say what do we need to do better there, right? So that's what the research is really allowing us to think about and design and get out into the world, because generally out there in the world and our research confirms this about 30, sometimes upwards of the research will say upwards of 40% of people in practice are thinking about leaving.

Speaker 3:

That's a terrible, that's a huge number.

Speaker 1:

That's a terrible mindset and if and generally, about 25% are pulling the trigger right. So you've only got about a five to 15% differential there. So well, and think about that.

Speaker 3:

Think about that, just as you know, as a business, right, if you had to replace one out of every four team members on an annual basis, your institutional knowledge is leaving. You're never getting a team fully trained, right? Right, because after four years, technically you've turned over 100% of your staff, potentially on that 25% turnover. You keep turning over the same position over and over again, and so your front desk just never gets it together. Your technicians never get it together. You never have a full DVM staff Because you know, really from my experience and in the practices that I work with, the doctors drive the revenue.

Speaker 3:

If you can't keep doctors on staff, you're never going to get your revenue where it needs to be as a practice, to drive the machine of the business. And so I spent three years as a recruiting and retention NCO in the Army, and it's not just about getting the people to join the military, it's about retaining them once they're in. Because the military spends great expense oh yeah, it's all front loaded because they need you there for four years. And after they've got you trained and you're in for four years, they want to try and retain some of that because it's way easier to keep the talent you have than to go out and find new talent and get it trained up. And so you know, I think that that's really awesome that you've looked at that number, and so what are some things that you think practices can do on those, or what are you you know what's in the hopper on this report for them to be able to implement to try and stop the bleeding?

Speaker 1:

So we look at this in kind of three stages. So again, we look at these 15 factors and what we're realizing is really about seven or eight of these factors out of the 15 are where you really need to concentrate. So you know, just like anything in life, there are some things that are more important than others. So about half of the factors are really important, and about the other the other half of the factors, I don't want to say ignore them, but you don't have to. You know to be the gold standard, right? So an example in well, well, and then you want to think about staging the factors. You can't be excellent at eight things all at once tomorrow unless you're already there, right? So it kind of depends on where you're at.

Speaker 3:

I would say based on 25% attrition globally in animal health. Very few are actually there.

Speaker 1:

Very few are actually there. So what we're saying out in the world is we, globally to that point we should be able to get to 90% retention. There's no reason why we shouldn't be able to get there. We believe that. But we have to think about this at the practice level and globally and start to make this kind of get to this tipping point in our ecosystem, where we're doing these, where we're working on these factors, better, right. So if you're bleeding as a practice, you're bleeding out. You're losing people left and right.

Speaker 1:

The top three or four things to start to think about are the factors that are pushing people away. The most obvious one, which does rise to the top, is compensation. Okay, so pay people well and a lot of that has to do with technicians, which we can get into in a minute but pay people what they're worth, don't underpay. The second is showing them that you appreciate their work.

Speaker 1:

All too often we get wrapped up in the daily grind and the speed of work and we forget to show appreciation. It's not just pizza parties, right, but we got to go past that but showing appreciation for work, it's caring, leadership and one or two other things. So those are the top factors that help you stop the bleeding. Now someone's going to argue I can't pay people more We'll go there in a minute, especially around like tech utilization. But if you stop the bleeding with those factors right, then you get into the next set of factors that are more about retention, that make people want to stay. Those have to do with things like providing them a flexible schedule and a couple of other things. That's where that's kind of stage that's more competition for talent.

Speaker 3:

It feels like then, because if somebody's gonna leave the industry, in total I'm not gonna go work for any practice, and so you know, you know, utilization, compensation, some of those things come into play. But if I'm being driven out, I feel like I'm gonna have the same experience at practice a Versus practice B, two miles away. I just don't want to deal with the industry anymore, and so you don't want to force people away. So there's the I'm forcing somebody out components that you talked about, the two to three things that are forcing people to. We're making that not forcing them out, but making them think I don't want to be involved in this industry versus the things to say I want to keep somebody here at my practice, which are two to three different factors right, right, and and of the people, so of the people that are wanting to leave.

