Efficiency and creativity are the two words that come to mind when chatting to WA based vet, Zoe Lenard. Zoe is one of three owners of Animalius, a fully equipped small animal hospital that opened its doors just three weeks before COVID-19. Her story includes one of adapting to change in these strange times, but it’s also one of success and inspiration.

After four years in general practice, Zoe chose to specialise in radiology. Together with three partners, she established her first private practice which was one of the first large referral hospitals in Perth. Twelve years later, she found herself with itchy feet – she had recently turned 40, a coincidence perhaps – and ready for something different.

Clearly passionate about her work, Zoe comments “it is so rewarding to get a diagnosis. To use x-rays and ultrasound to work out what’s going on.” And she’s been able to extend this passion by joining forces with a new group of partners to set up a new practice that is focused on getting the best outcomes for animals. “We are focused on empowering every member of the team to do the best they can, which translates to the best treatment for animals and their owners,” explains Zoe.

Finding focus

Vet practices are demanding businesses. The open hours are long and the ability to work flexibly can be challenging. As a mother of two, Zoe has had to be creative at times to build flexible working options into her practice, both for her own working arrangements and those around her.

“When I had children, I was fortunate enough to be the boss. But I realised if I can’t make it work for me, then who will it work for,” reflects Zoe.

“It’s been important to preserve family time. I’ve had to compartmentalise. It’s hard when you’re starting a new business to not be available at all times. I’ve had to try hard not to check my emails on weekends!” she says.

The ability to focus is another important ingredient for success when it comes to juggling it all. Zoe shares, “In my role I’m able to be quite focused. It’s dependent on your individual circumstances but thanks to a supportive husband and the use of services and assistance around me, I am able to be present during my family time and focused on work when I’m at work.”

Work and play

In addition to a thriving practice and active family, Zoe still finds the time to pursue professional interests and a passion for the performing and visuals arts, which she shares with her husband.

Zoe is heavily involved in the Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists, which has 3,800 members across Australia and New Zealand. Zoe has been on the National Council since 2016 and President since 2018, as well as previously sitting on the Board of Examiners. This takes up a lot of time but gives her great insight into the whole profession.

“As a small animal radiologist, my clinical exposure is limited to my areas of specialisation with small animal medicine and surgery. Through the college, I have been able to engage with and represent a much larger cross section of the profession – not just specialists – from clinic and non-clinical disciplines” says Zoe.

Zoe’s love for the arts was evident the moment she began to talk about her hobbies. From philanthropic engagement involving buying the works of emerging artists to helping galleries to display or show performing art, Zoe and her family have immersed themselves in the community.

“It is such a joy to meet local artists who interpret the world in ways we don’t even think of! I am always reminded when I meet creative people to expand my mind beyond the vortex of clinical work,” expresses Zoe.

So who are her favourites? “There are so many local artists that I love. You tend to collect who you know. It’s about finding and appreciating the art. Being able to pause and reflect” she explains.

Owning your own business

“What a gift to work together” was one of the many ways in which Zoe described the dynamic between her current business partners and herself. “We look at what we do, reflect, be creative and see how we can do things differently” she explains.

Establishing a new practice and then facing COVID-19 head on was frightening for the business owners. Unsure how things would pan out, Zoe describes how the team sat down, conducted a risk analysis and determined how they would move forward without being fearful of it.

“One of the biggest challenges was communicating clearly. We couldn’t be afraid to say something that may not sit well with the other. We had to be honest, listen to each other’s perspectives and be open to change,” describes Zoe.

Having a partnership, helped ease the burden. “We have been able to spread the load. It’s very hard to do things all alone. It’s a great opportunity to share and get ideas from one another. I always remember the smartest people in the room are the people around you” says Zoe.

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