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Veterinary Hospitals, Are you struggling to find team members? You are not alone.

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I wrote this article for the SDCVMA Intercom August 2021 edition

Over the past year, I have been reading a lot about the labor shortage in the US.  At first it seemed to be focused on the industries that were forced to close due to COVID-19, such as hotels, retail stores, and restaurants.  But over time it has become apparent that few industries would be spared the challenges of finding qualified applicants, including ours. 

A few years ago, I would receive 50-100 resumes in a month applying to a veterinary receptionist job ad and now I am lucky if I get 10 qualified applicants.  I work with hospitals all over the country and the message is clear, we need more veterinary professionals, and we can’t find them.

The veterinary profession is no stranger to being understaffed and overworked.  I think many of us thrive on this and use working hard like a badge of honor.  So, what changed?  Why are we not able to weather this storm as easily as we have in the past? The answer is simple, we are busier and getting overwhelmed by the yearlong deluge of work.  The need to hire new team members is dire and we are fighting to survive daily. 

There are a lot of theories as to why veterinary hospitals are busier, but I think the biggest one is that we are seeing more patients.  Many hospitals have had record breaking income over the past year because the pets don’t stop coming.  According to the APPA, pet ownership increased from 67% of US households to 70% in 2020 which is a huge jump, especially when hospitals are having difficulty hiring more team members.  It is also even harder when we can’t find the doctors to examine the patients. 

What can we do about it? There is no “one thing” that will magically give you qualified candidates.  Hospital owners and managers are going to have to work at it and might have to change their approach to recruiting. 

Here are 6 things that you should think about when you are looking for qualified candidates.

1.  Review your job ad.  Today’s candidate needs to be sold on why they should work for you.  Gone are the days of posting a position to tell people about the job and expecting them to apply.  Now you need to sell the candidate on what makes your hospital better than the one down the street.  Do you have good benefits? Do you have a good environment and culture?  Do you have a flexible schedule?  Candidates need to know what is “in it for them” when they apply for a job, not just what the businesses needs are. 

2.  Depending on the positions you are hiring for; you might want to post ads in multiple places.  If you are hiring for a doctor, use the AVMA, CVMA, SCVMA, Indeed, Linked In, and even some FB groups.  You never know where a doctor is going to look.  Don’t stop at just placing an ad, you need to email candidates directly through the resume searches on the different job boards. Sometimes people are not actively looking and just posted their resume.  So, contacting them directly just might find you a candidate.  And don’t forget about the Career Fairs! Places like Western University, UC Davis, the AVMA and many other vet schools have in person and online career fairs where you can connect with 4th year veterinary students and current veterinarians.  Recruiting for an RVT or vet assistant?  Use technician students! We have a lot of veterinary technician and assistant schools here in Southern California including Pima Medical Institute, Stanbridge University, Carrington College, Platt College, Mt. San Antonio College, Cal Poly Pomona, Animal Behavioral College, Penn Foster, and other online schools.  Reach out to one in your area to see if you can become part of their externship program and use your hospital as a location they send their students to.  Remember, these students are potential employees if they work well with your hospital.  I have hired a lot of students over the years and ended up having 4 additional RVT’s at my first practice as a result.

3.  Hiring for a receptionist?  If you are not getting any experienced applicants sometimes you need to look outside the industry.  I look for candidates who have a lot of customer service experience, this shows me that they like people.  I also look for candidates who worked somewhere that is a fast-paced kind of environment.  Restaurants, coffee shops, hair salons, and busy call centers are excellent indicators of these types of jobs.  I interviewed a candidate recently who worked as a receptionist/hair stylist in hair salons for the last 10 years and wants to work in the vet field.  When I talked to her about her experiences there were a lot of similarities between what she did at a busy salon and what she would do at a very busy 8 doctor animal hospital (minus the medicine).  Don’t overlook them just because they don’t have veterinary experience. 

4.  Respond to applicants quickly.  Almost every hospital I know is hiring for at least one position right now so you cannot afford a delay in your response.  Try to respond within 24 hours of their application.  Unfortunately, I have had several hospitals lose exceptional candidates because they waited too long to contact them.  You should also review your application process and if it is hard or complicated, this might discourage them from applying.

