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Best vet

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  • | 11:00 a.m. March 4, 2016
  • Strategies
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Donna McWilliams treats dogs, cats and other animals at her fast-growing veterinary practice, but, like many of her peers, her targeted client these days is something different: young people.

McWilliams runs My Pet's Animal Hospital in Lakeland. The practice's niche is to use an Eastern-based alternative, holistic treatment that keeps pets healthier, more comfortable and, in turn, makes life easier for the owner.

McWilliams, for instance, sites the common scenario of the family dog with an incessant itch that requires a trip to the vet. She will often recommend the client forego steroids for the dog — the common medicinal solution. This way they won't have to endure their pets' increased thirst, excessive need to go out and possible long-term damage to their liver and kidneys.

“Making life easier for mom and healthier for their pets are important to millennials and we need to demonstrate that we understand that,” McWilliams says. “Millennials need a reason to be loyal to you. They will make a move if you don't step up your game.”

The dedicated approach works. My Pet's Animal Hospital was recently named the Bright House Networks 2016 Small Business of the Year. The award, in cooperation with six Gulf Coast area chambers of commerce, including Polk, honors businesses that demonstrate achievement in three categories: innovation, community service, company growth and stability. Revenues at My Pet's Animal Hospital grew more than 20% last year.

McWilliams, also a part owner of Sarasota Animal Hospital, founded My Pet's Animal Hospital in 2005, where there are currently two other veterinarians and 21 staff members. And more expansion is forthcoming. “My goal is to renovate and expand into some physical space that we aren't using,” McWilliams said. “Plus, expand the hospital services to treat more critical patients.”

McWilliams' strategy, including the push on millenials, is to also outdo competitors on customer service.

One key tactic: She uses her master's degree in psychology, where she trains and educates support staff to read the body language of the pet owners. She also allocates several positions whose jobs are just to make follow-up phone calls after appointments. “We call our clients to see how the patient is doing and how we did. What could we have done differently? And, then, we follow through with that feedback,” McWilliams says. “This isn't a get 'em in and get 'em out kinda practice.” They also stock a complete line of pet food and supplies.

Another important factor in My Pet's Animal Hospital's success is the back office operation. Her husband, Kevin McWilliams, a financial adviser by day, is the practice's CFO. They use veterinary-specific software programs.

“It's exciting that we have landed on a successful formula - client centered and service oriented,” McWilliams says. My biggest fear is that patients are going to think we don't care. That is the furthest thing from the truth. I don't want them to miss our sincerity.”


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