Without question, the veterinary industry is unique. That being said, at the end of the day, business is business and there are a surprising number of similarities that can be drawn between vet clinics and other companies – particularly fast-growth startups. Think about it. Both tend to operate in fast-paced environments and are under constant pressure to secure funding and retain customers. With that in mind, here are a few helpful lessons that practice owners can take away from successful tech startups.
Establish an Identity
One of the biggest challenges startups face is establishing a strong brand identity. This is necessary in order to carve out a spot in a highly competitive marketplace. Similarly, vet clinics have the opportunity to position themselves as a trusted resource within their chosen communities. Establishing a unique and memorable brand will help you to raise awareness and ultimately reach new clients. This is especially the case with smaller clinics seeking to compete with corporate-owned practices.
The first step in carving out this unique identity is establishing and optimizing a solid web presence through things like a well-crafted website, search engine optimization (SEO), social media and Google Ads. Commit to consistently producing and sharing valuable content and regularly engaging with your target audience. This will help you quickly make a name for yourself and begin to foster trust amongst your prospects and clients.
Perfect the Client Experience
The best way to get a startup off the ground is to gain a strong and loyal following as quickly as possible. At the heart of this strategy is, and always will be, customer engagement and retention. Because the nature of our jobs in the veterinary industry warrants personal interactions with clients on a regularly basis, building and strengthening those relationships is the key to growth and sustainability.
Take a few moments to review and evaluate your current client journey – from the initial web search and telephone inquiry to setting the appointment to the office and exam room experience to the follow-up and aftercare. Are there any areas of the process that could be improved and made easier? Could additional communication, training or education make the client experience a more positive and therefore more profitable one?
Know Your Competition
Startups must be careful to always keep their fingers on the pulse of their respective industries, and that involves knowing and understanding what other players in the field are up to. This allows them to pivot where needed so they can stay one step ahead at all times. As a vet clinic, you can take a lesson from this playbook by paying close attention to what other clinics in your geographical area are doing.
Conduct a competitive analysis to learn how other practices are approaching marketing, what type of service offering they have, how they are staffed, etc. The more you know about your peers, the more you can hone your own approach to make it the most impactful.
The best way to compete – especially with the “big dogs” – is to operate as efficiently as possible (without sacrificing client service and patient care, of course). Create and document clinic policies, procedures and best practices. Implement team training to ensure consistency and compliance. Utilize the technology that’s available today to automate, streamline and simplify workflows wherever possible. As an added bonus, tech-savvy clients will appreciate the convenience of digital service and support.
For practice owners, practice managers or lead vets, learning how to delegate is one of the biggest keys to sustainable success. Just because you’re capable of handling every function within your practice, doesn’t mean you should. Determine the optimal use of everyone’s time and then divvy out the work accordingly.
Build and Grow Your Culture
Another hallmark of successful startups that vet clinics can mirror is their emphasis on building a team that fits with their company culture and values. Those in hiring positions should focus not just on recruiting individuals who possess strong technical and clinical skills, but also those who have the interpersonal skills and intangibles that will closely align them with the rest of the team.
Once staff is in place, culture should remain at the forefront of all internal decisions. Think regular engagement through team huddles, feedback loops (that actually produce results), and an open, honest environment in which everyone can feel safe, valued and empowered. This strong team should then play a pivotal role in helping to continually improve and enhance how the practice is run.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway practice owners can glean from high-growth startups is how they simultaneously work in the present while keeping an eye fixed on the future. Technology and agility continue to shape the way we live and work, and these are things that vet clinics can leverage to their advantage. An openness to learn and a willingness to change today will ultimately become the mark of the successful and well-established clinic of tomorrow.