Two years and three months after acquiring a pet emergency center in New Orleans, MedVet Medical & Cancer Centers for Pets increased the location’s revenue tenfold.
But revenue and profits aren’t the driving force behind the change. They are just the effect.
Dr. Eric Schertel, president, says by prioritizing and investing in a culture that delivers an exceptional experience for clients, patients, referral partners and employees, MedVet is building a successful network of emergency and specialty referral veterinary hospitals.
Schertel and his senior vice president of finance keep each other in check to find the middle ground between investing back into the company and making a profit.
“Honestly, I learned a long time ago if you put the client and the referral partner first, you’ll make plenty of money and be successful,” he says. “And as soon as you start focusing on the money, the client and the referral partner disappear.”
New Orleans is probably the most dramatic example of the kind of growth MedVet’s model brings, Schertel says, but the organization hasn’t met a competitor yet that does a better job, even as it continually defines its growth process.
Here’s how MedVet is spreading its culture to all 750 employees that treat more than 60,000 dogs and cats every year.
Set the standard
At the end of 2014, MedVet added two more locations in Lexington, Kentucky, and Mobile, Alabama, to bring its total to eight.
But as MedVet grows, Schertel says geography isn’t the biggest challenge. You can use technology such as video-teleconference systems to help bridge the gap and connect to other locations.
The bigger obstacle is making sure your culture — as well as your mission, vision and core values — develops in the new practice. And that’s something you can’t mandate.
Typically, the company buys an emergency practice and then introduces specialists into the practice to build it out like other MedVet locations. The only exception was in Mandeville, Louisiana, which merged with MedVet.
When you add your own specialty teams and leadership, you can put in people who understand the culture that is already established in your oldest location and who can drive the right value systems.
“We’ve been able to bring in our people or selectively hire specialists that come in and who we can influence right away that either have our values because maybe they were trained by us or shared our values naturally,” he says.
The medical leadership and specialty groups set the standard for the practice.
In addition, you can use a good reputation in your industry to draw the type of hires you need.
A lot of the current leaders in the newer acquisitions or mergers have already experienced MedVet at some point in their training, says Dr. Amy Snyder, creative director of marketing.
“They may have been interns in MedVet Columbus or they may have completed a residency there, and then they’ve gone on to another part of the country, whether that’s the Gulf Coast or East Coast,” she says. “But they’ve never found that (same experience) again. So when there’s an opportunity, they tend to come back.”
Build a support system
As MedVet grows, it’s also building out its organizational and clinical infrastructure, Schertel says.
Each business unit within a hospital needs to support a great employee experience, and you need that infrastructure to support the culture you’re trying to install in new locations.
“It’s not a fire drill. It’s a slow evolving process,” he says.
“We’ve built out this business infrastructure at the expense of our profit margin to anticipate our growth and to help with this clinical integration — knowing that as we get into a market and we deliver this high-quality service that people will come,” Schertel says. “We’ll continue to grow and be profitable.”
For example, he hired a senior vice president of information technology to help improve MedVet’s hospital management systems and interaction with referral partners and clients.
The company also has a senior vice president of development, who was formerly a leadership coach for MedVet. Schertel says she helps develop the middle management team — the clinical managers who direct all of the clinical activity of the nurses, aids and technicians.
Along with the infrastructure build-out, it’s important to train and develop the people you already have.