“The Dreaded C Word” – What do you really think of the ‘Larger Vet Groups’?


Kelly Worrall veterinary-nurses, Veterinary Surgeon, practices...

It’s now getting close to twenty years since deregulation in the Veterinary sector enabled non-members of the Royal College to own Veterinary practices in the UK. Yet sadly there are still some in the profession that vilify the “Large Veterinary Groups”, as we at Recruit4vets prefer to call them, and attempt to “brand” them as “The Corporates”, which, to me sounds, only one step away from “The Empire” in the Star Wars movies.


Even more, sadly there are a many great, exceptionally talented Veterinary Surgeons and RVN’s that feel tarnished by association of working within these groups, and much more who would never consider working for them for the same reasons.


My simple question to everyone in the profession is why? 


Rather than “The Death Star” to draw another Star Wars analogy, those employed by the large groups went to the same Veterinary Schools, worked as hard as anyone, qualified like everyone else and view themselves, as all Veterinary Professionals do, as being in the profession to deliver exceptional animal medicine and welfare and to educate the British public to be the best pet owners they can be.


People in the Veterinary profession regularly “name check” the Optical market and the impact the large groups had on their world. But, I would challenge that as a good reference point given the history of that market and the NHS provision that was part of their the world and the subsequent explosion in the technology and fashion associated with that market.


It’s about time that our profession grew to love the “Larger Veterinary Groups”, the reality for any Veterinarian is that YOU are the brand of your practice, and trust me, every practice, however qualified or experienced the owner(s) are, are always only as good as the weakest link in their practice.  And we all know what Ann Robinson suggests! And believe me, that weak link will do more damage to your practice than any competitor.


However, as Richard Branson says:

“Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”


As well as “Learn to look after your staff first and the rest will follow”.


The other great truth for any practice is, if you are a good vet, your team are great, every experience clients/customers have of dealing with anyone in your practice is good, car parking is easy, receptionists are friendly and interested, your practice looks and feels like a medical premises, you are open (within reasonable limits) when they want to see you and you deliver a service they perceive to be value for money, you have absolutely nothing to fear from the larger groups. In effect, all these groups are doing is raising the profile of the profession within the crowded consumer market place that is fighting for every penny, and above all, reminding people that their cherished family member needs looking after!


My motto has always been;


“Never give a client a reason to want to visit any other Veterinary Practice”


The Larger Veterinary Groups tend to be very good at what they do, but that is nothing to fear, and in reality, it should be embraced as an opportunity to take the best elements from and integrate those learnings into your business. And people who choose to further their career in those businesses should also be recognised as being the future of the profession.


The world has changed beyond measure in the last thirty years, not just the Veterinary profession.  Ultimately the Large Veterinary Groups are meeting the needs and demands of the client and patient base. They can be great businesses to work in, many offer a route to practice ownership that is not too far from the traditional model, and the acquisition model being driven hard by some of the Largest Groups enables many experienced vets to get the rewards for many years’ hard work as well as pass the business over to a set of very safe hands when they sell.


For those that choose the route afforded by the Large Veterinary Groups, the great news is, it’s a great life, as good as in private practice and all the things you hoped for when you qualified. Very often purpose built modern surgeries with exceptional equipment and support in areas outside of your Veterinary degree that Vet School hasn’t provided you for.


And I am pleased to report that the demise of the Private Practice too is greatly exaggerated. Exceptional Vets and great practices are always going to be there and of course, they will always thrive, and rightly so.  But as I say, the time could be right to end your fear and explore what the Larger Veterinary Groups can do to help you, your career, or, if you are one of the already exceptional private practices out there, to further improve.

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