Episode 79

The Five: Your Dream Team for Success

Motivational speaker Jim Rohn famously claimed that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. In other words, our significant relationships have a great impact on—and can even be the determining factor—in our future success… or lack thereof.

But how true is it?

In this episode, we welcome back Dr. Jennifer Quammen and Ryan Smith of Veterinarian Coaching. They join us to discuss their take on Jim Rohn’s theory, which involves intentional selection of five specific types of people, with the goal of maximizing your personal and professional success. As your life and career evolve, so too does your dream team.

Episode Guests


Jennifer Quammen

DVM, mph

Dr. Quammen is an Ohio State grad who has practiced as an associate, medical director, and a relief veterinarian. A co-founder of Veterinarian Coaching, she also currently serves as Vice President of the AVMA. | Learn more »


Ryan Smith


Ryan holds a master’s in exercise physiology and has worked with athletes of all skill levels, in addition to being an Ironman himself. He co-founded Veterinarian Coaching with Dr. Quammen in 2014. | Learn more »

Photo by Guille Álvarez on Unsplash


Mia Cunningham: Thank you for joining us today for the fully vetted podcast brought to you by the Ohio Veterinary Medical Association. My name is Mia Cunningham, and along with my co-host, Krysten Bennett, we are happy to welcome Dr. Jennifer Quammen and Ryan Smith to the show to speak with us about the five key influencers to your success. Good morning and welcome to the show.

Ryan Smith: Hey, thanks for having us.

Jennifer Quammen: It’s a good morning here. The sun is shining now.

MC: Where are you guys located presently?

RS: We are in northern Kentucky, just outside of Cincinnati, about 20 miles south of the river.

Krysten Bennett: All right. Well, it’s great to have you guys back. To kick things off, can you just remind our listeners who you are and what you’re all about?

JQ: My name is Jen Quammen, and I am a veterinarian. I’m an Ohio State grad, actually. Sort of how I wound up here is through some work that I was doing in private practice and learning a bit about the challenges that the profession is having outside of just the practice of medicine. And so Ryan and I kind of wound up having this kind of car trip conversation about like what are different facets of the profession or areas of of where I want to develop professionally that we can push. Ryan was coming from a coaching background, I’m coming from a veterinarian background, and we just sort of looked at each other and thought, well, we both want to help people, so why don’t we take the principles of what happens in coaching and apply those onto a veterinarian audience? Clinically, I still practice and I’m pretty engaged in organized medicine as well, so I do a fair bit of speaking and then you’ll sometimes see me out at VMs and AVMA and things like that.

RS: My name is Ryan Smith and I am not a veterinarian, but I kind of came in as she explained, into the world of veterinary medicine from coaching. So I have a background in working with human performance for 30 years now, seeing a lot of the mental challenges that the veterinary profession general has was very similar to what I see in a lot of athletes: The challenge of I’ve got all of this stuff that I got to do, plus I’m trying to do all these other things and live a life beyond it. There’s a lot of that that goes with veterinary medicine. So we took those principles of coaching and formed a business that’s literally called veterinarian coaching.

KB: Like Mia said, the reason you’re here with us today is to talk about success and in particular how the people around us influence our success. But before we get any further, can you define for us what success is in this context? Is it personal as a professional? Is there a standard definition, or does everybody kind of define it on their own?

RS: I think everybody pretty much defines it on their own. But I think there’s I think when we have success in more areas of our life. So if we can be we can be successful professionally, but be a total train wreck in our personal life. And so I think success really kind of bleeds across all aspects of it. So are you really successful if you’re making tons of money in the profession, but you drive home and you have to lay on the couch because you can’t get up and do anything for the rest of the day because you’ve given so much? Or you have a successful family. But again, your career’s a wreck? What what’s that look like? So I think success kind of bleeds across all aspects of it. What do you think?

