Such changes are being embraced by Evidensia in the Netherlands, says Country Manager Michiel van Silfhout. “It starts by building an organisation where there are a lot of formal and informal communication lines, combined with mandates for people to be entrepreneurial and have clinical freedom.”
The apposite word here is ‘starts’. When Evidensia moved into the Netherlands in 2016, it was in many respects like a start-up. With no established structure in place, just a few clinics and with ambitious plans for expansion, there was a huge opportunity to build from scratch. “We didn’t yet have any processes, strategy or story,” says van Silfhout. “It was really an empty playground to start with, so we could shape the company in the way we wanted.”
“Our referral hospitals can support our clinics in advanced medical care and cover for emergency work at weekends.” Marc Maas – Senior Clinical Manager
To make the most of this opportunity to break fresh ground, the team worked out an overarching strategy based on three main changes in the market. To address the challenges of a changing market, with customers asking for higher standards of pet care and employees asking to work fewer emergency hours, the team in the Netherlands settled on a hub-and-spoke model. “Our referral hospitals can support our clinics in advanced medical care and cover for emergency work over nights and weekends,” says Marc Maas, a senior Clinical Manager who has been overseeing the building of a new Evidensia hub hospital in Hart van Brabant.
To give veterinarians and managers such as Maas the best chance of success, it’s not enough just to emphasise local decisionmaking. There also needs to be strong support from the centre that goes beyond a strategic vision. So, for example, Evidensia in the Netherlands currently employs its own architect in order to build the new locations.
“We have also hired and welcomed eight new Diplomates to the group since last summer. They help to build our hospitals and in training our staff. We had an evening a fortnight ago where all the different hospital building projects came together. We shared the drawings, we shared good ideas and we said, ‘Actually if you combine your X-ray with your surgery room, it’s very easy because you can do X, Y, Z,’ which is creating real synergy.”
There are other practical advantages to such an approach. Evidensia can make economies of scale in the supply chain by working across multiple projects, and can also build ongoing relationships with construction specialists that understand the demands of clinics and suppliers of medical equipment.
It’s also important that people are able to discuss not just specific projects but shared areas of interest. “All the Clinical Directors meet every four months,” says van Silfhout. “We share information, have workshops and good discussions, and there is also time to get to know each other further during breaks and dinner afterwards. We have also started to organise regional meetings for all our staff.
“Many initiatives have been started by small groups within the organisation, often locally.” Michiel van Silfhout – Country Manager
Inevitably, sometimes initiatives won’t work. “On some levels, we do make the same mistake twice because we don’t enforce things centrally,” admits van Silfhout. It is he thinks, a small price to pay for creating an organisation where staff feel empowered and don’t have to constantly react to head office pronouncements, instead being entrepreneurial themselves.