On this week's episode, we sit down with Kim Garrett. Kim is the director of Victory Health Partners, a non-profit healthcare organization seeking to help those who are medically underserved. Listen to this week's episode to hear her story of moving here all the way from Texas and how relationships are of key importance, especially in the non-profit space.
Produced by Blue Fish in Mobile, Alabama
Kim Garrett: Hey, my name is Kim Garrett. I'm the director of Victory Health Partners.
Marcus Neto: Yay.
Kim Garrett: Yay.
Marcus Neto: Well I appreciate you coming on the podcast, Kim.
Kim Garrett: Thank you for having me.
Marcus Neto: Yeah. I know we've known each other for quite a long time and I know some of your story, but for those that are in the audience that probably don't know you or know your story, why don't you give us some of the information about where you're from, where'd you go to high school, college, are you married? Just give us a flavor of who Kim is.
Kim Garrett: All of that. Well, originally born and raised in Texas. So Texas girl. Grew up in Houston. Went to school out in West Texas. Lived in Dallas before we moved here. And moving from Texas to Alabama, people thought we were crazy. We were actually looking at doing some international work and to have that adventure. Newlyweds, no commitments, no children. But those doors were just firmly closed, but then Mobile, Alabama came open and we just felt like this is where we were supposed to be. It was the easiest thing. My husband got a job at ThyssenKrupp Stainless at the time, now Outokumpu and it was just those doors were open and it was the easiest process. So we just felt like this is where we were supposed to come and we said we're going to commit to five years to be here. And we bought a house and we're like, "We want to put some roots in," but always had the idea that we'd go back to Texas because that's where our family is, at that time our people, our community. But-
Marcus Neto: It's funny how things change.
Kim Garrett: I know, we're like seven and a half, eight years in. And now we're in roles where we're going to be here forever. Our children were born here and this is home now.
Marcus Neto: Yeah, it has a way of really kind of sinking in. So I always tell people when they're moving to this area to give it like three years before they actually feel settled and feel like there's a sense of community. And I don't know that's necessarily just Mobile, I think that's when you move to any new city. It just takes a while to figure out like, "Okay, where are we going to go to church? And what's our group feel like?" Like, "Who are we hanging out with? And where do we go for dinner on the weekends? And where do we like to go shopping?" And stuff like that, "Where do we want to live?" All that jazz, so.
Kim Garrett: Exactly. It takes time.
Marcus Neto: Yeah. This is a podcast for businesses and entrepreneurs and stuff like that, and I would include you in that. But would you consider yourself a good student?
Kim Garrett: I would say average. I just love people. I love being around people. I was an athlete, so I did soccer and cross country, and ran all the time. But then I just had my friends and my community. So I was not a rockstar by any means. I think I was fine.
Marcus Neto: What did you study in college?
Kim Garrett: So college, I was vocational missions and social work. So basically I just wanted to travel-
Marcus Neto: That's really... You must be making a ton of money.
Kim Garrett: My dad was like, "And what are you going to do with this degree?"
Marcus Neto: Yeah, nothing.
Kim Garrett: Like, "All this money? Good, so you're going to love people and you're going to be poor." I just want to travel and I want to love on people. I want to build up communities. This is where I feel like God is calling me to do. So-
Marcus Neto: And where did you go to... I don't think you mentioned where you went to college.
Kim Garrett: I didn't. Abilene Christian University, so way out in West Texas.
Marcus Neto: Okay.
Kim Garrett: So out there, where there's nothing out there except for cactus and-
Marcus Neto: Tumbleweeds.
Kim Garrett: ... tumbleweeds and super hot heat. But yeah, graduated and looked around to see... It was an awful time to graduate. No one was hiring. I felt like I went on a million interviews.
Marcus Neto: It might've been your degree too. Not to like say anything, but you had a pretty specific degree and what you were going to use that for.
Kim Garrett: That is true. I'm sure people were like, "And what do you do?"
Marcus Neto: Exactly.
Kim Garrett: It's like, "I will be a good employee." But that is true, Marcus. But looked around with some connections with family. I interviewed at a huge global nonprofit in Dallas. Not their corporate headquarters were in Dallas, but then they had a large footprint in Texas, but then they had programs all around the world. And so I got into their foundation and I interviewed for a development position, like a development officer position. It was me and two other girls, they were just hiring two positions. And the organization had a strong tie to Baylor and those two girls were Baylor alums. And so they got the jobs.
