Communication and compassion—and a great location—are key to the success of Dr Tom Robbins’ new veterinary clinic.
As you drive along busy Old Cleveland Road in East Brisbane, it is hard to miss Dr Tom Robbins’ new veterinary clinic. An overdue refurbishment has given the highly visible site—formerly a corner store in the 1920s before more recently accommodating a real estate agency—a new lease on life. With lots of vehicle and foot traffic, it is also the ideal location for Dr Robbins’ first foray into running his own business.
“I needed to find a location that was just an absolute knockout in terms of visibility and this site has certainly got good exposure,” says Dr Robbins, who opened the doors to Happy Pets Family Vet in mid-2019. “We’ve had a flying start. It’s quite humbling how well received it has been in the area.”
With the support of his wife, Larissa, and family members, the aim is to create a clinic that is all about serving pets and their owners, rather than being a retail clinic pushing the sale of pet and other veterinary products.
Dr Robbins’ career journey has taken him from Rockhampton to London and, in more recent years, to Brisbane. Since graduating with honours from the University of Queensland School of Veterinary Science, he has gained extensive experience in small animal general practice. Two years in the UK exposed him to invaluable practical experience, along with the chance to learn from some of the best mentors in his field.
“All along I’ve been really fortunate to have worked with and for some amazing people. I’ve been able to take a lot of confidence from their mentorship and work out what’s good and what could be improved in some practices.”
Among the key lessons he is applying to his own clinic is the importance of having pet advocacy at the centre of operations, along with insisting on clear communication with pet owners. “If you can get those two things right, you’ll hopefully do really well—and that’s why I think we’re doing really well to date.”
In the clinic’s planning phase, Dr Robbins admits to having had “some sleepless nights” about going it alone. However, having the backing of family, friends, mentors and former bosses has convinced him it is the right move. The support of BOQ Specialist’s Colin Taylor has also been crucial. “I got a lot of confidence from my conversations with Colin. He was very generous with his time when I was making the decision to set up the clinic.”
Growing up across Queensland in Gayndah, Gympie and Rockhampton, Dr Robbins was around animals as a child and felt becoming a vet was a natural decision. “But I didn’t have this epiphany when I was two years old, like some people do. I was still focusing on playing sport during my childhood and mucking around, and then it all came to fruition. And I’ve loved it.”
The Camp Hill clinic symbolises what he’s trying to achieve. Conscious that some younger professionals experience high stress and low pay, he hopes to create a supportive environment as an employer in which he can help staff and encourage their love of animals. He is also conscious of ensuring that a good work-life balance for him and his employees is “at the forefront of every decision”.
With the clinic already gaining strong clientele, Dr Robbins’ vision is to transform his small team into a four-vet clinic, or more, within about five years. “That’s totally achievable,” he says.
Such growth must not come through cutting corners. “I want to build a foundation on which to grow, so that as we get busier the same standard of care and attention to detail is maintained.” All the while he will talk closely with his clients.
“The bond between an animal and their owner is unique,” Dr Robbins says. “There’s always a story and I love getting to the bottom of that. That’s what drives me.”
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