Pickles Vets Case Study
FOREWORD BY JUSTIN
In over 10 years in the veterinary industry, I’ve learned so much about how marketing principles can be applied to help practices do what they do best: care for patients and look after their team members. Now as the founder of Practice Made Purrfect, I have an opportunity to share this knowledge with as many of the fantastic people who give their time and energy to keeping pets as healthy as possible. In this new series of blogs, I’ll be casting my eye over the industry and highlighting trends and techniques that excite me.
This week, I’m reporting back from my visit to Pickles Vets: newcomers to the industry who are trying new things that could have big consequences for the future of our industry…
PICKLES VETS: BRAVE ENTREPRENEURS WITH BIG IDEAS
Pickles Vets opened in October with great fanfare – they even had a launch party!
So when I was given the opportunity to pop down to their new practice in Fulham, London, to see what it was all about, I jumped at the opportunity.
Word has gotten around that the Pickles team are taking a radical approach to establish a practice that challenges some of our industry’s pressure points.
What I found was a really genuine team of people trying to do things better – for the profession, for clients and for pets.
They were founded by three friends, and I met two of them: Richard, who came to this from outside the veterinary world and has a tech background as co-founder of Goodlord, a service for landlords; and Andrew, who is a vet and has worked for Boehringer Ingelheim and Paw Squad, as well as being a certificate holder for diagnostic imaging.
They’re entrepreneurs – and frankly I admire their bravery. They have spotted an opportunity to do things better and they are going for it.
It would have been easy for them to use tried and tested methods. Instead they’ve asked the question, “what can we do better?” And then they’ve put their ideas to the test.
They were generous enough to give me an up close and personal tour – so thanks for that guys! Here’s what I found, broken down into three broad themes: business model, building and culture.
THE BUSINESS MODEL: COMPULSORY MEMBERSHIP AT A LOW, LOW PRICE
First and foremost, the Pickles team are fundamentally reimagining the veterinary business model – and that means pretty big changes, both for the people running the practice, and for the clients.
The concept is to be both premium and accessible, with a view to expanding their business model to multiple areas with different demographics.
They’re looking to achieve that by introducing a compulsory membership system. For £120 a year – paid up front – pets get unlimited consults with vets and nurses, both in person and digitally, as well as annual vaccinations. They won’t be accepting any “pay as you go” or non-member clients.
They’re also not including flea and wormer in their membership model. This is part of their approach to individualised care, with a decision taken on a lifestyle basis during a consult on whether or not a pet needs parasite treatment, and if so how much.
The thinking is that by controlling client numbers through memberships, you can ensure your pets per vets metrics stay where you want them, ensuring the best possible service and a healthy working environment.
They’re also using a hybrid model of consultations with vets and nurses, split at 10 minutes with each. This allows core messages to be embedded and reiterated, plus more time to be spent with patients and clients in an intuitive way.
THE BUILDING: LENDING FROM WEWORK TO CREATE SOMETHING THAT WORKS
This practice feels fundamentally different to all of the hundreds of practices I’ve set foot in.
First, the plan is to develop new locations from scratch, rather than buying into existing practices. And while that brings obvious challenges, it also ensures that you’re working with a blank canvas.
Pickles have really made use of that. It’s light and spacious, and there is an abundant use of natural materials to soften the clinical sharpness.
You can see the inspiration coming through from the coworking ethos, creating spaces clients, patients and team members feel comfortable in and that they want to spend time in through light, space and the use of plants.
In reception the seating is beautifully designed and arranged in pods so pets have space and privacy, and the reception desk has been removed. Anyone who is a frequent reader in this space will know this move meets my full approval!
It’s also striking how much effort they’ve put into the team room, which is huge with a lovely glass wall – it’s great to see the guys putting an emphasis on their team and environment, where many practices would have taken this space and created another consult room with a view to maximising revenue.
THE CULTURE: A PRACTICE THAT THINKS, LOOKS AND ACTS DIFFERENTLY
You know that the founders of a practice are engaged in setting the right culture when they’re willing to get their hands dirty, and that’s exactly what the Pickles team are doing, taking it in turns to try different jobs around the business to understand what goes into it.
While I was there Richard – the non-clinical founder – was working on reception and answering the phones and live chat. That’s commitment. Their mission is to gain an in-depth knowledge of every role, and then build processes and technology to turn the mundane into moments of magic.
They have a real commitment to maintaining and protecting their team’s work life balance.
You can see that in their team room – as mentioned above, large and impressively designed, but also with a proper coffee machine and a fridge loaded with soft drinks, wine, beer and fruit, all of which is free.
They also have big ambitions to set up their own out of hours and referrals centres, to further protect work life balance. They’re aiming to establish a protected 6:30pm finish time for non-emergency workers.
The ambitions don’t end there, as they have already built their own PMS, and are aiming for a wider digital infrastructure that fits their aspirations to take on home delivery, pet insurance, food, advice and wellness.
It also has to be mentioned that the branding is B-E-A-utiful! 🤩
A monochrome colour palette accented by striking pink and natural materials, fantastic typeface and logo and a brilliantly designed and written website. Everything about Pickles is geared towards inviting clients to give a practice with a very different culture a chance.
How does all that fit into a culture? Well, in my eyes it’s a spirit of exceptionalism and risk-taking to improve services, all while being compassionate to the load this industry places on our teams.
I can’t wait to see how it evolves. Their first practice is in an intensely dense and affluent population in Fulham, so their message should be able to penetrate the local community. When they can achieve that, I know from first hand their ambitions will see them looking not one or two, but many steps into the future.
If you’d like me to visit your practice, or know of a team who are working hard to change our industry, give me a shout and I’d be delighted to visit.