Growing through innovation: what can vets learn from start-ups? - Veterinary Practice
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Growing through innovation: what can vets learn from start-ups?

How can practices adopt a creative approach to business development to become more competitive?

Many may think tech companies don’t have much in common with veterinary practices. But there’s a lot that can be learned from the mindset of a fast-growth start-up. Start-ups typically operate in an incredibly fast-paced environment and are under pressure to secure funding, retain customers and bring their services to market quickly. Similarly, vets must run their practice as a business, as much as a vocation, to remain competitive. With that in mind, what can vets learn from start-ups?

Build your brand

Start-ups seek to build a strong brand identity to establish themselves in a busy marketplace, through bold marketing and publicity tactics.

Vets too should develop a clear and digitally focused marketing strategy to raise their profile and reach new clients. With the ongoing trend of practice consolidation, smaller practices especially may find this an effective way to compete with corporate-owned clinics. Get started by making your practice and services easily found by optimising your web presence through Google Ads, social media and search engine optimisation (SEO). Create video content to increase brand awareness with new clients – especially the growing millennial pet ownership demographic. Keep in touch with a monthly newsletter and create new content such as case studies to engender trust with new clients.

Start-ups are finely attuned to competitor brands and keenly monitor rivals to stay one step ahead. Vet practices too should pay attention to other clinics in their vicinity as it can be helpful to know their marketing approach or if they’ve made a new senior hire or changed their service offering.

Focus on client experience

Start-ups need to gain a loyal following to stay fit for purpose. Therefore, customer engagement and retention are at the heart of their business strategy.

As the nature of the job means that vets are in close contact with clients, building close relationships is critical to the longevity of a practice and clinical directors should keenly evaluate how customer engagement could be improved. From booking an appointment to aftercare, how can this process be easier and more satisfactory? Who is involved in the customer journey from the reception desk to the operating table? Is further client-communication training or CPD needed? Could any internal policies on best practice be created? Is the clinic as comfortable as it could be? Is enough advice and information provided?

Work more efficiently

Start-ups are experts in using digital software and solutions to work as productively as possible.

With busy days filled with client appointments, vets too can benefit from saving time and working more effectively. Cloud-based practice management software allows clinics of all sizes to set up online and SMS booking systems make it easier for clients to engage with their local clinic. These types of solutions often provide additional functionality such as automated invoicing and billing controls, inventory management, prescription data and patient record keeping, thereby simplifying administration and client communications.

And, with an increased appetite for digital services, pet owners too will continue to seek out more efficient ways to access advice: through AI-based chat apps, virtual appointments or online symptom checkers. This presents vets with an opportunity to streamline customer experience and engage with more digitally aware pet owners and millennial clients using these types of technologies. Coupled with this, wearable devices such as health and activity monitors are becoming increasingly recommended to pet owners by vets due to their ability to help vets make faster and more accurate diagnoses. These devices work by monitoring a pet’s movements, and capturing information such as time slept, calories spent and intensity of daily activity. By compiling patterns in data over a certain timeframe, pet owners can spot when activity trends may indicate that pets aren’t feeling well and should visit a vet. They can share accurate data-driven reports on a pet’s daily activity via their mobile device. Critically, this removes ambiguity for vets, who can use this information to more precisely understand a pet’s recent behaviours and diagnose disease faster.

Manage your talent

Start-ups place a huge amount of emphasis on building a talented team that adheres to the firm’s culture and values.

Vet practices too should focus on finding staff who not only excel in the technicality of the day job but who can work cohesively together. Practices should arrange team meetings at least once a month and use these as a forum to gather feedback on recent appointments and any other concerns. Encourage new ideas and suggestions from everyone. A strong team should work with the clinical director to help the practice to continually improve its service offering.

Building a practice of tomorrow

Vets provide amazing support in everything that they do by safeguarding the pets we love. However, we can all learn from others and the approach taken by start-ups is a great example of how to become more effective every day. Technology continues to shape how we work and live, and vet practices, like start-ups, should leverage the opportunities digital innovation presents.

Just like start-ups, vet practices have a vision for their future and take tremendous pride in what they do. However, it will be those clinics who welcome change, have the right skills and who use technical innovation to their advantage who will gain the most, treat animals more effectively and remain competitive in the long term.

James Andrews

James Andrews, BVM&S, MBA, MRCVS, is a qualified veterinary surgeon and a practising member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. He is also the founder and CEO of digital pet healthcare company, Felcana.

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