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Ethan Ott is Vice President of Analytics and Strategic Partnerships at Southern Veterinary Partners. Ethan’s Everyday Hero story shows the transformative power of passion in building a team, growing a company, and creating opportunities across an entire region.

 

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

Ethan Ott: I am really driven by passion and I just couldn't see a world where I'd spent 40, 50 years just clocking in and clocking out, and really, I knew that there were a lot of people in the area like that. And you know, there are other companies in the area that are doing great things, but I just felt like there was a powder keg of talent with a desire to have passion for what they do that was really untapped.

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're talking with Ethan Ott of Southern Veterinary Partners.

Ethan Ott: I'm Ethan Ott, I'm the Vice President of Analytics and Strategic Partnerships. We're based in Birmingham, Alabama.

I live there with, my wife, our five month old son, it's our first, and our dog, who's really our first born. I've been with SVP for five and a half years now in various roles there.

Ethan’s Background

Anderson Williams: Ethan's background was in finance. He'd worked for a couple of billion dollar companies. Work had allowed him to travel around the world, so what made him want to join a startup?

A startup in Birmingham, Alabama, in an industry he had no experience in and knew nothing about?

Ethan Ott: I just had a real urge to help build something in the southeast, ideally Birmingham, but really anywhere in the Southeast. I just felt like there was so much talent in the South that really didn't have, in my opinion, as many great places to go and work and help build, and so I reached out to a recruiting friend of mine and said, hey, I'm not actively looking for a change of pace, but if you hear of anything that's interesting, let me know.

 

I want to help build something. If you hear of anything unique, just send it my way. A couple months went by and she reached out and told me, hey, I'm working with this vet group, it's, I think 15 clinics at the time, mostly in Alabama and Florida. I really think that you should talk to these guys. I kind of thought she had missed the mark a little bit that had not been on the radar. But I did, some research in the industry, research into the group and the investors behind the group, and then I went and met the people that led the company.

And I told my wife, at the time freshly married, I said, hey, I don't know if this thing will be around in 12 months, I sure hope it will be, but I think that doesn't matter. I just want to be around these people for the next 12 months because there's just something really special with this group, and I think this is exactly what I'm looking for.

Anderson Williams: I asked Bryan Wetta, the Chief Financial Officer of SVP for his thoughts, and it was clear Bryan shared Ethan's passion and purpose, for building in the South and creating opportunities for others.

So he talked about how when he was coming to SVP and making that decision that it was the thought of coming to the South and coming to Birmingham specifically and building something in this geography, in this space that mattered to him.

Why do you think that was something that was driving him?

Bryan Wetta: That's a great question. Birmingham is an awesome city. Birmingham is a really great place to live, quality of life is incredible. One of the things that's not great all the time is being able to find a great job. And so to be able to build something awesome in his backyard, right? An Auburn guy who grew up in north Alabama met a girl in Auburn and building a family here in Birmingham, like to be able to not only find a great job, but to be able to build a great business that your job continues to get better and better.

But more importantly that you get to hire a bunch of smart folks who otherwise might go to Nashville or might go to Atlanta, or might have to leave town to go find something that they're passionate about and where they can feel like they can really grow. It's been really cool for all of us.

Anderson Williams: And to be clear, Ethan was looking for purpose, for opportunity, not a promotion.

He just wanted in.

Ethan Ott: And I came in really as a glorified analyst. I actually said that once recently and our VP of finance said, you don't have to say glorified. It's always helpful to have, your colleagues and friends, correct you on things like that. But I felt like, hey, I can add value here. I can help grow this thing and I can help create something that I can show my future kids and grandkids, hey, here's what we did. And I think really the only way to do that is to get to a place where there's just a ton of passion, a ton of collaboration, a ton of desire for growth.

Starting up SVP

Anderson Williams: What Ethan found was not just meaning in the work, in the place, in building something, he found a team that was second to none. What was it about the team that drew you in or you found compelling?

Ethan Ott: Yeah, it was, it was a few things. You know, I spent time with C-Suites, at a couple different multi-billion dollar companies, and I thought they were tremendous. They were in their positions for a reason. And, this company was a startup. It was a run rate of 20 million in revenue if you squinted hard enough, and yet even still, it seemed like really quickly, you could tell, hey, this group seems even better than, those C-suites of those multi-billion dollar companies.

