Dr Rob Hill on opening his veterinary hospital
Dr Rob Hill's decade-long journey to open Australind Veterinary Hospital in Bunbury has been long and often challenging.Learn More
Two days after we speak, Dr Geoff Wilson is heading into the back country of New Zealand for several weeks of intense physical training. After that he will be back in Australia where, in between running his business that includes six veterinary clinics in Queensland and New South Wales, he will continue to train by running, kite surfing and pulling heavy tyres along a beach.
Why all the training? As well as being a vet practice owner, Dr Wilson is an adventurer whose next feat will involve what he hopes to be the fastest unsupported dual crossing of Greenland. The current record stands at 42 days and Dr Wilson, along with his son-in-law, hopes to shave two days off that time by using kites to help pull their sled across the snow.
Vet Love, so named because Dr Wilson is keen to bring the ‘love’ back into the heavily corporatised vet world, focusses on the goal of happy staff and happy animals.
The idea of VetLove, Dr Wilson says, is for staff to be able to have equity in the hospital and for clinics to run independently with the animals’ interests at heart. His model is beginning to reveal a real difference in staff engagement and behaviour.
“Once staff have equity in their own practice there's a completely different feeling,” he says.
“Someone with equity gives clients the very best veterinary care experience they have ever had. We talk about it as having ‘the VetLove experience’.”
Thanks to his long association with BOQ Specialist, the process of starting up the new business was far smoother than it might otherwise have been, the adventurer says.
“My financial consultant and I have had a long association on the equipment side of things,” says Dr Wilson, who in 2015 sold his My Vet group to National Vet Care. “He’s assisted in the finance of our vehicles, X-ray developers, lab machines, all of the high-end equipment we need to get these practices from corner store or backyard operations to fully functioning hospitals.
“For example, we took on a clinic in Brisbane. The financials would not typically support putting in a $35,000 X-ray unit and a $15,000 lab unit, but my financial consultant knows the business environment and the way we work, and trusts that it is a good decision to put them in. He knows it will help our business’ profitability. Having a bank that understands what we have done in the past and what we are doing now is really important.”
In 2013, Dr Wilson completed the fastest unsupported crossing of Antarctica under wind power (3428km in 53 days). During that adventure, which he famously took on a sled topped by two large, pink breasts in support of the McGrath Foundation, Dr Wilson recorded his own documentary, 47 Below, which has since been screened on the National Geographic Channel.
Other records held by Dr Wilson include the longest land journey by kite, which was across the Sahara Desert, and the first ever kite surfing expedition across the Torres Strait, from Australia to Papua New Guinea.
Interestingly, while training for very taxing and cold journeys, Dr Wilson has to be careful not to lose weight. In fact, it is often imperative that he puts on weight as his training intensifies.
“When I'm in the preparation phase I have to work on strength and fitness but also make sure I’m not pushing too hard, so I don’t damage any joints. I basically have to stay at my optimal weight,” he says.
“These Antarctic journeys require me to put on about five kilos of muscle and about 10 kilos of fat, depending on how long the journey is. That can be a real struggle for me. Many people put on fat easily, but I don’t.”
As he wears two hats, one as a veterinary surgeon and another as a professional adventurer, Wilson says he must work hard to find balance. “I can’t be out in the field so much that the business suffers,” he says. “But I also can’t spend all of my time in the business. Having professionals around me to take care of specific parts of the business is vital. I’m also confident in my partnership with BOQ Specialist. The client service is so good that if I have a question and I’m half way across the world I know I will be able to get an answer. With little time between working and my adventures, it’s imperative I have a finance partner that helps me when I need them to, not the traditional 9-5pm bank hours.”
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