5.  Do you offer a good salary & good benefits? Candidates are looking for higher pay and they are not afraid to ask.  Veterinary hospitals tend to offer lower salaries than our human health counterparts as well as other industries.  I would recommend that you review your hourly rates and make sure they are competitive with other hospitals.  It is easy to go on Indeed and look at what rates other veterinary hospitals are listing in their ads.  Do you have competitive benefits?  In addition to the required sick time many hospitals have vacation, health insurance, retirement plans, paid CE, paid licenses, veterinary discounts, and employee assistance programs for mental health.  A good work environment and flexible schedules are also something that today’s candidates really care about.  Mental health and self-care have become a hot topic and people are more aware than ever that they do not want to work 45+ hours a week. 

6. Take the time to properly interview them.  Even though you might be inclined to hire “a warm body” most of the time you will regret that.  If you are not completely sure that someone is the right fit, they probably are not.  I recommend doing working interviews with every applicant so that you can ask them to show you the skills they said they had during the interview.  Make sure you pay them for their time, at least the minimum wage in your city is what is required if they do any work for you.

There is no “full proof” way to guarantee you will find a great candidate, interview them, and hire them.  As a recruiter I have had many candidates change their mind and stay at their current place of employment, accept another position, or not end up liking the hospital they applied to.  The best you can do is find a system that works for you and your hospital.  And if you get really overwhelmed reach out to a local recruiter to help you. 

Melissa Tompkins, BS, CVPM, PHRca, CCFP

About the author,

Melissa is a small business owner in Southern California, owning South Coast Veterinary Management Solutions.  She works as a veterinary management consultant focusing on helping veterinary hospitals, practice owners, and their team members be successful with their business.

Are you ready to welcome clients back into your veterinary hospital? Or is it giving you and your team anxiety?


March of 2020 brought a lot of changes to our lives.  One of the most significant changes for veterinary hospitals was that we were encouraged to close our doors to clients and start doing “curbside care” to accommodate social distancing requirements.  This was very complicated and difficult, but we adapted.  We created ways of communicating to our co-workers and clients while they were not inside the building.  It took us time, but we did it.  And a lot of hospitals have continued to do “curbside care” to this day. 

Now, it looks like we might have to change again.  With many states and counties changing their COVID-19 restrictions in the coming weeks, veterinary hospitals are being compelled to let clients inside the building.  There are some hospitals who never completely closed their doors and have had clients in their building throughout the pandemic, but others have been tightly restricted for the past 15 months.  The idea of having clients in the building again brings stress and fear to some, while others embrace the idea. 

Here in California, our state has proposed June 15th  as the state’s “reopening” date and they may align the mask guidance with the CDC, potentially lifting the mask restrictions.  This change might cause challenges for veterinary hospitals who have gotten used to clients being outside and wearing a facial covering.

6 things that veterinary managers and practice owners should think about before opening their doors to clients.   

1. When are you going to re-open?  Many CA hospitals are opening their doors in June coordinating with our state’s “reopening” plan. I would pick a date that works for you and your team and let your clients know.  Communicating to clients about your plan is going to be very important.  Just like us, they got used to parking lot service, so they might need time to adjust to coming back inside.  I recommend that you notify your clients by email, social media, and update your website. Corinth Veterinary Clinic, in Hickory Creek Tx has updated their website to include their new COVID protocols. They are informing their clients by email as well as social media to let them know about the changes that the hospital will be doing over the next few weeks. Some hospitals originally put signage in front of their front doors to tell people that they went curbside.  Those hospitals might want to put up new signage to announce their new COVID protocols and what the clients can expect.  Just like many restaurants who put up banners to let customers know that they were now open for indoor dinning. 

2. Are you going to do it all at once or in stages? You might want to think about what is easier for you and what will be the most beneficial for your hospital.  The Animal Hospital of Huntington Beach, in Huntington Beach, CA decided they are going to do it in stages and allow the clients who are picking up food and prescriptions to come in first.  Their hospital manager Leslie Boudreau, BASVT, RVTg, CVPM, PHR, PHRca, SPHR, said that “their phone lines are out of control”, and they are hoping that this will take pressure of the team members to answer the phones without adding a lot cleaning work onto the team.  Some hospitals are going to allow clients with patient exams to come in first and have clients who are picking up food and prescriptions continue doing parking lot service.  Some hospitals will be limiting the amount of people in the lobby at one time.  For those hospitals who have smaller exam rooms, they might be limiting the amount of people per patient

3.  Many hospitals will be offering a “hybrid” concierge curbside service for those clients who still want it.  Many clients may be fearful of coming inside and being in close quarters with other people or they might be undergoing some type of medical treatment that puts them at a higher risk for contracting COVID .  Offering a “hybrid” service allows your patients to still receive the care they need while keeping your clients safe.