JQ: Yeah, I would agree. I mean, one of the things that crosses my mind in terms of success is there’s not one definition, you know, to your question of like. which of these is it, my answer is yes. It sort of depends on you as the individual. I think about when at the end of the day you feel like you’ve met a few accomplishments, kind of lived up to the things that are important to you in the beginning of the day. When you get up, you’re sort of ready to go. And not to say that every day is puppies, kittens, roses, right? But on the whole, is your your overall quality of life good? Are you feeling good about where you’re at? And that might look very different. You know, when we’re students, we’re pushing a lot more in our professional development and then, you know, our first couple of years and career might be that way as well. But then there’s times, if you have young family, you may need to de-escalate some of the career, push a little bit more on the family time. And those are all things that it’s going to be very unique, I think, to the individual’s circumstances. But at the end of the day, I want you to basically be feeling like you’re contributing. You’re sort of the best version of yourself, and that is not about you being just like your partner or just like, you know, certain persons down the street, whatever that looks like. I want you to be the best version of yourself. 

So I have this quote that I had hanging on my box when I when I was a full time associate at a practice that I still have and says, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” And so this idea that we say, “Oh, I need to be like so-and-so.” I think, you know, the Instagram world makes this harder for us, because everybody showing the ideal situation; they’re not showing, you know, what’s happening behind the green screen, if you will. But that, to, me is is how I want you to think about. This is like this is not about you comparing to the neighbor. This is about you versus you and how you’re feeling in your own body. And maybe you’ve not even checked in with yourself. Like, where am I? So if you’ve not, then maybe think about that for yourself.

RS: Have you ever actually identified what success means to you? What is it? You’re like, okay, there’s this ethereal word that’s called success, but have you ever actually identified what that means to you individually? Have you created, laid out a plan for what your success is?

KB: So we’ve kind of teased this concept of The Five. Can you tell us, where did The Five come from and what does that have to do with veterinary medicine?

RS: It’s based around this principle of something that we call the modern veterinarian. And really the modern veterinarian is this idea that let’s not be stuck in the way it’s always been done. How do we move the entire industry forward, one individual at a time, and helping them to become a little bit more forward thinking and self focused in many ways, not to the point of like they’re selfish, but at the same time that if they take care of themselves, it’s a whole lot easier to take care of their patients, their clients, their family, all of that.

JQ: We sort of develop this model of like how the modern veterinarian works through their day and through their professional life. Their personal life is kind of melded in there as well. But one of those facets is something that we call the five. And so this is all about this quote from Jim Rohn of, “You are the average of the five people that you spend the most time with.” You’ll have similar ideologies and sort of similar drive. And so we have kind of assimilated those five into our model and look at sort of the five people or even to a certain degree, like the five types of these types of people. Yeah, I guess I would say that are kind of in your bubble. And generally speaking, we find that most people have three of those five people or types of people in their sphere, but they may be neglecting those other two.

MC: Do you find that statement, that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with, to be true?

RS: Yes and no. I think yes, you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Now, most of us, especially if you’re in clinical medicine or around veterinary world, it’s like, okay, you look at the five people and you’re like, okay, I’ve got associates, I have technicians, I’ve got assistants, and I have a customer service staff. These are all amazing people, but are they identified as the success that I’m looking for potentially in my life and where my career is going? So for some, those people are amazing and you need those people in your life. But do you have other people in your life that actually help to drive your success? And I think that’s where a lot of people miss out on that. They they don’t think about all the other people that need to be in their life or like start looking to have other people that are going to push them.

KB: What are the three types of personalities that you said most people already have?

JQ: So one of the things we want you to think about is your team. We all have a team and, again, you can think about this in context of your personal or your professional life. That might be the staff that you’re working with day to day. This might be the people that you have in your life in terms of your family. Those are kind of your core group that you’re going to see and interact with every day. Important to have, important to recognize. And in the context of the five, you know, thinking about your goals, one of the questions we often ask is, do you know what your own goals are and what your definition of success might be for you? And does your team actually know what those are for you, and do you know what their definitions of that is like? Those are the questions that I think kind of trip people up. You might be able identify, yes, these are my people and here’s what I’m thinking. But do I know what they’re really driven towards and do they know and could they articulate what I’m driven for? I think that is a place where a lot of us don’t always make that connection. 

