Equine veterinarians have always needed to have resilience, even before that became an everyday term. In this episode of The Business of Practice podcast, we talk to Caroline Todd, BVMS, MRCVS. She is co-owner with her husband, Edgardo Fullana, DVM, of Harbour Ridge Equine near Palm City, Florida. They faced the crisis of losing half of their four-vet practice in a short period of time. However, Todd said “our practice came out the other side better than we went in. It was the rebirth of the practice.”
Resilience in a Rough Year
Todd and Fullana purchased Harbour Ridge Equine and had their first full year there in 2010. They gradually built up to a four-vet practice with plenty of support staff and a busy schedule for everyone.
Then one associate veterinarian left to be closer to family and another left to go to small animal veterinary work. They sought additional veterinarians, but got no responses to their ads.
“I thought we were going to crumble,” said Todd. “We worked so hard to build the practice.”
She said it would have been “easy to say ‘screw this, it’s terrible,’ but we both love equine practice.”
Todd and Fullana were determined to make it work. They had to decide what they wanted their lives to look like personally and professionally. They enlisted the help of not only a cadre of veterinary mentors and peers, but also a business coach and a licensed therapist.
“The business coach told us we needed to decide what was important to us, write it down, and stick to it,” said Todd.
She then held up her “purple book” that she carries around with those commitments.
Seeing the Light
Todd said they managed to find a relief vet, who happened to be boarded in surgery. They also contracted with a local equine emergency service to take some calls for the practice.
“We rode with two techs each, and the office became super-good at scheduling efficiently,” said Todd. “We became a well-oiled machine.”
Resilience was paying off!
She admitted they let some clients go from the practice. Todd said mostly those were clients who didn’t use them for regular services or preventive medicine, only for emergencies.
But that didn’t mean they weren’t still trying to hire.
About the time they decided they could make it with the two of them and the relief vet, “we got two applicants from capable, experienced veterinarians who fit with our culture and ethos,” said Todd.
After going through a year of stress and struggle and had “resigned ourselves that it would just be the two of us,” they ended up hiring both of the vets.
“We have a solid compensation package and are open-minded about schedule,” said Todd. She noted that they had put into effect a “substantial” price increase during the year of duress.
Take-Home Resilience Tips
Todd said what she learned from this was to trust the process, embrace the change, and don’t be ashamed to reach out for help. “It was a really rough year, and it was easy to get down,” she said.
“Don’t be afraid to consider something different,” she added.
“You can be stronger than before,” she said. “And good clients stick around!” She has found that some clients even prefer the boarded surgeon relief vet because “she can do things we can’t,” said Todd.
Todd noted that her Decade One group was a wonderful asset. It was through that group she found the relief vet that gave them their first breath of relief.
Todd said one of the things she and her husband had strived for even during the year of being a two-vet practice was they wanted 5-7 days off together each month. “That might seem audacious, but it’s what we wanted.” And she said they are getting closer to achieving that life balance role.
About Dr. Carolyn Todd
Carolyn Todd BVMS, MRCVS, is originally from Scotland and graduated from Glasgow University Veterinary School. She then made the leap across the pond to undertake an internship with Ferguson and Associates in Ocala, Florida, where she developed a special interest in lameness and performance horse medicine. After her internship, she became and associate veterinarian at that practice, where she focused on Thoroughbred yearlings and 2-year-olds in training. Todd went on to be the sole veterinarian for a Thoroughbred training and breeding farm in Ocala, which gave her the unique opportunity to develop her own practice specializing in lameness and performance horse medicine.
In late 2009, Todd and her husband Edgardo Fullana, DVM, moved to Palm City and purchased Harbour Ridge Equine. Since then, she has been providing advanced lameness diagnostics, treatments and innovative therapies to help her patients compete at the highest level. Fullana has special interests in equine reproduction, advanced dentistry, dermatology, ophthalmology, preventative care and emergency medicine.
Further Reading and Listening on Resilience
Here are additional resources if you are interested in learning more about resilience.
- Field Skills for Road Warriors
- The Business of Practice Podcast: Resilient Veterinary Practitioners
- Wellness Programs for Ourselves
- How to Embrace and Leverage Growth Mindset