4. Have a plan for the mask.  Are you going to require your clients to wear a mask while inside your hospital?  Several states are discussing lifting their mask mandates or like in Texas, they have already lifted it.  This might make it more complicated to hold clients accountable to wearing a mask if it is not required by your state or local government. You need to come with a plan for how you are going to advise your clients of this rule.  You also need to think about who is going to hold them accountable to the rule.  Is it going to be your receptionist or front desk person?  Will you have masks available for those people who do not have one?  Will you still require your team members to wear a mask? Even if your state has lifted the mandate and the team member has been vaccinated?  You should think about how your hospital is going to handle this, especially if your state adopts the CDC rule that says fully vaccinated people do not have to wear a mask in public.

5. We have been conditioned to social distance from people, but will this still be required?   The CPDH proposal in CA when we re-open  states that there are “no restrictions” on capacity limitations and no restrictions for physical distancing for “guests” so it will be important to know if your county has stricter restrictions.  This might be hard for your clients and team members to accept since we have been social distancing for over a year.  Whatever decision you make about social distancing you need to make sure your team and clients know about your decision. 

6.  It will also be very important for you to talk about your plans with your team.   You need to speak with them openly about what you are going to do and the timeframe that changes will be made in.  Remember, some team members might be fearful, and others might have gotten used to the freedom that not having clients in the building has brought them (like playing music and not being as quiet has they used to be).   Having an open discussion will help you identify the overall feeling within your hospital.  This is going to be a very important part of your reopening plan to keep everyone on the same page.  And remember, your team needs to be supportive and positive about what you are doing.

As part of an essential workforce, I can attest that it has been a long 15 months for veterinary professionals, but I do see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I am optimistic that we will adjust to the next stage in “pandemic” life, and we will come out stronger.  I believe that many of our clients want to see us in person again.   Especially the extroverts.  They have missed us and how we love their pets, and for those team members like me, we miss them too. 

5/22/2021, Melissa Tompkins, BS, CVPM, PHRca, CCFP

About the author,

Melissa is a small business owner in Southern California, owning South Coast Veterinary Management Solutions.  She works as a veterinary management consultant focusing on helping veterinary hospitals, practice owners, and their team members be successful with their business.

Small Business Spotlight #4 Don’t worry pet owners, Scratch Pay is still here through the pandemic to provide financial help with your veterinary bills.

When the pandemic first started the big financial institutions got nervous just like everyone else. But what about the small lenders? Neil Stanga is the director of sales and marketing at Scratch financial incorporated, or Scratch Pay.  He was the first employee the company hired in early 2016 and now they have grown to about 150 employees.  Scratch Pay offers payment plans and loans to pet owners who are in need of financial assistance with their veterinary bills. The company started with the two co-founders, John Keatley, Caleb Morse, and an idea.  “It’s been a wild ride says Stanga, I was in UCLA grad school when I started, and I then dropped out.” “I felt like I was learning more working on Scratch Pay than in business school, it was definitely the right decision.”

Scratch Pay started with the John, Caleb, and Neil “cold calling” local Southern California Veterinary Hospitals and selling them the idea behind their financial product.  Since no one had heard of them, it was difficult.  But they knew that they had a great product and they would be able to help a lot of pet owners if they could just get their financing into veterinary hospitals.  The veterinary hospital I used to work for AVSG after hours, was one of the early adopters of Scratch Pay and we were able to help many pet owners with their emergency veterinary bills by offering them a financial alternative.  “Scratchpay’s mission is to help more pets get access to the care they need to live happy lives

When I asked him about his previous experience, he said that he worked in commercial real estate for a little while, and then he worked on Wall Street at JP Morgan for about five years. “I just had general business experience and some sales experience, a lot of sales experience.” “I think that is what I initially brought to the table.” “But working at a startup was a totally new experience for me, there’s really no qualifications or anything, just an endless amount of work,” laughs Stanga.  

