Caroline de Jaham pursued a career first in veterinary medicine, then entrepreneurship, out of her great love for our four-legged friends. Today, the businesswoman heads a network of veterinary hospitals that is unique in its field.
Normally Caroline de Jaham is shy and reserved—with people, that is. As soon as she’s around animals, the fifty-something businesswoman is a completely different person. “I’ve always felt really fulfilled around animals. I feel really comfortable being near them, more so than with humans!” she admits. It was her love of animals that led her to veterinary school, followed by a master’s in dermatology at the Université de Montréal, where today she works as a clinical professor.
When she completed her studies in 1997, Jaham joined the DMV veterinary centre, a hospital offering round-the-clock, 24/7 care launched four years earlier by six pioneering veterinarians seeking to offer an extended range of emergency services and specialized care. Based on a collaborative model, the company was composed of many small shareholders, with Jaham joining the ranks. As a result of her involvement, Jaham became a majority shareholder 10 years later. “I owe my entrepreneurial spirit to my mother, who owned her own cleaning business for 20 years,” she states proudly.
Today, 250 employee-shareholders work in the three Centres DMV, located in Blainville and Saint-Hubert and on the Island of Montreal. Despite the company’s growth, their original concept remains the same: to offer the best veterinary care possible. “Collaboration and teamwork have been at the heart of the business since its beginnings. That’s what I always liked about it,” explains Jaham, a mother who herself owns two dogs.
Banding together to survive
In the early 2010s, the market in which Groupe DMV was evolving become more competitive. Between the increased segmentation in veterinary services and care and the growing number of players in the market arrived a new phenomenon: large non-veterinary groups had entered the province and starting buying up small veterinary businesses. It was the kind of consolidation the province had already seen amongst pharmacies, grocery stores and funeral homes, and Jaham was worried. “We had to do something, otherwise we would be bought out and lose control of our practice,” she explains.
She landed on the idea of creating a banner under which independent vet clinics could band together. Before jumping headfirst into the idea, Jaham spent some time educating herself at the École d’entrepreneurship de Beauce (EEB) in the Élite program as a “student-athlete” from 2013 to 2015. “The EEB really helped me develop my ideas. Their way of teaching, which puts you in touch with entrepreneurs who have their own unique business philosophies, really opened my mind,” confirms Jaham, who has since gone on to become one of EEB’s trainers and offers a 24-hour program every year in the art of building a great team.
But in the interim, on November 10, 2014, she launched Passionimo, a network of family veterinary clinics that today has 400 employees in 27 clinics spread across Quebec. Once again, the idea of banding together to succeed was central to her idea, although it’s not a common strategy in Quebec. “Clinic owners stay independent, but can access common resources in marketing, which allows them a more powerful way of reaching animal owners in their own areas. It’s the best way of getting the profession’s message out there,” she says.
The art of team-building
The year 2018 was all about growth for Groupe DMV, which includes the Passionimo network and the DMV centres. Plus, a new DMV vet clinic will be opening in the Ottawa area, with plans for the rest of Canada in the works. Independent veterinary clinics in Bas-Saint-Laurent and Gaspésie will also soon be joining the Passionimo family. “We would like to grow to include around 50 or 60 independent owners in the next two to three years,” states Jaham. “This will allow Passionimo to capture 20 to 25 percent of the Quebec market, which has a total of around 400 clinics.”
To obtain these objectives, Jaham is betting on the same idea that has served her so well in the past: teamwork. “My greatest strength is team-building. To succeed at it, you need to really know what you believe in and be able to present it with clarity. Once you can do that, people who share your vision will naturally gravitate to you, which will enable you to build something even bigger than you ever thought you could,” she concludes.
Groupe DMV in Numbers
30,000: Number of clients seen every year by the three Centres DMV
300,000: Number of calls handled each year by the three Centres DMV
$25 M: Revenue of Groupe DMV