National Veterinary Care – Dear Tomas Steenackers

I work in a female dominated industry. I come from a family of strong women. I recently read an article about a new corporate veterinary group that had me seeing red...


The perfect exit strategy

Mr Steenackers said that 80 per cent of vets are now female and the vast majority of them do not want to be business owners, which means older clinic owners struggling with succession planning often view a sale to a corporate as the perfect exit strategy.
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My early career was shaped working with strong successful women. This gave me a skewed view of the veterinary industry and meant that later in my career reality hit me with a thud. In my early career I never considered that fact that I was female was going to cause me grief. I lived in this bubble whereby my ability to do my job would be judged on merit and not my gender. I’m sadden to admit that I was wrong.


I felt this comment could not go unnoticed - especially seeing as 80% of his workforce was likely to be female. So I have written an open letter to Tomas.


An open letter to The Managing Director and Chief Executive of National Veterinary Care


Dear Mr Steenackers,


Thank you for showing your prejudice about women. As a mother of two daughters, I’m sick of us mum’s being blamed for everything. I get blamed for not letting my daughter travel in the car without her seatbelt on, for my daughters being born without magical Elsa powers, for the fact that my dog cannot talk and now I’m getting blamed for retiring vets not being able to sell their practices… hang on, wait a minute… I know I’m busy not getting my daughter’s hair in 3 ponytails, a French braid and bun exactly as she wanted it and for not controlling the direction of the wind, but I feel like you taking things a step too far.


I’m sick and tired, not from my children or the fact they are in childcare and school, but from facing ongoing discrimination against women. I guess it is a good thing that we as women are the ones who are discriminated against. We get very good at talking to children, having our boundaries tested repeatedly, correcting the same behaviours again and again, so it has given us training and resilience to continue correcting this corporate world who seems to take great pleasure in keeping women down.


It is your personal assumption and that of the corporate world that tries to keep us down. We’ll this mother is checking you back into line. I’m reinforcing this boundary. You assume that all women who have children DO NOT want to be business owners. I’m here to tell you that you are wrong. Just as not all men want to be business owners, not all women do either. But here’s the kicker – don’t just assume that because we’ve used our reproductive organs that we don’t want provide for our families or take on the challenge that is business ownership.


I want to challenge your statement that it is women that are making it more appealing for retiring vets to sell to corporate groups. You have business degrees and entrepreneurial streaks that desire to “cash in” on the way Australians are becoming more passionate about their furbabies and investing in their health. To do this a big part of your business model (as far as I can tell) is to use trickery of numbers to convince older, less business savvy veterinarians to sell their practices onto you for what seems like a great deal, but when the figures are corrected and the bells and whistles removed, I’m not convinced they are getting the great deal that you make it out to be.


You are the reason that people like me will struggle to own my own practice. It’s not through lack of wanting or lack of trying. It’s because unlike you for me it’s not all about the bottom line. I am idealistic, passionate and love what I do. Your group of non-veterinarians are fine with using tricky accounting, have more business knowledge than I do and have ambitions to make a killing like Greencross did when they came into the market. I see you for what you are. You are an obstacle for me, but luckily this determined female has an unwavering optimism that the world will change and that whilst you may make a killing, I will still find my place.


I will be a successful business owner, I will change your opinion about female vets and I will support other vets who want to go down this path too. I know that I will have support – after all I have many female classmates whom I look up to and whom own their own practices.


So, I hope I’ve made you think. I hope you’ll stop blaming us women for pushing retiring vets into your arms and I hope you will see the value that 80% of your workforce will be bringing to your company.


Look forward to competing with you in the future!


Dr Belinda


Dr Belinda & Jack

2 Responses

  1. Ahh I love a blog post written with passion – thanks Dr Belinda! And even if there are surveys that support the assertion that female vets don’t want to be practice owners perhaps the question we should be asking is *why* they don’t want it? Especially when record numbers of women are becoming business owners elsewhere. Perhaps as an industry we should be asking female (& male) vets what help/support/resources they need to consider practice ownership as a valid option. And while we’re at it let’s include all the awesome vet nurses out there so that the idea of owning your own business becomes a real option that females and males alike can consider.

  2. How true your judgement of carictor is. Wish I had seen this before we sold.

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