After the recent opening of the 300th Vets4Pets vet practice inside the Pets At Home store in Eastleigh, Hampshire, Mark Collins (vet, owner and manager of the practice) describes the trials and tribulations of embarking on a venture partnership to open the new surgery in his home town.
You’ve been open for a few months now – how has it all been going?
Things are looking very promising indeed – we’ve had tons of new registrations, both as a result of the huge volumes of casual footfall and also people actively seeking us out. We’re even thinking about taking on more
Why did you choose to team up with vets4Pets rather than opening independently?
For me, the independent route was an option but ultimately it came down to the support a corporate partnership provides, which allows me to can concentrate on running the practice and being a good vet. It is like having my own team of accountants, business advisors, HR, marketing team who can do all of the jobs which aren’t naturally in my skills set. This way I can provide a much better service to my clients. I also really like the in-store location as it appeals to a lot of clients who benefit from the convenience of having everything under one roof.
How do you think employees and consumers view corporately-owned vet practices?
For the employee, again it comes down to support. Corporate companies are much savvier about employment law, so employees know they’ll never be subject to any of the common pitfalls which can inadvertently present themselves in private practice. For example, I have a whole team of advisors to help me create the best working conditions for my team. From the clients’ point of view, they like the care plans and promotions we can offer but also the set-up in the store and the fact that we’re really service driven. They definitely value the extended opening hours and services such as our online symptom checker and online booking system. I suppose they perceive a big corporate business to be more stable and closely monitored, giving less scope for variability in service.
What’s been the best thing about opening the practice?
Everyone wants to be their own boss and now I am! With the help of my fab team I can put my ideas into practice which is really satisfying. Yes, it involves long hours and hard days but I imagine this will get easier – plus, it’s totally worth it.
What’s been the biggest challenge so far?
As we have such a huge footfall we’ve had to get to grips with quite an influx from day one. There really was no time to breathe at the beginning and we really hit the ground running, which is great but definitely challenging.
Have there been any unexpected obstacles?
I think I was excellently prepared by my support team on every level – the only surprise so far has been an unexpected bill from the council due to increased footfall so we can’t really complain.
What are you most daunted by going forwards?
I suppose my biggest concern is making sure the place is a success. Now I have a whole team and client base to think about, not just myself. Having such great support definitely helps ease concerns as I never really feel like I’m in it alone.
What advice would you give others vets considering running their own practice?
If it’s in the realms of a corporate partnership – other than to just ‘go for it’ – I’d say listen to the guys at the support office. They have a wealth of experience under their belts which really counts. My biggest general tip for those running their own practice would be to make sure your team feels valued. People management is paramount which includes giving constructive criticism as well as praise. Ultimately, everyone has to be happy and work well together – making a success out of a vet practice is definitely a team effort!