Franchise That! Franchising as an Expansion Strategy

23 min
Season 1
Listen directly on:

Dr. Ivan Zak and Ryan Leech welcome Rivers Morrell, the CEO of Vet Marketing Pro and COO of easyvet, to chat about franchising in the veterinary domain.

Topics discussed:

  • The importance of having a consistent platform with all data points together;
  • Growth opportunities in the veterinary consolidation market;
  • Franchising as a turnkey model;
  • Creating a work-life balance for franchisees and front-line staff;
  • easyvet’s plans for future growth by geography

Speakers

Rivers Morrell is the CEO of Vet Marketing Pro, he's also the Owner/Investor, as well as the COO of easyvet, which is a franchise group of clinics. He holds a bachelor's degree of science in Political Science and Government from the University of California in San Diego. On a personal side of things, he previously founded a mobile app platform in a restaurant space that culminated in a platform deal with Google. He loves technology and data and how it automates our lives and helps us make better decisions. He wrote the book, Google my business for Vet: Marketing Your Veterinary Practice Online.

Transcript

Ivan-Zak
Dr. Ivan Zak

Hi everybody, and welcome to Consolidate that! This is the next episode. We have a guest today, which is very exciting. Ryan, how are you today?

Ryan Leech, Director of Sales
Ryan Leech

I am doing great. I’m really excited to hear from the wonderful guest that we’ve got. We’ve got, a smart guy who I know we’ve both have learned a lot from already, so I’m looking forward to sharing it with everybody too

Ivan-Zak
Dr. Ivan Zak

Exactly. So today we’re going to talk about marketing at scale at the groups and consolidation in the veterinary domain. And we have a guest that I previously met on the Veterinary Innovation Podcast. It’s my friend Rivers Morrell. He is the CEO of Vet Marketing Pro, he’s also Owner/Investor, as well as the COO of easyvet, which is a franchise group of clinics and he holds a degree of bachelor of science in political science and government from the University of California in San Diego. On a personal side of things, he previously founded a mobile app platform in a restaurant space that culminated in a platform deal with Google.
He loves technology and data and how it automates our lives and helps us make better decisions. He wrote the book, Google my business for Vet: Marketing Your Veterinary Practice Online. He’s married to his wife, Rita, who is the president of Vet Marketing Pro for five years. And they have an 18 months old boy named Rivers V and they live in Knoxville, Tennessee. Rivers, welcome to the show. It’s a pleasure to have you here and see you again

Rivers Morrell
Rivers Morrell

Yes. It’s a pleasure to be on the show. I’m really looking forward to chatting with you. I enjoyed our conversations last time.

Ivan-Zak
Dr. Ivan Zak

Excellent. So the reason why I want to talk to you, because last time when we spoke, we talked about your technology and how we can collect and gather the information after you deploy your marketing campaigns in Google and how they’re returning to the vet hospital. But from what I remember, you were concerned about not having the full closed loop. And there were a couple of conversations that you were having in the industry, how to create the closed-loop on how the customers convert and the hospital level. So why don’t you share where you at now?

Rivers Morrell
Rivers Morrell

So, yeah, last we’ve talked, Ivan, we were wanting to take all of this rich data and combine it together. So not just our marketing data, right. Other people are consolidated and looking at the marketing level on an enterprise level. We wanted to combine that with phone call data and with PIMS data to really get some rich views.
And so for us, you know, we were working hard on the solution, but after the podcast with you, we started a couple of conversations. One of them was with Rhapsody, they’re an amazing tech team and do a partnership with Rhapsody. We were actually able to take this software and automate it. And so we are now looking at all data points together, not just marketing, but PIMS data.
We are actually now able to determine did leads become clients and the ones that became clients how much money did they actually spend? So we’re actually automating ROI calculations now through this partnership and through the data.

Ivan-Zak
Dr. Ivan Zak

Okay, awesome. So if I’m understanding you correctly, what you had before in the Vet Marketing Pro, that was sort of your outbound marketing campaigns, that’s your ad spend, that’s your, whatever you were sending out there and paying for.
And the biggest concern that I think that veterinarians have when they step into this marketing era, they don’t know whether they worked or not. And what you’ve been able to do, by having a consistent platform within your hospitals, which is Rhapsody, when this client comes into the clinic, you can reconcile which specific campaign and how much money you spend on it because you close the loop on the entire system. Is that correct?

