On call… just part of the job or an unfair expectation

Work/life balance is a particularly hot topic at the moment both in the veterinary industry and in most other businesses with lots of articles being written about how to achieve that all important balance.

In our industry it is even more relevant given the out of hours service that vets have to provide. Twenty years ago it was widely accepted that being on call was just part of the job, vets signed up knowing it was a necessity and got on with it.

But with time comes innovation, small animal practices have developed dedicated out of hours providers who act as a central hub for emergency cases out of hours and vets now have more choice about the hours that they work.

Unfortunately because of the distances that equine practices cover, this isn’t a viable option which leaves us with a major problem long term, as more and more vets go in search of that all important work life balance and move back into small animals.

It’s a massive frustration for me knowing that as an industry, equine practices need to think outside the box to solve the problem, but are still unable to come up with a workable solution. Hugh and I have spent hours discussing the possibility of moving to a 7 day working week and implementing shift patterns to remove the extra weekend work for our team. The clients would benefit from having vets working at weekends and no out of hours fees but the extra costs to the practice would be astronomical. We would need a minimum of two extra vets, and an extra admin person and nurse, which makes it unaffordable for our clients.

To add to problem the demographics of the profession is changing with a survey by the BVA in 2016 reporting 81% of vet students are female. A survey by the RCVS in 2014 that found that the number of vets working part-time is continuing to rise. In addition we have equine vets who are working an average of 40.4 hours each week plus 32.6 hours on call per week in a profession where we know stress and working hours contribute to dissatisfaction with vet work, and are common reasons for people choosing to leave the profession (RCVS 2014).

As wife to a vet who works on call and with a young family I understand more than anyone the impact on call has on families, relationships and individuals. In contrast as the director of a business that has to provide on call to our clients I also feel frustrated and concerned with the way the profession is developing. Should the profession be better at managing students’ expectations of the commitment that is needed for on call? Someone has to do it and for every vet that decides to move away from out of hours work, someone else is left to cover.

Frustratingly I don’t have the answer but with a high proportion of woman entering the profession, many of whom will want to have families of their own and work part-time to fit in with family life, the problem isn’t going away… I would love to hear from you if you have the solution!
balance quote

 

 

Breakfast with Chris Tiso…

To me walking into a room full of people that I don’t know is my idea of hell! When I here the word ‘networking’ it makes me go cold and feel like I should run for the hills. I have spent much of my career knowing there are huge benefits to networking but avoiding it at all costs.

However in my mission to challenge myself professionally I decided to attend a networking breakfast run by Kinross-shire Partnership. This group has been running for several years now and arrange monthly meetings for local businesses at a fantastic farm shop nearby. We were treated to a full Scottish breakfast and then much to my horror everyone was invited to stand up and introduce their business for all of 60 seconds. Unfortunately no alcohol was provided for dutch courage but I dually managed to stand up and string a few sentences together.

Each month they invite a speaker along to talk about their life and business and this month Chris Tiso from the Tiso Group talked to us about his family business that he has been running for the last 25 years. I always find it fascinating to hear people’s stories, how they have ended up doing what they are doing and what gets them out of bed in the morning. Chris runs a huge company but much of what he has had to contend with is relevant and can be applied to both ours and other small businesses.

Market changes happen to us all and although it hit them slightly later than others the recession was one challenge Chris discussed with the group. Retail businesses found themselves faced with a decision. Increased competition from new entrants coupled with the effects of the recession led Tiso to make some tough business decisions including refocusing their position at the high end of their market. This proved to be a good strategy with retailers at the high end of the market and at the value end such as Mountain Warehouse doing really well, whilst those left stuck in the middle found themselves swallowed up by their competitors.

One of Chris’ s key take home points was that throughout any difficult decisions that were made, they stayed true to their founding principles. If we apply this to our practice we set out to provide a specialist equine veterinary practice that placed us at the higher end of the market. We have never aimed to be the cheapest and yet at times it can be easy to react to what others around us are doing and forget what we set out to achieve.

Chris also identified how important it is to surround yourself with brilliant people allowing you to focus on what you are good at and let others do the bits that you either can’t do or have no interest in doing. That and investing in the business infrastructure are key to keeping the wheels turning.

So all in all, it was a great morning, I pushed myself out of my comfort zone, made some new contacts, had a delicious breakfast and learnt a bit about one of our local businesses, who happen to sell fantastic clothing ranges and where I often spend far too much money!

Read my previous post here.

Liz munro

Back to School…

Back to School…

In 2014 I made the very scary step of enrolling on the Certificate of Veterinary Business Management (Cert VBM) with Liverpool University. Given that my last attempt at an essay was in 2000, to say that I was nervous would be an understatement!

To give you a bit of background I rode (horses!) and partied my way through a rather average degree at agricultural college before meeting and marrying my particularly intelligent husband. My days are spent working along side intelligent and motivated people, within an industry full of people that I admire hugely for their amazing business brains.

Everything I have learnt has been on the job, either by making some rather large mistakes or seeing something or someone succeed, but without the theory to back up the decisions I was making every day. On top of this my competitive nature was making me feel like I had something to prove to myself, if others could do it so could I!

The Cert VBM is an online postgraduate qualification aimed at Masters level that is broken down into six modules covering business strategy, marketing, finance and human resources. It is structured into study units with reading and either an online discussion most weeks or three essays for each module. Importantly for me the whole certificate is based on your own business, meaning that during each module I have reviewed and produced recommendations specifically for the practice.

I’m not going to lie there have been times when I seriously questioned whether I could do it and have postponed the start of a module, but some advice from a straight talking and positive lady made me realise just how important this is to me. Yes it’s invaluable in terms of the learning opportunities, but it’s as much about my shear bloody stubbornness to prove to myself that I can do it. So I have set myself the goal to finish in August 2018 and when I am feeling under pressure with a deadline looming I give myself a kick up the backside and make sure I prioritise some time each week. And I guess now my goal is public I have no excuses….

inspiration