Create a culture that encourages iteration and improvement. Thomas Edison was famous for saying, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work,” and we have embraced this mentality in every facet of building this company. One of the very first lessons I learned was that it truly does take a community to bring a vision to life. It’s tempting to want to be involved in every part of the process — and as natural multi-taskers, founders may feel that we can do it all ourselves — but to truly create a phenomenal workplace and to help teams thrive, it is important to allow team members to take ownership of projects and decisions, and to let them stretch and even fail. A culture where failure is not encouraged will necessitate guidance at every step, which halts the ability of a company to truly grow and push forward. Failure is a part of every good business, and hopefully the failures are small enough to recover quickly and empower team members.
Dr. Zay Satchu, Chief Veterinary Officer and Co-Founder of Bond Vet, a pet health company that’s opening technology-enabled urgent care + walk-in veterinary clinics across NYC and beyond. Dr. Zay Satchu has spent the better part of two decades studying and understanding the animal health sector. An animal lover from an early age, Zay spent years in veterinary clinic environments, be it with cats and dogs, horses, wildlife and even at a specialty falcon hospital. She quickly recognized that the industry she had fallen in love with was in need of support — and that the team members who worked tirelessly were often put in difficult situations that led to burnout and compassion fatigue. In addition to being an animal lover, Zay is a strong proponent of positive workplace environments. As Co-Founder and Chief Veterinary Officer of Bond Vet, she hopes to push the veterinary industry towards a more sustainable path. Bond Vet’s urgent care and walk-in veterinary clinics boast fashion, function and technology all in one. A beautiful clinic environment, operations that allow for a better pet-parent experience and a happy team of individuals who function well together while pushing toward personal growth, underscore a fantastic pet health experience.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My journey began as an eager 15 year old wanting to work with animals. I knew how powerful animals were for humankind and it felt so meaningful to be able to help some of the most innocent creatures on the face of the earth. After graduating from veterinary school, I had a few great experiences. I learned an immense amount in a very short period of time and grew confident in my skill set. Yet, month after month, I heard about veterinary team members losing their life to the industry that I had found so much passion in. I dug into the research and realized how plagued the veterinary profession truly is — with not only a very high rate of suicide, but also mental health afflictions and a general lack of growth opportunities for people who love what they do.
It became my personal mission to create something new and different, and together with my two Co-Founders, Mo Punjani and Lukas Keindl, we set out to change an entire industry from the inside out. As the Chief Veterinary Officer, I get to make decisions on a day-to-day basis that change the lives of real people (all the way from veterinarians, nurses and care coordinators) and the pets we all love. I’m incredibly lucky to be surrounded by such a great group of people, as defined by their ability to learn quickly and their ambition.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
It’s been heartening to see how our veterinary clinic has plugged into a community, and how we’ve been able to establish meaningful relationships with our clients so quickly. The most remarkable part is how we’re using our physical space beyond the clinic experience. It’s been terrific to see pets as the center of our worlds, from adoption events, to puppy yoga, to a puppy spa event, and you can feel the joy these animals bring to their owners, our care team and everyone around them — that bond is so special. We’re uplifting and uniting people around our health and wellness brand, and we love making it happen.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I tested everything at the clinic 10 times before opening, from our software systems, to our air conditioning, as I wanted our first pets and clients to have a terrific experience experiencing Bond Vet. However, I did not test our fire alarm system. And so, of course, as soon as we opened our doors for the first time… you guessed it, our fire alarm went off. We evacuated, and two massive fire trucks rolled down Court Street. Minutes later, several great firefighters assured us it was a false alarm. But I had jumped into problem-solving mode, and led our team members to a nearby Starbucks, while our operations team ensured everything was ok. Now we have a checklist that includes every possible thing. We will always be ready for the unexpected, and utilize our determination, grit, and initiative to figure things out as a team.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
The veterinary industry is unique as 80%+ of every graduating veterinary class is women. As such, Bond Vet is extremely focused on catering to the evolving dynamics of balancing work, life, being a mother, and so many other factors that we can address, to support women at work.
We are iterating on new ways of ensuring our veterinarians can balance both a career and time with their families. For example, we are testing a new parent program to offer flexible / easier scheduling during the early stages of being a new parent, and are planning to offer telehealth engagements for our veterinarians so that they can work remotely, if desired, not to mention being leaders in the veterinary space with our parental leave program.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
With the successful launch of our first location in Brooklyn, we’ve set our sights on bringing our culture and pet health platform across the rest of New York. This includes several clinic openings over the next few months, including one on the Upper East Side. Our primary focus is finding amazing team members who can come together and uplift each other. We’re creating opportunities for those that have longed to be part of a positive movement in the veterinary space all over NYC, and that is really exciting!
