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Amy Baccam is a Vice President of Integration and Implementation at Southern Veterinary Partners. Amy's Everyday Hero story is about grit and being a role model for others who started their career looking to break glass ceilings.

 

Southern Veterinary Partners offers general practice veterinary services to the Southeast. The company is comprised of 300+ animal hospitals that collectively service over 2,000,000 patients annually and conduct tens of thousands of pet treatments every month.

Transcript

Introduction

Amy Baccam: I think there's just always a little bit of grit in individuals like me, and it just lives there. It either grows and is supported or it's thwarted, and I think surrounding yourself with people that allow you to make mistakes, but also will empower you to make decisions. I think it's the people you surround yourself with, and I think it's the company that you keep, and I think it's how you respond to failure or adversity.

You don't have to win every battle.

Anderson Williams: Welcome to Everyday Heroes, a podcast from Shore Capital Partners that highlights the people who are building our companies from the inside, every day, often out of the spotlight. With this series, we want to pull those heroes out of the shadows. We want to hear their stories. We want to share their stories. We want to understand what drives them, why they do what they do, how they might inspire and support others to become everyday heroes too.

In this episode, we talk to Amy Baccam, Vice President of Integration and Implementation at Southern Veterinary Partners.

Amy Baccam: I am, by nature, a credentialed veterinary technician, so I think that's kind of poignant in my story.

I do not have any kids, so that's also kind of poignant and comes up in my career aspirations and what drives me and motivates me. I do have one French bulldog, married for 20 years, have been in the veterinary industry my entire adult life.

Anderson Williams: Amy has spent her entire career in the veterinary sector, but her path to her current role took some time and iteration. And after experiencing multiple avenues in the industry, Amy was ready to come back to her roots, back to what drove her to become a licensed technician in the first place, and back to her passion.

Amy Baccam: I started working in the veterinary industry on a whim and I said, hey, I'm going to go to school. So I went to technician school, started working in a veterinary clinic.

I honestly thought when I graduated I would be teaching blood lab. So I loved all things microscope, I love the process, I love the diagnostic algorithms, and I love just being able to, because I don't have kids, it's very empowering that your work changes the lives of people every day with their pets. And how long can you keep that pet in that household?

My organization went through a merger and a acquisition and we didn't really have an onboarding or an integration plan, so I up and moved across the state and just traveled and helped hospitals integrate. Found, hey, I really like this business thing, I really like this training thing. And just started down the business tract, went to hospital manager, went to a multi-unit manager, left kind of veterinary, I would say, centric portion of the industry for a bit. I ran a national retailer's dog training business and then their grooming business and said, this is very far from the veterinary sector. This is very far from my technician people, and wanted to come closer to my, I would say, roots and my passions, and landed at SVP.  

Joining SVP

Anderson Williams: It was clear that Southern Veterinary Partners saw as much opportunity with Amy as she saw with them.

Amy Baccam: I went from running a national business organization to three hospitals in Florida, and I said, you sure you want me to do this? But they saw the growth that was coming and it did hit pretty fast and furious.

Anderson Williams: In that sense, they were sort of hiring ahead of the curve, that they knew they were hiring you for the future.

Amy Baccam: For the future. Absolutely, and it was pretty quick, so it started to rock and roll pretty fast.

Anderson Williams: This is Bryan Wetta, the Chief Financial Officer at SVP.

Bryan Wetta: Amy's a technician by background, right? Has worked in hospitals, has worked side by side with doctors and the rest of the team to really take great care of pets.

Took on our Florida region, just did a killer job at each of those locations and helped build with a few other key folks on the ops team. Helped build structure and process and just really good things that we could do at all of our hospitals. We did a lot of acquisitions in Florida, were in her market, and so she saw firsthand what we were good at from an integration perspective, what we were not so great at from an integration perspective.

And when you work with Amy for not too long, you realize that she's really good at identifying what didn't go well and is really passionate about making it go well in the future. As a former technician in a big corporate place where it wasn't always obvious what was going on or why things were happening, she's always very good at being the voice of our teammates in the hospital.

And so we couldn't have done what we've done from an acquisition perspective without her elevating out of that Florida region and taking over integration company-wide. And we did over a hundred acquisitions last year. Couldn't have done it without her and what she's built. So, super proud of her and what her team has done.