Rivers Morrell
Rivers Morrell

That’s correct. So we’re actually able to see here is when we run an ad and when someone clicks on that ad, it goes through to the website or wherever they might go, we are dynamically tracking that phone number that brings in the lead. And then beforehand, what we were doing is we were doing nightly downloads with the PIMS data and then matching the phone numbers with the PIMS data. With the Rhapsody partnership, we’ve been done one in data ingestion, and it does all this automatically.
So we’re now matching that phone call with the PIMS data to see,
a) Did they become a client?
b) How much money?
We are now calculating ROI live in real-time to the penny in terms of what is our ads been bringing on the backend. And through that, we have closed the loop, but primarily we were doing the loop manually.
Ivan, so we’ve now automated this loop and it’s fully automated and it is closed now through the partnership with Rhapsody.

Ryan Leech, Director of Sales
Ryan Leech

That’s amazing, Rivers. Cause I know getting to a couple of pieces to talk to each other is difficult, but having a network of clinics, all pulling together from different marketing areas is really unique.
And so you guys are using this within the other business that you’re with, that we mentioned as well, which is easyvetclinic. And I know that you have your locations in Texas and I enjoy that being the Texas boy on the podcast here. So I always appreciate some local Texas business. But do you have Rhapsody across the board at all of your easyvet clinics?
And what does that look like for you? How does that role at work?

Rivers Morrell
Rivers Morrell

You’re using Rhapsody across all of the clinics right now, primarily for us, we want a consistent experience and we want the same data points in the same interpretation of the data across the board. All clinics are using Rhapsody.
But the other thing that we’re doing with these data points is it’s one thing to look at it in a dashboard, but it’s another thing to then say, “Hey, I want this team to look at this data every day at 8:00 AM. I want this team to look at this data every day at 10:00 PM. And I want this team to look at weekly and monthly summaries of data.”.
So, since all the data points are there. They actually have built their platform on top of a BI engine called Metabase. We can actually then start setting up what data we want to look at and what sequences. So I’m getting automated reports that have extrapolations of data summaries so that we can start making decisions early on.
And we do not only have the dashboards to look at the data, but we are automating the touchpoints that send out the data to everyone based upon what we think they should look at.

Ivan-Zak
Dr. Ivan Zak

So cool. So yeah, that’s awesome, Rivers. For the listeners that are not familiar with easyvet, can you tell us a little bit about this network and what this, you know, I keep using the word consolidation?
I tend to use it interchangeably between the different business models, which is acquisition, building new, what is easyvet and what are you offering to the market?

Rivers Morrell
Rivers Morrell

Yeah. So easyvet is a really unique offering. So there are two, a couple of different ways that easy vet is disrupting this market.
The first is we’re franchising. So we want to make practice ownership available and easy and affordable for vets and anyone else that wants to open a clinic. We franchise, we have a model and this model is a turnkey model. They pay a fee and they get access to our systems and tools. So we’re really the first ones to offer this model in this space.
The other thing that’s really unique for us is we’re not a wellness vaccine clinic and we’re not a full service. We see about 75% sick, 25% wellness, but we’re not doing surgeries. Because of that, our flexibility with our schedules, we take walk-ins. And so we’re trying to come right down the middle, but without the surgeries, our startup costs are lower.
Also in addition to that, we have much lower break evens on our monthly. All of this is part of trying to solve a work-life balance. Work-life balance is something we’re not wanting just to solve for the industry, we want to solve it for us. When you’re working in one of our models, you’re going home in the evening, you’re at home in the morning with your kids. There’s no, on-calls, there are no overnights. Because you’re not doing the surgeries you’re not taking anything big and bulky in your brain home. And you’re not taking something to worry about at home either. This works really well for these people that want this amazing work-life balance, because of the way the model is built.
We’ve got 8 clinics open right now. There’s 8 in construction. There’s like 25 more. I think we just signed our 30th franchisee. So we’re going through rapid growth right now at the model. Every one of them is a de novo. We have really figured out the landscape for opening needs de novo, some part of it is with this marketing.
We can really see what’s working and what does it work? So that’s a little bit, Ivan, about the kind of what we’re doing at easyvet and why it’s unique.

