You have to be passionate and care about what you do. The right attitude is absolutely key to success. Some people preach that it's all about attitude; this isn't the case. Without some ability you wouldn't have anything to drive forward with. But you'll need passion to ride through the hard times too.
Be open to change. If things aren't working, look to see where you can improve your offering. Admittedly, Brendan's innovations were quite extreme, completely overhauling his entire business, including its name and identity. But innovation comes in all shapes and sizes - not all changes have to be wholesale. Small amendments to your operations can be extremely effective in turning around the fortunes of your business.
Maintain high standards. Brendan's emphasis on standards and strict protocols not only improved his business but had a positive effect on the industry as a whole, with other vets also working to this benchmark. By maintaining high standards, you'll provide a better and more consistent service to your customers.
People can learn and are capable of change. If a member of your team isn't giving your customers the service you expect, cutting the employee loose isn't necessarily the best thing to do. There will always be bad apples, but, on the whole, an underperforming employee is salvageable. Speak to both the individual and your customers to find out where things are going wrong. With a clearer understanding of the problem, you'll then be able to take appropriate action.
It's important that you deal with any complaints sympathetically and promptly, regardless of whether you feel the complaint is valid or not. Listen to the customer, empathise, acknowledge the problem, and then tell them you'll do what you can to help. Complaints give you a chance to remedy a situation or problem and turn the customer around. Bear in mind, for every valid complaint you receive, there were probably more customers who preferred to remain silent.
If you know you're in the wrong, don't lie or try to worm your way out of it. Everyone makes mistakes - just put up your hands, apologise and tell the customer you'll do everything you can rectify the matter. However, there will be times when no matter how fairly and honestly you behave, it will never be good enough in the customer's eyes. If you find yourself in this scenario and you're positive you've done all you can to help, politely advise the customer to find another company to do business with.
If your staff are happy, they'll keep your customers happy. But don't make the mistake of simply equating money with happiness. By all means pay your staff a competitive market rate, but survey after survey shows that remuneration isn't the number one factor in staff satisfaction. If you couple a positive work environment with supportive management that respects and appreciates them, you'll have a steady foundation to build on.
About Guest Blogger Brendan Robinson - BVSc MRCVS
Brendan qualified at the University of Pretoria (Onderstepoort) in South Africa in 1983 and has worked in small animal practice for the past 20 years. He has attended numerous congresses world wide and many further education courses including a two year course in veterinary radiology.
Brendan developed the Village Vet Group from a two person one nurse practice in Belsize Park in 1988 to the current 17 site group across North London and Cambridge. Brendan set up the Village Vet Group to provide the best veterinary care with vets who continue to further their qualifications, to maintain a strong academic culture, excellent modern equipment and well trained qualified nurses, in clean hygienic facilities, and to provide excellent service to the local community.
Brendan is married with four children, three dogs - a Golden Retriever called Buddy and two Yorkshire Terriers, Truly and Madley - and a British Blue cat called Sky.