In This Episode
Inventory management is one of the most important aspects to the bottom line of any veterinary clinic, and yet it is often not treated that way. Employees are often given little training about how to properly manage, and many clinic staff would rather defer the task to someone else.
This week on the Veterinary Innovation Podcast, Shawn and Ivan speak with Nicole Clausen, the founder of the Veterinary Inventory Strategy Network, about building a platform when an existing one won’t do, how getting back to basics can be innovative, and how passion and enthusiasm can make a big difference.
Ms. Clausen recommends The Success Principles: How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Jack Canfield.
- Building a Network of Inventory Managers
- The Inventory Challenges Veterinary Clinics Face
- Inventory Management as a Career Path
Shawn: Really excited to have my friend Nicole on this episode. Ivan, why don’t you go ahead and introduce her.
Ivan: Hi, I’m Ivan Zak, and we’re talking today to Nicole Clausen, and we are gonna talk about innovation in the inventory management space. Nicole is a founder of a very interesting network. It’s a veterinary inventory strategy network, which I discovered just yesterday, and I found lots of great information on it. She’s the owner of Veterinary Care Logistics, which I from what I know is consultancies, is that right, Nicole?
Building a Network of Inventory Managers
Ivan: And then she has a lean six segment green bell, which I love. I’m big on the lean. And, on the personal side of things, she likes travelling, snorkeling, reading, gardening, and swimming. And she’s a big fan of ocean and nature documentaries. Welcome to the show, Nicole, thank you for finding the time to connect with us.
Nicole: Yes, thank you so much for having me. I’m honored, so I really appreciate it.
Ivan: So I wanna tell you why I’m excited. So through all kinds of software and innovation that I’m monitoring in veterinary market, there’s been a lot of little apps and softwares, that replace certain parts of PIMs. And, you know, I built SmartFlow, so it’s kind of replace the Whiteboard, and we focus just on that, because and that is why this is so amazing. Because we did one thing, and then there is appointment booking apps, and then there is you know, there is all kinds of segments of PIMs, that were taken it out of PIMs, and I see the future of the veterinary medicine. At some point, it’s being sort of pull the part system sitting on the top of big data base, that’s how I see the world. And there is two things that no one ever took outside of PIMs as a separate model, and I think that. Well actually, maybe three. So the medical records just the medical records themselves, without anything else, a calendar, the one that kind of connects with HR as well, so that I think is another opportunity. And inventory, because all PIMs suck at inventory. There is not a good PIMs,so it’s not exclusive, I’m not saying an names of the PIMs, but it’s a broad, they all suck.
Ivan: Yeah, so that’s why someone like you with a passion is so necessary for our industry. And when I joined your networked, I just looked and said “Oh my god, there are people on this specific. You created, from marketing perspective if you look at it, you created a tribe around very specific topic. And, you know, some people that are not passionate about inventory, if you’ll say, you know, “Let’s talk about inventory” and half people go “Oh, no”. (Nicole and Ivan laugh). But there are people that know about it, because it’s hard, and there is so much opportunity. If you think about our time in the veterinary medicine now, and the opportunity in the consolidation space. If you do it right, you can increase your EBITDA, and I only know from stats, from some consolidators, up to 1 or 2% of EBITDA up, just by managing inventory correctly. So super interesting, because I’m working with consolidators at my new gig, and I want to learn more about it and actually connect with you after the show as well. But can you tell us more about network, how it started, and what draw you to create this network?
Shawn: And before you do that. Have you ever met anybody that’s been more excited about inventory than Ivan?
Ivan: There is a whole network of them! There is a whole network, man.
Nicole: It is my favorite thing when I come across somebody who is just as passionate about inventory as I am. So it’s super exciting. So the veterinary inventory strategy network is basically a group or network and community of either inventory managers or veterinary professionals who are tasked with managing inventory. And you know, I host weekly webinars, you know, there is a group coaching, there is a lot of information, you know, that really helps people to kind of elevate their inventory. And it really started from a couple different reasons. So I have, prior to starting the network, I have a very large Facebook group of inventory managers as well. And so the biggest reason why I wanted to create this is a space for inventory managers to really transform their inventory together. And so prior to this, you know, I was doing consulting work, working one on one with practices, you know, but I’m only one person, and I’ve realized very quickly that a vast majority of practices need help with this. And so I was like “There is no way I could help with every practice that I want to” and so I was like what if we all work together to improve our inventory, and all the sudden we’re like raising up the whole veterinary industry. Because we have inventory managers now that are knowledgeable, and they are passionate, and they want to improve their practices, and they want to take their practices to the next level. So that’s kind of what inspired me to do this, and also from like kind of a more frustrating standpoint, Facebook sometimes will sensor and remove posts, discussing what they think is like medication sales, because it’s against their community guidelines to sell medications, and so what the finding was is that people are like “Oh, you know, this such and such is backwards, and where can I find it?” Facebook would actually remove that post, because they felt it’s against their community guidance, and I was afraid we’re gonna lose our whole network right then in there.