Marcus Neto: It's all good. Sometimes that's what it takes to get a job.
Kim Garrett: It happens and it was fine. But I had that moment, I was like, "I know I want to work here. I know it would afford me excellent experience." So I just said, "Well, what else do you have?" They said, "We love you. We'd love to offer you a position. The only thing we have is administrative assistant." I was like, "I'll take it. That's fine." But there was that pride check like-
Marcus Neto: Yeah and then you have to kind of swallow it a little-
Kim Garrett: I just graduated.
Marcus Neto: ... Do you have a little water to go with this pride?
Kim Garrett: Yeah. So it's like, "Okay, we're just going to do this." But I tell you, that was the best experience. So anyone graduating from school, it's like, "Take the job." If you want to work in that organization, if you want to work in that field, take the job. Even if you just need to get your foot in the door, glean everything because I learned from the bottom up how to write an incredible thank you letter. The importance of it. The process for thanking donors. The process of stewarding, building relationships.
Kim Garrett: So I started there and I was there for about eight months and then I moved into the executive assistant role for all the heads of the foundation. So like principal gifts, major donor development, government, foundation, church. So I worked with these people who've been in the industry forever.
Marcus Neto: I was just going to say, it's probably actually was a better position for development than the position that you were interviewing for because of the proximity that you had to upper level management.
Kim Garrett: Yes.
Marcus Neto: You get to see and breathe and feel what it is that they do on a daily basis. And understand that mindset a little bit more than most would.
Kim Garrett: Exactly. I would've been so narrow in that role. Instead, it was just this opportunity that I could just glean from folks who'd done it and who had done it the old-school way of putting the donors first and knowing that it's not about all the shiny different things your programs are doing, but it's about the donor and the mission and connecting the two and just building these relationships.
Kim Garrett: They had this program called Shoes for Orphan Souls, where they would take shoes and put them on orphans' feet in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia or Guatemala. And so they would take donors and connect them and give them that opportunity to see their support at work in putting shoes on a child's foot. It just made it to where it was an experience where people could see the impact of their support and really fulfilling their philanthropic hearts and desires. And it was just so neat to see that model and just to have that as my foundation. And then whenever I transitioned to Victory, it was like, "Now, you do all of it. Now you take everything you learned and you are the lead, and implement for the way that it makes sense for Victory."
Marcus Neto: Now it's really cool.
Kim Garrett: So I was thankful.
Marcus Neto: Let's not get ahead of ourselves because I do want to know about Victory Health and some of the things that you all have going on there, but go back and tell us about your very first crap job. This is the one flipping the burgers or-
Kim Garrett: Man.
Marcus Neto: ... sweeping the floors or whatever. And were there any lessons that you still remember from that?
Kim Garrett: I think I grew up the typical babysitting, that thing. But my first job was at Abilene Christian and there was a part of me that I was very shy. Public speaking, being in front of people, it just broke me into cold sweats and I just hated it-
Marcus Neto: Hard to believe considering... And I've known you for a number of years now and I wouldn't have gathered that, but yeah.
Kim Garrett: Right. So I think I'm one of those ambiverts where I can be out, I enjoy it, but then to refuel, I need a minute in my home with my people and just to settle.
Kim Garrett: But I knew I was like, "I got to get over this. I'm tired of this." So I applied to be a tour guide for the school, and they hired me, which it was ridiculous. I'm sure the first couple tours, no one applied. They were terrible. But it's just all about repetition, putting yourself out there, being in front of people, you just increase your comfort in speaking about something that you believe in, always helps.
Kim Garrett: I mean the lesson, I mean just don't be afraid to try something new. And if you see an area where you know, "I'm not so hot at this. Or this makes me nervous." Just to be brave and just to go do it, put yourself out there. And it might be awful a time or two, but you're learning about yourself, how you can do more than you think. And just growing the skills. So we all have our niches to where we're stronger in areas, but it doesn't mean that we can't really fulfill and grow other areas.