Ivan-Zak
Dr. Ivan Zak

I agree with you, you know, that not having surgeries provides a lot of opportunity for the practice owner and for the general organization that you could have real predictability in the revenue. Because surgery itself, you know, you can spray a cat in 10 minutes, maybe, but to prepare for surgery, to recovery post-surgical the whole or set up instruments and everything else, then there’s an undetermined period of time. And then depending on how quick the team is, and who’s working there, that’s usually unpredictable. So when you’re not having the surgery and we discussed that before in your workflow, then you’re really can predict your revenue based on how you’re utilizing your appointment time per exam rooms that you have. So you can really understand your full capacity of the clinics based on the number of exam rooms and the length of your appointment. Is that something that you’re kind of seen as a predictability factor?

Rivers Morrell
Rivers Morrell

Yeah. You know, I spent, it’s funny, I’ve worked on other projects where I spent my time figuring out how to get more business in and what we spent our time is how to optimize schedule.
That’s going to pass capacity. Right. You’ve nailed it. So because of that predictability, we know we’re trying to get 3.75 appointments per hour. And right now we are figuring out how do we open our days up a little bit more. There’s a lot of business out there. And by just opening up the schedules more, understanding when we can double book, it’s a great problem to have, right.
How to go to a capacity and beyond capacity. But that’s what we spend a lot of our time working on, but that’s all possible because of that fact, we don’t have the variables of these surgery times or anything like that in our day.

Ivan-Zak
Dr. Ivan Zak

Yeah, that’s amazing. That brings me back to the memories of Smart Flow, where I was geeking out on how to optimize the entire appointment.
And what a lot of people are thinking about is that to optimize your appointment is what you dedicate per appointment slot. But then people are saying, well, it’s a 20-minute appointment. And then they will book three of these an hour, but they don’t account for what happens before and after they go into the exam room and they don’t think about the rest of the workflow.
What happens upfront are people checked in is their information as you know, dialed in when they walk in. And then how long does it take to write the medical records after that? So when you’re sort of gauging all of that, then you need to understand your factor of the doctors per number of technicians in the clinic.
And they hired the number between the veterinarian and the technician. So more technicians per veterinarian. That’s how you get through more appointments quicker because those 20-minute chunks are really for the veterinarian to engage with the pet and everything else that happens around it is really, you know, a variable that you need to dial in on the processes, which I was doing with Smart Flow.
So another question that I have is, we always talk about the value creation plan of the consolidator or the group. The value creation plan in our terminology, as we define it is basically what do you do best off to you connect these businesses together and what is your core competency? So you execute on that well to create value for the investors.
So the interesting part here for me is that a lot of consolidators that acquire practices first, they buy these different cultures that they integrate together, and then they need to standardize this culture across the organization. So there is a value alignment, which is really hard to do. And then after they stabilize these clinics emotionally after their owner, just sold their business with the entire team so there’s that breakdown of the community. And then after that, they need to start implementing these value creation plan items, or some, people call them, growth levers to improve productivity. What I love about your model is that you created the entire marketing platform and business, and you’re the core specialist and the marketing for veterinarians.
And then as you’re building out these practices, your growth lever is created. That’s your core competency to do marketing for clinics. So that’s embedded into the model. So when you’re building one of these, you’re not only built in a clinic, but you’re building it with the process. You have the marketing established.
So all these promises that a lot of consolidators do to the clinics, they’re there inside of the offering. When you partner with franchisees, is that correct?

Rivers Morrell
Rivers Morrell

Yeah, that’s exactly it. It’s almost, you know, I’d worked on de novo and greenfields before. You’re right, we are capitalizing. We’re trying to take, what is the best about doing a de novo and it’s just that, that we can take these systems and push them down more effectively. We’re not having to do the cultural realignment on each opening or anything like that. We’re trying to create work-life balances for our franchisees, but we’re also doing that for the clinics themselves and for our internal operational culture too. We do all of our roll of same with develop this rollout marketing plan, that’s plug and play in essence. And so each time that we’re opening a new clinic, we are just using that, that existing centralized strategy and pushing that down to the clinic at that point.
So it’s been very, you know, a lot of people say de novos are tough for us. We are capitalizing on the benefits of doing the de novos. Yes, there might be some arbitrage in some of the negatives, but we’re quickly overcoming those through centralized systems.