Ivan: I thought they do it only with Shawn’s posts.
Shawn: I got no, I got no fighting me today. This whole quarantine thing is really cramping my style. (Everyone laugh)
Ivan: So you created the network of people through Facebook, and then transitioned them onto your platform. Which is for one is very difficult to do. How many people do you have on your Facebook group?
Nicole: So I have, I think, as it stands right know, I think I’m just a hair over 5000.
Ivan: Okay, so there is 5000 people, Shawn, that like talking about inventory. And, so then, your transitioning how many people at your network?
Nicole: I think I’m over 800 on the network.
Ivan: That’s awesome. And then basically, what kind of topics do you guys discuss?
Nicole: So if it has to do with inventory we’re talking about, right. So we control substances, we have, you know, organization, we have software system, we have barcode scanners, we have strategy. If it has to do with inventory we’re talking about.
Ivan: With your interest, you created a Facebook page, and I don’t know how much experience you have in marketing, but you created 5,000 followers. I don’t think we ever had 5000 followers with 600 clinics on board when I left Smartflow. And then you transitioned them to another platform. So that’s really a true tribe, I don’t know if you heard about Seth Godin, he’s got like a marketing, he talks about the tribes and how we create them. So that’s very powerful from the marketing perspective and I compliment you on that. But then again, considering the topic that Shawn probably don’t know much about, this is actually an extra bonus to that. So can you tell us more about some more innovative things in the inventory space? Cause there is always you just mentioned, there is barcodes, you know, there is cabinets like cubics. There is, you know, there is PIM system connecting to those. So what is the most innovative things that you’ve talked about recently?
The Inventory Challenges Veterinary Clinics Face
Nicole: It’s not necessarily innovative, but it’s almost going back to the basics and discovering the strategy that works best for the their practice. And so I think then, with that, becomes and leads to kind of like this innovation and inspiration, right.Because if we understand the basics and we implemented the basics, then we have room to like really grow this, you know, and we can start bringing in cubics, and we can start, you know really transforming and using our inventory as a profit center to kind of reinvest, and our purposes you know we can add different modalities like there is so many different options when we truly have the basics down. So I think in that essence, the basics really become the innovation. If that makes sense.
Shawn: Yeah, it totally does. It’s really interesting, I mean, and I think that’s true in almost all businesses, it’s kind of getting back to the fundamentals. It’s so easy to complicate things, it’s so easy to build systems that make sense when you think about them, and when you try to implement them, they’re so complex that they can’t kind of goes anywhere. And I’m sure that inventory management is one of this things where somebody is like “Oh, please, pick me, let me be the inventory manager”. So I’m sure there is situations where you have somebody that started something, and then they thought they had a bunch of great ideas, and then somebody else jumped in and didn’t understand it. And so I think that kind of trip back to the basics is probably it seems kind of almost strange, but it’s probably, as you said, the most innovative thing, it’s just like cover the basics.
Nicole: Absolutely. I have found. So when I first started managing inventory, really my only training in the beginning was when you shake a bottle, and it feels low, you order it. (Ivan laughs, indistinct speech). And people laugh, because they have the same experience, right? And so, you know, it’s just kind of like this total lack of training where it’s like usually the lowest men 09:49? is kind of giving them responsible inventory, because no one wants to touch over the 10 foot at all. So it’s kind of an interesting dynamic, for sure.
Shawn: So then my next question is, what is the strangest thing that you’ve ever seen as you went and tried to help people with these systems?
Nicole: Ooh, that is a very good question. So I have seen some very far expired products, and I mean we’re talking like 80s and 90s. I’ve seen like equipment from like 60s and 70s. And, yeah.
Ivan: To your comment, Shawn, I actually know quite a few technicians or nurses, veterinary nurses, that went into, into inventory management, because that’s another round to take.
Inventory Management as a Career Path
Ivan: And basically, if you, cause, cause the veterinary technician is a sort of a dead-end career. And at some point, you’ve restelled enough dogs, you know, squeezed enough anald glands and held enough dogs, and you know, ran enough anesthesia, and you don’t want to do it anymore. So I think it’s actually great realm, because this is something that people take on with passion, and then if they find someone like Nicole, they can actually talk about it and invent more in that space. Because you really want some sort of avenue to go from technician position. Do you find Nicole, a lot of people that choose that realm and you help them to find clinics after they’ve been a tech for a while?
Nicole: Yes, so I have quite a few people who have actually kind of accidentally stumbled on inventory, and they found, like the really true passion in it. And so it’s really kind of exciting for me of course, because I’m just as passionate, but I found like practice managers, veterinary assistants, technicians, like you name it, and they’re like gone whole passionate about inventory and it is so cool to see. So it’s really exciting when you have these people who can spark this in them, and they kind of want to build a career around it, you know. They really want to take this and make it their own.
