East Vet: Joel Hughes

joel hughes vetsouth

Many of you recognise Joel and Louise from our veterinary team in the east. Working in Gore for long enough now we can claim them as locals, Joel has recently stepped into a local owner position. Our farmers know his hard work and dedication, even in the early hours of the morning, so we decided to catch up with him to find out more about him and how he feels about his latest venture.

Tell us about your background and how you ended up here in the South.
I went to Waikato University after high school and completed a science degree majoring in soil and freshwater. On completion of the degree I was reminded by a friend of my childhood dream to be a vet, so the next day I signed up to vet school. I graduated and moved to VetSouth Gore with my now wife Louise (both North Islanders) and we have been here ever since. We had never been to Gore, and certainly, it shocked our friends and family that we had decided to come here. Gore has an undeserved reputation in some parts of NZ, and we have absolutely loved it here. It's a great community, a vibrant town, and people are very hospitable and friendly. Not unlike other small towns across New Zealand where the outdoors is at your fingertips, and for me, it has been the fly fishing that has grabbed me. Gore is a great town to raise a family, and our VetSouth and church families, in particular, have been a massive source of help and a huge reason to stay.

What is the motivation to become a shareholder?
For Louise, investing in our future has always been something that she has wanted to do at some point. For me, the decision has been more about committing to the community, committing to our clients, committing to my colleagues, a way of showing everyone that we are here to stay for the long haul despite what lies ahead. I have always been passionate about who we are as a business, and in particular how we treat our people. The vet industry is notorious for being high stress, low pay, high rate of burn-out industry. I want to be a part of turning this around, making our business the best it can be, and showing other practices a new way of doing things. Being an owner does not change my drive, it doesn't change why I am here, but I guess it means that to some degree the buck now stops with me. I am now partially responsible for our successes and failures, and no one wants to fail!

VetSouth is a great employer and has always been open about challenging itself to change. Every voice has a say, from the newest employee and the smallest client to the loudest voices as well. VetSouth has already demonstrated a willingness to adapt and innovate to be a leader in the industry, with some huge changes that have happened over the time we have been here. No business is perfect, but having an attitude to continually get better is a massive reason that we have wanted to stay. We have many classmates or vet friends that have changed jobs several times since graduation – looking for greener pastures. For Louise and I, we recognise that many of the problems are industry problems, so we have decided to stay and be the change instead.

Any plans for the future?
Who knows? We'll stick around and enjoy watching the girls grow, enjoy working hard for our people, clients, and community. Maybe some fun as a part-time fishing guide.


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