Marcus Neto: I'm reading this book right now, The Magic of Thinking Big, I think that's the title. Anyway, it's kind of an older book about personal development and stuff like that. And one of the things that I took away from it this past weekend, I put in my story on Instagram and it says, "Action cures fear." And so what you did was you knew you had an area that you needed to kind of work on as far as public speaking and being in front of people and stuff like that. And you may not have consciously done this, but you put yourself into a place of action, and ultimately that overcomes the fear of whatever it was that you were concerned about, so.
Marcus Neto: Well normally I'd ask about how you started the business, but I mean that doesn't really apply here, but why don't you tell people a little bit about Victory Health Partners and what it is that you all do.
Kim Garrett: So Victory started in 2003. Our founder, Dr. Robert Lightfoot, he was in general surgery at Providence with his brother. He had done it 13, 14 years, loved it. Always wanted to be a surgeon. And to be in a practice with his brother was just a dream. It was awesome. They just built up a great practice. And around that time he had started doing some overseas mission trips. He said he was really kind of goaded to go, he didn't want to go, but people really kind of got him and his wife, Tami, who she's a nurse so they were a perfect pair to go do a medical mission trip.
Kim Garrett: And so they went to South America and went to Guatemala and just throughout these trips, things just started to change, just the Lord started working on them. And he said that he always knew he was so comfortable in the surgery room. That was his space, that's what he loved, but then serving these people abroad, it's like his comfort level changed. And him and Tami had this moment where they had served hundreds of people who had walked all the miles to come get medicine from the gringo doctor, wearing American hand-me-downs-
Marcus Neto: I love it.
Kim Garrett: ... and-
Marcus Neto: Gringo, for those of you that aren't familiar, is White. It is, so.
Kim Garrett: Yeah. Go to see the gringos to take care of them, but-
Marcus Neto: That's great.
Kim Garrett: ... but they just saw they're like, "We're comfortable serving the underserved. Serving the least of these." So and then on the way home on an airplane, they're like, "So what does this mean? What do we do now?" They had six kids, all little. It doesn't mean for us to go into the foreign mission field, but what's a mission field right here in Mobile, Alabama?
Kim Garrett: So they came back and started talking to everybody from the Board of Health to physicians to the Franklin, everybody to see, "Okay, well what's the biggest need? What is a gap that we need to fill?" And time and time again it was this low-income, low to moderate income group of adults who don't have health insurance. Just this gap of people who maybe they're small business owners, maybe they work for a small business, maybe they're in service, hospitality, tourism, part-time, contract. So many different industries that have these groups of workers that don't get the benefits. And so that's where these clinics and professionals were pointed to Dr. Lightfoot to saying, "We need help with this group. It's overwhelming us. We might be taking care of Medicaid and Medicare, but then other demographics," but they just said, "This group, it's just overwhelming us."
Kim Garrett: So that's why we have our focus of this demographic that we're taking care of. So as they started thinking and formulating this idea, the vision, the mission of Victory, they were really given opportunities that Doc said didn't make sense for them to go, but God really aligned for them to go up to Montgomery but then also to Memphis for the Church Health Center. And Doc said when he went to Church Health Center and saw what they did, it was like a fuzzy picture got crystal clear. And he put his hand on the wall he's like, "This is what we're supposed to do."
Kim Garrett: So came back to Mobile, started forming a board, getting the things like a building, everything put together to where we opened up in 2003 and saw 12 people on our first day, and have grown. Which they were ecstatic. And at that time, we were just a little primary care clinic, that's all we did. And then grew to now, we have over 19,000 patient encounters. We only have the one location in Mobile, but we serve 25 counties in Alabama, 11 in Mississippi, and 8 in Florida. So we really became regional. And Doc says, "If you told me that in the beginning, it would've scared him half to death."
Kim Garrett: But just the growth and the partnerships with Victory are just incredible to where our patient can come into the clinic, we can become their primary care physician, so just their doctor. Which for a lot of our patients, they never really had. Never had a doctor where it's just, "I go there for my check-up, I go there when I'm sick." So we have that relationship with them, but then if they have heart disease, or they need to go see an orthopedic surgeon, or a cardiologist, or whatever, we have about 200 specialists who we can refer them out, and get them taken care of. Which is remarkable for a person without insurance to go sit in a specialist's office it might be $200, $250 just to see them, but then you have the diagnostics, you have the medicine, the follow-up-
Marcus Neto: Yeah, it adds up quickly.
