Veterinary Ireland

Summary of Business:

Veterinary Ireland is the Trade Association for veterinary practitioners in Ireland, representing over 1,400 individual vets - most of these vets are Private Veterinary Practitioners (PVPs) working out of over 600 veterinary practices in Ireland. Veterinary Ireland has been an Affiliate member of SFA for many years, and significantly values the SFA benefits and services that its members can avail of through Veterinary Ireland HQ.

What led you to starting your business?

Veterinary Ireland’s roots go back to 1888 and the formation of the first Irish veterinary representative body based in Leinster House. The current organization was created in 2001 with the amalgamation of four separate veterinary bodies.

How did you raise the funds you need for your business?

Veterinary Ireland is a voluntary membership organization, so membership subscriptions are important. In order to undertake our full range of membership services, we also rely on sponsors, especially in providing Continuing Veterinary Education (CVE) events for our members. Since the enactment of the Veterinary Practice Act 2005, CVE has become mandatory for all vets in order to maintain their registration to practise veterinary medicine in the State, so sponsorship and exhibition income is a major factor in financing such events for our members.

What is the most significant lesson you have learnt in running your business?

As a former diplomat, and now as Deputy Chief Executive of Veterinary Ireland, I think it is essential to look at what your business or organisation has achieved, rather than constantly looking at what went wrong. That isn’t to say that you shouldn’t examine feedback and learn lessons from it, but one might especially consider criticism, and try to assess why it was actually given. I learnt from an early stage in my diplomatic career the old adage “divide and conquer”, and when faced with comments or criticisms of the organization, I first ask the question “why did someone say that – what is their real agenda”.

What has been the proudest moment in your business so far?

Veterinary Ireland’s Companion Animal Society (VICAS) hosted the 2008 World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) Congress in the RDS in August 2008. To see Veterinary Ireland hosting over 2,000 International vets in Dublin was a proud moment for the Irish Veterinary Profession, and especially so at the opening ceremony when our then President, Ciara Feeney MVB, gave her welcoming address to all attending delegates. The attention of the Veterinary World was on Dublin and Veterinary Ireland!

What have been the biggest challenges in your business to date?

Veterinary Ireland came into being on 1st January 2001, and the one challenge we refer to even now was that of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD). FMD was Veterinary Ireland’s baptism of fire, and came at a critical phase of its development. Happily, Veterinary Ireland stepped up to the challenge and provided guidance, information and leadership to its members, in facing this major threat to our agri-industry. Perhaps the ongoing challenge is membership – as a voluntary organization, we need to constantly upgrade and develop our membership services in order to maintain the core of our membership, and especially to attract new and younger members of the profession. With membership numbers doubled in the last ten years, and up by 25% since 2008, it seems Veterinary Ireland’s aims in this regard are being achieved.

What advice would you give aspiring entrepreneurs thinking of starting a business?

Preparation, Research and Planning are essential. You might have the best service or product ever, but knowing the who’s, how’s, where’s and when of producing and getting that product to the relevant people, and of course getting something back in return for it, is what needs such background preparation.

What’s the best business book you’ve ever read?

Stress in the Veterinary Profession is a major concern, and vets have a higher rate of mental stress than other professionals and citizens – four times that of the general public. A few years ago I read Samuel Malone’s “Surviving Stress”, published by Brian O’Kane’s Oaktree Press in Cork ( As business owners and managers we run, play squash and tennis, and work out at the gym to keep ourselves physically fit for the job – but how many of us consider our mental health and the day-to-day stresses that modern business management can bring? Mr Malone’s book gives a very simple and practical set of tools to recognize stressors and more importantly how to deal with them.

Who is the entrepreneur you admire the most?

Noel Fitzpatrick, “The Bionic Vet” – Noel is an Irish Vet who practices veterinary medicine in the UK. Having graduated in 1990 from UCD, he now operates a multi-million pound practice with over 90 employees – not only is that an entrepreneurial achievement in itself, but he is also a pioneer of biotechnology, working with a variety of stakeholders in both human and animal medicine, in order to push the boundaries of knowledge and medicine. Not only does Noel show leadership, management ability, and team-building strengths – all pre-requisites of entrepreneurship - but he also embodies Howard Stevenson’s definition of entrepreneurship as “the pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled”.

What’s your website?

What Social Networking sites does your business use?

LinkedIn – Peter Bishton (Ireland)
Twitter - @PeterBishton

How has the SFA helped you in your business?

The services provided by SFA are exemplary, especially with regards to advice, templates, procedures and policies on employment law and Human Resource Management. While Veterinary Ireland HQ staff can provide a first line of assistance to members on such matters, the back-up provided through documentation and personal advice from SFA is a major service to both our HQ staff and to our Veterinary Ireland members. One aspect not to be ignored is the network of contacts which SFA can provide. Having moved to Ireland in 2001 from overseas service, through attending SFA meetings, conferences and network events over the past twelve years I have built up a wide range of contacts in all walks of life and business, more than I would have ever hoped to achieve going it alone. Personally, of all the services provided by SFA it is this networking which I find most useful in my day-to-day business.

Contact details:

Peter Bishton
Veterinary Ireland
Telephone: 01 4577976
Address: 13 The Courtyard, Kilcarbery Park, Nangor Road, Dubiln 22