As the COVID-19 pandemic impacts businesses across Australia, the silver lining might be that this could be the time and an opportunity to consider your next steps in strategising to give your veterinary business the best chance of emerging intact and stronger after the pandemic.

Each vet practice will be different in terms of the challenges being faced. Many vets may be experiencing anxiety and concern about their own health, and that of their family and friends. At the same time, there are concerns about business finances, staffing and the ability to meet client and patient needs. Firstly, it’s important to focus on the wellbeing of yourself and your loved ones. Once you have strategies in place for your own self-care, and keeping your family healthy and safe, you can then look at your business activities to see where improvements can be made.

Practices are adapting to social distancing guidelines, remote consulting options and the use of additional personal protective equipment. Amongst all this, if you have the time there are several areas where you can focus your efforts to help your veterinary business survive and thrive. Make sure to check in and catch up with colleagues via telephone or social media, and join any support groups or industry forums where you can share any concerns and advice with other vets.

Depending on your individual business needs, you can research financial assistance options now to seek advice and assistance. You could contact your financial advisor, vet industry insurance providers and other vet industry connections, together with exploring the potential financial assistance options available from the Government. If you are an AVA member, check out their website for resources and support available around HR and staffing issues.

Spend time reviewing your current business activities to identify areas where you might be able to implement improvements. This might be around how you communicate with your clients (e.g. use of SMS reminders, email campaigns and other marketing initiatives), and introducing or enhancing wellness plan offerings to provide preventative care products to your clients. If you are implementing new ways of remote consulting with your clients at this time, consider the longer-term application of telemedicine options and whether there may be opportunities for your enhancing your business through what you can offer to your clients. Although the timeframe of this pandemic is unknown, you may be able to collate a to-do list of patient procedures which could be booked in once the situation resolves in the future.

Take a look at your current clinical protocols and develop or update standing operating procedures which will assist with staff training and improving the efficiency of how your practice runs on a day to day basis. Review your stock and inventory management to see if there are better ways of integrating your ordering and dispensing systems. Update client handouts or other resources on your website.

Chat with your team to see what areas they suggest could be improved in the practice. Take this opportunity to check in on their mental health, professional learning goals, and find out whether your staff have any non-clinical skills which you can take advantage of to improve the business. Identify areas for professional growth, and there may also be time to undertake online learning and professional development courses.

As each vet practice grapples with their own unique circumstances and challenges to overcome, through spending some time thinking about the business development opportunities during this time of uncertainty, it will help you to identify areas and activities to focus on – providing some positive steps to follow during a time of great change.

by Dr Phil Tucak