Advancing the World of Veterinary Medicine
Covetrus’ national meeting was a chance for team members to celebrate the company’s launch and look forward to shared objectives in 2019 and beyond.
In February, Covetrus celebrated its launch as a newly formed public company, combining two unique and complementary businesses – Henry Schein Animal Health and Vets First Choice. In March, Covetrus team members came together for the first time to reflect on 2018 and look forward to collaborating and driving their mission as one organization.
Vet-Advantage spoke with Georgia Wraight, Senior Vice President and President, Global Prescription Management and Tom Forte, Chief Commercial Officer for Covetrus, North America, about the national meeting, goals moving forward, the organization’s footprint, data privacy and more.
Vet-Advantage: Your national sales meeting in San Antonio was a very positive and upbeat event. Please tell us about the goals of this meeting in terms of coming together as a new unified team that includes software, prescription management and distribution.
Tom Forte: The national meeting was a chance to, first, reflect on the success that we had in 2018. We executed well in 2018 overall, including how we progressed against specific initiatives within our legacy organizations. However, with 2018 now behind us and the merger now complete, we used this chance to lay out our objectives, strategies and tactics for the upcoming year, and how we’re going to get there, and we certainly accomplished that in San Antonio.
This was unique because it was the first time that all three companies in the U.S. came together as one group. This provided us with an opportunity to get to know each other, and then share how we were going to go to market to help our customers thrive and grow. We all have big, healthy businesses, so we wanted to make sure that everyone understands the role they have to play. They each have their core business, but then how do we come together and support each other – specifically, around technology, the prescription management platform, and multi-channel strategies – and how we can help our customers from there. That was one of the primary focuses of the meeting.
And of course we spent a lot of time with our vendor partners. We had a really great day with them, and they were included in our team building event – the bike build. That generated very positive feedback from vendors, and from our own team.
Vet-Advantage: Please share with us what the organization looks like today. How many salespeople are on your team and how many of them are in the United States? What does the U.S. operation look like at this point in time?
Georgia Wraight: Globally, we have more than 5,000 employees, with approximately 100,000 customers. There are also approximately 1,200 sales team members, with 500 based here in the U.S. across the three legacy companies. In the field, there are over 290 between the legacy teams, and then we have an extensive inside sales force across all three legacy companies supporting our practice customers.
Tom Forte: The three business units have distinct structures that remain in place. Right now we are focused on how we get the teams aligned, not from an organizational structure perspective, but a partnering perspective. What are the roles they play in how we go out and help our customer? Who are their teammates in that role?
For instance, our legacy Vets First Choice’s prescription management business has a distinct sales team. We’re leveraging them as experts and specialists around the prescription management platform and our Specialty, or compounding, business. We work with our sales counterparts from legacy HS Veterinary Solutions, for our practice information management system opportunities. We had an alignment before between the legacy Henry Schein technology and supply chain teams where they worked with common teammates. We are replicating that across the three businesses, with the territory manager serving as the face to customer who is then supported by specialists.
Vet-Advantage: Is the national distribution center in Columbus, Ohio, up and running? And when will the Portland, Maine, facility be finished?
Georgia Wraight: In Portland, we’re in the middle of kicking off that build. It’s already underway. We’re aiming for completion of the pharmacy by the end of this year, and then completion of the full build, which would include all the office space, by 2020. The building size in total is about 170,000 square feet, and that encompasses two pharmacies – a high-speed commercial pharmacy, as well as a full compounding pharmacy – and a small distribution center, as well as a stem center for engineering.
Tom Forte: The national distribution service center in Columbus, Ohio, is up and running. That’s just one of our facilities. In the United States, the combined company has 16 strategically located customer facing distribution centers. We have four pharmacy locations, including the one in Maine that Georgia mentioned, and we also have one additional 503b outsourcing facility. Going forward, we have a nice opportunity to optimize our footprint across the U.S. We’re thinking through how we’re going to best leverage our infrastructure to provide our partners, customers, and our customer’s clients the best service possible.
Vet-Advantage: Covetrus has been very vocal about its commitment to the veterinary profession. In particular, how you can help them develop an online strategy, leverage insights in their practices, drive more visits, close the gaps in care and increase compliance. Can you provide further commentary on these subjects, in particular how they can actually grow certain product categories?
Georgia Wraight: Compliance in the veterinary category for core products and services remains low. Unfortunately, the practices themselves have limited insights to know where they stand. In many cases, the systems they use have uncoordinated workflow and struggle to drive client engagement. As small businesses, many find it difficult to be more proactive. Generally speaking, they lack ordinary day-to-day resources to manage all of the complexities of running a small business.
From a prescription management perspective, we’re able to provide a practice with detailed insights into the state of compliance. So, the veterinarian has a view into what that compliance looks like, and also gives them the tools to proactively manage it to deliver better patient care. We’re essentially helping the practice professionalize core aspects of practice management, where they can outsource certain pharmacy and client communication services, which allows the veterinarians to focus on really what they do best – delivering care to pets.
The beauty of our platform is we’ve made it really simple for the veterinarians and their clients to transact on the system, which allows them to streamline the experience and offload a lot of work to us at Covetrus. In that workflow, from the veterinarian’s perspective, it’s much more simplistic, where their engagement can be focused on the pet and pet owner. We take everything else for them.