Ivan: So in the consultancy, do you work more with individual clinics or do you work with any consolidators as a group?
Nicole: So I’ve mostly worked with individual practices, so what I do on the consultant side is, you know, I implement system for them right then in there. So I drive on site, I work with their practice management system, I work with their team. And we put together a system that works for them you know long-term, right. It’s gonna be like realistic to like monitor and keep up and you know maintain throughout, you know, long term. So we are looking at like the long-term game. So that’s kind of what I do on the consultancy side rather than work with consolidators and stuff like that.
Ivan: Do you have any metrics that you incorporate when you deploy this, and then you can monitor their success and actually look back and say “Look, this is where you guys were” and then, is it a one-time engagement or you actually do get sort of the discovery, you kind of find a gap and opportunities, and then you become long-term relationship with the clinics where you help them tweak the system.
Nicole: Yes, exactly. I’m, you know, in it for long-term, and some of the things I look at – you know, cost of good solds, I look at their turnover, their inventory turnover, I look at the amount of inventory that they have on hand. So those are kind of the main benchmarks that I use to kind of monitor their success. And so, I do like a lot of inventory audits, where I can, you know, even from a distance look to see how that practice is going, and see where they need to be.
Ivan: Excellent. And we’re going either compliment or slash, and we can do.either one cupids right now. Cause I know these guys for a while, gret guys, make review of the technology. Right now, I talked to them at a last trade show, they have very innovative things coming on into the market, not only on the for front, but also the back end of the solution. Can you tell us what do you feel about the let’s not say cubics, even though I did. Let’s say just cabinets solutions. What do you think about them?
Nicole: So I think that cabinet solutions, there is great opportunities there. You know but I have seen it where practices, they don’t really understand how to integrate and implement it well, so it just turns into very expensive storage cabinet. But if you have somebody who you know has the training and the knowledge to implement it well, it’s fire! Right? Because it removes a lot of like this not like really human element to it, but it really helps to streamline your entire process, you know, but having someone who’s knowledgeable and passionate about it is key. Because it’s not kind of one and done type of the situation, you know? So having again, having that person who is trained and ready is gonna be key thing to that.
Shawn: Nicole, I imagine that some of the practices you’ve worked with, you saved them a bundle of money once they started to pay attention to the problem. Can you talk to us about some maybe concrete examples of where you’ve gone in and you’ve seen this you know runaway curt and what were you able to do and what the clients thought about it?
Nicole: Yeah, so a lot of times, they kind of like make back my fee, before I even left the building.
Ivan: I love that. That’s a sales pitch: Before I leave the building, you’re gonna make your money back. That’s phenomenal.
Nicole: Right, so you know, I’m just letting my nerd flag fly, but I love prescription food rooms, right. Like get me in the prescription food room, and I’m gonna organize that baby, right. So it’s like whether we have that like all this outdated food or food that’s not selling, we pull it off the shelf, get it returned. You know, so that again, just so we have what we need truly on the shelf. And so I have helped practices reduce their cost of goods. I would say on average, usually between like 5 and 10% you know, there is practices that translate to tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. And especially like labour time, too. So not only you look at it from the goods perspective, but it’s also having the system implacement that’s streamlined, you know, your labour costs go down as well. Because you know you know you have somebody who is trained, in charge, they know what they need to be doing. You know, and it’s no longer kind of extra-laborious process if that makes sense.
Shawn: Yeah, makes tons of sense. Yeah. it’s really interesting. The thing that I can help but like say is just your enthusiasm for this one small piece of veterinary medicine is infectious,like it’s really, so interesting. We’re so laser-focused on some. A large part of any business is inventory management. But just to see how excited you are, I’m sure you’re gonna be getting some calls after our show. It’s been a lot of fun.
Nicole: I mean rally, I can talk inventory all day every day, and I think you know like bless is kind of like an overuse word, but I truly do feel it when I get to like work with such passionate people and manage inventory, I mean, really, I mean I can’t. You can’t get much better, it feels like.
Ivan: That’s awesome. Well, we have couple of questions that we usually ask at the end of the show. And is there a book, a ted talk, the youtube video, or anything that you listened, saw, read, recently that you would recommend to our listeners?
Nicole: So I am an avid reader so I’m reading right now it’s called the “Success principles” by Jack Canfield. Love it. It’s a great fantastic book. I also love anything by Simon Sinek, “Start with why”, any of those books, and Barney Brown. I’m loving the work she’s doing on courage and vulnerability right now.
Ivan: That’s awesome. And is there anybody at your network that you would recommend us inviting on the show?
Nicole: So Alex Cades, a Vet?18:05, for sure.
Ivan: That’s right, we never invited him. That would be great.
Nicole: Yeah, so he is great. He’s fantastic. And there is another gentleman, the name is Rivers, I can get you his contact information, but he would be a great person to have.