I just returned from the VMX conference in Orlando, FL where Relief Rover was one of 26 companies invited to display a booth in the exhibit hall’s Start-Up Circle section. Of those 26 companies, 5 were picked to participate in a pitch competition sponsored by Leap Venture Academy and NAVC. The contestants had the opportunity to share our companies’ visions with a panel of judges.

I’m very proud to announce that Relief Rover took first place. And I have all of you to thank for that. As founding members of Relief Rover, you took a chance and believed in something new and untested and you’re helping to build more than a company. You’re the foundation of a movement of vets helping vets enjoy productive, satisfying, and sustainable careers.

I’ve participated in conferences as an attendee, a moderator, and a speaker. But I’ve never been an exhibitor let alone a contestant in a pitch competition and I’d like to share some optimistic insights that were gained or reinforced this year.

Colleagues Not Competitors

As a general rule, the veterinary profession is supportive. Although businesses are always doing their best to gain customers, overall the vibe is that veterinary professionals operate as colleagues rather than competitors. Here are a few conference scenarios I experienced that drove that point home.

At the Shark Tank-style pitch competition, some contestants sat together. Before things kicked off, we confessed our nervousness about presenting in front of judges. So a couple of us decided to sneak behind the curtain and engage in a few sets of jumping jacks as a way to dissipate some of the stress. It was impossible to feel like rivals as we giggled and bounced in our business outfits. Really, it was ridiculous yet highly effective.

Then later, the founder of a start-up business next to Relief Rover’s booth told me he was surprised that representatives from competitive businesses visited his booth together. He remarked that he loved attending veterinary conferences because the overall atmosphere is friendly and collegial and that it’s in stark contrast to human medical trade shows he’s attended. It was one of many small interactions that made me proud of our profession.

Struggles are Real and Shared but Solvable

Many practice owners and managers visited Relief Rover’s booth to get information on using veterinary relief services. But one practice owner really stood out to me. The frustration and fatigue were palpable as he shared his struggles to keep his practice going and his clients served with little to no time for a break. He was polite and friendly, but honestly, he seemed ready to snap. And my heart went out to him because I’ve been there. I think we’ve all been there to some degree. Whether or not we’re practice owners, we’ve all felt the pressures of keeping up with the demands of our businesses and serving an overwhelming number of clients, all while trying not to let time constraints compromise our oath to care for our patients to the best of our ability. This profession is tough with its often competing obligations!

However, his story only strengthened my resolve to continue building the Relief Rover community. Relief vets serve a vital role in the profession as we allow our fellow vets to take those hard-earned breaks. And by providing excellent relief services, we’re able to restore balance and create sustainable careers not only for ourselves but for all of our colleagues.

Inspired Leaders

I attended an event put on by The Bridge Club and if you’ve not heard of that organization, they are well worth checking out. Dr. Eleanor Green, the previous dean of Texas A&M and now with Animal Policy Group spoke about her experiences as a leader in our field. She’s a huge supporter of the veterinarian’s role in driving innovation in our industry and she always brings a bright perspective with her humor and optimism.

And so much of the programing at VMX was lined up with emerging leaders sharing their ideas in medicine, research, public health, wellbeing, animal welfare, and so many other topics. We have a lot to be excited about as inspired leaders, both seasoned and new, work to solve challenges and pave the way for positive change in our industry.

Transformative Passion and Knowledge

Walking the exhibit hall, it’s obvious that our profession is filled with people using their passion, expertise, experiences, and creativity to solve some of our industry’s challenges. We have the collective knowledge to fix our problems. It’s an exciting time of transformation and growth in our profession and the more veterinary voices we have in the mix, the more aligned the solutions will be to our needs.

Yes, I get it. People are building businesses to make money and everyone is jumping on the pet popularity bandwagon. But when you speak with entrepreneurs and others working in the space, you hear the sincere and generous motivations driving this change. Genuine compassion for people and animals underlies so much of the innovation taking place in our industry. This brings me to my final point that…

Animals Are Awesome

This connects all of us. Whether we are vets, techs, nurses, assistants, customer service agents, entrepreneurs, sales reps, lawyers, accountants, financial advisors, consultants, engineers, marketing specialists, recruiters, scientists, researchers, journalists, artists, speakers, and on, and on, and on – we’ve chosen to give our talents, time, and energy to this profession because we love animals. We’re in an amazing profession and no matter what our role, we’re all working to help the creatures that make our lives and the world so rich. And of course, it goes beyond pets. The health of humanity and our globe is dependent on the animals for which we care. We should all be proud of this profession.

There’s so much to be optimistic about in this industry. Let’s continue to collaborate to make our profession that much better for our colleagues, clients, pets, and the world.

Here’s to all of us contributing in our own unique ways to an amazing and transformative new decade for the veterinary profession.

If you’re a practice looking to hire a relief vet, a relief vet, or want to learn more about relief life, come visit us at Relief Rover!