RS: We also have—as Jen and I are—our partners, right? So if you have a spouse, maybe it’s a business partner, maybe it’s a boyfriend, girlfriend, partner or husband, wife, whatever. Those partners are key people in your success as well. So we know that you need to be able to share and you need to be able to talk about where we want to go in life. So maybe you have shared common interest with your partner, but do you know what your partner wants their success to be, what they look for? And do they know yours? And again, do you share those with each other so that you can help each other in that? Because I think so many times people get stuck in “I have my definition of success and I have where I want to go in my career, and my partner has their idea where they want to go in their career.” But those two things are more divergent than convergent, and I think that drives a lot of relationships apart too. So yeah, just kind of making sure that you’ve shared your goals and can kind of help each other. 

So you’ve got your partners, you’ve got your team. And I think the other one that most people will say that they have is a mentor. People ask, “Well, what’s the difference between like a mentor and maybe a coach or a boss?” That’s a big confusion. Maybe you get hired into a practice and they’re like, “Oh, we will mentor you.” You know, you have a boss, but a mentor to me is somebody that, they invest their time and knowledge in you and their return on their investment of their time and knowledge is your success. A mentor is also somebody who’s potentially going to learn from you a little bit. You may pay them, but typically not. They are somebody that you may occasionally ask questions. They may share your success, but their success is not going to be the same success as yours.

JQ: I think in the veterinary spectrum, oftentimes our mentors are not going to be the people immediately in our practice, if that makes sense. They might be, you know, in our state or somebody we know through the VMA or through or practice groups or something of that nature, but they’re probably not going to be directly someone you’re working with every single day.

And like all of these, there are some ebb and flow to those relationships. But I think saying to someone, “Yeah, I have this mentor,” but when’s the last time you checked in with them, and have you been intentional about what’s in it for me and also what’s in it for that person? So I do think there is this symbiotic kind of growth opportunity for the mentor and the mentee that is important to kind of acknowledge.

I think that could be someone within your practice, depending again on the practice group size and ownership  and your individual role. But oftentimes I think of that as someone like a little bit outside of the walls that you don’t talk to every day. So in some ways, they can be a little bit more objective. 

Maybe they’re in a role that you want to pursue, and so you want to know, “How did you get here?” If you have someone like that or you can think of someone like that, or if you meet someone like that at don’t be afraid to ask, like, “Hey, what would it look like for me to buy a cup of coffee and learn a little bit about what you’re doing? I want to know about your path.” Those are opportunities to kind of meet and grow a new mentor. 

And you know, I can think of many I’ve had over the years and that certainly changed as years have gone on. And I’m sure you guys kind of feel the same, you’ve probably had mentors that you either have now or you can think about kind of coming up through time. So that’s where we want to focus. 

I would say most people have most of those relationships in place, in terms of a partner of some kind, business or professional; a team, again, either family or business; and then a mentor, again, much more on the professional side. I would say almost everyone has those.

RS: And this is where the average person kind of gets stuck. Some people are like, “Hey, I’m going to do the same job for the next 30 years, and I’m completely okay with that.” Cool. But if you’re in that other 2 or 3% that really wants to kind of like launch off, there’s some things that are missing now.

JQ: You can be completely successful with those three that you have, but there are these other two that are maybe other individuals or types of individuals that can help you see things that you might not see yourself and can help to kind of grow and develop you professionally, but also personally.

KB: Before we delve into the other two types, I want to take a little field trip here. I’m curious, in relation to the mentorship piece of The Five, do you think that it’s ever too late to have a mentor? I mean, say you’re you’re in the later stages of your career. Can you still find value in having a mentor?

JQ: Yes, if or yes, and—depending on what the goal of that mentor is. So again, you may not be looking for a mentor at that point to teach you surgical skills or to teach you how to communicate with clients. You might, however, be looking for someone to help you think about what you’re going to do when you retire from work. There are people that have done that successfully who can help you. Maybe you’re in that situation and you’re looking at: How do I make my practice more sellable? How do I potentially integrate more technology or more utilization of my technical team? Those are things that we’re struggling with globally. But also you may not be able to see that yourself. It’s a little myopic when you’re in your own space versus if you step back or have someone else and come in and look at that or help you think about that. But that may be an opportunity for you to have a mentor. It just might look different than if you’re kind of earlier mid-career. But yes, I think there’s still an opportunity for that. We’re all on this journey of life, right?

