THE PIVOT: Two Nova Scotia vets persevere in providing pet services during pandemic
The two vets behind East Hants Animal Hospital are expanding their business after increasing their market share during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Income is twice as high as it was at this time last year, said Dr Courtney Sherlock.
The two-story animal hospital on Route 214 in Elmsdale was established a year and a half ago and has the equivalent of two full-time vets.
Throughout the pandemic, it never came to a complete stop.
“We wanted to be able to take the opportunity to grow, and with the COVID-19 restrictions in place, we were able to add more people,” said Sherlock, who also has a long-standing veterinary hospital in Eastern Passage.
It has also seen explosive growth during the pandemic, with revenues reaching 60%.
The confinement imposed in March continued until early June. During those months, vets could only see patients in an emergency.
Sterilization and sterilization, nail trimming and the administration of vaccines are usually the bread and butter of a veterinarian. This business evaporated during the lockdown.
Take action to avoid layoffs
At East Hants Animal Hospital, Sherlock and Dr Crystal Craig took immediate action when the pandemic struck.
First, they deferred Sherlock’s business loans and personal mortgage. Sherlock stopped receiving a salary and applied for a $ 40,000 interest-free loan from the Canada Emergency Account for Ottawa businesses. Up to $ 10,000 of this amount is forgivable if repaid by the end of 2022.
“It was all in order to free up cash flow so that we could avoid layoffs if we were forced to close,” she said.
Then, as many veterinary hospitals began to downsize and downsize, the two entrepreneurs took a completely different path. They looked for opportunities to expand their services, extend their hours of operation, and recruit staff.
“We immediately started offering free delivery every day to one of our customers – no limit on distance or money spent – so their pets didn’t go without the supplies they needed while their pets were on the move. people were stuck at the house, ”Sherlock said.
Pet owners could order food or other supplies online. Payment was made by credit card over the phone.
“If customers preferred, they could do the curbside pickup,” Sherlock said.
“We quickly numbered our parking spaces and set up designated containers in our front desk by last name where ordered products were kept with receipts and could easily be delivered to customers upon arrival.”
During the lockdown, the two vets also began to receive patients at the curb.
Cats requiring medical attention would be placed outside the owner’s car in a transporter and picked up by staff, allowing everyone to socially distance themselves. The dogs were taken on a leash and then as the dog approached the business they were transferred to another leash and taken inside.
“We have increased access to telephone lines and used the services of an answering service to ensure our customers do not receive a busy signal,” said Sherlock.
“We added telemedicine appointments where appropriate, were creative seeing clients in person using a socially remote space outside. . . and customers entered our building through our side doors so they wouldn’t meet anyone else, ”she said.
Within four weeks of the lockdown ending, the two animal hospitals had not only caught up with elective veterinary procedures, but also increased their clientele. Pet owners who haven’t been able to see their regular vet within an acceptable time frame have started turning to them.
“Throughout this time, we have continued to see all of our urgent and urgent cases with same-day appointments and have expanded our client base of people with new pets or unable to make it to their regular vet,” he said. Sherlock said.
The animal hospitals together have approximately 10,150 square feet of space for examination rooms, operating rooms, kennels, cat boarding and offices. The company employs 37.
“Of these, eight full-time positions have been added since March to provide prompt service to our growing customer base,” said Sherlock.
The private company does not disclose revenue or profit figures, but the vet team is clearly doing booming business. They said they were in the black expansion and eyeing for the start of next year. In February, they plan to open Bedford Parks Animal Hospital in a 4,000 square foot leased space.
In the summer, the two hope to open the North End Animal Hospital in Halifax. About 60 percent of the 10,000 square foot building, which the contractors will own, will be used for the hospital.
These hospitals will almost triple the current space Sherlock and Craig jointly own and will result in the addition of 14 jobs.
Sherlock credits the strong work ethic of his employees for helping the company thrive during the pandemic.
“We are successful because our team has stayed with us and helped us through this time,” she said.
This sense of teamwork has been carefully cultivated through company programs and policies. There are wellness seminars where guest speakers talk about yoga and nutrition. There is a library of wellness books that any employee can borrow. The company offers no-question salary advances and conducts anonymous monthly employee morale surveys.
“We also celebrate every new hire,” Sherlock said.
New to East Hants Veterinary Hospital? Expect balloons and congratulatory messages and Facebook posts.
The company works hard to retain employees.
“It’s a problem other places are facing,” Sherlock said.
“People can feel, ‘I don’t feel appreciated. I might as well go home and get the CERB.
Sherlock and Craig have no intention of changing the way they have adjusted during the crisis.
“We are pursuing curbside offerings, telemedicine, and delivery services if it helps our customers in any way and plan to keep those services,” Sherlock said.
Le Pivot is a regular article on an Atlantic Canadian company adapting to new market realities with innovative products, services or strategies. To suggest a business, send an email to: [email protected]