In addition to focusing on enhancing Bond Vet and solving problems for pets and pet parents, I have begun diligently reflecting and writing down the experiences I have been through over the last year. This will help me ultimately codify my learnings from this journey, and contribute my thoughts to the never ending pursuit of leadership and life fulfillment.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
Create a culture that encourages iteration and improvement. Thomas Edison was famous for saying, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work,” and we have embraced this mentality in every facet of building this company. One of the very first lessons I learned was that it truly does take a community to bring a vision to life. It’s tempting to want to be involved in every part of the process — and as natural multi-taskers, founders may feel that we can do it all ourselves — but to truly create a phenomenal workplace and to help teams thrive, it is important to allow team members to take ownership of projects and decisions, and to let them stretch and even fail. A culture where failure is not encouraged will necessitate guidance at every step, which halts the ability of a company to truly grow and push forward. Failure is a part of every good business, and hopefully the failures are small enough to recover quickly and empower team members. This philosophy is at the core of Bond Vet.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Authenticity is everything. Managing large teams can be easier than it sounds. We’re often afraid of a large group of people because of the exponential increase in expectation to act or be perceived in a certain light. In recent years, we’ve seen leaders of many forms, styles and attitudes. Managing a large team involves connecting with people while they are in the weeds, acknowledging their burdens and successes whilst simultaneously supporting their growth and pushing them. There is no one way to succeed at this but it does involve balance and great communication.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
One of my Co-Founders is actually my husband, Mo Punjani. Many of my successes are directly linked to his superhero skills of being able to balance creating a company, whilst also supporting me in my aspirations. He’s a true gem. There have been a few times along the way where I’ve stumbled or not known my next step, and knowing that I have someone to lean on for thoughtful advice has made a world of difference to how I view my own growth. We are able to debate and analyze business problems together from unique perspectives, while also going on our incredible life journey together.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Every time we solve a pet health issue and provide comfort to pets and pet parents at our practice, I see a sense of relief and the best of humanity. It’s my goal to provide this feeling to pets and pet parents throughout the country, with a relentless focus on strengthening the human-animal bond.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
- It’s cliche, but when you decide to start a business, everyone around you is along for the ride. It’s important to help your friends and family understand what this means, and that you might not be able to make it to Mexico for a holiday (might be tricky for them to understand at first). There are sacrifices, but for me, it’s worth it. Just prepare yourself to potentially miss out on a fair number of fun things!
- It’s important to look the part, every day. Dress for success, no matter if you’re meeting someone for a quick coffee or a high-level investor. The way you dress will impact the way you feel and communicate, which is essential because you’re a big part of the brand you’re building.
- You’re a small fish in a big pond, and the sooner you get over the little insecurities around that, the sooner you’ll grow and be a true thought-leader. There’s a very long period of time between seeking success and obtaining it. Be the bright-eyed bushy tailed individual that speaks to everyone, is always learning, and is a positive energy to be around.
- Be aware of what you are phenomenal at, and those areas you can improve on. The world is looking for experts. People value those that are authentic and have the confidence to take their skills to the next level.
- If you are trying to figure something out, try to learn from the best by reading. In the social media age, we sometimes forget that so many learnings have been passed down from generation to generation through books. Not only are books great learning tools, they also help teach us to focus in a world filled with ample stimuli.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
One of the reasons I love both pets and team-building is because of the companionship that is developed in both scenarios. I want to inspire our team to have a healthy level of respect for one another, and trust to rely on each other during more challenging periods they each experience. I believe this type of dynamic can evolve from investing time, energy, and conversation into these relationships on a consistent basis.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“I learned that if you work hard and creatively, you can have just about anything you want, but not everything you want. Maturity is the ability to reject good alternatives in order to pursue even better ones.” ― Ray Dalio, Principles: Life and Work
At every stage in your life, and especially when leading a company, we are faced with decisions on where to focus our time and energy. We have many different directions that we could grow Bond Vet throughout the entire veterinary ecosystem, but have had to make deliberate decisions on areas we want to focus on enhancing the pet health experience. This has not always been easy, but we have never regretted focusing on our core pillars (convenience and quality).
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
Issadore (Issy) Sharp, Founder, Four Seasons.
Issy created one of the most profound client-service and hospitality-oriented cultures. More importantly, you feel the appreciation and love for the Four Seasons culture every time you step into one of their hotels. This culture has permeated across the world, and I would love to understand from Issy how to ensure scalability while honoring all of our most important human touchpoints, be it with pet parents or team members.