RS: And I think a lot of people get stuck on the fact that their mentor, they think, has to be older than them. And they do not. You may need somebody to help you manage this whole social media world. If you’re in your fifties or sixties, your mentor’s probably not older than you in that, right?

KB: So let’s say I am an overachiever and I want to take my success to the next level. What are the two remaining personality types that I need to maximize my success?

JQ: I want you to think about having a coach. The way we come about this and think about this in the veterinary profession is: Many people who are veterinarians were once high school or collegiate athletes; we find that is a really common thread. And so the association to athletics training and having coaches makes sense to people. 

When you think about people that are really high performers in their sport, they often have multiple coaches. They might have someone whose only focus is on nutrition, whose only focus is on strength, is only focuses on X, Y, Z, whatever that is. And so the benefit of a coach is different to a mentor, it’s different to a boss, right? The coaches, they oftentimes bring the answers out of what you might already know, but you just haven’t sort of brought to the front. A lot of coaching is sort of questions and getting people to think about that “why” and really digging at, okay, what is it that you’re looking for? So that’s the fourth of five.

RS: I think the difference between a coach and a mentor is that a mentor is somebody that they invest their time and knowledge in you, and their return on investment is your success on you. But you typically invest in a coach and your return on investment is your own success. Right? You’re paying them to help get you to a place. So that’s that’s where the coaching comes in. 

Then the other one that we talk about is what we typically call is a mastermind. And a mastermind are the like-minded individuals that are moving in a similar direction as you. Maybe it’s a VM group or something like that where you have a group of owners, you have a group of surgeons, you have a group of people that have a similar idea of what their success is going to look like.

Some of them may be farther ahead of you and some of them may be farther behind, but you all are really there to help each other overcome the pitfalls, because some of them have been there, some of them have not. They’re also probably your best cheerleaders because they’re also the ones that really know what it’s like to be there.

So your mastermind is those like-minded individuals, and I think that’s really the one that most people never, ever think about. They don’t have a group of people that they’re moving along with. Right? If you if you’re swimming with the school of fish, it’s making sure that it’s the right school of fish.

MC: Conversely, I’m curious if there are any personality types that we should maybe stay away from that could derail our success or us achieve our goals.

JQ: This is a fantastic question. Yes, I do think there are. And I think I think it’s important for us all to take a little bit of stock in those interactions that feel less satisfactory of an experience at the end of the time than they were at the beginning. And don’t get me wrong, everyone is entitled to a bad day, right? Like, we all have off days. We all have frustrating days. The thing that becomes frustrating to me is when I have an individual that, every time, the conversation is like I’m talking to Eeyore. Like, every time you meet this person, it is the worst day of their life and everybody is out to get them and X, Y, and Z.

Again, everybody’s entitled to have a vent fest, but where do we move forward from here? So if if you step back and think, is there an individual you interact with—and you know, this could be the client or this could be somebody at your church or your gym—that every time I have a conversation with them, it is the worst day of their life, and I end up leaving that conversation feeling depleted rather than energized. 

I think that’s an opportunity to check in. That doesn’t mean you have to cut ties with them, but it might mean that you create a different boundary or you come into the conversation with them differently. So rather than, “Hey, how was your day?” you say, “Tell me the best part of your day.” And so maybe you could actually help to influence that person, you know, can I push them and do a different mindset? So rather than it becoming gray, be gossipy, you know, the world is horrible, you can have a little bit of conversation shift like, “Hey, what was the greatest part about your day?” And that that could be successful for some and it might not for others. But that to me as a person, I would say the kind of Eeyore or the chronically Negative Nancy, is one that that is frustrating for me.

RS: Yeah, I’m I’m a big proponent of firing people. Doesn’t mean that I’m going to be necessarily mean to them, but I am definitely going to limit that or just remove that completely from my life. Could be a family member, right? It could be close family members. It could be extended family members, could be friends. Our lives change over time, so it’s okay to not continue those relationships. And you still get to be a good human being, but you just don’t have to have them in your life all the time. 

