An interview with Patterson’s new president Kevin Pohlman
Before being named President of the Patterson Animal Health Business Unit in July 2017, Kevin Pohlman held various leadership roles with Animal Health International. Recently, Vet-Advantage had the opportunity to ask Pohlman some questions regarding Patterson’s current position in the industry and what distinguishes the organization.
Vet-Advantage: What were your goals for your national sales meeting this year? Howdo you hope they affect your sales team, your vendor partners and ultimately your customers?
Pohlman: We had a few goals for the meeting: 1) to thank everyone and recognize their hard work, great achievement and success in our fiscal 2017; 2) to create an environment for continued engagement, education and partnership between our manufacturing partners and our field sales, sales management and executive teams, and 3) to reinforce our primary focus – doing what’s best for the customer.
Vet-Advantage: In a crowded and rapidly changing companion animal market, how does Patterson differentiate itself from its competitors? How do you build on that advantage moving forward?
Pohlman: Patterson Vet, and indeed Patterson Animal Health, has some of the most dedicated, knowledgeable and experienced sales persons in the industry. I’m very proud of our team. That’s our greatest differentiator. They put the customer first in all they do. They listen closely to their customers to understand their needs, and they customize solutions for them.
Vet-Advantage: Although the large animal and companion businesses are markedly different, have you found beneficial synergies for customers? Vendor partners?
Pohlman: It’s our overriding tenet that if our customers succeed, we succeed. That applies to both our companion animal customers, our production animal customers, and to our retail/farm store customers. Since joining together, we’re an even stronger organization, and we’ve really benefited from sharing our learned experience in specific segments across the entire organization, and then sharing with our customers. Relative to our manufacturing partners, they now have a complete platform from which to serve all segments of animal health, which they hadn’t had before. Companion and small animal veterinarians and practices, mixed-and large animal practices, production animal facilities and operations, and the retail/farm store/dealer store markets.
Vet-Advantage: In the companion business, what are two or three of the biggest challenges facing your customers? How are you positioning Patterson to meet those challenges?
Pohlman: Our customer’s biggest challenge, really, is making sure their clients understand the benefits of annual check-ups, wellness/preventative visits, dental visits, and such, and scheduling those appointments! In other words, getting the client and their pet to visit ahead of an issue, not when the pet’s already unwell. Another is adherence to recommended protocols around vaccines and flea/tick treatments. We offer our customers some great client engagement tools to help with that challenge. ePetHealth includes automated health service and appointment reminder e-mails and texts, client education materials, and more.
Vet2Pet is a more recent solution we’ve rolled out. Similar to ePetHealth, but in an app format, easy to use for both practice and client, customizable for each practice. It’s another great tool for practices to use to create and maintain client loyalty and engagement. And of course our Patterson Vet Marketing Toolkit, which provides a whole-practice training program designed to help a practice market themselves and increase client engagement and compliance. The practice receives actual marketing content to deploy each month, such as flyers, social media posts, postcards, and newsletter articles. The practice staff can also earn CE credits while learning to market the practice. We’re a solutions provider, and we make every effort to help our customers grow their businesses.
Vet-Advantage: This obviously affects the role of your salespeople. Has their role changed as you become more solutions oriented? If yes, how do you support these changes?
Pohlman: Our sales team is focused on providing solutions. As a distribution organization, we of course must meet our customer’s everyday needs – delivery of the consumables, pharmaceuticals, treatments and other supplies they need to perform their daily procedures and health checks. That’s table stakes. Our sales force goes further, making sure they are listening to the customer, asking questions to ensure they understand needs, and delivering the solutions that make their practices and operations better, more efficient and growing.
Vet-Advantage: Tell us a little about Patterson Veterinary University (PVU). What particular skills or tools are you providing to customers in attendance? What has the reception been of the people who have attended PVU?
Pohlman: Patterson Veterinary University is a program exclusive to Patterson with courses designed to strengthen business acumen and the pet owner’s experience for all veterinary professionals and paraprofessionals. The program has been taught nationwide for 11 years and online for almost two years.
Customers who attend can expect to leave with actionable knowledge and tools to implement what they’ve learned. And of course, what they’ll learn depends on the course they take. With 7 core courses, Human Resources, Inventory, OSHA, Marketing, Finance, Communication and Service, and Executive, each course provides tools and education specific to the topic. For example, in the Human Resources course students learn about the cycle of activities and legal aspects of human resource management as well as how to filter in leadership into elevating team performance. They are also provided customizable tools for things like developing an employee manual, job descriptions, training programs and performance feedback to name a few.
Vet-Advantage: What has the reception been of the people who have attended PVU?
Pohlman: The feedback from PVU courses has been outstanding. Each student is asked for their feedback after attending, and each word they share is read by Patterson’s education development specialists. So, the courses have evolved over time to meet the needs of our students through their own feedback. With more than 10,000 students taught, you could consider PVU a refined educational product.
Vet-Advantage: In the video overview of PVU, Michelle Guercio-Winter, CVT, CPVM mentions, “the gap between learning things and then actually making change in a practice.” Can you provide an example of how PVU strives to close that gap?
Pohlman: So many come back from conferences inspired and full of ideas to improve their practice, but few take actionable steps because there is so much to do to initiate change. With activity books, customizable tools and CVPM instructors available for Q&A following class, PVU students have the confidence and ability to initiate and sustain favorable changes in their practice.