Prior to joining the veterinary world in 2011, Richard’s career was focused on Human Resources for a variety of household names. Today, he is the Senior Vice President of VMG, the UK’s leading veterinary leadership and management association, and Executive Director for the World Small Animal Veterinary Association.
We are delighted to have Richard on board as one of the key speakers at the Vets Now ECC Congress this year. We caught up with him to find out about his amazing background, how he come to work in the veterinary industry and to hear more about what he has in store for us at this year’s ECC Congress 2022, where he will be taking part in three sessions.
Tell us about the WSAVA (World Small Animal Veterinary Association)
We are the global body for over 100 national membership associations which represent over 200,000 veterinarians. The British Small Animal Veterinary Association is one of our members. I have a very varied job and no two days are the same. If I were to describe it in one sentence, it’s my job to make sure we have robust plans in place and that we deliver benefit and impact to our members across the globe.
You have a very rich and varied background. Tell us about that.
I used to work in a Learning and Development area of HR, focused on leadership, values and talent development. I did that for large global organisations like Amazon and T-Mobile, and also worked in customer service roles for other household names.
And how did you come to be in the veterinary world?
I’ve always been very transparent that it was something I fell into. I’m an animal lover, but a work life with animals wasn’t something I was actively seeking. However, it has very much been my choice to remain in this sector. I have a huge interest in the impact pets have on society and the growing body of evidence of the benefits to human health when there is a pet involved. Prior to joining WSAVA, I was involved with the charity veterinary sector in the UK.
What did that involve?
I worked with the PDSA and Blue Cross. My passion there was that my family have used charity veterinary care in the past, so I recognise the benefits for those who are on low incomes.
You’ll be taking part in three different sessions at the Congress. Tell us about the first one, The 21st Century Pet Owner, which is at 3.45pm on November 3.
This concerns consumerism and what people now look for in service providers in our society. Also, the generational differences in pet ownership and the demographics of those who become pet owners. That then transfers into how we communicate with different subsets of pet owners and therefore influence them more effectively.
If you can identify the individual’s needs, you should be better set-up for success in adapting and flexing your professional communication style. Today, commanding respect by nature of your qualification is not as common as it was in the past.
Why is that?
The role of the vet in society in 2022 is different to what it was 20, 30, and 40 years ago. Then people would go to the vet and follow every single word. Now we live in an age when people can easily access information and pet owners feel they are coming into the consult room much more enlightened.
In some cases it’s accurate, in some cases it isn’t. So, this session is introducing the idea that things have changed as far as pet owners are concerned and you need to strategise your communication and services more effectively.
Have Courage and Be Kind is at 9.30am on November 4. What is that about?
It looks at the rising prevalence of incivility in veterinary businesses. There are a number of current campaigns about uncivil behaviour towards veterinary professionals by the pet owner. This module looks at how we can build courage professionally and how we can be kind to others. It links back to the first module by looking at UK demographics and the prevalence of social issues such as poorer mental and physical health, and poverty.
We see a snapshot of that pet owner’s life and it’s about how we might be flexible in adapting to their needs in that consult room. And how we communicate with colleagues in the practice, all with goal of getting better outcomes for the task at hand. Dealing with angry, anxious owners is one of the stresses of the profession and one of the things I’ll be talking about is just about realising that we are human. Once you identify a trigger, which could be words or phrases a client or colleague uses, you can strategise how we respond in those instances and remain in a more adult-to-adult communication level.
And finally, you’re taking a different tack for Me, Myself and I at 4.30 pm on November 3.
Historically, as a vet or a nurse, you could go on and work in any practice and it’d be a carbon copy clone of any other practice. Now it’s quite different for both corporates and individual vets. Not all have developed clear and transparent professional values, although it’s something both IVC Evidensia and Vets Now have done.
As a professional, you have to recognise what’s important to you and what are your non-negotiable values. If you identify what they are, you can then identify compatible ways of working. If you are operating in an environment where the systems are in contravention of those, that’s when you get frustrations and disengagement.
The knock-on effect of that will naturally impact our health and welfare and potentially even exposure to risk for the patient’s safety. So, this session is about identifying our professional and personal values and how they can inform our behaviours.