The New Year is upon us and the first weeks have been somewhat full with the Pet Partners Annual Leadership Meeting in Baltimore just after the New Year and the NAVC in Orlando this past weekend into this past week. In all a lot is happening and it is all good. The Baltimore Meeting was highlighted by Jon Ayers, Chairman, CEO and President of IDEXX Laboratories, Inc. His most informative talk to the entire team on Friday morning was not only enlightening about the “New Normal” it was totally in sync with what we at Pet Partners believe and work on every day. The address was well received and led to many questions regarding what we all realize is the “New Normal” for veterinary medicine and also life in general.
The Baltimore program spotlighted speakers on special areas of interest selected by our doctors and managers. Wendy Meyers spoke about the science and art of bringing clients back to the practice and provided many hints and anecdotes to support her guidance. Dr. Deb Greco was her normal great communicator on the feeding behavior of cats based on a study of the wild cats of Africa. It was enlightening and has caused me to completely change the way I feed my family cat Virgil. Dr. Candice Sousa provided a most interesting discussion on dermatitis of the external ear and accolades regarding her presentation were heard throughout the meeting.
Gina Toman of IDEXX spoke to our entire team about the use of Medical Notes for communicating with clients and this fit right into Wendy Meyers’ thoughts. Gina was very convincing and I am personally hopeful that these notes will be used in all our practices this year. That is our goal. Hilda Sastre was very convincing in her discussion of optimizing workflow. I film was shown regarding a pilot we did with IDEXX at Cypress Creek Animal Hospital and I am hoping that Dr. Aaron Thivierge, Medical Director, and Kimberly White, Manager, will not be looking for Hollywood agents this year. Their performance and the impact of this study expressed through this video was very professional and well done. I want to personally thank all of those at Cypress Creek who worked through those days of changing workflow and participating in what at times appeared destructive instead of constructive. Your work will lay the ground work for many hospitals in the future. Thanks!! The New Normal!!!!
A very informative presentation was offered by David Goodnight of Purina PetCare regarding the Preventative Treatment Programs we are instituting. We are in this with them and we are all feeling our way as we proceed. David is the creator of pet insurance for Nestle and it goes without saying they have committed their brand to making this and the treatment programs work. David has a Texas style all of his own and it connects with simple accuracy. He is a very smart guy when it comes to this new area and we are thrilled to be working with him and expect good things will come out of this partnership. Pet Partners is becoming a big supporter of Purina PetCare Insurance and believe it to be the superior offering in the marketplace.
The Celebration Dinner in Baltimore and the awards ceremony were highlights for sure. To all our hospitals congratulations on a good year. Thanks for all you hard work. The award winners for the four categories chosen for this year came after a process of nominations from the practices with supporting documentation from anyone involved with that person or hospital. North Ridge Veterinary Hospital won hospital of the year. Congratulations to Dr. Robert Pierce, all the doctors there, and especially Debbie Heaven for her management leadership. You guys have fought hard and made a lot of changes in the “New Normal”. Dr. John Cogar of High Peaks won Medical Director of the year after making all the changes necessary to jump start the medicine and the business to new levels. Dr. Shay Redfield of Boone won Rookie Veterinarian of the Year. Shay sure can blush and she almost single handedly turned a practice that was in low gear to a star in a matter of months. In addition on a personal basis she is just a breath of fresh air for Boone Animal Hospital. Ellie Kruis of Woodstock won Practice Manager of the Year. Ellie can blush also and I do know she was shocked at the award. We were able to keep all of these under wraps until the presentations which really added a thrill to everyone there, executive team included.
We must note and be ever thankful to IDEXX and Purina and in addition BI and Pfizer for the part they all played in fully supporting this great meeting. And we should announce a new strategic partner for Pet Partners and that is our IT Support team at APT Consulting in Allentown, PA. Under the leadership of Peter Bergquist we start a new chapter in our ongoing relationship. APT does a marvelous job of keeping the electronic delivery and search going for Pet Partners. When Lance, Tom and I started this meeting 9 years ago we never dreamed that when we got to this size we could maintain it. It was very obvious to me that IDEXX and Purina especially found this a great venue to connect with our leadership and I fully see more reason for this gathering and with that confidence we will continue. It was also a great opportunity for our doctors and managers to have time with one another and openly discuss the issues of the day. I have been asked for more time for these constituents to be together and we will work on that in the future. At the end of the day this was a most successful and fulfilling meeting. We all had fun and it goes back to what we always say. It is about the people!
NAVC last weekend and this week was the normal set of meetings with industry people, both vendors and others. It was more business than CE but also an opportunity to see old friends and have some time to interact with hospitals under consideration for acquisition.
Now back to the daily schedule, we are poised and positioned for a good year. Training will be at a higher level than ever with concentration and development of the “front desk”. Work flow for efficiency will dominate our conversions with Cornerstone and Julie Record will continue to lead this area as she converts to field operations as of this past Monday and takes on Smoky Hill, Olathe, Spooner, Hayward and Paw Prints. Welcome Julie to this new role in your career. Julie will continue with the development of the Black Belt Cornerstone Team. David Bennett is off to a good start as Regional Manager for the SE region and as of Monday he will have all his hospitals under his support. Dawn Michael has 5 practices now so she can concentrate more on the training module development and Jennifer Comstock has found her stride in the NE with growing passion and good thinking. I expect real practice advocacy from this regional team. They are the best representatives we have ever had. In addition to her responsibilities regionally Dawn will be working closely with CARES to modify her training materials to better have application to management at the Specialty and Emergency level. That has already begun.
Rich has hired an associate, Amy Macy, for HR and he is formally retired from operations (thanks for all you did there!!) and taking HR from reactive to proactive with a lot of exciting new challenges. Welcome to the family Amy. Lance has a new assistant, Christina Kistler, who will allow Lance to rise from the ruble of detail and help apply his wisdom to operations. This should make improvements connecting the data to the execution of needed change and helping the Wilton office better connect to the field.
Cheryl Sonick is heavy into her role with Pet Partners as recruiter and administrator of the acquisition process. I am hopeful I can keep up to her pace. Just for the record I have stopped all work on the CRM from Microsoft and taken the acquisition process back to a new and improved Sage ACT software. The former just got out of control and is basically for computer people not mere action mortals like me. I am an action mortal just for clarification. Jerry too!
And Tom and I will be driving acquisitions. Tom is looking at every small group of practices owned by early stage groups, working closely with CARES and Jon Rappaport and Donna, and mentoring doctors and working with regional managers as needed. He will be more proactive this year with the doctor productivity report and help the regionals go through it and formulate plans of action. Jon Rappaport, Tom and I are actually in conversations with 3 large Specialty/Emergency hospitals for future acquisition. Operations continue to be top priority with acquisition additions as they are appropriate. I am aiming at more than a few appropriate ones for 2012.
And I am sure there is a lot more going on but I wanted to have our teams rally here in the beginning of the year and make sure those not close to the daily routine have some insight as to where we are. We are ramping up our service to our communities, concentrating on management training and trtaining at the front desk and improving the client experience. It is all fun stuff!