Dr. Jaime Pickett, Chief Veterinary Officer at Pet Paradise, joined us for an interesting discussion about the importance of always being ready and willing to pivot quickly and the value of being open to the ever-changing drivers that affect vets.
Dr. Pickett shares her path from a veterinarian to franchising to CVO and why a business degree is beneficial for all vets, especially when moving into leadership roles.
Welcome back to Consolidate That. Ivan, we’ve got a wonderful guest. I brought another doctor for you today to make you feel at home. I’ll let you go ahead and introduce our guest.
Another doctor and MBA, so we’re…
I know you’re a perfect match.
But my experience is not as profound. I’m very excited to introduce to you guys to a colleague of mine, Dr. Jaime Pickett. She is the Chief Veterinary Officer in Pet Paradise. She joined Pet Paradise in 2017 as a Chief Veterinary Officer to work with a strong team that’s similarly committed to establishing pet wellness as a parity. She completed her pre-medical studies in the John Hopkins University and a doctoral degree at University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine. She also holds a Master’s of Business Administration and currently serves on the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine Admission Committee.
As an entrepreneur at heart, Dr. Pickett has owned and operated several successful veterinary hospitals and franchises. She is committed to providing quality and innovative healthcare to pets in a convenient environment for busy pet parents.
Welcome to the show. Thank you for finding the time.
Thanks for having me.
Your career path is amazing. You own several Papa John’s as the franchise. Is that correct?
Yes, it’s correct. Yes, 13 in total.
Thirteen of them, geez. Okay. So now, Pet Paradise is not a franchise. It’s a true pet spa. If nobody checked it out before, please go to Pet Paradise and find it on Google, I guess or what’s the website?
Yeah, petparadise.com. We made it easy for you.
Yeah. It’s an incredible facility. I know Ryan, you bring your pets over there as well.
I showed it to our Ukrainian team and half of them said that it looks much better than their previous vacation.
Yeah. They wanted to come and visit and stay there.
Yeah. We don’t take human guest, just so you know.
Oh! Come on! They were hoping with a discount. That’s incredible. Now, can you tell us just a little bit, how does that journey happen. You become a veterinarian, and then
Yeah. I guess backing up a little bit. I worked for a Banfield my first year after graduating veterinary school. You just watch the clients pour in the doors from Pet Smart. I mean, you talk about guaranteed clientele. Even on the slow days, you had — all you had to do is go throw on your white coat, your stethoscope and walk into Pet Smart and go talk to a client that’s looking at a dog food, or cat food and educate them. Before you knew it, you had a new client. The business model of convenience and a one-stop shop is what people wanted and they still do today. Nothing’s really changed there, from when I first graduated in 2003.
Talk about a location being one of the major keys to a business. What better real estate could you have had than a veterinary hospital being inside a major pet store, but also offers grooming and training. Naturally, I reach out to corporate and ask to purchase one. I practiced and bought a second one along the lines. Then Mars, the candy company came in and purchased Banfield from Scott Campbell who started the company and the founder, a very innovative man and a visionary really. He’s really changed the vet industry. But they came in and purchased. The franchisees really knew they have five years. They are in a five-year plan now. Our clock is starting. I was thinking to myself, what else can I do? I really enjoy the business aspect, and someone got my MBA and then I started looking at other franchises.
There was nothing really else out there in the vet franchise space. I wanted to go to a franchisee-friendly company, so I started looking at a bunch of franchises and Papa John’s just resonated with me. They were franchisee-friendly and there was a room for expansion up in the New England area, where there were 66 open trade area. I got into that and so yeah, after Papa John’s, the Pet Paradise had been formed in 2003. They were a resort with grooming, day camp and boarding. They were looking to expand into the veterinary industry and retrofit all the existing resorts, which at the time I think there were about 23. Retrofit all of those with veterinary services and all the new resorts going forward would have veterinary services built out. We’re building eight to ten a year.
We’re putting in these clinics and building them from the ground floor and working with the development team and marketing. It’s really exciting and it’s very different from — we’re not trying to reinvent the wheel either. Just like franchises, we’re trying to take everybody’s experiences, everything we’ve done in the past. If we have something, we can utilize it. If not, then we work on it together and come with another solution. That’s how I got in Pet Paradise.
Well, that’s great. You’ve obviously had a lot of experience. I think it’s really interesting, Ivan and I are always talking about how unusual the DVM MBA path is. I know you and I have talked a few times about there is a business courses taught during veterinary school, which I think would be something hugely valuable and really important. Something a consolidation is bringing. But between running your clinics and going to get your MBA, what do you think was something that you learned different from your MBA that you hadn’t learned or that you wished you had had when you started your locations?