Last year I went to my 35th high school reunion and I went in and I’m like, I know none of these people. I don’t remember them. I barely remember the faces, and I probably don’t remember the names outside of about five people out of the probably 100 people that was there in the 260, my high school graduated. I cannot maintain contact with these people because they were not part of my success journey. I can still be friends with them; I still say hi to them. But those are not necessarily my people for my success. Maybe I’ve missed some relationships there, but I think it’s okay.

MC: I’m all for boundaries. I’ve had several people try and just make me their toxic dumping ground and I’m like, I’m not going to allow you to be my vampire. You can keep it. And makes a difference, you know, especially, I think, for people that are empathetic. And I think a lot of veterinarians are, you know, empaths. And so we take on the stress of other people. It could just be so wearing on their spirit. So just creating those boundaries, I think, is healthy.

JQ: Yeah, Ryan’s probably a little bit more apt at this. I will fire someone, but it takes me a little longer to get there. I remember I was making a decision about a job change, and I was really torturing myself, quite honestly, with that decision. I would come home and be super frustrated about what had gone on for the day for whatever reason. And Ryan would say, “Okay, you have three to five minutes.” And I could say whatever I needed. I don’t need you to fix me; I just need it out of me. And then when that five minutes is over, okay, I’m done and I’m moving on. It didn’t take me too long to realize, like, okay, I’m having a very frustrating episode more days than not, and so maybe it’s time to make other decisions. So in the lead-up to the actual making, that decision is the hardest part. Once the decision was made, it’s like, okay, good, now I’ve got a clear plan. I’m good to go. Yes, it’s going to be hard. Yes, I’m going to miss people. But also this opened up their doors and other opportunities. We wouldn’t be here talking with you today had I not made those choices. So, yeah, I think that that kind of three to five minutes of like, okay, you need a sounding board, go for it. But I’m not going  to live in that vampire scenario all the time.

KB: If there is someone in your five who is not working out, it’s not meeting your expectations. How would you go about firing them?

RS: As you get to know people and you learn people, you sometimes realize that these are these are people that, they appear one way on the outside, but when you really get to know them, that they’re not the people that you need in your life, right? I’ve changed mentors and coaches and things over my life where I’m like, Ooh, I really like what this person saying. But then after you really get to know them, you’re like, who they are is really not the person I want in my life. So I can learn things from them. I can learn positive things from them, but I can also learn what and what I don’t want in my life. And that’s also super valuable. That means that I can stop following them, I can remove them, I can, you know, break communication, whatever that means.

Also, if we talk about your team and maybe you’re if you’re in a position of practice owner, practice manager, whatever, and you have toxic people at work. And I know we live in a world right now where it’s hard to get a lot of good help, but bad help can be more detrimental to a business than no help, right? If you’ve got somebody who takes things away, it’s far worse than just not having somebody. 

Sometimes we’ll talk about—and we’ve caught some flak for this—but when we’re talking about businesses, we say you hire slow and you fire fast. Firing fast doesn’t always mean that it has to be like, oh, they made a mistake. But if they’re not a good fit in that team, then they don’t need to be part of the team. Doesn’t mean they’re not good person; it just means that they don’t need to be part of the team.

KB: So if you’re looking to fill an open position in your Five, how do you go about finding the right person?

JQ: That can be very organic. You know, no one likes the word networking. It sounds sounds so very stuffy and formal. But quite honestly, you know, I was telling someone not terribly long ago, like I’ve had a lot of interesting and unique jobs in the veterinary profession, and I don’t think I’ve ever really sought out a job to a certain degree, which is a little bit weird. Like, opportunities sort of come. But that is partly because I’ve been intentional about building and developing relationships. 

