CEO Conjecture – April 2017

It’s been a whirlwind (well, truthfully, a bit of a blur!) of activities since the last Peer to Peer update, seeing VMAE members connecting, learning, and serving together. Here are a few highlights:

  • The VMAE Fall Conference 2016, held in Austin, was — it goes without saying — another terrific gathering of colleagues. Whenever VMAE members come together you can depend on lots of laughs and the free flow of ideas. Mary Byers, CAE, stimulated our thinking all day Friday with her presentation on 5 Radical Changes for Associations. Saturday morning we rolled up our sleeves in workshop format with Cathy Hight to deepen our understanding of, and our ability to articulate, the value proposition for VMA members. Thanks to our Professional Development Committee, the conference provided just the right balance of theoretical and practical information.
  • During the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference (with its focus on life skills development), VMAE members assembled for lunch where President Candace Joy delivered updates to a packed house! Your Board of Directors met to review the VMAE strategic framework and progress on the action plan.
  • VMAE member Dr. Andy Maccabe, executive director of AAVMC, invited me to participate with two animal health executives in a panel discussion and dialog session during the annual AAVMC Deans Conference. I appreciated the invitation because the deans are a smart and influential bunch of folks, and the opportunity to share thoughts with them about industry and professional trends was very productive — not to mention that we talked about the importance of faculty members advocating for organized veterinary medicine at each of their colleges.
  • After a sunny Florida drive from Naples to Orlando, it was time to immerse in the NAVC Conference (which announced that the conference will now be known as VMX, for Veterinary Meeting and Expo). Given its strategic position at the beginning of the annual sales and marketing cycle for the animal health companies, it was an opportune time to meet with our Strategic Initiative Partners and talk about mutual objectives. Additionally, I represented VMAE in meetings of the Pet Nutrition Alliance board (check out the announcement about the nutritional calculator in this newsletter issue) and of the Fix The Debt steering committee (which is coordinating the efforts of 10 different working groups — watch for an update in the next issue of this newsletter).
  • As a new member, I received a warm welcome into VetPartners — the association of veterinary business specialists dedicated to serving the veterinary profession. The sessions on telehealth were excellent, as was a workshop on “the practice of the future” that engaged teams in the design of veterinary clinics that met each group’s vision of how to creatively fuse customer service, work flow, technology utilization, and community presence. It was a great exercise that might be fun to do with one of your groups!
  • Western Veterinary Conference was next on the itinerary, which afforded opportunities to meet with more industry partners. VMAE’s Immediate Past President, Adrian Hochstadt, chaired the meeting (wearing his AVMA deputy CEO hat) where both working groups and organizations reported on activities underway and projects being planned to support wellness in the veterinary profession (see Dr. Marci Kirk’s update in this newsletter issue). I was able to meet with John Volk of Brakke Consulting, which has conducted research for the North American Pet Health Industry Association; that research shows that consumers want a recommendation (not just multiple brochures in the waiting room!) about pet insurance from their veterinarian, and a related study identified 10 best practices at veterinary clinics that are driving patient care and practice health because they are advocates for pet health insurance. Stay tuned … NAPHIA and VMAE will be collaborating to help get these research findings into your hands.
  • The VMAE ThinkWORKS meeting in New Orleans was exceptional. Period! Thanks to the leadership of chair Emily Kane and the ThinkWORKS subcommittee, we engaged Dr. Adam Little and his team of thought leaders / entrepreneurs / visionaries to lead our two-day exploration into telehealth and technology innovation. The presentations, dialog sessions, and workshops they created were informative, stimulating, and productive. Thanks also to presenters Jim Penrod (VMAE member and executive director of AAVSB), Dr. Lori Teller (AVMA board liaison to the telehealth panel), and Mark Cushing (Animal Policy Group) for their presentations about policy issues related to telehealth utilization, and to Tom Bohn (CEO at NAVC) for sharing thoughts about associations’ role in shaping policy. This meeting demonstrated why the ThinkWORKS format of taking a deep dive into an emerging topic is so beneficial for executives who want to add value to conversations in their own VMAs. Mark your calendar NOW for next year’s session: April 6-7, 2018!
  • The next gathering was in Indianapolis, where executives and volunteer facilitator teams gathered to “onboard” their VMAs into VMAE’s signature program, Power of Ten (P10). With this year’s teams, P10 programs have now been inaugurated at more than 30 VMAs! The exponential power of the program is palpable as some 300 recent graduates are touched ANNUALLY; just think of the impact over time as these young professionals reach their full strides in the profession. Thanks to Lisa Perius, chair of the P10 Task Force, who made us all feel welcome to her city — and whose panel of four P10 graduates impressed and energized workshop participants. If your VMA has interest in starting a P10 program, there are loads of resources available to help — just contact Lisa or me and we can help you along the path.
  • And now the end of March finds Dan Tjornehoj, Chris Copeland, and myself in Madison, where the AVMA and Wisconsin VMA offered a well-attended Practice Profitability Workshop. VMAE representatives were invited to observe the workshop as we discuss how AVMA might offer this as a turnkey workshop to VMAs — stay tuned for details as this opportunity matures. Hats off to both AVMA and WVMA for creating this pilot, and to extending gracious hospitality to the VMAE team that attended.
  • News! News! For those of you who were able to attend the VMAE luncheon in Chicago in January, you heard the teaser there — that AVMA | LIFE would be increasing their sponsorship level as a Strategic Initiative Partner. I’m very pleased to announce that LIFE has gone Platinum, our premier level of partnership. Thank you to Libby Wallace and the LIFE board for this exceptional support.
  • More news! More news! It’s a pleasure to announce that Merck Animal Health has decided to partner with VMAE through a Platinum-level sponsorship. Gary MacPhee, who heads up US business operations, made the commitment to VMAE — thank you Gary! And many of you know Dr. Linda Lord from her days at The Ohio State University, and because she has just joined Merck Animal Health to steward their academic and allied industry relationships she will be the Merck representative who will join us at VMAE gatherings. We extend a warm welcome to Dr. Lord and great thanks to Merck Animal Health!

I look forward to seeing you in Indianapolis for our summer gathering — there are great speakers on tap, a totally fun group gathering at Chef JJ’s, and of course the counsel and company of our most excellent peers.  See you there for more updates on what’s happening in the VMAE universe!