Yeah, that’s a great question. Everyone says it’s rare and why is it so rare. I look at it like, it’s similar to relating having a law degree with a master’s in marine biology. I mean, it’s no different. It’s foreign to that, and not part of their wheelhouse. However, it really rounds out our knowledge of anatomy and physiology with a business degree. Most new vets or even season ones do not understand how a hospital or clinical practice makes money, how to manage people, how to make or interpret financial models or lead in general. So it really provides vets with even just more immediate clout in decision-making scenarios. I mean, even senior vets prepare to transition to leadership or management roles if and when they decide to throttle back on practicing clinical medicine.
I think earning a MBA provides doctors with solid leadership foundations to build upon and a practical tool set necessary to address many of the limiting challenges in our industry today. It’s a great way for, I think the main thing really is, it really speaks to the leadership and recruiting and retaining vets, engaging employees, coaching, mentoring, customer experience, all those things you’re not taught in veterinary school. Banfield gave me a foundation, which is unlike any other veterinary practice. Then you could take that build in the MBA and take it to another level.
It’s so funny because when I graduated, I wanted to be an ER vet or radiologist. It was all kind of veterinary career path. Very few vets want to progress from finishing this very difficult journey and not use it. It’s actually more less rare these days, but the interesting part is that then, this veterinarian who was dreaming to be treating patients, and knowing medicine and then decides to become a business owner. If I decide to become a radiologist or a surgeon, I’ll take the next four years education. If I decide to become a businessperson, I just go and try to do it. The danger of that is pretty close to as becoming radiologist without the training. Because you end up in the business that you own, there’s people that depend on your paycheck and then you turn from an amazing doctor to a terrible business owner. That’s what happens.
I think it should be sort of a prerequisite if you are interested and that’s an upgrade that you can take and the basic training. It will be interesting actually what to do before that and what a great way to use a franchise that has a down. But my question is actually about that source of patients. More and more we’re hearing from the networks and from the clinics that there’s no lack of patients anymore, especially with COVID and people paying more attention on what’s going on. There’s tons and tons of patients and there is not enough veterinarians.
Do you see that these days, the client acquisition in that conversation in the aisles of pet store is not as important as scaling the veterinary services, or is that not what you’re seeing in Pet Paradise?
No, I would agree with you. I don’t think it’s as important. There’s plenty of patients to go around. I mean, most of us are inundated with pets. You’re getting more and more compassion fatigue. It’s not getting any better for the veterinarians, and there’s few of them. I think the market is there. I think again, you take your experiences, and those educations and whether it’s a business world or whatnot. You have to understand those, that ever-changing drivers that affect us, pet insurance, telemedicine, DVM shortage, marketing strategy. No, I agree. You’ve got to scale and you’ve got to make it convenient for clients.
Even curbside, you’ve got to keep pivoting. I think it’s all part of it, but you just got to be open to it. We can’t stay in these narrow-minded. I just do medicine and that’s it. I mean, we need to keep growing. It’s not only professional development, but it’s personal development as well.
I think from what I’ve heard and from what I understand from vets, they enjoy being busy, right? Like we’ve talked, people go into veterinary medicine because they want to help the animals and the patients. Is having sort of the foundation of Pet Paradise a beneficial way to be able to attract talent, knowing that there’s going to be some of that driving factor, people coming in for the boarding, and the grooming and the daycare. Does that help you guys attract talent of veterinarians or is that something different that people are looking perhaps to be in a more traditional location?
We found it to attract vets. I know it’s difficult. We’re always talking with people. What are you offering veterinarians, what do veterinarians want? We’re trying to tap into their needs. One of big things is work-life balance. I mean, we hear it all the time. When they started saying that, I was like, “I don’t even know what that means. What? Work-life balance. What is the definition of that?” That’s what they want. I think for us, what we can give them is — one of the big things is, even compassion fatigue, you tell all these other pets all day long and yours sits home at the couch by itself. That really affects us.
We allow them to bring their pets to day camp every day. They’re with their pets if they want to be. But also, I think we are used to seeing sick pets. Those healthy puppies that walk in the door. I mean, we see more sick and injured pets than healthy ones. But in Pet Paradise, you just were down, you had a euthanasia or you had a sick animal. These cases very stressful. You go out and you walk around and watch the dogs play. I tell you and we say it all the time that any of the people from headquarters, all you do is go down and watch those dogs play in the pool and it never gets old. It never gets old. I mean, you saw it probably, Ryan.
Yeah. I have my — whenever they’re there, we — if we’re traveling, we always are constantly taking screenshots of the webcams of them jump in and out of the pool and having a good time. Yeah, it’s great. It’s super fun. It’s the same reason I like to bring my puppies to work with me when I work out in my coworking space. You can just see people brightening up. That’s an interesting idea. I never thought about the desire to see happy, smiling animals during the day as well.
Yeah, it really is. I don’t think you’ve realized it until you’re actually in it and you get to see pets having fun instead of the sick patients all the time.
