Willows Farm Vets celebrates becoming world-class workplace

Willows Farm Vets celebrates becoming world-class workplace

Willows Farm Vets in Cheshire is celebrating its new-found status as a Best Companies 3 Star World Class workplace.

 Here clinical director Matt Haslam reveals how the commitment and dedication of his team, together with the support of VetPartners, has created a thriving workplace and resulted in some highly satisfied clients….


AT this year’s Royal Cheshire Show, a record number of visitors flocked to our stand, devouring dozens beef sandwiches and enjoying a brew. The feelings of goodwill towards us was truly heartwarming, and left us beaming with pride.

Thanks to our incredible team, a brand new culture and the support of VetPartners, we have achieved the Best Companies 3 Star accreditation – the highest standard of workplace engagement, representing organisations that truly excel.

An engaged workforce is something to be really celebrated because it is the climax of a journey of meaningful change. Achieving the Best Companies accreditation is the icing on the cake.

 While much hard work went into achieving this, the success has given us an incredible feeling of satisfaction.

Over the last three years, we have really galvanised everyone to redouble our commitment to client care, hired a great team of vets and TB testers, and created a brand new culture which has taken the practice from strength to strength.

One of the most important things was the support and presence of two former senior partners of the business, Mark Proctor and Ben Pedley. They are fantastic vets with decades of goodwill and trust amongst the clients and colleagues alike.

They remained a constant and reassuring presence whilst we developed the business.

Senior vets Phil Jones and Isobel Johnston, pictured right, were also rewarded with an opportunity to take on increased leadership in the business, supported by some excellent CPD provided by VetPartners.

We have created a great team of vets and TB testers to serve our clients, recruiting brilliantly and developing positive, helpful and collaborative individuals with a strong sense of teamwork.

Equally important, was empowering our already outstanding practice support team.

We were committed to fostering a great culture and a ‘can-do’ attitude, whilst maintaining the highest ethical and professional standards. Our support team carries increasing amounts of goodwill with our clients as they appreciate how helpful they are, be it sorting their TB test out, getting those urgent medicines to them or helping ensure compliance to their milk contracts by keeping on top of the increasingly complex paperwork required.

Expanding their responsibility and raising their profile with our clients has resulted in a bond with the practice over and above that which exists between vet and farmer.

We focused on creating a great place to work for our colleagues, and ensuring that they, in turn, are committed to delivering the best possible service to drive the business forward.

Over the last three years, our team is feeling the benefits of being part of VetPartners, whether it be because of great CPD, an opportunity to collaborate with other vets in the group, or enhanced working flexibility and benefits. Our clients are beginning to feel it, too, with offerings such as Digifarm coming to the fore.

However, I think the overarching sentiment from our clients is that, if our team members are happy, they provide great service and help take their farms forward.

How Willows Farm Vets achieved a 3-Star Workplace

  • Value everyone

Whilst vets have been traditionally seen as the key revenue drivers, the value of your support team cannot be overstated. Respect, listen to and value everyone. Get to know them, understand their motivations at work and strive wherever possible to create a great working environment for everyone.

  • Lead by example

Leadership sets the tone. Try not to snap when you get the 5.50pm call to a rotten calving and you’re not on call, try and do your fair share of the ‘rough’ calls. Nobody is too busy to not be courteous and respectful.

  • Transparency and involvement

Actively involve the whole team in practice strategy and performance. We have half-yearly whole-practice meetings where we share top- level financial performance and KPIs with every member of the team. It can really help drive productivity and efficiency. Vets should never feel as if they need to hit targets, but understanding the financials of their business can be of huge benefit.

  • Be present

Time spent in the practice is just as valuable as vetting. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate positive behaviours and also to notice little niggles within the team. Spending time with the team is invaluable and can also uncover areas for practice improvement.

  • Recruit the right people

Place as much importance on behaviours such as professional skills. Changing someone’s innate communication style and demeanour can be much more challenging than teaching them the role. Always consider how the individual will fit in with the team.

  • Champion the good, act on the bad

Everyone appreciates a thank you and, similarly, negative behaviours must be swiftly, and privately, nipped in the bud. The VetPartners PDR process is a helpful exercise in appraising and discussing these issues in an objective manner.