So, one of the tactics I like to use, and I challenge students and new grads to do this all the time: When you’re at a veterinary conference, it’s really easy to go sit at the table with people who are alumni or people that you know or that you came to the meeting with. My challenge would be go sit and have lunch at a table with people you don’t know. You’re not going to run into anybody that’s a monster, right? But you never know where those conversations are going to go. You might have a really boring meal and think, that’s 20 minutes that I’m never getting back, but it’s a low-risk challenge of sitting down and saying, okay, tell me something about your hometown, or tell me something unique about a hobby you have. For me, I rarely feel like I connect with people over the actual clinical work they’re doing, right? It’s a little bit more of like, tell me the things outside of that that are important to you, because that’s where you really see people’s passions and what they get sort of really excited about. And those are those are places where you can really kind of dig in a little bit. And so I’ve sat down and had conversations with people that I literally I mean, I could have been sitting next to Elon Musk and not knowing it, right, sitting and having a conversation and then afterwards realized, Oh, that’s who I was talking to. I had no idea. Right. Like I probably should have known before I walked up and sat myself down and shook hands. But here we are. So I think that is an opportunity in a in a conference setting, you know, just sit with someone and say, Hey, what are you up to? How’d you get here? You know, those kind of things.

Social media can be a great platform if you are mindful and intentional about what you’re looking for. I think in terms of professional world, LinkedIn is where most people are kind of pushing towards. If you’re looking for a mentor or you’re looking for other professional opportunities or job opportunities. 

And then outside of that, I think the social things that you do: Are you part of a gym, part of a church? Are you in something like Toastmasters? There’s a lot of there’s a lot of groups out there that you can just interact with people from different professions, but maybe you’re wanting to learn a similar skill set—like learning to do public speaking, because that’s, what, the number one fear?

RS: Yeah, it’s way up there.

JQ: It’s way up there, right? No one wants to get in front of a crowd and speak. But that’s an opportunity to say like, Hey, tell me a little bit about what you do and how you get here. And you might say, Oh, this may not be the perfect person to be my mentor, but they’re connected with X, Y, Z. And then you can say, So hey, would you mind making an email introduction for me? Like those are really low asks for people to do and I think most people will comply. If you say, Hey, this is an opportunity, you can help me kind of kind of better things for me. So those are my thoughts on on kind of garnering and gaining new people.

If we’re talking about the physical team you’re working with, right, That might require job change, that might require different things there.

MC: I am curious like what role self-reflection plays as people are trying to figure out like who would be best suited to be an influencer. And are there specific characteristics that they should be thinking about as it relates to choosing their people?

JQ: Yes, there are definitely criteria that you want to think about for individuals, in terms of either skill sets that they might have, educational things. It depends on what you’re wanting to learn. If it’s a mentor, for example, if you’re wanting to learn how to build relationships, that might look different than if you’re wanting to learn the technique of a surgery, right? That might be a different set of criteria you want for those individuals. But yes, I do think there are some ways you can kind of step through that. It’s such an individualized question, though. It’s hard to really get at that without the, you know, the dynamic of the individual. 

KB: What would you suggest for someone who’s having trouble finding the right people to fill in their Five?

JQ: We certainly are always happy to talk to people one off. You know, one of the things we’ll frequently do is what we call a triage call. And so for us, that is like a 15 minute like you literally can go on to our website, veterinariancoaching.com, and sort of book a time to just sit down and chat with us. And if we can help you to kind of move forward on whatever thing it is, you know, it’s, hey, how do I find X, Y, Z? How do I make a decision on taking a job or leaving a job or going from industry to practice or whatever that looks like? If you’re pretty well lined up and you just need a little idea bouncing, we can often get that done in those 15-minute sessions and they don’t necessarily turn into long-term coaching. So we’re happy to be there to be that kind of sounding board. 

And to be fair, we’re not the experts on everything, right? There are times where we’re like, Oh, this is not our thing, so here’s the person that we’re connected with that we can kind of make that introduction for you because they might be a better fit for you. Again, our kind of mission of life is like if we can help people sort of help themselves, then ultimately they’re helping more patients and kind of further the industry.

MC: Well, thank you guys for joining us today. This is great. 

KB: You know, you guys have made me think of like three different other episodes that we could have, so if you ever want to come back…

RS: Anytime, yeah. 

KB: Awesome.

RS: Thank you for having us. Take care.

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