From veterinarian to entrepreneur

Stacee Santi, DVM, CEO/Founder Vet2Pet

He said “You’ll have to become an Apple Developer”.
I said, “I have no idea how to do that, but it can’t be harder than veterinary school”.
And so the journey began.

As a practicing veterinarian, working tirelessly to help animals be healthier, I was becoming very frustrated at the fact that the majority of my clients weren’t giving their parasite prevention monthly. The big reveal always came when I prescribed their summer 6-pack of parasiticide and they would disclose they still had some from last summer. I’m no infectious disease specialist but I do know that most medications don’t work if you don’t take them. I’ll be honest, I was bitter about it. If you’re a veterinarian, you know what I’m talking about.

I started to examine the facts of the situation and realised that my clients weren’t being ‘bad’, they were just being forgetful because let’s get real, giving something monthly almost never happens. And the current method of reminding them by applying a sticker to a calendar as recommended by the manufacturer, was pretty hard to do on my smartphone. I knew what I needed to do. The answer was right in front of me. I needed to be able to automatically send a reminder to my clients on their smartphone each month letting them know it was time to give their parasite prevention. I needed an app. I did what any normal person would do….I googled it.

To my surprise, there were no apps available for veterinarians to turn my idea into a reality. I stumbled upon a company in San Francisco building generic apps for small businesses like hairdressers and realtors. I reached out and asked them if they could help me. That’s when I learned that I would need to become an Apple Developer to host an app in the App Store.

Fast forward a few years later. By this time, my little app was solving lots of problems for me in my practice. I had added some new features to improve efficiency and loyalty. Clients could order medication by snapping a picture of the product, earn rewards for spending and share a pet selfie with us. I was sure there were veterinarians like me looking to connect with their clients more efficiently and effectively that would like to have an app too. I decided to start Vet2Pet in 2013. Looking back I was pretty naive. You have to understand that I knew a lot about running a veterinary practice and absolutely nothing about starting a company.

I started my business by turning on the website right before I went to bed one evening. I woke up in the morning and I had a customer. I could not believe it! I began working on apps when I would get home from my veterinary job (nights and weekends). The first year, it was a steady flow of about one customer per month. The second year, it doubled. The third year, I had to quit my veterinary job. Now, in 2018, 600 apps in nine countries later, I am the proud leader of an all-girl tech company dedicated to improving the lives of veterinary teams. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way about core business principles that don’t seem to change much as you move into another vertical.

  1. Have your purpose. Every good employee I’ve ever had cares about making a difference, in addition to making money. If you can find something to believe in and communicate that vision and purpose to your team, they will be engaged on a whole new level.
  2. Listen. By listening, you will discover the secret to whatever you are working on, whether it be a happy customer, a sick dog, a motivated employee, or the direction for your business. The answer is almost always right in front of you if you can stop talking long enough to see it.
  3. Stay in your lane. It’s impossible to make everyone happy. It’s an assured outcome of disappointment if you start trying to make your product or service fit everyone. Find your lane then stay in it. And if you get lost temporarily and take the wrong road, stop the car, assess the situation and turn around to get back in your lane. You can’t afford to be distracted from your purpose.
  4. Enjoy the ride. Stop thinking happiness is yours just after you close the big deal, reach a money milestone, or worst of all, retire. The fun starts now. Be sure to take time to reflect on what you are doing and where you have been. Find the little things in the daily grind that inspire you and bring joy into your life.
  5. Surround yourself with good people. Team culture is the most important part of a company whether you are a leader or an employee. Hire SWANs (smart, work ethic, great attitude and nice) and be sure to resolve any “bad apple” situations quickly.

Dr. Stacee Santi (pictured) is a 1996 DVM graduate from Colorado State University and the founder of Vet2Pet, a technology startup that builds personalized custom apps for veterinary practices. With over 20 years of clinical experience in small animal and emergency practice, Stacee brings an “in the trenches” approach to innovation and solutions for veterinary teams. She has also served as a medical advisory consultant for NVA for 5 years, medical director for AAHA general/ER practice in Colorado as well as a member of the Executive Committee and Chairperson for the Telehealth Task Force for the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association.

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