 

And some of it was an understanding of their field, of their craft, and some of it was just how they played together. You know, their various strengths and their ability to work together. But a lot of it was just the way they thought about growing the business, the way they thought about the people in the business and how integral the culture and the people were to what they were trying to accomplish.

Anderson Williams: SVP has experienced extraordinary growth during Ethan's time with the company. In just a few years they've gone from 15 veterinary hospitals when he joined to almost 350. So how during that same few years has Ethan been able to keep up? How has he grown from a not so glorified analyst to become the vice president of analytics and strategic partnerships?

What are some examples of things you did, just practically speaking, to invest in yourself, to build your skills as your role began to shift? Like if, someone else is looking from the outside at your journey, there's just some practical things like are there any examples of things you did to invest in your growth, at those key times?

Ethan Ott: Yeah, on my side, I became borderline obsessed with the business and with the industry. Whether that was pouring over our own financials or our own slide decks, or going onto industry websites or industry specific podcasts or different things and going to various conferences and then meeting and talking to industry experts, that was incredibly key.

But honestly, more than anything is our leadership team. I'm so thankful for the amount of time that they spent with me, even times where it was supposed to be really me showing them something, especially early on in the company's life cycle. It would often really quickly turn into them showing me something and turn into a learning and teaching moment.

Anderson Williams: Here again is Bryan.

Bryan Wetta: He's probably the most well-read manager on the team, candidly, on the number of books that he's read, the number of biographies, the number of, you know, stories about other companies. And so, you know, he is able to take a couple key things out of that and out of each of those, and just is a really inspiring guy that cares about his team.

And Ethan has been obsessed about how to make this place better. And very early on, he was deep in the numbers, deep in the weeds, trying to figure out what's working, what's not working, where's the opportunity, both from a margin perspective and a customer adoption perspective.

 

You know, it's just like everything else in life, when you do really good work, you get more work. And so he's continued to add on and we've been very glad to be able to invest under him. And so he's done great at acquiring talent, but then developing talent. And so he takes being a manager very seriously.

Building a Team

Anderson Williams: The team is something Ethan clearly wanted to talk about more than himself.

Again, it was never about him. It was always about building something and you build something meaningful with and through other people.

How did you think about building a team as you started to build a team? Right? So this is in this entrepreneurial journey, you go from kind of individual contributor and if you're good enough, you're offered a team.

Had you ever managed a team? Had you ever built a team before? How did you think about building a team?

Ethan Ott: I guess you could technically say I started a newspaper in college. It was way after the time when people were starting newspapers, so that's a whole other thing. But in that had built out a team and things like that, but in the true professional sense of the word, had not really built out a team.

Passion is definitely important. It's the first question I ask in an interview. What are you most passionate about? What makes you jump out of bed in the morning? Because I just don't think that you can succeed in creating an ultra high growth, amazing culture company without really wanting to be there, and without really having a passion for what you do.

But what I looked for were individuals that certainly were really high intellect and were really high EQ. But more than anything, we had a ton of aspirations for growth. And so they had to be extremely growth centric, extremely dedicated to getting better every day. And then at the root of that is, and I don't know if I can say this or not, but they had to have a really high, 'give a damn.'

And so with that, it's doing those extra interviews, it's you know, waiting just a little bit longer, even when it hurts. You know, even when you say, okay man, I could really use some help on this. Saying, okay, this is a, this is a solid B+ candidate, but for the next five, 10 years, we've gotta have an A+ person in here who can, who can really have a shot to go from an analyst role or a manager role to an executive role.

Bryan Wetta: He is singularly responsible for a lot of the talent that we have around SVP as well. Every position that he has interviewed for his team, I'm confident, has been more rigorous than most other departments on the team. And so because of that rigor, he has not had very many misses and has just brought an incredible amount of talent to this organization that's helped in a lot of other ways.

Ethan Ott: What I've loved far and away more than anything is seeing people through the interview process, buy into the culture and the passion and the mission come in and often with no clear path for growth. I've had four people, on my team come in as analysts, two of which are now managers of teams themselves and the other two have gone from analyst to manager to director, and are now leading multiple teams.