Why did he pick Scratch Pay over his graduate education?  “My whole first year of business school, I was really interested alternative lending.” “Going beyond just a FICO score or credit score to assess credit risk, and ability to repay, using a new area of financial technology.” He met with John and Caleb the co-founders, where they laid out the basic idea of what they were doing, being less restrictive in terms of lending to people.  “I think probably what sold me the most from that interview was the two of them.” “They’re just very, very smart, very accomplished.” “And I just had a lot of faith in both of them, as well as the idea” says Stanga.

How is Scratch Pay/ different from other financial lenders? “Other companies are more selective, we approve more people,” says Stanga.  “And our products are totally different, we don’t offer any deferred interest products, which is a big difference.” Even though they don’t have the same deferred payment options, Scratch Pay offers lower interest rates than their competitors.  Instead of having one high interest rate for every customer, they base the interest rate on the customer’s individual credit, so people with better credit can benefit with a lower interest rate.  They are also typically cheaper for the veterinary hospital as well, which encourages more hospitals to offer their financing. It is also very easy to apply, clients can do it from their smart phones and approval takes just minutes. The approval information is also emailed to the veterinary hospital so they know that the client has been approved. The pet owner can then decide if they want to pay with Scratch Pay or not.

When I asked if they had any big challenges in the beginning, he said that they had pretty consistent growth.  “When I hear about other startups and people’s experiences there, we’ve had a fairly straightforward path.” “Personally, I’ve been challenged to learn a tremendous amount and take on a lot of responsibility, but in terms of the business, it’s been relatively smooth sailing.” The biggest challenge for us so far, has been the Coronavirus

What has been their biggest impact with coronavirus? Growth and the loss of veterinary tradeshows and conferences. “Our biggest challenge is just maintaining our continued growth, because we don’t want it to slow down.”  Also, a lot of their marketing efforts were focused on veterinary conferences, and their interactions with the veterinarians and the managers.  “We have had a lot of success at industry trade shows and those are shut down now indefinitely,” says Stanga, “so that has been a challenge.” Surprisingly, they have not seen as many defaults as they initially expected, “I think it has something to do with people not going out and saving money as well.” “Or maybe the stimulus checks had some impact on that.” 

Stanga said they had some lofty goals for 2020, “we had goals of how many practices we were going to sign up this year.” Over the past 4 years they have helped over 70,000 pets receive veterinary care and have partnered with over 5000 veterinary hospitals in all 50 states, and they wanted to help more. They had a really good start at the beginning of the year, and then they “hit a wall.” They also just doubled their space at their headquarters in Pasadena, CA relatively recently and with the original shelter in place restrictions, it is sitting empty right now. “That’s just another thing with the coronavirus, we invested in office space and then now we can’t use it.” Thankfully, their whole company has transitioned relatively well to working from home. “We have a lot of people overseas, either in our technology department or customer service, and so we’re a fairly remote workforce already” “We’re not planning on going back to the office anytime soon,” says Stanga. 

We talked about the loss of the trade shows.  “At the beginning of the year, we were just pouring resources into the trade shows and really tripling down on that channel, and so we’re just redistributing across different channels at this point.” “Instead of focusing just on that one channel, we’re moving to direct mail and trade journal advertisements and things like that,” Stanga stated.  They are figuring out different ways to get the word out to veterinary hospitals and their clients.

What are his biggest concerns?  “I think generally my concerns are, can we keep growing, number one, number two, are people going to pay us back?” Being a financial lender, the state of the global economy is a big concern to them.   Not only do they have to worry about people defaulting on their loans, they also are also concerned with how they are able to raise the capital needed to provide money for future loans. “I feel pretty confident with our CEO’s ability to raise money, and so the biggest concern is the growth and just finding ways to grow as quickly as possible, because you can always grow faster, it’s a lot of pressure,” says Stanga.  “That’s what I think about all the time, is how we’re going to sign up more practices and how we’re going to do it more quickly.” Signing up more hospitals with their financing helps more pet owners, and ultimately helps more pets. 