Speaker 1:

Some are leaving to go from one practice to another. They haven't lost faith yet. Some are leaving to go somewhere else in the veterinary industry, but they're, but we're, they're leaving practice. And then some are leaving all together. There's different types of leaving to your right, which we, which we cover in our, in our research. But just to get people to stay, stop the bleeding, then work on a set of factors that create more stickiness. And then the last set of factors and I'll mention two of them, two of the this is the total seven or eight really create champions in your practice, and those are the people that, ultimately, now not only do we have a sticky practice, but it's really easy to recruit to our practice Because it's word of mouth, it's people saying you ought to come work here, right, and those factors are.

Speaker 1:

Things are really about practicing modern medicine and having a shared purpose. Right, how you mean, we all are finding purpose in our work and we're working well together toward that purpose. It's really interesting to see that it's kind of like masalas hierarchy of needs in that regard, where don't push people away, it's like you got to give them air and water right and then and then give them something that makes them feel more comfortable, to say like shelter, and then give them something more aspirational at the end. So what we found is, if you stage it that way, you can kind of see yourself as a practice where you're at in that stage and where you need to start to tackle your work to plug the holes so that the the water isn't coming out of the bucket faster than how you're able to Pour it into the absolutely yeah, yeah.

Speaker 3:

There's like five quotes, quotes that flipped into my head. You know, teddy Roosevelt, nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care. Like number one, you have to show, show your team, you care about them, and, and, and. And. Then Richard Branson has a quote as well, that you need to train people Well enough so they can leave, but you have to treat them well enough that they want to stay and so I'm gonna interrupt you there.

Speaker 1:

That is absolutely dead on key right, Because when you think about one of the one of the ways we're framing this is the first thing you need to do is show people you value them. You can do that financially by paying them well, but you also have to show how much you appreciate them by just being caring and an extra five or ten grand a year in my paycheck doesn't matter if I hate going to work every day.

Speaker 1:

That's right, and so you, you show you appreciate their work and maybe you invest a little bit in their career development. That shows them that you care about me financially, you care about me emotionally, you care about me socially. The biggest factor, though I want to, I want to lean into that the biggest factor that creates retention, by far not attrition. Retention okay is teamwork teamwork 40% of people named teamwork as the number one reason why they're staying where they're at.

Speaker 3:

So you have to build a good team, and then you have to work together as a team.

Speaker 1:

That's right, and, of course, if you're in that cycle of attrition, you're never gonna lean into teamwork. It's gonna be really, really hard. No, it's just interesting to see how these all work together, and your Branson quote is dead on, though it is part of that so training then to stay.

Speaker 3:

I mean, we had another guest on the podcast who helped with the Utilization guidelines for technicians and I think that that's a huge component for you know that, that quote of you know, training them so they can leave. Like you have to be confident enough in your practice To utilize your team well enough and, and it's amazing to me, garth, that your association, the insurance industry, our national association, if there's any sort of tools or resources, they're behind a paywall. You have to belong to the association, you have to have a log in. And in preparation for the podcast with with Alyssa who helped work on the guidelines for and she, she, she's part of mentor vet, they're all out there free, like I was going through these with some business associates and we're like, holy crap, we need to take this and and Convert it to the insurance industry.

Speaker 3:

You know we have CSRs, we have, you know, account managers, so to speak, and you know that well, it's. It's different actual functional tools. Like you know, drawing blood on a cat is different than Processing a policy change on a veterinary practice, but the mechanics of utilizing that team member to their fullest extent, because you want to feel that you're actually fulfilling your role and, holy cow, do you guys have that thing built out so well to be able to integrate a Technician and utilize them? Because, number one, you need to get maximum efficiency out of your team right to build a team maximum Efficiency. And how do you do that? How do you train them? And and you have completely built a roadmap and it's just out there for the world to go look at. So why don't you talk about how some of these things come into play and then how you see them with the attrition and retention component?