 

To see them buy into the process and buy into the mission and have a passion for their work and then be rewarded for it and continue to grow with the company and really take the company to new heights. That's what gets me out of bed for sure.

Anderson Williams: With all of the focus on the company and the outstanding team he joined and the incredible teams he has built, it still wasn't clear what Ethan did exactly as the Vice President of Analytics and Strategic Partnerships, so I had to ask.

What do you do?

Ethan Ott: So I started out really in the data and analytics side of the business and helped build that out. For the first couple of years before I had a team, I felt really proud of what I was doing. And then hired some really smart people and it made it clear that the things that I was doing, it was like hitting rocks together.

And so we hired some exceptional talent on that side of the house and in many ways they really run analytics today. I certainly still pretty involved, but it's more get out of their way. And that team has been able to create, without a doubt, the best analytics team in the industry. And really a lot of my focus has been on the strategic partnership side.

Making an Impact on the Business

Anderson Williams: Bryan speaks more directly to the impact Ethan has had on the business, on the hospital teams and the people and pets they serve.

Bryan Wetta: We have almost 350 locations, and when we had six locations, Dr. Price said, I wanna be able to feel like I've been in that hospital yesterday by looking at Power BI.

He didn't exactly use those words, but that's what he said. And Ethan has been singularly responsible for that from a data perspective on how do we get the right level of granularity. How do we get the right KPIs, the right metrics that the C-suite understands and individual teammates in each of our hospitals can understand.

Candidly, it's been integral to our culture around every location being relatively individual and unique and not kind of top down management, but same time striving to be better every day.

Ethan Ott: Whether it's analytics, whether it's strategic partnerships, whatever we're doing certainly has to be in pursuit of making the company better and in pursuit of really helping our hospital partners and helping the industry.

But I think the only way to really do that is to have people who are enjoying what they do. And for us, culture and passion, it's not about taking naps at work. We do have a ping pong table. We get a decent bit of ping pong in and, we certainly have some perks at the office, but it's not passion about the perks, it's passion about the work.

Ethan’s Victories  

Anderson Williams: In terms of things you've accomplished, how you've grown, what are you most proud of? When you sit down at night or you're on a walk by yourself and you're just reflecting, and thinking, you know, here's where I am, here's the me I knew five years ago, here's the me I knew 10 years ago, what are you most proud of?

Ethan Ott: Just for me or for the company?

Anderson Williams: For you.

Ethan Ott: Oh, that's a great question. You know, I feel incredibly blessed, more so than proud. I think I, I don't know. I feel incredibly thankful to be a part of SVP. I feel incredibly thankful to have the wife and son and, and dog and to go home to what I go home to and to go to work, to what I go to work to.

I'm proud, I guess, that I took the risk and joined what was, you know, a startup at the time and had some uncertainty into the future. I could have never predicted that I'd be as fortunate as I've been just with the people and the environments that are around me.

Anderson Williams: It's clear just how much family means to Ethan.

We talked a bit about the life of a new parent and how fatherhood changes your perspective on, well, just about everything. So I asked Bryan if he had something he would like to share with Ethan's son about his dad before turning the question back to Ethan.

But at this point, his son is six months old, he is a, a new dad. What would you tell Ethan's son about Ethan and what he's done with you and with SVP? If you're passing on that story to his son in a, in another person's words.

Bryan Wetta: I think I would tell Thomas that, if he works half as hard as his dad does and is half as innovative and cares about his team, half as much that he'd be, wildly successful.

Anderson Williams: One lesson you've learned in, in the last five years that you want to teach your son, what would that lesson be?

Ethan Ott: Whatever he ends up doing, with his life, whether it's business, whether it's music, if he has my musical talent, it won't be music. Whatever it is, I just want him to be passionate about it. I want him to be excited to get up and do that thing every day.

Anderson Williams: Ethan Ott is an everyday hero whose superpower is passion. Ethan's passion has inspired the people around him and helped supercharge the growth of the company they are building. And that passion has the power to impact an entire region.

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 Ethan Ott 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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