I asked him if he would do it over again, would he give up grad school and join a startup company with no guarantee of success? “Yeah, 100%, definitely,” he replied.  “There’s this quote by the cyclist, Greg LeMond, he’s a famous US cyclist, and I think a reporter was asking him about training, does it get easier? Does the training get easier? Does do competitions get easier, and his response was, “It never gets easier. You just go faster.” “And I really feel like that sums up my experience at Scratchpay and probably any startup.” “I’m just amazed at how much I’ve learned in the past four years and it’s been draining and definitely, well, I guess would I go to another startup as a first employee or try to start a company?” “I don’t know, I’m not sure to be honest, because it is a lot, but I never want to go back to a really big company,” says Stanga. 

I asked him what advice he would give to someone who is thinking about starting a business. “I think in general I’d say working at a startup or starting a company is not historically a good way to get rich, because the majority of them fail.” “Like 95% of businesses or startups fail.” “So that is what I would keep in mind, that failure is a possibility, even Scratch Pay could still fold and I’d have no idea how I would feel at that point.” “But if you’re comfortable with just learning a lot and ultimately having the business fail, then yeah, definitely, startups are great,” he says with a smile. “I would change nothing about this experience.” “I feel like I really lucked out to find Scratch when I did, and I feel very lucky.”

I asked him if that 95% was a legit statistic? “Made that up off the top of my head” he says laughing. 

August 28, 2020, Melissa Tompkins, BS, CVPM, PHRca, CCFP

About the author,

Melissa is a small business owner in Southern California, owning South Coast Veterinary Management Solutions.  She works as a veterinary management consultant focusing on helping veterinary hospitals, practice owners, and their team members be successful with their business.

Small Business Spotlight #3, what happens when the pandemic causes the business to stop? Answer, owner has to get creative.

What happens when your business model relies on people being able to get together in larger groups to be successful or to even exist?  What happens when the places that host the events like county fairs, shows, and even Disneyland are closed? The answer? You change your business model, or you fail.

Brian Bon is the owner of Bon Family and California All Star Cloggers and Powerhouse Dance located in Anaheim, CA. What does he do?  He is a professional “clogger.” “I know that sounds weird because there are not a lot of us, but it’s really a multifaceted business,” says Bon.  His corporation is a diverse service company. “We provide entertainment, we provide arts education, we provide virtual content online, but basically, the core of what we do is the American folk dance of clogging.”

I met Brian in 2016 when I became one of his students in his clog dancing class.  It was a lot of fun and while I danced with his group, I performed at Disney’s California Adventure, Calico Ghost Town, as well as We Give Thanks the annual food drive at the Honda Center.

Brian has been clogging for over 37 years.  “I love what I do, I really truly love it.” “It changed my life.” Bon started clogging when he was young because his mom made him, “I was very insecure, I didn’t have hardly any friends, and felt very bad about myself.” When his mom originally made him start clogging, he hated it.  “I hated it, but within a year, a light came on in my head and I started to love it.” “I started to love the music and love the dancing.” “I became one of the best in the country.” “It just changed my life,” says Bon. One of the things he loves about teaching clog dancing, is that he is able give that same opportunity and feelings to both kids and adults that he felt when he was young.

Brian became a professional clog dancer on the TV show Hee Haw back when he was a teenager. After doing that for about 5 years, he got his degree in theater and English, moved to California to be a performer, but he kept finding success with clogging.  He eventually started his clog dancing business back in 2000 to pass on his love for clog dancing to others. He has taught over 40,000 people how to dance. “People wanted me to teach them to dance, and I think that comes down to because I love it,” says Bon.  The Bon Family and California All Star Cloggers have performed at The Stage Coach Festival, Knotts Berry Farm , Disneyland, and countless other places over the years. It is a family business and many of the dancers are either siblings or even mother and son/daughter. 

When I asked him if it was hard to start his business, he said that sometimes it’s hard to talk to the “corporate” people.  “When I talk to my accountant, I feel like I’m speaking French, or they are, and I’m speaking English, because I’m a creative type.” “I’m not good with a lot of technical jargon or accounting dynamics and legal aspects, so, I have to trust them with those things.” He has to trust his people and when they tell him there’s a hoop to jump through, “I do it and I just trust them,” says Bon. 

But overall, Bon does not feel like it is difficult, “I think it’s not as difficult is because I have a good product.” “So, for me to keep the business going, even during quarantine right now, it has been going, and it’s been different and not quite as financially lucrative, but it’s still good because I have a quality product.” “The clogging I do is exciting and fun,” “the classes are exciting and fun.” “There are a lot of aspects to it,” says Bon.