Speaker 1:

so let me let me try to address this in in as fluid away as possible, but there's. It's interesting because there's a lot of connections, dots to connect here. So our technician utilization guidelines were were born from a lot of conversations between our board and various technicians Around. The obvious part of this conversation technicians aren't necessarily utilized to their full extent of their skills capabilities. Right, and this is Legally right, what the states allow, all that could, yeah, yeah.

Speaker 3:

Which is its own conversation. In total, they could be five or seven podcasts about how each state does their stuff right.

Speaker 1:

So yeah, so we won't we won't touch that we developed them in large part because there's just this gap. And when technicians are utilized to the full extent of their capabilities, skill sets and you know legally what what's what's appropriate, it frees up time for the DVMs, who are also so everyone kind of gets you know, gets some of their burnout taken care of, and but if you connect this to Retention, as you pointed out, technician utilization supports career development. It supports Caring leadership, because you're showing that you, you, you understand this person and you want to bring them in and use their skills and let them grow right.

Speaker 3:

It gives them a roadmap to their career inside the insurance industry, of where they can go and what they can do and when they can wind up in the industry, not just okay, I'm a technician at a practice, it's where I get to go with my career and you're able, as a practice, to paint that roadmap for them, and you know ahas developed some of these tools for them to do that.

Speaker 1:

Exactly, and we're connecting this to another piece of research that we have, and that is we ask technicians and their co-workers, associate, dvms and others, what do you think you should get paid? Okay, we have, we have research from NAVTA that I think the most recent research is. The average technician in the US is paid somewhere around 50 52,000. It's up a little bit from the high 40s, right? It's in that, in that range. When you ask technicians what do you think you should be paid, on average they come back with being paid essentially right at living wage, 62 ish thousand dollars. So right now you've got about a ten thousand dollar gap in the averages. Okay, so let that hanging Chad rest for a second.

Speaker 1:

Then we ask their peers you know they're working their co-workers, associate, dvms, etc. What do you think Technicians should be paid? These are the people who are working with them and see the value they provide every day. Well, that gap closes by about five to seven thousand dollars, depending on who's answering the question. So now we've got a gap that's only three to five thousand dollars, right, if technicians, so people know that the value is greater than what the pay is, a we should be paying people what their true value is. So if you're underpaying, you got to at least close that gap by just from the value argument.

Speaker 1:

But B, if you're also adding to that utilization and you're amping up, improving the utilization at to your point, it frees up time with the DVM. They can do more valuable, higher revenue-generating work and all of a sudden that does much more than just pay for what. You've increased your tech utilization pay Also then solved something that is a driver of attrition. You've also improved your relationship with your technician because you're investing in their career. So this also starts to degrade, in a good way, the spiral of attrition. So all of these things are connected and they're connected both in terms of the career aspirations. They're connected financially, they're connected in retention and attrition. It's not a difficult equation to see how those dots are all supportive of each other.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, and as a small business owner myself putting on my business owner hat for a second for the veterinarians out there listening thinking, holy crap, I've got a staff of 10 and I've got to pay everyone $10,000, all my support staff, technician, csrs, that utilization component that's $100,000 a year that I've got to increase my pay to make up that gap, just using some round numbers. But what I would say to them as a fellow entrepreneur how often do you pay your team? You don't have to write $100,000 check today to do that. It's over time and it's incremental. And you say we're going to do these things and you implement some of these utilization components and the ship starts to turn, slowly but it's turning in the right direction. You're helping with the attrition but you're also able to pay your team and what they're worth.

Speaker 1:

So, bill, I want to add on to that because I've got a very specific yes and to that when I started with AHA, we were at 30% attrition of our own staff, which is a mirror image of what's out there in the world In the industry.