Anderson Williams: Both Bryan and Amy emphasize her background as a licensed technician. Amy talks about it being foundational to her story, so I wanted to understand more about that. Why was her technician background so important to her?

Amy Baccam: That goes back to my, I said it's pretty poignant that I'm a veterinary technician, a credentialed technician.

It's super important to me, I'm super passionate about it. It is seen as more of a job title, I would still today and not a career path or a long career opportunity. Many technicians do feel pigeonholed into one, I would say career option. It's very important for me that I show and reflect that you can have a career path that's different than traditional.

You can pave your way for sure. The lifespan on a credentialed technician is most are in the field for five years and move on. I think we have to change that.  

Paving Your Own Path

Anderson Williams: So if technicians don't have obvious career paths, it makes sense that they only last an average of five years in the industry. But Amy has had a long and successful career that continues to grow.

How did you grow beyond the traditional model?

Amy Baccam: Just grit, honestly, grit, willingness to learn a comfortability in putting yourself in positions where you might not fully understand what is expected of you and in a big learning curve, and just put yourself in those places that you get those opportunities. It is also hard because when you're a credentialed technician, you're typically going into a veterinary hospital, whether independent or corporately owned.

If it's independent, there's a ceiling there, like there are only so many ladders you can climb in an independent hospital. When you're in a corporate hospital, obviously there are opportunities for career succession. I think you can get the best of both worlds if you find the right organization. But I just want to put a voice out there that you have some position to look to or you have someone to look to that has done this.

It is possible.

Anderson Williams: Amy wants to be and is in fact a model for technicians like she was. People who are passionate about veterinary medicine. People who want to do meaningful work to better the lives of people and their pets. She's driven by being someone who not only shows what is possible, but opens doors to those possibilities.

So I asked Amy what advice she has for those young technicians coming up behind her.

 

Amy Baccam: Having a lot of those conversations around here are the career paths. I think it's important for technicians to determine what section of the business that they love because it can go a learning and development path.

You can go a human resources, you can go recruiting, like there are a ton of opportunities. You have to identify with what brings you passion and what are your interests. Communicate those, because there are definitely rooms that you can sit in that unless somebody knows that you have an interest in an area, nobody's just going to bring it and hand it to you.

You have to own your growth. You have to own communicating out to people what's important to you and what brings you passion. And definitely communicate those to leadership because there are always special project stretch assignments when we're trying to test things in hospitals. Hey, can we test this in your hospital?

So just giving them those out of the box thinking and just bring their head up and make them aware, hey, it's not just what's happening in the exam room. There's so many opportunities.

Anderson Williams: Amy doesn't just dole out advice to younger technicians. She practices what she preaches.

Here again, is Bryan.

Bryan Wetta: I think one of my favorite examples, back when she was the regional operations director down in Florida, we had bought a location that was not very nice inside.

The owner had not invested in it, and she was determined that that team was going to get a better facility. And didn't care whether the CFO said we had enough money or not, and it didn't matter whether we actually knew how to do construction that early on in the process. And it didn't matter whether the construction guy that we hired knew how to do construction or not.

She was bound and determined that we were going to get it and we were going to get it right, put that on her back and did it for the team. And now they have this awesome facility seeing a lot more patients in a much better environment. She was going to take it on. She knew it needed to be done. She again, knew what those technicians needed.

She was persuasive and persistent and had a lot of grit to get the dollars allocated. And then, there was a lot of things to organize, but she stepped up and did it, and she's done that in so many other ways, so many other projects, so many other integrations. It's been really amazing.

Amy's Superpower: Grit

Anderson Williams: When Bryan talks about grit, he keys in on a word that was very important to my conversation with Amy and her analysis of what has driven her success.

For her, grit is about getting in there and figuring things out and doing whatever it takes, not merely to get by, but to excel. And not for herself, but for her team. So I asked Amy for an example of what this looks like for her. What does her grit look like in action?

Amy Baccam: The first one was quite early in my SVP history, and it was during my first budgeting season, and so in previous organizations, you were just kind of handed a budget and you just go execute this budget.

Wasn't quite like that at SVP. You built it from the ground up. I had never ever been in that position and I just kind of gut checked it, asked a lot of questions, consulted a fair amount. We came out of that year and the region performed very well and I was like, okay, that worked, that worked out alright.