I asked him what type of struggles he has had to deal with in the past.  “You know, I think the biggest struggles are all the legal red tape that people, especially in California, that we have to jump through.” “I mean, I pay so many fees just to be in business.” “I paid over $7,000 in federal taxes last year, I paid $800 just for the pleasure of being in business in California before I even made a dollar.” “Then there’s insurance and there’s business license and all of that kind of stuff.”  Bon teaches classes in multiple locations and performs all over the country, this means every location has its own insurance.  “Everywhere I go has to have a different insurance certificate or a different type of insurance, so it is that kind of paperwork stuff and costs, that’s the most difficult part for me.” But even with the challenges, he has made a successful business for himself and brought clog dancing to thousands of kids over the years.

And he was doing well for himself and the clog dancing community, until March 2020.

What happened to your business when COVD hit and California went into a lockdown? “I lost about $100,000 worth of work,” says Bon. Just like many Californians, overnight he had no work. All his classes had to be cancelled, and every show that he had planned for the next few months was either cancelled or postponed.

“I feel like I don’t want to get political, but I just feel like every time I have friends who have their small business that are barbers and stuff and they just get ready to open and then it gets shut down again, get ready to open, and shut down.” “My personal feeling is essential business is any business that provides your lifeblood money, right?” “It’s what pays your bills.”

Bon had to get creative and restructure, do private lessons, and do virtual classes. “The hardest part is not just losing all of that work, I had to emotionally mourn the loss of that money, because one day would be up, I’d be like, that’s still happening,” “and the next day, one would cancel.” “Then one went up, and then one would cancel, and then cancel, cancel, cancel.” “By the end, I just kind of assumed everything was gone.”

The first 30 days of the lockdown were scary, but because the people that were in his classes were so supportive of him, he felt confidence. “I’ve had people drop me off anonymous donations on my front porch.” “I’ve had people sign up for classes that aren’t taking the classes, and they have kept the food on my table,” says Bon.

Trying to make his business virtual was a challenge for Brian.  “I’m not social media savvy, I’m not on Snapchat, or other things, so, I had to make myself a little more social media savvy to succeed.” “I had to figure out how to do YouTube live classes.”  Eventually, he was able to figure it out and switch his students to YouTube live every Tuesday night. If you want to know more about his classes message him at

Next he had to figure out ways to use social media to let more people know he is still here.  He found ways he can make himself a little more of a social media influencer in the American folk-dance community, researching old TV shows, posting those, doing interviews, documenting the history of clogging. Instead of it just being performance and classes, and getting more information out about his business, he wanted to educate people about the history of clogging. He has been trying to get out the message that clog dancing is a “dance of the people.” “It’s not an elitist trained dance, it’s not like you go to ballet intensive camp at the Bolshevik Ballet or whatever it is.” “Right?” “Clogging is the dance of the real people.” “Most of us are self-taught, there is not a specific one technique training.” “Every region is different, and it really is an American cultural phenomenon unlike any other folk dance we produce,” shares Bon.

Bon has been part of the industry for a long time, he has been on Hee Haw, America’s Got Talent, Fast Track to Fame, Destination Stardom, Let Me Entertain You, FX channel’s Justified, ABC’s Culture Click., The Gong Show, and many more. He has been on more TV shows than any other person in the country that clog dances.

He is very concerned about the future of the entertainment industry. “Live entertainment won’t be back for a year-and-a-half at least. I just think that number one, even if they’ve suddenly decided tomorrow that COVID is gone, people are still very tentative about going out, Right?” “Even if I started my classes up next Tuesday in person, I bet only half would come back, because they’re scared. People are scared.”

“Entertainment is hit hard, hit hard, whether you’re big or little.” “Luckily, the people that are big, they have millions of dollars of cushion.” “But those of us, most entertainers live at my level where they’re a functioning entertainer, but they don’t have $20 million in the bank because their last movie was The Avengers. Right?” says Bon.

When I asked him if he was going to continue to do virtual training after we are able to get together in person again, he said yes. “I’m just going to move my virtual classes to Thursday, having an in-person class on Tuesday and see if I can do both.” One thing he realized, is that he can reach people all over the country doing it virtually and not just in Orange County. “I have students from Texas, Wisconsin, and several other states, taking my classes, which is exciting,” shares Bon.

