Time to Let the Young Have Their Turn

“The secret to a successful business of 40+ years is customer appreciation,” insists Joseph Rudolphi, DVM (U of IL ’77), owner of Rudolphi Veterinary Service, LTD, in Noble, IL. “We as veterinarians oftentimes overlook the importance of good communication with our clients. It is, and always has been, the cornerstone to driving business and staying relevant in the client’s eyes. I oftentimes ask myself ‘how can I help my customers compete and stay relevant?’ The answer is always, talk to them. Learn what’s important to them. What are their overall goals? What issues are they deliberating on? What concerns them most? Then, within your power, work with them to answer their questions and help them achieve their goals.”

When Dr. Rudolphi and his wife Linda, started the practice in 1978, they were focused on pigs and beef cattle with the majority of their time dealing with family farms. That focus has never waned as they start working with the fourth generation of families and owners.

Now Dr. Rudolphi has expanded his business to include his daughter, Olivia Rudolphi-Kauflin (TX A&M 2010) whose focus is on equine – a new and growing business opportunity.

“Our mission statement – developed when we opened the clinic – has been sustaining the profitability of the family farm through veterinary services,” says Dr. Rudolphi. “Our clients will maintain a high level of competitiveness and viability as long as we can integrate good health with good marketing in conjunction with good nutrition and focused facility and labor management.”

Dr. Rudolphi says they have tried to integrate themselves into many of those aspects by teaming up with respected suppliers, managers and consultants that specialize in these areas when needed on the farm.

“While we take the lead on health and biosecurity procedures, we know there are experts in other areas that can be highly beneficial to our customers. We help them integrate these types of experts into their systems. The results have been phenomenal with high health pigs being fed the best ingredients at the best prices. The results are premium market prices and best-cost inputs.”

After 40+ years in the swine health business, one would think that a veteran like Dr. Rudolphi would have “seen it all” and started “coasting towards the retirement line.”

In Dr. Rudolphi’s case, nothing could be further from the truth. “Our customers are demanding that we stay focused on the industry more than ever. Foreign animal diseases, PRRS, genetic issues, etc., keep us a viable source of information. That means we as practitioners – regardless of our years on the line – owe it to our paying customers to stay ahead of the curve. If our customers come to us with updates on trends, medicines, genetics, etc., we are no longer viable. It’s a matter of time before you’re replaced with someone who can bring value to them.”

Dr. Rudolphi notes they are starting to work with the fourth generation of farmers that have relied on their services and advice.

“They just need to know that they can count on us to keep their herds productive and that begins and ends with good health,” he stresses. “So, we stay on top of the trends in health, latest genetic values, best feed ingredients information and, of course, the diseases that can wreck a herd overnight like PRRS, PED, and foodborne diseases like salmonella and Lawsonia.

The best way, according to Dr. Rudolphi, to help stay current is to rely on the new generation of veterinarians coming animal agriculture – like his daughter, Dr. Rudolphi-Kauflin. Linda, an avid rider, grew up on horses, and when she started in the practice, focused on the athletic horse population in the area.

“A lot of the horses in our area are confined in group housing (large barns, pastures), but the herd dynamics for health are the same as what we practice in pigs,” relates Dr. Rudolphi. “We have added on a sport horse medicine division with up-to-date digital radiography, endoscope, shockwave and ultrasound. It’s amazing how many local equine athletes are gravitating towards the clinic now that there is an equine specialist on staff.”

Dr. Rudolphi adds, “Having Dr. Rudolphi-Kauflin (current President of the Illinois VMA and member of the veterinary commission for the U.S.A. Endurance Equine Team) on staff has also allowed Dr. Rudolphi to translate a lot of the issues he sees in pig lameness to equine lameness as well.

“It’s remarkable how similar these species are,” he notes. “We see the same types of lameness issues and structural unsoundness. Equine lameness is a long-term event; however, the clinical signs and treatment protocols can be similar. I’ve enjoyed the feedback I receive from Dr. Rudolphi-Kauflin. It’s part mentoring, part student relationship. She brings in such energy, knowledge and clinical expertise, I feel it makes me focus on being a better practitioner.”

In conclusion Dr. Rudolphi states, “I know this is not a popular statement, however, it’s time for some of the older veterinarians in our industry (food animal and equine) to move over and let the new veterinarians start to take over. They have some great ideas that are being squelched, because they are just entering the business and don’t have a voice in the practice yet. However, based on experience of being around young vets in my practice over the past decade, I assure you, our clients are in good hands. They truly are the future.

“My legacy is to make sure Rudolphi Veterinary Services is used as a stepping stone for young vets. I have a lot to teach, but so do they. We have to help them get established, have ownership opportunities sooner and we need to become better mentors. For many of us it’s time to devote our time to our spouses, travel and enjoy not having to work so hard. It’s not a bad way to start winding down a career.”

Article originally published in DVM Business Essentials, 2020.