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Clare Chapman: Portsmouth Business Manager at The Vet

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Shaping Direcrtor Stef Nienaltowski was delighted to welcome Clare and the team from The Vet into the Shaping partnership, and met her this week to discuss how the opening of the new practice at North Harbour has gone, and what the main objectives were for this new business in Portsmouth. Stef was fascinated by set up at the clinic, as it covers a massive area and is equipped with most of the elements needed to conduct end to end care for animals, and was impressed with the passion and commitment shown by Clare and the team, who will provide a brilliant service to the city.

Stef Nienaltowski: Good afternoon I'm sat with Clare Chapman, the Business Manager of the newly open The Vet here in North Harbour. Good afternoon Clare.

Clare Chapman: Good afternoon Stef.

SN: So, wonderful operation you've got here. Tell me, your website says that The Vet is a new kind of vet experience. How does your vet practice differ from others?

CC: It's a really good question because it's actually the thing we're really proud about here. So, when you walk through our doors you'll notice straight away that we're very different. We look far less clinical, we look much more like a coffee shop. We have a very large waiting area which means that we can actually separate cats and dogs, we've put a lot of thought into 'what do the animals need when they come here' because often it can be a very stressful experience for the animals, and to be honest it can be quite stressful for the owners as well, and we've really looked at every aspect of the client and the animal's stay with us, to say how can we really make this the best possible experience. Because at the end of the day we are a service industry, we are offering a service to clients, and we want to make sure that what we offer is better than our competitors. And while the clients get to see our reception area and our consult rooms, we're very confident that what we offer goes far beyond that. So, we have two operating theatres, we have a separate dental room and X-Ray room, we separate our dogs and cats into their own wards when they're staying with us for the day. We offer great staff facilities, so we really want to make sure that our staff have a good experience when they're working here with us, so we think across the board we're just very different. And really it also comes down to the quality of care; we believe that we've got the best team of people working with us, and also the prices, we offer a price-matching service, so if you find something cheaper elsewhere, we will offer you the difference plus a pound.

SN: Excellent, and I walked in, and I said to you when I walked in just now, it has a different feel, it certainly had made an impression on me, but what has bee the reaction from the public since you opened?

CC: It's been very positive, I think people have been really looking forward to us opening. So, we opened our doors on Monday 20th August, and we literally had a puppy waiting at the doors when we opened, it was just a wonderful metaphor for the future of the company. And it's been fantastic actually, I think people are surprised by the prices that we're offering. I think that they walk through our doors and see that we are a very beautiful, very large clinic, and I think they found it quite comforting to know that they can come to us and receive an affordable care, because pets are so important to our lives. You know, for a lot of people they are our babies, I know you have a cat, and I have two dogs, they're more than just a pet, they're part of our families and we want to know that they're in the best possible hands. And I think that our position has meant that people can walk past our doors, pop their heads in, we give people tours if they're interested in seeing what's behind the scenes, and I think it's our openness to being part of the Community, and really working very closely with, like, Pompey in the Community, so we're a sponsor of Nelson who's the mascot for the football team. We run open days, we're really keen on actually making sure that we are part of the Community.

SN: And I know now that we've formed a partnership between The Vet and Shaping Portsmouth, which I see as very positive. You talked in your introduction about some of the value-added services, and the whole philosophy of The Vet. So, the principle aim, just remind us again what your principle aims are?

CC: So, the principle aim is really to offer the best quality care at an affordable price for clients. And we want people to really consider pet care as more than just coming to us if there's a problem. So, in the way that you would go to a dentist even if your teeth don't hurt, we want people to start having that mentality around their animals. So, you should be coming for regular check-ups with your animals, because they can't communicate with you and tell you if they're in pain, so it really is the job of a vet to be able to assess that everything is ok with your animal. And we do that by keeping our prices low. We don't want to scare people away at the cost of coming to a vet, so our consult fees are £29.99, which is a really good price, and we do that because we want people to feel like they can come and make sure that their animals are ok, and to do it on a regular basis. The other reason to do it is if there is a problem and you wait a long time, it's often very expensive, more painful for the animal to fix, and if you are having to pay for that yourself, it's usually very expensive, so we really want to try and catch things early.

SN: And I believe in terms of the offering you have here, you've talked so well about the philosophy of the company, but in terms of the clinical side of it, you do operations here, it's check-ups, dental, there's a lot you actually do here.