Ryan Leech, Director of Sales
Ryan Leech

It’s really interesting as you’re looking at the idea of building a franchise model and a de novo clinics that you’re able to be a little bit more unique in the way that you’re choosing who fits into that model, who you helped start locations with and everything like that. If someone’s listening to this, I think one of our goals is to be a great source of information about what’s available out there, who would be the perfect person that they listen to this, and they say, “I need to call Rivers. I need to start an easyvet location.”.

Rivers Morrell
Rivers Morrell

Yeah, so two people. So the first is going to be a doctor. That has worked at a corporate group for a long time and wants to make their own way. It can be a younger doctor that maybe is nervous that thought they had to go work at a corporate group for a long time.
We’ve got everything. We’ve got the financial partners, we’ve got the banking, we’ve got the systems. We just need doctors that want to take that first step for themselves. And we’ve got the tools to help make them successful. Most of the time I’ve had doctors and they don’t think that they can get qualified to open the clinic or they’re missing this or this.
Every single one of those times, all we need is a will. We’re going to provide them all the support to make sure they’re successful. So doctors are one, the other, we’re also seen a lot of investors now wanting to open clinics. We’re seeing a lot of franchise investors from other pet-related franchises now coming in and wanting to open veterinary clinics.
So the investor that had wanted to open the clinic, but was nervous and they want more of a turnkey model to reduce their exposure and risks. We fit the table for them imperfect, for the DVM that has been nervous are always wanting to have a clinic. We help take that step and ensure their progression forward to success along the way.

Ivan-Zak
Dr. Ivan Zak

So that’s awesome. So tell me, for me sitting up North where it’s cold in Canada, and what’s your planning in terms of geography, are you all around States? Are you going North? What is the plan there?

Rivers Morrell
Rivers Morrell

Currently we’re in the United States, we are exploring a couple of different overseas relationships right now for individuals that are wanting to open clinics in other countries, we haven’t officially declared any markets that we’re interested in going in yet. But we’ve had people reach out to us from Ukraine. And we’ve also had people reach out to us from Canada. A big group out there that backs a lot of different franchises. So we’re seeing a lot of interest right now. We’re focused on the United States. That’s where our tools are, our systems are, and our resources.
And then we are analyzing other markets based on how we can bring our economies of scale into those markets.

Ryan Leech, Director of Sales
Ryan Leech

I’d tell you, Rivers, be careful going to the Ukrainians and the Canadians. They use these funny measurements of everything. I’m always trying to tell them how cold it is here, and they keep giving me these, these random numbers of Celsius.
So I don’t know. You might want to careful with them. They’re tricky.

Rivers Morrell
Rivers Morrell

And I am very careful.

Ivan-Zak
Dr. Ivan Zak

Yeah. All right. Well, I think that’s very interesting on the model there. So when you were saying about investors, that’s another question that I have. As an investor, then it’s someone who invests into the new build-outs they’re technically funding the operation and then they search for a veterinarian who wants to work in there and they just hire them as employees. Is that the model?

Rivers Morrell
Rivers Morrell

Yeah, I have the clinics down in Dallas and that’s exactly the case. I don’t live in Dallas. I’m even, I’m here working right now. I’m in Knoxville. So I was the one that put up the money.
I own the clinics and you’re right. I found a doctor that was a younger doctor who actually a Banfield doctor. And he wants to eventually open his own clinic. So he’s actually working right now for me. He’s in his first year, I’d probably be two years and they were going to help him open his clinic. So he’s actually someone that worked his way up from tech to be a doctor, has student debt, was working at one of the big ones, and wants to open his own clinic.
So this was his first step was to come to learn the ways. And so, but we’re actually, we’re having a meeting with him in the next day or two to help him take his first steps to open his own clinic too. So it was an interesting dynamic, and I’ll help him out, I’ll be a partner with him as he opens up his clinic too.

