We will publish our latest Newsletter here on our website to keep you up-dated with developments in our veterinary practice and other news and features that we feel might benefit you.
Do please come back to this page to receive an up-date on what's going on.
News Item 1 - Our Practice Online
In keeping with the huge growth in the internet and the number of people online (33 million people in the UK, would you believe it!), we are delighted to have launched our practice website.This site is designed for new and existing customers alike and provides a wealth of information about the veterinary practice and pet healthcare in general.We encourage you to use the website as a source of information as it will be updated regularly to ensure that the latest contact details, opening hours and information on our services are always at your fingertips.In the near future we will be offering on-line repeat prescription ordering and Pet food, Flea and Wormer treatments for next day collection.
With spring approaching make sure you treat your pet for ticks. In the UK we now have Lymes disease ,which is a serious illness carried by ticks and can infect people.For further details contact the Practice.
This article was published in the Veterinary Business Journal.
Written by John Bonner
DIY has grown to become the most popular leisure activity in the UK. Hundreds of thousands of Britons gain deep satisfaction from spending their weekends redecorating the living room or putting up bookshelves in the hall. But it is rare indeed for anyone to take on a project as ambitious as the one Ben Berlyne started in 1999.
He set about building a veterinary practice relying almost entirely on his own mental and physical energies and the accumulated wisdom contained in a few dozen back issues of a popular veterinary management publication that modesty prevents us from naming.
A 1993 Edinburgh graduate, Ben worked in mixed practice in Devon and Wiltshire before moving to Nottingham in 1997 when he realised that late night calving were not helping his chronic back complaint. Unfortunately, his hopes of progressing on to a partnership in a small animal practice in the city centre were scuppered by a change of ownership and Ben decided to strike out on his own.Sticking pins in a map to mark the location of existing practices highlighted an area in the western suburbs that was relatively lightly vetted. There were only a couple of branch surgeries servicing a local population that a scan through estate agents windows showed to be reasonably prosperous. A quick call to the agent responsible for commercial premises close to Arnold & Carlton Further Education College and the site was his on a 15-year lease, with the terms renegotiable at three yearly intervals.
Ben did need advice from a lawyer in organising the sale and in subsequent dealings with the City Council over the change of use. He also sought the help of skilled craftsmen in carrying out some of the more technically demanding tasks involved in the conversion of the former mini-market. But the rest of the work - from stripping out and cleaning the surfaces of a building that had been badly neglected to gaining health and safety accreditation at the completion of the project - was entirely his responsibility.Most of his ideas on the lay out for the new building were gathered from earlier practice profiles of businesses in the US and UK. As his proposals required no significant changes to the exterior or load-bearing walls, they were accepted without major quibbling from the planners. As Ben had no previous experience of management, he also needed to swot up on articles on a wide range of other issues. When trying to organise the loan to carry out the work, Ben also picked up a copy of the Lloyd TSB guide on starting a new business and found this a valuable additional source of information.
Once the new business was up and running, Ben joined the Federation of Small Businesses and would recommend this organisation to any colleague looking to set up their plate. He says the Federation offers a number of useful services to members such as a readily accessible legal advice line, insurance against the costs of a tax investigation, publications giving regular updates on changes in business law, etc. It is also able to negotiate favourable rates for members on telephone charges and many other services.
A few months after the new surgery opened, Ben found Sandi Sheppard, Canadian veterinary technician whose main professional experience is in cattle practice but who has a long-standing interest in breeding and showing dogs. It was through Sandi as a member of the BVNA that Ben found this professional body very helpful in Nursing and staff employment contracts and wage Negotiations. While she carries out the nursing duties her husband, Steve drops in regularly to lend a hand.as the Pracrice Manager His business experience in the IT industry has proved useful on many occasions and as Ben notes, Steve's back is a little more reliable than Bens own whenever there is a need to shift heavy objects.As the son of an eminent British-born nephrologist, born in Manchester Ben had a peripatetic existence in his formative years with spells in Israel, the USA and the West Indies. So before starting his veterinary course at Edinburgh he had spent little time in the UK. For this reason he has avoided picking up some very English preconceptions about the correct way to conduct business. Firstly, he takes a very Mediterranean approach to striking a deal he sees the listed price for any goods or service not as a fixed characteristic of the product but as a basis for negotiation. Some suppliers were unwilling to enter into this bargaining process but it worked often enough for Ben to register some notable coups. For example, an ex-NHS x-ray machine that was originally on offer at 6,000 was eventually acquired at a knock down price of 3,500.Also, Ben was prepared to be a little more upfront about his expectations of the relationship with his suppliers than many colleagues would have been in the same situation. I telephoned all the companies listed in the NOAH veterinary data sheet compendium and asked them if they could send a rep. When I saw those reps, I asked what they were prepared to offer to someone starting up a new veterinary practice. I made it clear that if they took care of me, I would take care of them and they would have my loyalty for as long as they wanted it.
