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Building your effective and sustainable vet practice is no easy task. There are lots of moving parts. One of the most important is hiring the right people to fit your team. To that end, there are three business names I always love/d to see on the resume of a job applicant to my veterinary practice – Disney, QANTAS and McDonalds.

Piggy-backing vet skills onto a person who has gained something very useful from these businesses has worked well for me on many occasions.

Why I like job applicants who have worked well at Disney


However you feel about Frozen, the most obvious reason is they are massively successful – never a bad talent pool to draw from! But what really sets Disney apart for me is how engaged their team is. Disney doesn’t have staff, they have “cast members”! They don’t have shop floors, they have “the stage”. They don’t have jobs, they have “parts”. You see how the lexicon works? What Disney has done is take the magic produced on the big screen and weave it through their entire operation. If you don’t know much about Disney, then your chances of working here and actually progressing are severely limited because you’ll be a cultural misfit. One can imagine any cast member who rolled their eyes or gossiped about how “silly this all seems” being removed from the team and locked in a tower at the heart of an enchanted forest in a swish of a fairy godmother’s wand.

Culture and brand commitment are absolutely paramount to the experience delivered to their customers whether on Disney Plus, in the theatre, in a theme park or a retail store. Disney are proudly, daringly and utterly themselves.

Working in such a system takes strong commitment to brand values and a willingness to be authentic, and dedicated to the delightful experience of the customer. Not bad traits if your brand values are similar. So why not create a show-like experience for clients at your vet practice? The exam room is, after all, a place where vets perform. And we see high drama in the surgical suite. In fact, in the UK, the surgical suite is even called the operating ‘theatre’!

One downside however is that Disney devotees are not in a hurry to leave that magical place. So beware, the thorny world of veterinary practice might be too harsh when compared to the sugar-coated kingdom of Disney.

Why I like people from QANTAS (other quality airlines are also available)

QANTAS Airplane

Aside from the fact they fly to Australia, a place close to my heart, QANTAS make the list because they are in my opinion the best flag carrier airline on the planet. Modern aircraft, friendly, helpful staff, and their safety record is second to none. QANTAS has never had a fatal, major air incident in the jet engine era. That’s quite a feat when you consider they operate at the extremes of aircraft performance. With more than 60 years of operations flying domestically in one of the hottest climates on earth. And internationally they fly over the most vast ocean on the planet to the US, and over warzones on the way to Europe.

They have been number one or two on the world’s safest airlines list for much longer than I can remember. To put this in perspective, there are virtually no US airlines in the top ten.

One reason for this is that safety is baked into the QANTAS cultural DNA. Look at what they invest in for evidence. Heck, just watch a safety video for evidence. As someone who has flown around the world a lot, (and at the risk of coming over just a little bit plane-geek) I can tell you that the last QANTAS safety flight video I viewed contained the words ‘safe’ or ‘safety’ more than double any other I have seen.

Safety is their watch word. Combine this with the legendary Aussie informality and friendliness and you have a winning experiential combo.

Safety of course is derived from development of processes that work, and the commitment of their people to follow those processes. And it’s this willingness to follow processes (combined with a huge amount of customer service training) that make former aircrew so attractive as applicants. Veterinary practice suffers unnecessarily due to a lack of process documentation or a lack of people willing to do things the way shown. And that impacts results and safety. (If you feel strongly this is inaccurate I recommend you convene a doctor’s meeting and ask each to describe their approach to a cat spay.)

Hiring safety conscious, customer savvy people into customer intense, process-dependent roles is a great way to improve operational efficiency and reduce chaos.

Why I like people who have worked at McDonald’s


While I loathe Mcdonald’s as a producer, it’s hard not to grudgingly respect how they operate their business.

This global behemoth sells a product that is identically delivered from Miami to Mumbai, to Melbourne and back again. Plus, it’s wildly profitable. You’ll have seen or experienced the queues of people munching their dreadful fare. But what you might not know is that Mcdonald’s also has queues of potential franchisees ready to pay huge sums of money to become burger dealers. (You must have a minimum of $500,000 to be considered to buy a franchise!)

Mcdonald’s is all about consistently delivering a product. Which means process, process, process all built around a recipe – oh! … another process.

So when I see applicants who have worked for a while in a Mcdonald’s, there’s a very high chance they are going to be OK with process. Some of my best employees have been those who worked and were promoted to shift leader at a Mcdonald’s. If you are going to operate a successful vet practice at any scale beyond three people, you are well-advised to document your processes in order to train others as quickly as possible.

What do these businesses have in common?

Though operating in different sectors these businesses do all have some things in common – each is an area that veterinary practice could benefit from better investment in.

  1. They are all process driven – you just do not build good businesses without documented and refined processes – most people get this, what they miss is that not all people like following prescribed processes. When hiring I actively look for such people.
  2. They are all very clear about what they stand for – Experience, safety, consistency. Each of our spotlight businesses values all of these, but each majors in one of the three areas. All are applicable to a vet clinic team too.
  3. Track record of success –  if I’m going to hire, I want to hire people who move my business forward. Skills are important but experience matters a lot too.
  4. I’ve been a customer of each and loved it – you need to know what you like in order to make it real in your own business.
  5. Staff and customer experience are both valued – for too long vets have put customer experience ahead of staff experience. We need to hire people to help us put this right.

Hiring is a tough game where many people let subjectivity get in the way of a good decision. One way to improve your results is to think about the experiences you’ve had with other businesses that have greatly impressed you. Dig into why that is, and think about whether the lessons you learn are useful in helping you to build a better practice or not. One thing is for sure, however you proceed, you are going to need a good team around you to progress. So set out your stall, look for businesses doing things brilliantly and go searching for people who have experience in these areas to help you make real that which is hidden inside the depths of your mind.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Dr Dave Nicol

Dr Dave Nicol

VetX International Founder

Dr. Dave Nicol is the CEO of VetX International with 20 years of veterinary expertise under his belt. He is passionate about helping humans get along so workplaces can thrive. In Dave's 'spare' time, he runs his own practice and empowers other veterinary professionals through his speaking, writing, and consulting.

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