CC: Yeah, so, we're a full-service veterinary clinic, there's not much that we can't do here. There will be some things that are specialist that we would then refer people on to a special referral centre, but what we offer is primary first point of care, if you like. So, that start with we offer free nurse health checks, so we really want to encourage people to come and take advantage of this, so there is no concern about being charged for anything, we really want to give your animal a nose-to-tail check. If we see anything that we think needs to be checked out by a vet, we will recommend that you have a consult, and go and book an appointment with one of our vets, but it gives you that peace of mind that you can just get your animal checked out. So, we have as I say, two operating theatres, and we can d a full range of operations including orthopaedic surgery, which is not standard at all veterinary clinics. We have a bespoke dental suite, so dentals on animals is extremely important. A lot of animals get very bad teeth, we as owners don't brush our animals teeth, even though we should, and it can cause them a lot of pain. So, at some point in their lives most animals do need to have a dental procedure, and even have teeth removed. We also have an X-Ray room here as well, so should the worst thing happen, your animal gets run over, we have the ability to be able to do full-service care, so from the point that we triage your animal we can do an ultrasound here, we can do X-Rays, and then we can perform the surgery that's needed.

SN: That really is an incredibly broad service, which obviously sets you apart from some other in your industry. So, typically, is it just dogs and cats? I know we talked about you had a bat here, but typically?

CC: We've seen all-sorts come through the doors, it's an eye-opener to me! So, predominantly it's dogs and cats, but we do have rabbits, we have guinea pigs that come in, we've had rats, we've had bats, we've had a variety of animals, but we are a small-animal practice so I would say 95% of the animals that come in are cats and dogs.

SN: Fantastic, so, I know you are a business, and on other levels you're not a business, but ultimately at heart you're here to be a business ad offer a great service. If you spin the dice forward three years, what do you see The Vet being in the City of Portsmouth here?

CC: So, we'd really like The Vet to be the veterinary clinic of choice for anybody within the surrounding areas, we strongly believe that we offer the best service, I really believe I have the best clinical team that works here. I'm very lucky to have two nurses that have come from Noel Fitzpatrick's, the Supervet, so extremely qualified excellent nurses. I have an orthopaedic surgeon who is our senior vet here, and what I see happening over the next couple of years is us growing as a team, and being able to take care of more clients and their animals. So, really to continue to just be able to offer the best quality service that we can here.

SN: And you're situated here I call it North Harbour, but I'm not sure what the area's called, it's by the main Tesco here at the North of the City, and effectively is this home, or could you see you having more locations in the City in time?

CC: It's a possibility that we would grow into having smaller clinics around the City, but I think over the next two to three years it's about us really building up our client base here, really cementing ourselves within the Community. We know that there is a lot of interest for us, we have been really happy to see the interest and the number of new clients that have come and joined us in the first couple of months, so we know that people want the service that we have to offer. So, really the possibility of opening another branch close by is a very real possibility. The closest other clinic is in Southampton, but the company has eight other clinics, there's nine in total across the country. So we are an expanding organisation, because this has really just taken off. We've gone into an industry that really hasn't been updated in many years, and so there's a real opportunity to be quite innovative and to bring our skills and our knowledge to the industry, and the clients have reacted really well to it.

SN: And just again, my perception is as I walk in, you can tell the difference, but equally you can tell the professionalism you have at the front desk as well. So, I think you have a walk-in service in the mornings?

CC: We do, that's right, so we're open from eight o'clock in the morning for a drop-in clinic, so people can come between eight and eleven, then we have a period of time where we do our operations, and we open up again at about three o'clock to be able to do appointments. And we're open Saturday and Sunday as well between ten and two. And we're also open until 9pm on Monday evening, because we recognise that people work, and actually your pets don't get ill when you're off, so people will come home from work and find their animal unwell, they need to get it to a vet, and they need to do it that evening or that weekend. And we don't charge any different prices for coming at the weekends or evenings.

SN: That's amazing. And I think that the message is to the public listening to this, 'come and try us'.

CC: Yeah absolutely.

SN: Indeed. I know we're going to see you next week at Conference, I know you've got a stall there, so anyone listening to this interview and is at the Shaping Conference next week, I know you're welcome to come along and have a chat, wouldn't you?

CC: Yeah, look forward to it.

SN: Clare, thank you very much indeed, been great to see you today.

CC: Thanks Stef.

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