Kim Garrett: ... it just doesn't happen.
Marcus Neto: Yeah.
Kim Garrett: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Marcus Neto: And it's amazing to me, I don't remember who it was, I was trying to find it on my phone, I don't remember who it was that I had the conversation with, but I remember a couple of years ago, having a conversation with somebody and they said, "If people knew how much poverty there was in Mobile County alone, they wouldn't spend another dime overseas, as far as trying to impact people's lives and stuff." And that's not to say we don't do what we want with our money and helping people as far as whether it be in a foreign country or here, but I mean it just goes to show there are kids that live on Dauphin Island Parkway that I've never seen in Mobile Bay. And there are families in Crichton that make an average income of $12,000 or $13,000 a year. I mean there's just an immense amount of poverty here in the area. And so it's wonderful that there are organizations like yours that are stepping up to cover people in those gaps, so.
Marcus Neto: If you were talking to someone that wanted to get started in running their own business or their own nonprofit, or kind of in this world, what's the one bit of wisdom that you would impart to them?
Kim Garrett: I would talk about just the needs... I know for the nonprofit space and for us, just the impact of partnerships, collaborations. Nonprofits, I think there are an abundance of nonprofits in Mobile. And we're fortunate, we're thankful that we partner with a whole lot of folks. And we just see the impact of that, of having those relationships, those partnerships, whether it's to provide services to crossover of our clients. So if we partner with CivilSmith, some of their ladies need healthcare, we can provide it. So not duplicating, reduplicating what's already going out there.
Kim Garrett: But just the relationships, just the partnerships, I would say in general. Because you never know what will come from having a relationship with somebody, whether it's a referral, whether it's a recommendation. As we develop our, we kind of call them our ambassadors, we invite people into the clinic for luncheons, just always spending time just getting to know people and developing those relationships with our donors, with our partners. They might be a referral to someone who can introduce me to some small business owners who might have a need for Victory services for their employees. Maybe their part-time employees. Or maybe it's someone who becomes a donor, an advocate. Just to have those relationships and partnerships, I think it's just so vital.
Marcus Neto: Yeah, I mean it's amazing to me because there are... And I don't remember where I saw this. I'm saying a bunch of stuff today and I don't have references folks, so just bear with me, okay?
Kim Garrett: We believe you.
Marcus Neto: Over a thousand nonprofits in the Mobile area. And I think so oftentimes people don't check with already exists and join with that effort. Instead, they just kind of figure they'll go it on their own. And the frustrating thing there is that there's real power when people join together and consolidate efforts versus trying to do their own thing. And I mean there are some instances where you do need to do your own thing, but at the same time... Churches are the biggest culprit in this.
Marcus Neto: We've got a plethora of churches down here and a lot of it is just because somebody didn't agree with one little thing with how it was done or something like that. And so we've got all these small fractions of people congregating together, and I mean it's fine I guess. But I just wonder how much more impactful nonprofits would be if they would just kind of like, "You know what? You're doing this and we're also doing this and there's some slight differences in how we're handling it, but let's just consolidate and get together and do it together."
Marcus Neto: You're a member of Order of Fuse, and I'm on the board there. So I mean Order of Fuse, or Fuse Project, which I'm on the board for, the whole idea there was, "Well let's not duplicate. Let's find the people that are doing it the best and fund them, but also very much control and measure, not necessarily control them and micromanage them, but control where our money is going and what the impact is going to be and measure that impact." And I just like that approach a lot more than just kind of hoping and wishing for the best.
Kim Garrett: Right. There's certainly a limited amount of funds and so when you just add duplication of services, it just makes it-
Marcus Neto: Stretches everybody thin.
Kim Garrett: ... difficult to fundraise and to grow. And I mean we're only stronger when we're put together. And foundations and funders, I mean they're looking... Every grant application asks for who are you collaborating with? Who are your partners? And I mean we have over 60,000 volunteer hours a year just within the clinic-
Marcus Neto: Geez.
Kim Garrett: ... but then we can talk about... I mean we would not be able to do what we can do without our partners. So it only makes you stronger.
