Dave Nicol, BVMS, once a practice owner in Australia and now chief veterinary officer of practice chain Love That Pet, gets real.
How did you become "Dr. Dave," the most famous veterinarian in all of Australia?
The early part of my career was all about survival, you know, just trying not to get sued. But one of the things that became obvious to me early on was that I was able to communicate with pet owners on their level. Cliets would do things on my recommendation more than some of the senior vets, just because of the way I could connect with them.
You were never cut out to be a surgeon, it seems.
I was always a generalist. I still enjoy practice and being in the exam room, because that's where the relationship happens. To me, that's the most exciting part of what we do. For me, the exam room was where the business and the medicine really met each other and became transformational.
Nerd alert: Dr. Nicol put a TARDIS in his hospital
Dr. Who's TARDIS was a place of safety and a vehicle for adventure-- which was the perfect metaphor for how Dr. Nicol wanted his clients (and his coworkers) to feel when they set foot inside his practice. Life's a journey, after all. Want to learn more about Dr. Nicol? Check out Your Veterinary Voice, our new podcast.
What do you say to veterinarians who think marketing is sleazy?
There's a difference between selling and helping. Often, when you're doing one well, you're also doing both. I think the missing ingredient is whether you give a *&%! about clients or not, whether you really care, deep down. If your core motivation is good, is to help people, then it comes across naturally. I can tell when someone cares about me; so can pet owners. There's no substitute for authenticity.
So we hear you do something unique with your help wanted ads...
I put a Dr. Who reference in every one of my job ads. I know this sounds stark-raving bonkers, but it helped me build a team based on shared values. Typically, you identify with characters you aspire to be like. So I thought it would be a reasonable assessment of values, and, heck, you gotta start somewhere. Prior to thatI was doing zero assessment of values. But as it went, it was remarkably accurate, and our team was constantly complimented on our vibe.