Ivan-Zak
Dr. Ivan Zak

That’s an amazing opportunity for the new grads and for everybody who wants to experience that. The entry point is not as difficult as into the established practice. Cost-wise, I don’t know if that’s something you share or not, but it’s not as significant as buying a clinic.

Rivers Morrell
Rivers Morrell

Right. Yeah, we’re taking a lot less. So typically you could get into an easyvet from New York from 200 to 250, that’s all of your expenditures. That’s either your working capital to get up over the hump so, much less than any other you get. We’re also an approved SBA franchise. So we’re on the franchise Rolodex for the SBA. Which means the SBA is turnkey for anyone that wants to open, whether you’re an investor or a doctor, the funding’s basically there for anyone. Because when you’re an approved franchise or on the SBA registry, you get all sorts of lending perks for people that want to open up a franchise.

Ryan Leech, Director of Sales
Ryan Leech

Yeah, I know looking at some franchises before, that’s a big thing to be able to streamline that process. I know. And that startup cost is pretty amazing. Even thinking about non-brick and mortar locations of businesses, you guys are nipping at the heels of what some of them are even looking at.
So that’s amazing that you’re able to get it up and running at those prices.

Rivers Morrell
Rivers Morrell

Look at what corporate consolidation is. It’s basically bringing economies of scale into something to drop expenses, to create more margins. That’s the whole model is that for easyvet. Smaller footprint, smaller equipment, smaller staff, smaller everything. We’re creating a margin so big right now because we’re dropping the expenses so much.

Ryan Leech, Director of Sales
Ryan Leech

So you’re consolidating the clinic, not consolidating clinics.

Rivers Morrell
Rivers Morrell

Exactly, we consolidated the clinic through economies of scale versus clinics. That’s a great analogy.

Ivan-Zak
Dr. Ivan Zak

I love that. So let me circle back to other things that you scale across the organization. So we talked about marketing, there are the same systems.
You’re using your Rhapsody. There’s also Rhapsody analytics, which is their new product that helps you to aggregate the data and look at it. What else is something that you’re able to consolidate within the clinic and to make as sort of the service that is scalable.

Rivers Morrell
Rivers Morrell

So, you know, one of the things is our pricing inventory and auditing strategy.
So we are developing a strategy for our franchisees, a competitive pricing strategy that competitive pricing strategy is all tied together into auditing and an ordering strategy with ultimate goal of getting our cost of goods 15, 14, 13, 12% potentially. I’ve got an inventory backroom here looking at me, but you know, we wanted to be able to do that for the single clinics they’re not doing that.
Cost of goods is a corporate strategy, right? You don’t find individual clinics. So we’ve taken that cost of goods strategy and put it into turnkey and put it in a scale. And the individual franchisees use that strategy.

Ivan-Zak
Dr. Ivan Zak

That’s amazing because those numbers are not something that many of the big ones are arriving to after they really-really turned it down to, you know, to a really well old organization.
So that’s quite an advantage over those.

Rivers Morrell
Rivers Morrell

It goes back to what you’re talking about, the culture shift, when you acquire versus when you go de novo, it is hard to push that down, right. But when you start day one and you’re ordering correctly, you’re tracking inventory correctly and you’re auditing correctly.
You have a much better shot of holding those costs of goods down and getting, I’m actually out here working on an inventory run right now. So we are wanting to drive the cost to goods, eat them lower. And we’re doing that through ensuring that we’re at 30-day cycles on all of our shelf products, etc.
So that’s a strategy that we have developed at the group level. And then the franchisees are utilizing those learnings each time they open.

Ivan-Zak
Dr. Ivan Zak

That’s amazing. Well, I think that our time is up. It’s a, it’s been a pleasure, Rivers, to talk to you about your new organization and as well, how you apply in your previous organization, and in your new organization all the knowledge that you bring from there.
Thank you for participating in this. Hopefully, this was helpful to our listeners and there are things that they can learn from it.

Rivers Morrell
Rivers Morrell

Yeah. Thank you all. Always the conversation is great.

Ryan Leech, Director of Sales
Ryan Leech

Thanks, Rivers.

Ivan-Zak
Dr. Ivan Zak

Cheers.