Ross Allan

Ross Allan of The Pets’n’Vets Family was in the right place at the right time as a young lad in Glasgow, and he believes that vets of today are in a better position than ever before to have control over their own destinies.

Ross AllanFor Ross, it all started with the most random chance encounter. As a boy scout doing bob-a-job week on the Southside of Glasgow, he knocked on an elderly woman’s door and, when they got talking, she asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up.

“I said I wasn’t really sure, and she said ‘well would you want to be a vet?’ I said that I thought maybe that would be interesting, and she said ‘well you should meet my son then, he’s a vet.’ So I started out helping in the consulting room round the corner from where I was brought up, cleaning kennels, counting out tablets, wiping things down, making up vaccines. I was 13, but I was treated in a grown-up way: I liked it, having responsibility. And having £3 at the end of the night if I did the job well. And I must have learned something from the vets, Ivor Lough and George Leslie, because I’m still there now: I am a partner in the practice.”

When Ross began working for George and Ivor as an assistant after qualification, the partners had two practices. Since then, with George retiring and with the addition of a further partner, Oliver Jackson, they have grown to six in Glasgow and the surrounding area, supported by the Roundhouse Hospital. He believes they are steering a steady course through the new world of corporatisation.

“Now is the time for the profession to take control of its own destiny, for each individual vet to play a key part in the future.”

“There has been a massive amount of change, no doubt, and this has accelerated over the last three to five years. We’ve got 87 staff now, we’ve got a hospital. We can do our investment in staff and training to create the structure and the environment we want, that we know people want to work in, and that our clients need. So we have a programme for newly qualified nurses, because we identified there was a significant jump from qualification to moving into the full rota and having increasing responsibility for more complex patient care. We have a receptionist academy.

“Our branch structure works for individual vet development: meaning we can mentor someone in one practice, and then they’ll go to one of the others and learn something different, come back to the hospital and have scope to start a certificate. It works for us because we can shape our business, and it works for our staff as well. We’ve got the size so we can really accommodate people with career breaks, and flexible working, things that can be a bit harder in a smaller business. But we are also small enough that we maintain our culture.”

That culture is very grounded in Glasgow, what the city represents and what its residents need.

“Glasgow wears its heart on its sleeve, it’s warm, welcoming, honest, up-front. Our partnership is called The Pets’n’Vets Family, and we are part of the community and part of the city, and we were very proud to be named Glasgow’s Favourite Business in the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce Business Awards.

“But there is no doubt that charging an appropriate price for the services we provide is a difficulty for vets. We are so fortunate to live in a country that has an NHS: you look at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital here in Glasgow, it’s brand new with individual rooms and a helipad on the roof. You go there, you get treated, and you are not charged anything.

"The need for leadership is greater than ever before, but the opportunity is greater than it has ever been.”

“And almost all vets, and I hold my hand up here for sure, have been guilty of compassionate charging to some degree. We’ve gone to university to be vets, not to want to charge clients money. But we tell our new vets about the necessities, about what we charge, about overheads. None of our vets are on a bonus, nobody has targets, but we make clear that accurate estimates have to be done and the conversation needs to happen with clients before the treatment happens.”

Ross still goes back to the school where he was educated to talk at careers evenings, and to let young people know that these are exciting times to be a vet.

“Now is the time for the profession to take control of its own destiny, for each individual vet to play a key part in the future. Everyone I work with cares passionately about the profession, and with the changing ownership of practices, it is vital that individuals feel the responsibility for and shape the commercial landscape we work in tomorrow. When I was 13, that’s what George and Ivor gave me: the chance to have ownership and responsibility and that is a big thing at any age. The need for leadership is greater than ever before, but the opportunity is greater than it has ever been.”

Ross Allan, BVMS PGCertSAS MRCVS, Partner, The Pets’n’Vets Family