Speaker 1:

Sure, yeah, In our industry Now, granted, we're not in small animal practice, but we're direct supporters of that. We were experiencing 30% turnover, and a lot of it in our technician roles, practice consultants out there doing accreditation. One of the first things we did was a compensation analysis and we found out that we were underpaying. Surprise, surprise. And we found out how much we were underpaying and we said to ourselves you know what? We can't close that gap immediately, but we can close the gap in 18 months. So what we did was we put the plan in front of our team and we said this is what we're going to be doing over the next 18 months. In addition, they wanted to redesign the accreditation team itself, which is about half of our staff, about 25, 27 people. So we let them redesign the team. Let them is that's not even the right word. They were excited to redesign their own team. We said great, go for it. So then they took ownership, they felt appreciated, they developed utilize them to use.

Speaker 3:

They developed their own career tiers.

Speaker 1:

So now they're creating career development pathways within our own structure. So, in addition to knowing they were going to get paid better, having a stake in the game of the construction of their own team, in the last 18 months we've had zero turnover.

Speaker 3:

Say that again, Garth. I think the listeners need to hear that again. You went from 30% to 0%. Now, the other component that I mentioned in the intro was because you've and this probably goes to the reorganization of how you do accreditation and the cohort piece. So that was this part of that program of the cohort and how you do accreditation.

Speaker 1:

No, but it was. That was a parallel project. But no, we were not redesigning the team.

Speaker 3:

Part of the team got redesigned to accommodate cohort accreditation but it wasn't central to it Okay, but you have this component where you have more people involved and I'm sure the accreditation process is a revenue driver for the association, and so you have more team members able to assist with some of these things. So now you're able to drive more revenue within the. You know, just put this in the frame of your practice you're able to drive more revenue, which offsets the cost to pay your team more, and now you have less attrition, which allows you to be a better running organization.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. So to put that in a couple simple numbers, let's see three years ago I think, we had 150 new members join AHA. Our practice consultants were the key to getting other new practices to join because they're out in the field. This year we will probably this fiscal year, we will probably see somewhere between 350 to maybe 400.

Speaker 3:

We went from 150 to double 350 to 400 from 2020,. You said 2021?

Speaker 1:

2020, 2021 to 2024, fiscal year 2024 for us ends in July.

Speaker 3:

Wow, so you're going to double that number. But that's for the listeners out there. It's not an immediate thing, it's an evolutionary process, not a revolutionary one, and that's I think you alluded to that in the opening about needing to. You're a visionary, but it's also how do I actually integrate this in and you don't have to try and do it all at once. Sometimes it's one or two big doors swing on little hinges, so sometimes it's the little idea that makes the big thing happen.

Speaker 1:

So I want to I like how you phrased that I'll yes, and that one again too, because for us we have a big aspiration simplify the journey toward excellence for veterinary practices. That's the big aspiration and everything we do points at that North Star. But the it's the, to your point, it's the little hinge that's moving the door on that. And our little hinge is we're focused on improving our culture within AHA. So now we've got no turnover. We went from I don't know if you or your listeners know what a net promoter score is Our employee net promoter score. It's a scale negative 100 to 100. 100 is perfect, but we were at a negative 71 employee net promoter score.

Speaker 3:

Holy cow. That's for the listeners out there. That's awful. It's awful.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and our most recent one was done maybe, maybe six months ago we were at a positive 31. We have a 100 point positive swing.

Speaker 3:

Swing yeah.

Speaker 1:

And how our employees feel about working. Aha, our focus to bring our external purpose to life, our focus has been on our culture and our people. Period, that's it. Yeah, we have projects that are external facing, like benchmarking, like we talked about earlier. That's where everyone sees it as like that's the visionary thing. That's not the visionary thing. The visionary thing is treating our people exceptionally well and trying to build a team. Right, we don't want to say a family, because that's got weird connotations to it. That's how some organizations try to create a. You know, I don't know stickiness. That just doesn't feel right. Right, like we're really trying to build a place that people want to stay. They want to.

