Why I left a Fortune 500 company for a startup

February 14, 2019
Jill Lopez, DVM, MBA

Dr. Jill Lopez is director of marketing for Essentials PetCare, a chain of walk-in veterinary clinics located in Walmarts. She has worked for Fortune 500 companies, global pet product manufacturers and national not-for-profit organizations. She is a West Virginia native who now calls New Jersey home.

dvm360, dvm360 April 2020, Volume 51, Issue 4

My journey from practicing veterinarian to long-time animal health company executive was a long one. But a big, fun leap for me in the past year was heading to a female-focused, working-parent-friendly new chain of clinics.

There was a time when I owned a Blackberry, I rented movies from Blockbuster and I called for a taxi on a landline. Like many others, I replaced those relics with an iPhone, Netflix and Uber. My needs and tastes evolved over time, along with millions of others, which put Blockbuster out of business, almost killed off Blackberry and made dialing a taxi service, only to hear that they were out of cars, a thing of the past. We can glean one great lesson from this: failing to evolve will lead to extinction.

While I have been out of the practice world for many years, I remember well the rigors of working at a practice: the crazy hours, early surgery appointments, working through lunch and working weekends. Years later, I'm still a veterinarian. However, I'm now a mother of three children. Not only do I juggle the demands of the workplace, I also have to navigate my children's school, ballet practice, riding lessons, swimming sessions, gymnastics and Spanish classes. You've changed. I've changed. Yet most veterinary practices have remained the same. I doubt that I could return to practice now without seriously affecting the lives of my entire family. Many veterinarians who are working parents face a similar dilemma.

Who runs the (veterinary) world?

In August 2018, I left a Fortune 500 animal health company to become director of marketing at Essentials PetCare. The company aims to open walk-in veterinary clinics in select locations across the U.S. offering convenient, routine healthcare for pets.

I was first drawn to the company because it was female-focused. I noticed that many women had risen to the top of the company. Christine Battista, COO, is cofounder. The construction of clinics was being overseen by another woman, Brittany Clines. The director of human resources was also female, along with much of the staff. Frankly, after years in corporate America, it was gratifying. With all this in mind, I decided to join the company.

How working parents manage a veterinary career

The entire dvm360 team has focused on the struggles and joys of being a parent and working in veterinary practice. See all the content at dvm360.com/workingparent.

I quickly learned that the founders, Battista and Doug Spiker, DVM, had a unique, working-parent-friendly vision for the clinics. They recognized that many caregivers and parents have a difficult time managing the demands of their children and households as well as that of the practice. By not opening clinics until 10 a.m. on weekdays and shutting down from 2 to 4 p.m. each day, clinic staff will have time to drop off or pick up children from school and attend to their other household needs.

That solves one problem for working parents in the clinic, but what about the expected demographic of pet owners for a walk-in clinic? These customers are likely working parents themselves, and in order to cater to these customers, clinics will offer walk-in service seven days a week, with extended hours most days. These nontraditional hours permit busy pet parents the flexibility to come in on their schedule without an appointment. By offering walk-in routine care on a convenient schedule, we can usually have clients in and out in about 20 minutes, so they can get back to their busy lives. We offer online check-in, which reserves a spot in line and cuts down on the (limited) wait times.

We can do this because of what we don't do

Part of being able to offer such flexibility for team members and clients is knowing what we can help with and what we can't. To avoid pet owners accidentally coming in with serious issues, we are upfront about our offerings on the website, in brochures and over the phone. We offer only preventive care-vaccinations and wellness work-and we explain that serious or urgent health issues should be cared for at a traditional clinic. We refer those patients to full-service clinics and hospitals in the area.

I'm excited to be a part of a company whose passion for providing quality veterinary care in the walk-in market is evolving with the changing needs of veterinarians, team memvers and pet parents. We plan to be around for a long, long, time.

Dr. Jill Lopez is director of marketing for Essentials PetCare, a chain of walk-in veterinary clinics located in Walmarts. She has worked for Fortune 500 companies, global pet product manufacturers and national not-for-profit organizations. She is a West Virginia native who now calls New Jersey home.

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