Another thing that Bon has been building is his YouTube following. His channel BriCLOGGER is growing and growing. There are lots of great clogging videos, interviews, and lessons. “Just in the last six weeks, I’ve gone from 170 subscribers to almost 600,” says Bon. “My goal is to hit a thousand by October and then keep going.” “I’m having fun sharing the way clogging has… what I’ve seen it, how it’s changed and influenced our culture, sharing that with people, whether they’re cloggers or other people.” “I’m going to keep that going too. I’m really enjoying that.”

When asked if he would do it all over again, he said, “that’s such a hard question. I mean, yes, there’s easier routes that I could have taken to make money, but I love what I do.”

What advice would he give to someone else who is thinking about opening their own business, “do your research.” “Make sure that you’re going to make enough money so that it’s worth all the hassle and fees, you need to make enough money so that is worth the difficulty.” Bon says you also need to remember that it takes all your time. “I work from home. I work away from home, but whenever I’m here, my work is with me.” “It’s one of those jobs that I don’t leave it at work and then come home, so as a business owner, you have to love it and you have to educate yourself.”

But overall, he wants to encourage people “I think a lot of people feel kind of hopeless right now, but I’m seeing businesses in my neighborhood that just opened this week, like a pizza place that just opened, and it’s horrible timing, but they had already committed to open, and, man, they’re going for it.” “I’ve seen another place, this deli, they keep getting closed down because of this rule and that rule, and what do they do?” “They keep reinventing themselves.” “Creativity, no matter how technical you think your job is, is key to keeping it going. “You have to go with the flow, you have to adjust to the times, especially these days,” says Bon.

“Creativity is the key to keeping it going”

 August 16, 2020, Melissa Tompkins, BS, CVPM, PHRca, CCFP

About the author,

Melissa is a small business owner in Southern California, she owns South Coast Veterinary Management Solutions.  She works as a veterinary management consultant focusing on helping veterinary hospitals, practice owners, and their team members be successful.  

Small Business Spotlight #2, What is it Like to Own an Event Planning Business During a Pandemic? Answer, difficult.

This pandemic has caused devastation to millions of people around the world, either medically, emotionally, or financially (and sometimes all the above).  For small business owners, the financial impact has been significant, and many will never recover.

In my 2nd blog in the “Small Business Spotlight” series I interviewed Courtney Lutkus, owner of Simply Radiant Events.  Courtney opened her event planning & design company six years ago.sr_logo Courtney does everything from the coordination of events, to designing the designing the events.  Whatever theme they want, color scheme, or whatever they want to do for their event, she can do.

Courtney has had some crazy requests in her time “we had a DNA company that wanted centerpieces that look like DNA strands.” “The hard part was that they also wanted lamps on the tables, but with 300 tables, how do you plug in 300 lamps?” Courtney was able to find a compromise and ended up creating something with led lights that were battery operated.

When I asked Courtney about what type of qualifications, she needed to have to run an event planning company she told me about different certifications programs like FIDM in LA for example, or to go through design school. “But for me, I went to Cal State Fullerton and I got my degree in public relations, because they didn’t have a degree in event planning.” She was still able to take a lot of event planning courses in school so she got her formal education that way.

When I asked Courtney why she picked event planning, she told me that she had wanted to do it since she was young.  “Growing up, everyone kept saying, “oh, you’re going to change your mind.” “Even when I was in college, most people change their majors a few times.” “You’re going to change your mind.” And I never did.” Courtney started off her career working for non-profit organizations and doing events that way but eventually she wanted to expand a little bit. “I decided to start my own company, so that I could have different types of events that I do versus the same ones every year for the same non-profit.”

However, starting an event planning business was harder than Courtney expected, “I think when I broke away from the non-profit sector and I was opening my company, I thought, “I’ve been doing this for years. I have this, this is no big deal.” “But I learned that they are actually two different worlds” Starting her business in Orange County turned out to be very difficult, not only were there a lot of other event planners but she struggled on finding the right vendors and getting clients.  “Getting started was actually really hard for me and I almost stopped so many times before I even got going, just because I just kept thinking there’s so much competition, there’s no way this is going to work.” She worked hard to let go of her insecurities and persevere and eventually start her business.

Early on, she realized that as a small business owner that she had to do a lot of things herself.  “When you are first starting out and if you don’t have a lot of finances backing you up, you do everything yourself, you create your website, you create your logo, you are your own accountant yourself, whatever, you name it.”  She figured out there was a lot of learning curves besides all the components of the business, other things she never thought about that she would have to deal with.