Anderson Williams: But Amy made it clear that despite her success, despite her growth, despite her grit, there have still been times when she questions herself.

And questions if she has the skills or is good enough to do what she's being asked to do.

Amy Baccam: As I would say, if you're an eager, hungry, new leader, you crave the ability to make the decisions. You're like, if you would just let me make the decisions for my team. I know this hospital, I'm here every day. And then you get it and you're a little deer in headlights and you're kind of like, oh.

 

Anderson Williams: It's sort of like the dog that catches the car a little bit. Like you've been asked for, for autonomy and you knew what you were searching for. Then you handed it and you're like, oh, are you serious?

Amy Baccam: And then you start to back up and you're like, oh, maybe, I don’t know maybe I'm, maybe I'm ready for that or not.

Anderson Williams: Yeah. So when that was sort of put in front of you and you were, were slightly stunned that, wait, are you actually asking me to solve this problem? Did you ever question that you were ready or was it just a matter of I've never been asked that before, at least not recently. How did you respond to that?

Imposter Syndrome

Amy Baccam: Oh, there's a fair amount of imposter syndrome yes. You do start to question yourself quite regularly. I, still in this role, suffer from a little imposter syndrome. I think it's a little humbling, when you sit in really great rooms. I'm fine sitting in the imposter syndrome seat, but when you propose solutions, and you get the feedback that yes, you thought through it all. Yes, that is a good solution. Yes, those are the best options, it's just baby steps and starting to build your confidence.

 

And I think when you then grow up through the ranks and then you sit in rooms that are wildly creative, wildly smart people, you go, hmm, can I be here? Should I be here? And you just got to absorb it.

You just got to take it. And you wouldn't be in that room if you didn't deserve it. But it is humbling, and you do find, I do find myself there sometimes.

Anderson Williams: Amy makes it clear the importance of having people like her, women like her to lean on and learn from during these moments of doubt and questioning.

Amy Baccam: I've had more female leader peers here than I've had in any other organization I've worked for, and it's inspiring and it's valuable.

The diversity piece is important, especially being a technician and then being a female and then coming up the ranks. Having others that have taken that journey is important to me and I lean on them quite heavily.

Anderson Williams: While Amy may have an occasional self-doubt, Bryan and SVP have great confidence in her.

In fact, they put her in all the places they know aren't working as well as they should be. They know she can get in there and ask the right questions and learn quickly. They know she's a great problem solver and up for the challenge. They rely on her grit.

How do you link the idea that she feels like she's truly driven by grit, and then she's also this person who can go into the place that's not working and figure it out?

Bryan Wetta: That's what grit is, is not figuring it out one day and getting up the next day and trying harder to figure it out the next day. And having the confidence that you're going to do it right. Amy's a very positive person. She's about great relationships. Amy's a very low ego person as well. It's about how do we get to the best answer?

How do we get to the right answer? It's not about me, it's about us.

Anderson Williams: It's clear that Amy plays an invaluable role in the success of Southern Veterinary Partners, and while she began her career as a technician with a passion for looking at the world through a microscope, she's become a leader whose example is having a macro impact.

 

She's become a leader whose actions and example inspire and guide the technicians who are coming behind her and wanting more from their careers. She is showing them a world beyond a traditional career glass ceiling. So I had to ask her:

What are you most proud of?

Amy Baccam: Not really a specific deliverable or product. I would say, I am proud to still be willing to take risks and put myself in rooms that I'm not the expert and be willing to go into the unknown.

Anderson Williams: Amy Baccam is an everyday hero whose superpower is grit. Amy knows she is a role model for others like her, and she takes this seriously. She's used her persistence and resilience and a vision for something more to create a new path. To exceed not only her own expectations, but those of her career as a technician and even at times her gender.

This podcast was produced by Shore Capital Partners with story and narration by Anderson Williams. Recording and editing by Andrew Malone. Editing by Reel Audiobooks. Sound design, mixing and mastering by Mark Galup of Reel Audiobooks.

Special thanks to Amy Baccam and Bryan Wetta.

This podcast is the Property of Shore Capital Partners, LLC. None of the content herein is investment advice, an offer of investment advisory services, or a recommendation or offer relating to any security. See the terms of use page on the Shore Capital website for other important information.

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