Marcus Neto: If you look to the business world, and not necessarily local, but I mean national, international business world, is there one person that motivates you? If you see this person's face on a magazine it's like, "I'm getting that because I want to read what it is they have to say."
Kim Garrett: So who I look towards, I think charity: water is so great with Scott Harrison. And their marketing, their media, the videos that they have, I mean they tell their stories so well of their donors and then also the impact. And I love that they don't go in with capes and they don't go in like, "We're all here. We're going to manage this issue." But wherever their wells are, they really engage the community. And I mean so it's also not only are they giving them fresh water, but they are lifting up the economy by providing jobs.
Kim Garrett: So just their model and just they are doing just great work and they have a great return on... So every dollar invested goes straight to the organization and straight to the projects. So I love what they're doing and they've always been one. If I'm looking at inspiration ideas for especially our media, our marketing, telling our story, they're definitely a good one to look to.
Marcus Neto: Yeah. That is extremely important for nonprofits to tell their story. They all have a product. They don't think of it in that sense, and even churches have a product, and they need to get that out. And also I would second that, I mean I think charity: water does a phenomenal job of that.
Marcus Neto: Are there any books, podcasts, people, or organizations that have been helpful in moving you forward?
Kim Garrett: So it takes me forever to read a book because by the time I get home-
Marcus Neto: I gave you four different options because some people don't read.
Kim Garrett: I know, but I'm going between Simon Sinek's Leaders-
Marcus Neto: Eat Last.
Kim Garrett: ... Eat Last, which is so good. And then also The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath. Todd Greer, our good friend, mentioned this book and it talks about how you have these moments throughout your life where you'll remember them forever. Just to use either for good-
Marcus Neto: Decision points.
Kim Garrett: ... or for bad. But yeah those special moments where it's like, "Oh my gosh." And they don't have to be anything significant, I mean they can be. But it could be a little moment where you're like, "That was amazing. I'm going to go tell all my people about it. So get that word of mouth marketing." So it's talking about building a strategy and being thoughtful for those moments within your organization, within your teams, your employees, but then also your family. You can apply it everywhere.
Kim Garrett: So being a nonprofit, doing events, working with our employees who serve so well and so hard throughout the day it's like, "How do we create little moments where we say thank you, we see you, we appreciate everything you do?" And then also for our donors like, "How do we create moments where they have this experience with the organization either at an event or different touchpoint where we're thanking them that they think, 'Wow, that's really special.'?"
Kim Garrett: They gave one example in the book where it talked about this hotel, I forget what the name was, but it's number one TripAdvisor, incredible, and you go and you look at the pictures like, "It looks a little dated. Nothing too fancy. It's above the Ritz-Carlton-like. Is this really that great?" But they have all these posts and these comments about this experience, this moment they've created where people go to the pool, again, nothing fancy, probably just one of those basic square rectangle pools. But they have this red phone. And you go pick up the phone and it's a popsicle hotline, where they ask like-
Marcus Neto: I love it.
Kim Garrett: ... "What flavor?" They probably just went to Costco and got their basic popsicles-
Marcus Neto: That's too funny.
Kim Garrett: ... but then someone comes out with a white glove, silver tray, and delivers your popsicle. That did not cost them that much, but they were thoughtful. They talk about-
Marcus Neto: That's great.
Kim Garrett: ... Isn't that great? I mean it's simple things, but people talk about it and it just gets that chatter going, and people want to go experience it.
Kim Garrett: There was one about a bank where in each branch of this bank they have a phone where it calls directly to the CEO of the entire bank. You can call and talk to him, give him your feedback. All these little things. They say just don't do it just to do it, because then it won't feel authentic, it won't feel genuine. But really be thoughtful, learn your-
Marcus Neto: It has to be part of your culture.
Kim Garrett: ... Yeah, it has to be a part of it. One thing we did at Victory's annual event, Hope for Healing, is at every table we put a handwritten thank you note from a patient to the guests in the seat, just saying couple sentences, "This is my story, thank you." And we've done it every year, but the first year we did it, it just touched people. I mean we all know the power of a handwritten thank you note, but just-
Marcus Neto: It's the power of a story, telling the story. It could've been typed up, but I mean yeah, it's the story that you're telling.