Courtney eventually figured out how to have a successful business and client after client Simply Radiant Events flourished.  Not only did she help design weddings and other events, but she also catered to large companies and their big corporate events. Many large corporations used her company for their annual holiday parties, conferences, and other big company events.  That was until March 2020, when everything stopped.

When I asked her how COVID-19 has affected her business she said, “as of right now, it’s pretty much stopped everything that we had or were going to have.” Unfortunately, in an event planning business, you need events to succeed.  With California on a continual lockdown this is exceedingly difficult. “With social distancing you can’t really have parties and events.” “And especially with us, a lot of our focus being companies that hire us for their corporate functions, a lot of those companies are either not open right now or they’ve had to pull back on things” “That’s really pumped the brakes on a lot of events for us.”

I asked her how she is coping with such a devastating loss and she said she is rebranding & rebuilding the website, “just kind of do some inner works that we don’t always necessarily have time to do.” She wants people to know that she is still there and when people are ready to have events, “she can show that she persevered through all of this and Simply Radiant Events is still around”

We discussed if there were any alternative strategies that she could do for her business, “we’ve tossed around a lot of ideas like virtual events, but a lot of virtual events, people aren’t really looking for support or for help with.” One thing that she has started to see lately is “pop up” parties, where people are decorating front lawns, or decorating different areas and people drive by in their cars to celebrate.  “People have this really neat and elaborate background, which she is happy to do, but because most of our clientele has seen us as a different way, they don’t necessarily look for us for that right now.” So she will have to rebrand and “pivot” as she likes to call it.  But, that is something she could potentially do.

Another thing she has noticed is people are doing “timed” events.  Courtney said, “they will let maybe 10 people in at a time come in and do it, so then everyone comes in shifts.” This is something that could be potentially an option where she could plan an all-day event that only a few people attend at a time.  Another thing she has considered is style shoots.  “People need photos for either themselves or for their products and they need florals or balloons or a backdrop or different things like that.” And it is something they might need a creative mind to help with.  She is considering offering these alternatives to help keep her business afloat.  Courtney is resilient, and she will do what she can to keep her business active.

I asked what she likes the most about her business and she enjoys the creative side to it.  “I love when someone come up with a theme and then I am able to create it and execute it.” Sometimes she still gets anxious though when she says to a client “oh, we could do this huge, great thing, and they say yes,” “because then I know I have to figure it out!” Which she always does, every time.  She loves coming up with ideas and creating things and see them come through.  “It’s fun, you never know, things always turn out slightly different, but usually in a good way, so I love seeing how things are created.”

When I asked her what advice she would give to someone considering opening up their own small business she said “go with something you’re passionate about because it’s something that you really going to be spending a lot of time on.” “For me, it is something I’ve been really, really passionate about, so I enjoy spending the time on it and really just go for it.” “I mean, there is going to be naysayers and there is going to be your cheerleaders, but just go for it no matter what and make sure you have that support system that’s there to support you at the same time.” “If you’re passionate about it, you will make sure it works.”

I asked her “if you had to do it all over again, would you?” Courtney said, “that’s a good question, I think I would.” “It’s funny because we all have our moments with being an entrepreneur, but I love it so much and I’m so passionate about it that I feel like a part of me would always be missing if I didn’t do it.”

“Is there anything else you’d like to share with the audience that you’re thinking about that is important regarding your business in current times?”

Courtney said, “I’m excited to see what’s going to happen when this all is over with.” “And we go back to, I guess you can say our new normal because things are probably going to be different in life.” “But I know people are going to want to get together and share their time with everyone.” “I saw someone post the other day who just said, “I miss people.” “I’m excited for when I can create those moments and people could be just people again and hang out and have fun.” “That’s what I’m looking forward to again.”

I realized in that moment I had an image of a party with a bunch of cardboard cutouts of people with their families faces on it.  I can’t decide if that is funny or not.

August 4, 2020, Melissa Tompkins, BS, CVPM, PHRca, CCFP

About the author,

Melissa is a small business owner working as a veterinary management consultant in Southern California.  Her company South Coast Veterinary Management Solutions focuses on helping veterinary hospitals, practice owners, and their team members.