Veterinary for Punks: What the Profession Can Learn From Craft Beer

BrewDog is one of the world’s fastest growing drinking brands, famous for beers, bars and crowdfunding. Founded by fellow Scots, with a passion for great beer, BrewDog pioneered the craft-beer revolution and forged a whole new approach to the alcohol business. The company has recently expanded and opened it’s second brewery in Ohio from their humble beginnings in Aberdeenshire.

I love this brand; what they’ve achieved to date is phenomenal. I’ve just finished reading their book titled Business for Punks: Break All the Rules — the BrewDog Way. If you’re interested in starting anything, I would recommend giving this a read.

This got me thinking about the parallels I could draw from these guys, who bulldozed an industry that was set in its ways. In a nutshell here are some great learnings I took from their story and be applied to the veterinary sector.

1. Don’t start a business, start a crusade

Whether or not you’re opening a practice, this can be related to you. Have a purpose in life.

I can speak first hand here, starting working life as a vet is petrifying. You forget why you got into it in the first place. The truth is we’re all a bit special for taking on the animal health sector, and we should be proud of it.

Whatever you do in life, make it a mission. Have it in writing to remind you why you get out of bed in the morning. There’s a great TED Talk from Simon Sinek which explains why great business, people and industries succeed. It’s not what they do or how they do it; it’s why they do it.

I think Fitzpatrick Referrals is one of the greatest examples, Noel and his team are hugely passionate about what they do, and it is key to their success. So don’t just be a vet, start a revolution to optimise animal welfare and educate the public.

2. Challenge the Status Quo and Don’t be Afraid of Upsetting People

Before BrewDog blew up the scene, craft beer was an old and stuffy sector. It now shows 30% growth year on year where the traditional beer industry is shrinking.

We can draw comparisons with the veterinary sector. The medicine behind the profession has progressed significantly over the last 80 years, yet working conditions have frozen in time.

It is appalling by today’s standards to expect vets to work long hours for little pay, an all too common theme. As fantastic as those books are, the ‘James Herriot’ era is over, and we need to embrace modern day practice. I challenge vets and graduates alike to take on the ‘status quo’. If we want to see progress, we have to be more comfortable with confrontation.

I know vets who are working in permanent jobs with no contracts!! That is insane! If it’s not right, challenge it. If you volunteer yourself as a victim, then you only have yourself to blame.

3. Speak Up, Create a Community, Start a Following

BrewDog is well-known for having a loyal customer base. Achieved through their passion for sharing delicious ale, but also through an innovative crowdfunding campaign. Customers bought equity in the company; it’s in their interest that the brand took off. That it did.

I know most practices and vets have a loyal following. A lot of this comes from those selfless and driven AHPs that live life to provide the best care for their patients (living by a mission).

But I would challenge the veterinary profession to be more open to the general public. As a profession we are so self-regulated, we need to accept that we can’t do it all. It’s more challenging to look at a picture when you’re in the frame. An example I would give you is the junior doctors taking on the Government. We can draw on so many parallels; poor working standards, low pay, long hours, etc. Many suffer in silence. By letting people in, support has rallied for junior doctors to amplify their voice.

4. Value What You Do and Charge Accordingly

I’ve been there. How many of us have charged 0.25 of a consult to decrease the cost to the customer? But why do this?! It makes you look like you’ve done something wrong, you set yourself up for a fall. We only seek to devalue our service, devalue our time, devalue the profession. It’s a race to the bottom, and you’ve got a front row seat.

Having worked in pharmaceuticals, I was so frustrated by vets trying to make all their money on the markup of drugs. You studied for 5+ years to obtain that degree, be proud of it! From day 1 of working in practice, learn to charge appropriately for your time. Those customers who whine aren’t worth the energy, let them irritate the competition. Your far better off serving your loyal following!

5. It’s Possible to Shake Up A Traditional Industry

It doesn’t get more traditional than craft beer. But the changes seen in this industry over the last eight years are incredible. In 2008 you would’ve been laughed at if you could’ve predicted today’s craft ale landscape. In fact, the founders of BrewDog were! Mocked by competition, investors, banks, critics… this only cemented their focus and motivated them.