Supporting The Pet Vet with an ambitious acquisition and a strategic people plan

When The Pet Vet seized the opportunity to acquire another business to treble its size, they called in People Director Vic Foster to lead the necessary restructure of people and free up leadership time to focus on the operational, legal and commercial aspects.

Vic did a brilliant job for us … People Puzzles came in with the level of competence we needed for the challenge that we faced.’

Back in early 2022, The Pet Vet was a successful, independent vet group with four surgeries in South Yorkshire and Lincoln. The leaders had ambitions to grow the business, so when the opportunity to acquire an eight-strong surgery group came up, Managing Director Mel Fuller felt they couldn’t refuse. ‘It was an opportunity that was unlikely to come up again,’ she says.

The Pet Vet Team
The Pet Vet Team

The merger would make The Pet Vet the largest independent vet in the UK with a nationwide presence.

Key figures

  • Forecast for 2022/23 (before the acquisition): £6.2 million 
  • 2022/23 actual turnover: £19 million 
  • Forecast for 2023/24: £23 million
  • Headcount  (before the acquisition) 82, and more than trebled to 263

Why bring in People Puzzles? 

Managing the significant changes to any workforce following an acquisition or major restructure can be disruptive for people and business alike, and requires a considered and co-ordinated approach. It can therefore be helpful to bring in an expert to make the most of the opportunities that an acquisition can bring, and minimise the impact on the people in the business. 

‘We’re a people-led business,’ says Mel. ‘So I contacted People Puzzles because our success hinged on ensuring we achieved an alignment quickly and effectively.’

So, in March 2022, People Director Vic Foster was brought in to work with the business leaders and support the acquisition.

Planning ahead was vital, and Vic worked on the logistics in the months leading up to the acquisition, including the development of a new organisational structure that would deliver the business objectives and ensure the acquisition’s success. Aligning working practices between the two businesses was a challenge as the two businesses operated quite differently. ‘I knew we were inheriting a different culture with different ways of working, says Mel. ‘Vic helped us to understand what the key differences were.’

Managing the restructure for future-focused success

Vic laid the groundwork for a consultation on a new operating model. “We felt that this would be empowering for the surgery teams and deliver increased effectiveness and efficiency” says Mel. The proposal included the removal of the Centre Director roles from each surgery and created four new Area Manager roles and expanded the central team – from six to twelve – to provide support in terms of IT, marketing, events, operations, HR and finance.

To ensure the success of this restructure, it was essential that staff were given the opportunity to be heard during the consultation process. ‘We weren’t complacent, we did listen to colleagues,’ Mel continues. ‘Systems and policies migrated both ways between the two businesses, so we were able to gain best practice from each.’

Once the consultation ended, Vic managed the redundancy process for impacted roles and recruited for the unfilled roles. This included a Head of People, to whom Vic handed over a people strategy that aligned to the business plan, with key milestones and KPIs, for the next twelve months.

Keeping internal communications flowing

In any staff consultation process, internal communication is key – and with The Pet Vet’s surgeries now spread out across England, a robust comms strategy was essential.

Vic helped to create and implement a plan of consistent, regular announcements to both businesses to explain the process and the key milestones throughout that process. This was enhanced by frequent touchpoint meetings to keep the communications flowing and make introductions. ‘When we first started, there were lots of Teams and face-to-face meetings to get people acquainted,’ says Mel.

Post-consultation, Vic drew up a new communications plan which currently includes monthly surgery meetings with the area managers to identify challenges and celebrate achievements, plus a monthly staff newsletter to keep everyone in the loop. In addition, Mel makes herself available every Friday for a remote call for anyone wishing to raise any issues or opportunities.  

Embedding new systems and policies to address key challenges 

Before moving out of the business as planned, Vic developed a draft set of policies and procedures, to ensure consistency between all colleagues in ways of working. She also helped migrate all HR processes to the same online platform, upskilled the team on new recruitment processes and instigated a new onboarding process and welcome pack for new colleagues, to improve retention rates. ‘Our biggest challenge is recruiting vets,’ says Mel. ‘It can take up to six months to get new vets in place so it’s crucial to get it right.’ Retention was therefore a crucial aspect to get right, so Vic’s experience here was vital. 

With new colleagues now in post, a new structure in place and surgeries spanning the country, The Pet Vet is now the largest independent vet in the UK with ambitions to grow further. Mel acknowledges the contribution that People Puzzles made in the acquisition’s success. ‘Vic did a brilliant job for us,’ she says. ‘She was an objective ear for us and a good sense checker who made herself available for us to consult with her when needed.  

‘Ultimately, People Puzzles came in with the level of competence we needed for the challenge that we faced.’ 

 If you need someone to take on the people side of a major business acquisition or restructure, our HR experts can hit the ground running. Call People Puzzles on 0345 646 5201 and find out how a part-time People Director can help you take your business to the next level.

People Director, Vic Foster
People Director, Vic Foster

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