by William Singleton
It was 2005 and I had worked hard to attain what I considered a fairly successful job at a great university supporting veterinary services and training. I remember visiting a friend in Atlanta that summer and thinking to myself “well, this is it!” As I sat waiting for a business plan template to download, I had the realization that starting this new adventure would require me to leave behind the work that I knew and loved.
The true origin of ACTS can be traced back to my first year out of vet school when a well-meaning lady in my church asked me to fill in for the director of the youth program. I had no experience and little to offer, but I was willing. And after a few weeks, something unexpected happened – the kids started showing up on time. Not only that, they started asking me questions (some of which I thought were better suited for their parents) and I realized that I was actually relating to them! It wasn't long before I knew something bigger was happening – a sense of fulfillment I had never experienced before. It soon became clear that training was a natural extension of something that was at my core. I had the ability to support growth and development in people by helping them understand things that were important to them.
And what better place to start than the animal care community that I knew and loved?
In 2007, ACTS became an official company and our first contract was executed in early 2008. Those days were exhilarating. We all have dreams, big and small, and I can honestly say that ACTS was, and still is, a dream come true. It kept me awake at night and got me up early in the morning. Even when the bills were coming in faster than the money, I knew that this was exactly where I was supposed to be.
I was fortunate to have lots of support in the beginning. My good friend Paula Clifford was an essential part of getting ACTS off the ground, and we would not be where we are today without her optimism and vision. She has since moved on to other opportunities, but will always be considered a part of the ACTS family. In addition to Paula, I’ve had the pleasure to partner with numerous others who have added so much value to our organization. ACTS is definitely a team effort and I’m grateful to get to work alongside so many bright and committed individuals.
For the past 10 years, ACTS has been serving the lab animal community with management and species-specific training, as well as providing certification courses and consulting services. It still overwhelms me to think that it all started with a dream to help others. It wasn't always easy, and I still cringe at the thought of my first training seminar and how little I was prepared! There have been failures – many of them – but with the support of many, along with a commitment to our mission, I have never lost sight of why this work matters.
My guiding principle has been that people matter most and that drives everything that I do and is at the center of what our consultants believe. How can we help our clients get just a little bit better every day? I shared that thought while recently giving a talk in Australia and found myself getting choked up. Who would have thought that a punky little kid from West Philly (emphasis on the little) would ever start a company training people that work with animals AND that company would be the vehicle for him to travel around the world to share that message? People matter most.
Should we have the fortune and grace to still be relevant in another 10 years I am confident that our mission will remain the same. It never hurts to dream!