When a veterinarian joins our platform, it drives an acceleration of revenue, both in-clinic and online, strengthens that client-pet owner relationship, and enhances medical care for pets.
Vet-Advantage: What’s your message been to customers as they get familiar with the new company?
Tom Forte: Our customers operate small but very complex businesses. They went to school to learn to take care of pets, which is their first love. Operating a veterinary practice presents a different set of challenges and requires a focus on non-clinical activities, from human resource type tasks, to IT, marketing, inventory management, and many other things. It is not an easy job.
In today’s environment, their client base and pharmacy business is being eroded by brick-and-mortar and other online retailers. If you were to go into any veterinary practice and see how many faxes they get in a day from some other entity to sign over a prescription, it’s quite remarkable. And it’s not just the loss of that prescription. Now you have someone who is coming in and getting in between that veterinary-client patient relationship. It’s much bigger than just a prescription.
As a new company, we are uniquely positioned to help them with both their in-clinic business as well as their nascent online strategies. We have the legacy distribution-operations business, and that’s important and will be important in the future, and we can help them there. We think we can better leverage our software services, which is our legacy practice management systems. Covetrus is technology-focused, and we’re very committed to making investments, and moving our customers forward. Allowing them to add on the prescription management platform helps fill gaps in care, and provides their patients with better care while helping them compete in the marketplace. We also have specialty pharmacy services for some of the sickest patients. Our complete ecosystem of technology, product and services provides a differentiated value proposition to our customers as we serve as a single entity for all of their practice needs.
Vet-Advantage: Privacy in our data driven world has become an increasingly important issue, not just in professional circles, but on a personal level as well. Please tell us about Covetrus’ policies in terms of privacy, ownership of data, permissions, security of data, ownership of customers, etc.
Tom Forte: It’s a really important topic, and not one that should be run away from. As Georgia mentioned, I don’t think there’s any company in a better position to help inform the profession than we are. What I hope is that people have an informed view, not a view based on what they fear or something they heard offhand and can’t confirm. What I’ve learned coming into the new company, when a veterinarian signs up with us and works with our prescription management platform, I think it’s important to note that veterinarians have full awareness as to what’s done and not done. We are never going to do anything involving their clients without their consent.
Our company is 100 percent dedicated to the veterinary channel. For us to do anything that would alienate us from the customers that we rely on makes no sense.
Georgia Wraight: I want to reiterate one point Tom made and I think it’s important. Part of the onboarding process when you sign up for the global prescription management platform is when a practice enrolls, the enrollment details all of the areas where the veterinarian can participate. If a veterinarian wants client communications they can say yes, if they don’t, they can say no. It’s 100 percent the veterinarian’s choice.
Vet-Advantage: In a busy, rapidly changing world, how can you attract veterinarians to do business with Covetrus?
Georgia Wraight: In the U.S., Covetrus offers a unique opportunity in the market that no other organization can from the provision of in-clinic and online services, allowing the veterinarian to compete against some of the bigger retailers. The combination of the Covetrus North America logistics and deep experience and trusted relationships with their customers, coupled with the software technologies of both global software services, as well as global prescription management/appointment management, is really powerful. We can give the veterinarian the operating system of the future.
It allows us to have just-in-time delivery in-clinic, as well as leveraging that whole network as we move forward to have speed of delivery to the customer and their clients. You’re essentially taking a two-doctor practice and saying to them we can allow your clients to receive these products at the same speed as well-known ecommerce giants. It’s a game-changer for these small clinics – on a cost structure that’s affordable to them. If you look at the holistic way in which we want to operate – not only do we want to provide them with the in-clinic services, but also become that operating system so they know where there patients are, what gaps they have in compliance, how to give them technology solutions to allow them to compete in the 21st century, on terms they’re happy with. That’s what we want to bring to the Covetrus marketplace.
This resonates with independent practices, all the way up to corporate accounts. We do have some unique offerings that we bring to bear for corporate accounts. The platform is scalable at any size, but we have some offerings around supply chain management, appointment management and how we bring together corporate reporting to allow corporate groups to also get those reporting elements that they need.
Covetrus hired Best Corporate Events to facilitate a team build for 680 participants at its National Meeting in San Antonio, Texas on March 6, 2019. Participants included Covetrus sales, marketing, operations, regulatory, procurement, finance and IT as well as supplier partners.
There were a total of 680 participants broken in to 68 groups of 10. Each group built two bikes and a few groups built three bikes. In total, participants built 140 bikes that were donated to a local children’s organization named Child Advocates San Antonio (CASA), whose mission is to recruit, train, and supervise court-appointed volunteer Advocates who provide constancy for abused and neglected children and youth while advocating for services and placement in safe and permanent homes (https://www.casa-satx.org/)
“At Covetrus we believe it is important to support the communities in which we live and work,” says Tracy Howard, vice president, marketing. “For the bike build program we partnered with CASA: Child Advocates San Antonio to provide 140 bicycles, helmets and locks to children recovering from abuse and neglect. It was a fantastic experience combining teamwork, competition and fun in support of a great mission.”