Speaker 3:

Culture eats strategy for breakfast. I mean, you know the root word of culture is cult and there's connotations with that, but if you can build a strong culture within your organization, you have a leg up as we start to wrap up your garth. There's one last topic I think that we chatted about addressing and kind of what AHA is working on. It's AI within AHA and the industry In my industry and the insurance industry, supporting veterinarians and the animal health industry. There's a conversation around there's two types of insurance agencies at the end of in 2030, those that use AI and those that are out of business. And so where does AHA fit with AI and kind of what are you working on in the background for your members in that arena?

Speaker 1:

So we're dabbling in AI just ourselves, different staff within AHA who have the opportunity to you know, say, have AI help them write some marketing copy or something like that, right? But there's always a human involved with that type of thing, when what we're doing right now planning wise is we have about, I'd say, 10 to 15 ideas for where we want to apply AI and the one that seems to be getting the most traction. I can't guarantee that this is where we will put our time, energy and money, but the one that seems to be getting the most traction is essentially creating an AI assistant where a member could come in and get to that assistant on our website more than a chat bot, right? Not just you know, hey, set up an appointment for me, but then train that assistant on all of our content, our standards, our guidelines, everything that we've published in trends and JAH, et cetera. And a member could ask the assistant hey, could you, for example, build a table for me for, based on the nutrition guidelines to you know, prescribe a diet for a certain type of dog, you know, overweight, et cetera, et cetera. Right, Like we're trying to figure out if AI can be focused on our content and then help answer not just the simple and basic questions about where do I find a guideline, but interpretation, et cetera, and we've just started playing with that and early results are actually pretty interesting and pretty promising.

Speaker 1:

So we hope in the next year maybe we can get a beta out there that is, an AI assistant really focused and trained on our content for our members, because our ultimate goal is to make what we do for our members and non-members. Frankly, as you pointed out, our guidelines are available to everybody, Easy to access, easy to understand, easy to apply, and what a better place than for AI to support that without it feeling like it's stealing someone's job right? It augments everything that we do.

Speaker 3:

I mean truth be told, garth, I used AI to write your bio intro to this podcast.

Speaker 1:

There you go.

Speaker 3:

I plugged, I took your bio off, I took all of your stuff off LinkedIn and I threw it in chat, gtp and said write an intro for the Veterinary Blueprints podcast. And that's the thing is trying to figure out how to utilize this technology in a way that supports and is supportive of the overall mission for excellence in veterinary health, as you stated. I couldn't be more thankful for having you on the podcast, garth. For those interested in connecting with AHA, where's the best place to do that? We have ahaorg and your team. Where else can they find aha or you out in the world?

Speaker 1:

Easy to find me garthjordan at ahaorg.

Speaker 3:

There we go.

Speaker 1:

That's the easy one. I'm always up for a chat with members non-member anybody that just wants to talk about our role in the world and our purpose. We'll be at VMX in Western every year, but certainly in 2024, depending on when this podcast airs.

Speaker 3:

We'll get this one out before Western, for sure. Maybe not VMX that's in a couple of weeks but I will be at Western as well, so maybe we can bump into each other down there.

Speaker 1:

So we try to be easy to find in person too.

Speaker 3:

Well, thanks so much for the time today. Garth Really appreciate it. Remember for all of our listeners out there to like, share and review the podcast. It helps with the algorithm, and everyone have a terrific day. Thanks for joining us today, Garth.

Speaker 1:

Thank you.

Speaker 3:

Appreciate it. Thanks for tuning in to Veterinary Blueprints. If you have any thoughts, questions or suggestions for an episode, I would love to hear from you. Email me at bill at butlervetinsurancecom. Don't forget to subscribe so you never miss an episode, and if you could do me a huge favor you know it helps with the algorithm. If you can like, share or comment on the post, leave a review, I would love it. Thanks for tuning in and until next time.

AHHA's Success and Future of Veterinary Industry
Animal Health Data Management Simplified
Retention Through Technician Utilization and Pay
Improving Utilization and Reducing Attrition
AI in Veterinary Practices