Steven Carter is the co-founder and CEO of TeleVet, the mobile telemedicine application virtually connecting veterinary clinics to pet owners. Prior to TeleVet, he was CEO and co-founder of Horse Facts, and an analyst at Accenture focusing on Texas healthcare systems. He is a graduate of the Price School of Business at the University of Oklahoma.
Where did the idea for TeleVet come from?
My cofounder Price and I originally thought Carfax for Horses was a billion-dollar idea. Instead, that journey led us to TeleVet. The formative experience happened when my dog Brady had a mostly minor cut on his leg. I called my vet office to see if they could help. They said “you have to come in.” It was 5 o’clock traffic, and Brady is very anxious in cars, which made a bad situation worse. After 50 minutes in traffic, I arrived at the vet, who said he was going to be fine. I got back in traffic and realized, while stuck on Austin’s Lamar Bridge, that a better way to connect with my vet was needed. I called Price and said “we’re turning our business into TeleVet.”
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I wake up around 6 a.m. to work out, meditate and enjoy breakfast/read. Around 8:00 am I respond to any urgent issues, check in with the team, then dive into meetings throughout the day: interviews of new employees, tech/product meetings, legal meetings, PR meetings, etc. As things wrap up around 5 or 6 p.m., I spend the next few hours going through emails and getting stuff done. Customer service is critical to our culture. so I ensure any remaining questions or issues for the day are resolved before I go to bed. Around eight or nine I eat dinner and try to wind down by reading a book (preferably outside if weather permits).
How do you bring ideas to life?
We have a great process for vets to give us feedback, and then we brainstorm those things, whether they’re enhancements, new services, or features. We bring those to life by taking that idea and asking other clinics: Would you find this valuable? Why or why not?
If themes start to pop up across the board, we prioritize those and build them out internally. If it’s a big product or launch, we’ll do a beta with five or so clinics. If the beta goes well we’ll launch it with everyone else. If it’s a smaller feature we’ll launch it and announce to everyone that it’s available via our TeleVet slack community and/or emails. This customer-centric process is fantastic to ensure we are making the lives of vets easier through our product.
What’s one trend that excites you?
People are more open-minded to telemedicine right now, and that trend will continue. When we launched TeleVet, people thought we were crazy (I have some fun quotes I saved from interviews in 2015!). Now they’re way more open to the idea. Pre-COVID, I think everyone knew telemedicine would be an important tool for the future of healthcare, but thought they’d get to it in a year or two. COVID-19 accelerated that process. Now vets and pet owners are much more aware, which I think is great. TeleVet helps vets provide care, conserve time and generate revenue on their terms so they can maintain a healthy work-life balance and a thriving practice.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I make lists, and I stick to them. Sounds simple, but it saves me a lot of time and prevents me from letting small things through the cracks.
What advice would you give your younger self?
When I was going into college I didn’t know what I wanted to do in life. Since I wasn’t sure, I decided to major in four different things, resulting in almost 300 hours of undergrad. I’d tell myself to focus on development, meeting some great mentors, and getting real-life experiences rather than hours of school.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
The Lakers would have won the NBA finals if Kobe Bryant hadn’t injured his Achilles tendon in 2013.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I do what I say I’m going to do, and follow through on those things. It seems so simple, but very few people do it. Whenever you keep your promises like that, people really appreciate and remember it.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
We view our clients not as customers, but as community. We’ve always believed in not only helping vet practices grow, but remaining focused on the individuals inside the practice. That empathetic approach is the foundation of our culture. For example, when COVID-19 broke out, many practices were looking for telemedicine platforms to provide care remotely. The TeleVet community was eager to recommend us because we’ve treated them exceptionally well in addition to providing value. We’ve grown wildly by spending $0 on marketing—it’s been all brand loyalty and word-of-mouth.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I don’t know that I believe that you overcome your failures: you learn from them and you grow. The only way that you fail is if you don’t learn anything from it or continue to grow. For example, early on, when we were starting the company, we made some bad decisions that weren’t fatal. One was that we outsourced our development to a firm that didn’t have our best interests in mind. It took us a while to realize, and we ended up spending $15K of our personal money to get poor results. We haven’t made that mistake twice!
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Indoor dog parks with memberships. My co-founder and I have been talking about this for years.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I recently purchased a book called Peak at the recommendation of our investment team. It has changed the way I think about our company and customers.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Dashlane has been a lifesaver. The frustration of forgetting passwords and having to reset them constantly is infuriating. Dashlane automatically logs you into accounts without needing to enter in anything.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
If you are interested in entrepreneurship, Zero to One. It’s not perfect but it’s simple, inspiring, and educational.
What is your favorite quote?
“Success is not for those who want it, nor those who need it, but for those who are utterly determined to seize it—whatever it takes.” ~Darren Hardy
In my experience, a lot of people really want to be successful but may not realize what it takes to get there. This quote, in my opinion, really highlights the mentality people need to have when approaching whatever success is for them.
- Treat your clients and customers like partners, not profit centers. Their success determines yours.
- Do what you say you’re going to do. People will remember that.
- The only failures are mistakes that you fail to learn from.
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.