Kim Garrett: ... Yeah, and there were 500 of those things. So it took effort. We had to plan, but I prayed that that was a special moment that we could connect the mission with the guest on a different level than just come into another chicken dinner to hear about a cause so-
Marcus Neto: Winner, winner chicken dinner.
Kim Garrett: Yeah.
Marcus Neto: Now, how do you like to unwind?
Kim Garrett: Well I have a two and a four year old. So I mean unwinding but playing with them just to see them. There's a lot of hours in the day that we're apart, so being present with them, loving on them. For me, going and working out as much as I can. My husband and I do bootcamp. He'll do one morning at 5:30, I'll do the next morning. So we just go back and forth. So that's been a huge benefit just for mental health and stress, but then also staying healthy and well. So taking care of ourself, making sure that we're resting, making sure we're active. Just physical, mental health. Being with people, being with our community.
Marcus Neto: So in full disclosure, Andy Vickers just walked down because he's the next episode, but I just think it's funny because you mentioned going to Fit Body. Is it Fit Body Boot Camp? Or just boot camp?
Kim Garrett: Uh-huh (affirmative). Fit Body.
Marcus Neto: But anyway, yeah Fit Body Boot Camp. And not that we're plugging that over Andy's stuff, but I mean I just think the physical activity, the mental health aspect of it that you were mentioning, it's extremely important. Getting out that physical exertion and clearing your mind. And I was talking to somebody earlier because yesterday I was just having one of those days and I went to the gym and of course find the right song and find the right amount of weight that you need to lift, and by the time you finish, you just come out with a different attitude.
Kim Garrett: It changes everything.
Marcus Neto: Yeah, it changes everything.
Kim Garrett: Even at 5:00 in the morning, going to the gym, I can feel my brain racing of everything I need to get done. And I think also showing yourself grace. In our type of industry, you can always do more-
Marcus Neto: Yeah, there's no limit.
Kim Garrett: ... but just finding it's like, "I'm working the smartest I can. I'm working the hardest that I can." But then come 5, 5:30, I'm mama to my two babies, that's what I'm doing. And to have that order and that priority because I mean burnout is real. So taking care of yourself, you'll only be better in your role, better in your families in the long-term.
Marcus Neto: Yeah, there's got to be some sort of self-care. That's why I asked the question because I think it's very important for people to understand that yes, when you're working, you're engaged, you're pushing hard, you're being aggressive and you're moving forward, but at the same time... And I always get kind of frustrated with people like, "What does that mean? I don't ever unwind." And it's like, "Come on, BS." At some point in time, everybody has to stop this and they either have a favorite TV show that they watch, or they like a glass of wine, or they like going to dinner with friends, or they enjoy sticking their feet in the sand, or something. There has to be some place where you find peace, because if you don't, then you are on a sure-fire one-way street into burnoutville and that is not a healthy place to be, so.
Kim Garrett: No, not at all.
Marcus Neto: Anyway, well tell people where they can find out more information about Victory Health Partners.
Kim Garrett: Yeah, Victory Health, our website's www.VictoryHealth.org or on social media, Facebook, Instagram, can find us there. Can stop by any time for a tour to check it out.
Marcus Neto: You're accepting donations, I take it?
Kim Garrett: Always accept donations. We'll put them to hard work, I'll tell you that.
Marcus Neto: Yeah. But I mean in all honesty, if somebody wanted more information because they have people that might be able to take advantage of your services, they should contact you as well, right?
Kim Garrett: Yeah, give me a call. If there's employees, people, we all know somebody who could fall within the gap and I already tell our patients, I mean a lot of my physicians that I see with my Blue Cross Blue Shield, they come to the clinic, they come and volunteer and our patients get more time with them, get in faster, and for less. So I mean the quality of care is amazing. I mean our medical community for the size of this town is remarkable.
Marcus Neto: And it's awesome.
Kim Garrett: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Marcus Neto: Well I want to thank you again for coming on the podcast. To wrap up, any final thoughts or comments you'd like to share?
Kim Garrett: No. Thank you for the opportunity and just for everything you do, you're a great part of our community. So thanks.
Marcus Neto: I appreciate that, yeah. Kim, I appreciate your willingness to sit with me and share your journey. It was great talking with you.
Kim Garrett: Thank you.