Vets4Pets taking a lead in the veterinary world

A GRADUAL change in perception for vets could be the basis of success for Vets4Pets.

A GRADUAL change in perception for vets could be the basis of success for Vets4Pets. With its head office in Guernsey and stores from Poole to Durham based on a joint-venture model, managing director Peter Watson said the comparison with Specsavers was hard to play down.

But it has taken the idea of offering back-line support to a field that was traditionally opposed to commercial operations.

'We are beginning to gradually change the perception of the veterinary profession. They were traditionally wary of commercial operations because they were used to having two partners and some nurses,' he said.

The company is targeting vets who are new to the profession but have little chance of owning their own practice.

Vets4Pets now has 16 practices all operating successfully and word of mouth is, along with promotion, getting more people interested.

'This year has seen a whole raft of things come together. We had to see proof that the model works well and we have been successful from that point of view.'

The company operates in a similar way to a franchise. It provides support to the vets by managing accounts and offering PR, marketing and training.

'We provide all the administrative support, like a back office, including things like rent reviews and covering health and safety.'

The company is about to relocate offices and plans to open a practice here in the next 12 months.

'Another thing was the business growth last year. We have doubled our size in terms of turnover. It has really begun to take off and we hope to double in size in the next few years,' said Mr Watson.

Last year was the first time the support office broke even, providing a platform for expansion. The practices pay the company a management fee, but they keep all realised profits.

'We have been setting ourselves up and are targeting opening 20 practices in the next 12 months.

'All the systems are in place to allow us to do that.

'There is nobody else doing what we are doing in the UK.'

Within the next year, Vets4Pets should be the largest veterinary company in the UK.

A video sent out to 7,800 vets has helped spread the joint-venture idea, as has an innovative marketing approach including 'some quite amusing adverts'.

Advertising used to go out to an agency but is now done in house, as is some training.

'To make sure we are delivering what we promised, we formed a joint venture council, which meets once a month to discover what the problems are. It can be anything; as simple as a printer not working.'

A professional service board, made up of vets and nurses, forms the clinical policy of the company.

Mr Watson started the company with Craig and Tim Harrison. He spent five years working for Specsavers and was managing director of Vision Express for six years.

'When I left, I wanted to start something on my own and all my skills are in the medical profession in a money-making environment.'

Mr Watson has lived in the island for 14 years.

'We are committed to staying in Guernsey,' he said.