FORMER GREENCROSS CREW TACKLE NEW VET VENTURE

Written on the 19 June 2015 by Laura Daquino

FORMER GREENCROSS CREW TACKLE NEW VET VENTURE

A NEW Brisbane veterinary company, spearheaded by a mix of former Greencross executives and employees, will soon be listing on the ASX and contesting a lion's share of the pet-play monopoly. 

NVC Limited aims to go public in the next few months, outlining its intention earlier this year to raise around $40 million before then and build up its network of practices.

The founding NVC board consists of non-executive director of G8 Education Susan Forrester, previous Greencross executive director and operations and acquisitions manager speciality and emergency Stephen Coles, and former founding Greencross CFO Wes Coote.

The management team comprises Katherine Barker, previous Greencross financial controller who is in this capacity at NVC; Robert Skoda, former group area manager for Greencross' animal emergency services who will head up operations; and CEO Tomas Steenackers (pictured left).

Despite their heritage, Steenackers makes it clear his company isn't Greencross, with a vastly different three-point strategy to back this claim.

He did, however, once employ a similar approach to manage his arm of Greencross, which delivered strong returns.

Steenackers was general manager of speciality, emergency and pathology at Greencross, looking after all B2B units in a network including emergency centres, speciality centres and pet crematoriums. Prior to this, he held senior management roles in Mayne Pharma, Hospira, Covidien and Terry White Management, focused on improving manufacturing and pharmaceutical processes.

"With our strategy, the branding of the local vet will remain unchanged and NVC will only be distinguishable by a little sticker on the front of the door," says Steenackers.

"Many of our vets have been business owners for 50 years, so we find it a bit outrageous to come in and tell them to change their style. It worked for a reason.

"We also have a vet advisory board, which is a clinical board in the business composed of five or six vets.

"There is no conflict of interest then because other executives, like myself, will be coming from a pure management background. If I have a good deal with a pathology company, for instance, I can then run it by vets first to see if it's a good idea by clinical standards.

"Last but not least, training is so important. We will be buying a large training facility when we float, fixed with the same tools in the practices but multiplied by three to bring new students through and teach them properly.

"This uniform approach doesn't exist at all in the industry; companies generally teach and upskill through seminars at the moment."

Steenackers' people-power model is tipped to come to fruition when NVC acquires its training facility, a 600sqm to 800sqm facility likely to be located at Yatala. 

Steenackers, who in the past has seen business growth at odds with staff and client satisfaction, says attention to people will be the focus of NVC's strategy.

"This is why we are offering the vet all HR, marketing and financial support so they can really focus on animals and standards of care," he says.

"With HR for example, if a practice wants to hire a new vet, then our HR department will choose the new vet based on the best fit to culture and environment.

"The important thing will be focusing on support and admin, not dictating or controlling the agenda."

NVC's people orientation will pivot right around to the client side too.

"We want to be innovative in an industry that is mostly stuck in its traditional ways, and part of this service will be through novelties like sending updates and photos of an owner's pet to them when they are on holidays," says Steenackers.

To ensure systems are in order, Steenackers and his team are currently based in and trialling all processes at Albion Veterinary Clinic (pictured right), which the company purchased a couple of months back.

Steenackers says this is with the intention that NVC's IPO will be "a super a smooth transition", and whether 10 or 30 clinics are acquired in one year, the profitability and growth of these businesses won't be damaged.

However, Steenackers won't be focusing on rapid growth, adding that he isn't a fan of letterboxing acquisition offers to clinics and his team will only be approaching through personal connections.

Steenackers also says NVC won't be starting with a split focus and will initially be eyeing professional services only and not retail.

This contrasts with Greencross' current makeup of 80 per cent retail and 20 per cent professional services.

"We will have a select core product range of only 200 to 300 products that are mostly prescription products and proven performers, but retail will never be the priority - the sole focus will be the professional aspect of the business," says Steenackers.

"We are entering a mature industry with a growth of around 3 per cent, but I have seen examples in the industry of triple that amount of growth when businesses focus on a specific area.

"We believe we are coming in at the perfect time when retail is changing the face of the industry - we are showing people there can be another model that focuses on different things."
 


Author: Laura Daquino Connect via: Twitter LinkedIn

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