Pemba Pulse: Empowering the Veterinary Industry with Keith Nicholls, Vets Central CEO

19th March 2024
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Elle Solferini

In a candid conversation with Keith Nicholls, the co-founder and CEO of Vets Central, we gain valuable insights on the evolution of veterinary care and Vet Central’s unique approach as the sector continues to adapt to the evolving needs of both pet owners and practitioners.

Vets Central has undergone remarkable growth since inception in late 2021, having grown to partner with over 50 clinics across Australia. Keith articulates the Vets Central ethos as ‘non-corporate’ – emphasising transparency, collaborative decision-making, brand integrity and clinical autonomy.

The journey of Vets Central is a collective endeavour, with Pemba Capital Partners playing a supportive role as a strategic investor and mentor. Pemba is a leading partnership investor in the ANZ market with a strong track-record of supporting businesses within the Healthcare sector, inclusive of Animal Health.

Current Sector Trends

Keith’s insights provide a window into the veterinary sector’s evolution, highlighting the increased focus on preventative care, technological advances, and changing consumer expectations.

“The sector has seen a substantial shift towards preventative care, driven by a surge in pet adoptions during the Covid era. This transformation is marked by increased pet owner awareness, demands for higher standards of care, and a growing preference for alternative therapies,” Keith Nicholls.

Technology, too, has become a pivotal player in the evolution of veterinary practice, with the industry embracing digital imaging, telemedicine, and AI. Keith notes that digital imaging and telemedicine have become integral components of modern veterinary practices, facilitating more precise diagnostics and enhancing communication between pet owners and practitioners.

“Simultaneously, the industry is experiencing a heightened consciousness of environmental sustainability. We see this across our network of clinics where it is now commonplace to be proactively adopting eco-friendly measures, reducing carbon footprints and sourcing materials ethically,” Keith Nicholls.

It is clear that the veterinary sector is evolving not only in response to the immediate needs of animals but also aligning itself with broader societal concerns, reflecting a commitment to responsible and sustainable practices.

So what next? Looking forward, Keith hopes to see changes that ease the current skills shortage in the industry.

“It would be great to see veterinary boards better enabling overseas veterinarians to come and practice in Australia, as well as focusing on upskilling nurses and technicians so we can meet client demands and expectations,” Keith Nicholls.

The Difference of Vets Central

As the heartbeat of any successful venture, the Vets Central team prioritizes the well-being and satisfaction of its staff.

“A healthy work-life balance, competitive compensation, and continuous professional development are paramount. It’s also important to recognise that we operate in a predominantly female-dominated sector, so ensuring that we provide flexibility and support is key to creating an environment where team members feel valued and engaged,” Keith Nicholls.

Operationally, Vets Central has worked to alleviate the common burdens faced by team members at the clinic level to facilitate better care.

“We’ve created a support office, appointed relationship managers, and built an in-house team to address challenges comprehensively. We are constantly monitoring regulatory changes and ensuring our team is being provided with the necessary education and resources,” Keith Nicholls.

Recruitment and retention are another key area where Vets Central can drive significant value to the local clinics.

“We provide a compelling employee value proposition across the group and have also introduced an industry first retention program which rewards vets for their loyalty,” Keith Nicholls.

In addition, Vets Central have a centralised marketing function that support clinics with SEO, digital marketing and graphic design to bolster the local brands in the communities. Vets Central’s proactive approach has proven to alleviate stresses faced by partner clinics, freeing up staff members time to deliver care and do what they do best.

Preserving Legacy

Vets Central are also able to facilitate the natural progression of veterinarians and clinic ownership, a key driver behind the business model’s rapid adoption.

“Vets Central provides support for clinics to grow within their communities, pathways to enable succession planning and an assurance that the legacy of each clinic is preserved,” Keith Nicholls.

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