”This is why we work, Mama.”
Monica Bates works from a strong sense of why. She shares the above quote from her husband, John, as she describes their work at Imperial Animal Hospital in Imperial, Missouri. She speaks not only of providing veterinary care, but also of the influence of veterinary medicine to the public, as well as the importance of growing a team who cares about the work they do and are supported in their careers.
“Veterinarians have changed society,” Monica says. “We can live in close proximity with animals because of veterinarians. Our staff takes pride in working in a critical job.”
John and Monica have owned the hospital since the late 1980s; Monica manages the practice as well. They met on the day John learned he’d been accepted to the University of Missouri veterinary school and they’ve worked, hand in hand, ever since.
Imperial Animal Hospital means “Teamwork”
Theirs is a story of a husband and wife team working together to build a business established on exceptional veterinary care and a culture steeped in a passion for courtesy, education, and care for people.
“Back in vet school, I was part of the veterinary auxiliary, run by the wives of the veterinary professors,” Monica explains. “We learned how to have tea with farmers’ wives, how to hold animals, and how to buy insurance, how to support our husbands as veterinarians. It was right on the verge of women getting to do everything. What a blossoming moment.”
John worked as a veterinarian at Imperial, purchasing the practice in 1986, right before the birth of the couple’s son. Shortly after, John asked Monica to manage the business side of the hospital.
In the 34 years since, Imperial Animal Hospital grew from a two-doctor practice to one with six veterinarians and over 60 employees. Imperial will open a new facility in early March with ten exam rooms and over 12,000 square feet of space.
The secret of their success lies in the cultivation and education of the Imperial team.
“This is a beautiful team effort,” Monica explains. “Sure, I can do everything that needs to get done around here, aside from being a veterinarian. But I always tell my team: my job is to make your job as easy as possible.”
She doesn’t micromanage. She delegates, a lot. She finds the strength in people and trains them to be their best, shutting down the office for trainings, seminars, and meetings. From their first day on the job, Monica makes it her job to care for and support her employees.
“We go through the employee handbook, page by page. I’m not strict, but I want them to know I support them,” Monica says. “I’m a good mom and a good grandma. But you know, you’ve still got to be a mom. I’ve applied that same philosophy at work.”
The Problem Solver
Imperial’s is an environment of openness and honesty. If employees face a problem, they bring it to Monica.
“It’s my problem if I haven’t trained you to the best of your ability,” Monica says. “We have systems and checklists and you learn the checklist. You learn that two plus two always equals four.”
Monica stresses the importance of education and training in developing a strong team. She encourages employees to work together, to train and teach each other, and to respect each other’s abilities and talents.
“The secret sauce is love and culture. Through learning and talking, our people meld together,” she says. “There’s true love and companionship at our hospital.”
As the hospital expands to its larger building in March, Monica likens the practice to the classic “This is the church” fingerplay for kids.
“Here’s the church and these are the people. Sure, we’ve got a beautiful new building, but it’s the people who make Imperial Animal Hospital,” Monica says. “My husband and our other vets get the joy of practicing veterinary medicine thanks to our support team.”
With the larger space, Monica will be able to schedule patients with less wait-time for appointments in order to give clients and their pets the quality care they expect and deserve.
“If it wasn’t for clients, we wouldn’t have this practice,” Monica says. “It’s the little things that really bind the clients – standing when they come in the door, carrying dog food to their car, loading cat carriers – it all makes a difference.”
No one is left behind.
In addition to continual doses of common courtesy, Monica and her staff work to provide across-the-board top-notch care for their clients.
“We strive for the same level of care for everyone, animal and human,” Monica explains. “No one is left behind.”
Imperial’s commitment to customer service means that Imperial’s clients are loyal. While Monica and her team utilize a social media strategy for their marketing efforts, Monica says that beyond the initial share of their Vet500 nomination, she didn’t ask customers to vote for Imperial – they did so on their own.
“We are blown away to be noticed by our customers and to be recognized on the Vet500,” Monica says. “I am so grateful.”
Serving a clientele of faithful customers is one of the joys of Monica’s work. The other, undoubtedly, is the ability to work alongside her family, including her son, who joined the practice as a vet.
“It’s been very fun,” Monica says. “We are blessed beyond belief.”