Yeah. Talking about ER, that was my world, where it’s just all not happy. I wonder if you guys allow owners also or the employee jump in the pool?
Ivan, your picture is going to be on the wall too. Do not allow this man.
— the bald guy —
The bald guy is going to jump in the pool.
If you see him, tell him no jumping in the pool. Interesting that you touched on this, as you know, what veterinarians are looking for and the work-life balance. That’s a huge area of what we’re sort of working at VIS towards discovering. One part is that, we do know that the industry is burnout and there’s a bunch of stuff that people do when they’re burned out. But as a part of it and the more happy people that we talk to, and especially on our other podcast where we talk to entrepreneurs, I find it it’s the veterinarians that’s change their sort of scope and perspective just like yourself. We are so goal-oriented and when we reach our goal becoming a veterinarian, it’s sort of the end of that goal.
Then if you don’t set the next one, like yourself, “Okay. I want to build a franchise. I’ll do that. Then hearing this.” Continuous goal setting. Do you see that more these days, that sort of extending the goal is maybe a solution to our burnout and sort of becoming sort of day-to-day compassion fatigue? Is there something into it?
Yeah. I never really thought about it, but I think there’s a valid point to that. Diversify what you’re doing in general. I mean, I know for a lot of people, sure, because of the burnout. Then also, you kind of do get into a routine in a rot. I mean, like anything else. I think it’s a very valid point that I had not thought about, but I do think you’re right. I think some people just need more, work these hours, go home and they need to rely on those hours, which — it’s hard because we’re in the healthcare industry. You can’t promise them that either, even though you want to. You’ll get out at six o’clock, when we know that that may or may not be the case. I do think diversifying what they’re doing a little bit would help. I mean, they’ve been in the veterinary field, most of them since they were kids.
Absolutely! That’s sort of the next hypothesis that we’re trying to develop further and see that you have goal setting. Even the continuous education, it’s sort of that next thing that you need to do and be very structured about it. Because if the new grad comes out and it was a dream to become a vet, then when it becomes — vaccination conversation day-to-day, w 20 times a day. It was funny, I was talking to Pat Welch from VetBloom, he’s an ophthalmologist. He got bored immediately when he graduated and he said, “I’m going to become an ophthalmologist because I don’t want to talk about the vaccines every day.” Then he did the residency, and then after that, he’s talking about glaucoma every day. Then he pivoted completely and he was like, “I want to do something new entrepreneurial.” He’s developing this amazing VetBloom platform.
It was interesting to see a perspective of someone that dedicated not just the veterinary, but also the specialty degree to it and then diversify after that into something that is sort of near the vet field. But he’s a specialist and an ophthalmologist. That was an interesting conversation.
That is interesting. Yeah, there’s a lot of truth to that.
And the happier people that we see are those that sort of chose that different path. Well, we burn through 20 minutes. We usually promise our listeners to kind of limit it to that. I just want to again talk about the Pet Paradise for who is your best customer, where they find you, which locations, if there’s not a huge list or —
There is a huge list, Ivan. They’re big.
How many locations?
We have 40 now. We actually just opened our 43rd and we’re going to have 45 by the end of this month.
We’re building out about eight to ten a year and they’re about anywhere 13,000 to 15,000 ft.².
So people can go to petparadise.com to be able to find that full list of them, which is great. And much like you said, I know you guys are always looking for new talents, so any new veterinarians or existing veterinarians. They’re looking for a new opportunity obviously. Go on there and check out what you guys have going on, because I know it’s a really cool place. I know we’ve worked together on some other projects too, so I’m a big fan of what you guys have going on. Two questions that we always ask to end with people are, a book that you would recommend, something that you’re reading or something that really impacted you when you did read it.
Sure, yeah. Actually, this is was a recommendation from our CEO, Fernando Acosta Rua, it’s a great book. It’s called Multipliers by Liz Wiseman. It’s not increasingly intelligence and achievements of your team versus diminishers who are intelligent people, but they set the intelligence and energy out of the room because they are more focused on their own intelligent and the potential smarts within their own team. I think it’s a great book. I mean, it’s a thick book but you can get the audio.
Well then, our one other question is, who else would you recommend having us reach out to join the podcast with us.
Well, of course, I would choose Scott Campbell, the founder of Banfield. I’ll tell you, he’s great, he’s visionary, he’s been great. But also, he still will pick up — he has the same cell phone he did 30 years ago and he still picks it up. He’s a great mentor and an advocate for our profession in general. He’s still around. That would be my pick.
Perfect. Well, I know there’s ton of things that we can hit on with you. I think we would love to have you back again and talk with you about our success series and maybe talk about some of the sales of practices that you have going on and your history on those things as well. But for this time, we’ll call it a day and we really appreciate having you on, Dr. Pickett and we look forward to talking —