Profile: Animal Emergency Service
How a thriving business cut out the noise and upped the ante with a whole new game plan
Australia is a dedicated land of pet lovers. According to the RSCPA, we have one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world with 62 per cent of households owning pets which equates to more than 24 million animals.
More than a decade ago, Brisbane-based vets Dr Rob Webster and Dr Simon Lemin recognised there was a particular need for emergency out-of-hours vet care and bought the business The Animal Emergency Service (AES).
“In years gone by every vet did their own after hours calls and could be up all night after an exhausting day,” company director Rob explains. “We started our business back in 2005 in a time when that baby boomer generation of vet practice owners was starting to wind back and selling their practices to larger corporates.
“However, vets started saying ‘no’ to working all day, then being up all night, and we were the beneficiaries of that change. It is now almost impossible to hire veterinarians to do ‘on call’ duty when there is an after-hours facility available, which is the case in most capital cities.”
The pair’s dream of plugging the gap soon saw steady and then extraordinary growth. Back in 2005, the practice had just six staff with an annual turnover of $1.2 million. Fast forward 13 years later and the business now has an impressive 180 staff at locations spread across Brisbane, the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast and Perth with a yearly turnover of $21 million.
However, with a lot of success and a lot of staff often comes issues. Rob says six-hour rambling monthly meetings which sometimes went around in circles weren’t uncommon, and the executive team spent much of their time putting out fires rather than proactively working on the business.
Keen to seek out a successful business operating system to guide and focus the team, after much research AES’s business manager Jodi MacKinnon settled on the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS). Jodi subsequently trained with EOS Asia Pacific to become an Implementer (a facilitator and teacher of EOS business principles) and she has since driven the rollout of EOS and new successful processes across all of the AES teams. Rob says Jodi has elevated from being a manager to now being a facilitator of the leadership teams; in his words, the EOS training has increased Jodi’s value to the organisation exponentially.
Prior to the EOS implementation, Rob says the main issue facing the business was the bottle neck at management level. “There was a lack of clarity in the accountability procedure,” he says. “Each practice team was energised and working with the best of intentions, but we lacked cohesion across the group and a sense of common purpose. Too many problems came to the leadership team which could have been solved at a local level.”
Describing EOS as a blueprint for running a business, Rob explains the framework is like a road map, and the implementation system is akin to having a GPS in your ear steering you in the right direction.
“Through clear EOS practices we were able to solve the bottle-neck and now have dedicated leadership teams driving practices at the local level. That’s been the key for our continued operational improvement over the past 24 months and has enabled us to focus on the big picture growth target for the company.”
When asked what the most beneficial part of the EOS implementation was, Rob doesn’t hesitate. “Hands down it’s been the Level 10 meetings! Like many organisations, our meetings were confused affairs, without defined outcomes and were generally unfulfilling. Now I can confidently set my next appointment 15 minutes after the finishing time as I know each Level 10 meeting starts on time and ends on time. I also know it is always going to be worth my time, as it is a basic building block in the process that’s critical for working towards and achieving our seven-year goal.”
Rob says the business has now been able to move from worrying about the future to actively planning the future. They are secure in the knowledge that they have a system in place which will enable them to adapt quickly to changes in the business landscape and strengthen each individual practice on a weekly basis.
Rob says on an individual level he now understands his role in the organisation and knows how he can help his colleagues succeed. “I spend less time in fruitless meetings and distracted by everyday problems which impair my ability to focus on the most important aspects of our business,” he says.
“The EOS process has been enlightening for me, and I’m sure for the rest of the team, yet it is grounded by common sense. If you look at each component of the business system you’d think, ‘I know that!’ However, the genius is in the completeness of the system and the implementation process. The biggest thing I didn’t know was the value of implementing a ‘business operation protocol’. It’s ironic that we use clinical protocols all the time but for some reason thought it was best to run the business by the seat of our pants.
“Whilst our business is now into its 13th consecutive year of growth in revenue and net profit, most importantly, we now have a system which has made it possible to double the size of the business again.”