Ben knew exactly what he wanted in terms of basic equipment and drugs before opening the doors to the practice. Close attention to detail in the budgeting stage meant that they are no significant surprises of disappointments later on. He took out a personal loan of £32,000 to cover the building work, legal expenses and equipment costs and the final calculation came within a few pounds of that figure. Yet no matter good the preparations for opening the new practice there was no way of assessing the likely response of the pet owning public of Nottingham. Ben was fully prepared to spend much of his time in the first few weeks staring at the newly painted walls. So he was pleasantly surprised to have four clients cross the thresh-hold on his first day and a healthy trickle of further business over the following weeks. By the six month mark, Ben was pretty sure that his gamble had paid off and by the end of the year so was the loan.After four years, the practice has 2,000 active clients with about 3,000 pets and the client base continues to grow, albeit at a much slower rate. In the meantime, Ben has been able to invest in the additional technology he hopes will enable him to provide a service of the standard that will ensures that these remain clients. Now, the practice possesses many of the Toys ultrasound, endoscopy, etc that are still absent from many much larger and older established clinics.In a veterinary market that is largely static, such growth can only be achieved through a combination of word-of-mouth recommendations and sound marketing decisions. In the first few months, Ben had to rely largely on a blunderbuss approach with leaflets inserted into the two local newspapers and advertisements in the Yellow Pages and Thompson directories. More recently he has also been advertising on the local businesses contact board at a nearby supermarket. This has the dual advantage of only presenting details of one provider for each of the services listed and it is focused more directly on people within the practices catchment area. It is also significantly cheaper to take out an advertisement with the supermarket than with the printed business directories.Bens initial caution in his choice of marketing strategies was a product of his concerns about infringing RCVS rules. As a veterinary surgeon who was already working in the city he was aware of the risks of upsetting his neighbours. I was reasonably happy that I wasn't overstepping the line but I wanted to be certain. If there is any doubt it is best to check with the RCVS Gordon Hockey and his colleagues are always very helpful.Efforts to integrate the practice within the local community are another essential element in the marketing strategy. Ben knew that any time spent encouraging an interest in animals among local kids would be a worthwhile investment. So he took a couple of docile dogs along when he spoke to the children at the school attended by the middle one of his own three offspring. The dogs waited patiently as a succession of children listened to their heartbeats on a stethoscope or examined their ears with an otoscope. Taking a Shih Tzu puppy along also helped to dispel the fears of some of the more nervous children, he suggests.Ben finds that he is more comfortable communicating with a live audience than through a column in the local newspaper and is happy to accept invitations to speak to local church or community groups. In recent months he has spoken to the local branch of the British Diabetic Association comparing the disease in humans and animals. He has also tried to establish closer ties with a sister profession by speaking to as meeting of local GPs on zoonotic disease risks. At least one medical colleague was already apprised of the importance of these potential new threats to human health Ben's wife Nicole works part time at the GP practice a few minutes walk away.Having a spouse who understands the pressures of professional life must help Ben to ensure that he learns to avoid or at least deal with - the isolation, stress and fatigue that can afflict some single handed practitioners.Working a seven-day week while building up the practice cannot be sustained indefinitely and Ben says it is important for any colleague to be able to recognise the signs of impending burn out. Ben relaxes by spending as much time as he can with his family and by indulging his passion for growing orchids. Sometimes a change is as good as a rest and a couple of days spend at the BSAVA Congress is all that is needed to recharge his batteries.As well as taking time out from the practice it is important to keep in touch with professional colleagues and ensure that clinical skills are being constantly updated.
It may be so that I don't have any clinical colleagues within the practice to discuss cases with but that doesn't mean there is no-one outside. The important thing about single handed practice is knowing when to refer things on and when to ring for advice from a colleague who is an expert in that particular field.Although 10 years at university (before Edinburgh he took a degree in biology Chemistry in the US) has sated Ben's appetite for taking examinations, he is still eager to fine-tune his skills. Even in the busiest days there are still opportunities to learn. There is no better place to sit and read than the loo and I keep a few couple of the latest journals in there. It's the one place in the house where you are free from the demands of your family - come to think of it, I would say there is something odd about any man who doesn't feel the same way.
Box of quotes
Doing dental work is much more cost effective for the practice than a ovariohysterectomy, bearing in mind the amount of time and materials involved in a spay. You can do it cheaper but you can't risk an animal's life for your profit margin.
In every practice that I have worked in there have been clients who want things on Credit. I don't know of any other business where that happens you would never walk out of a restaurant after your meal and say Thanks I will pay you next time In quiet periods during the first few months I did pick up a lot of business sitting drinking coffee in Warrens Auto Parts Shop next door and talking to the other customers. They often seemed surprised to find out I was a vet there are obviously a lot of people out there who think we are aloof. It is worthwhile putting the time and effort into explaining why a pet needs a vaccination and how it works I would say that 95% of owners don't really understand it. When they do the take up from annual reminders is much better. For many operations I prefer to use Staples rather than sutures. Yes it is more expensive initially but it saves considerably on down time in the theatre and the clinical result is usually much better.I realised early on that if you are starting to feel emotional in the morning for no obvious reason then that is a good time to take a break.