Jeff Barnes: Helping veterinarians match medical excellence with business excellence
CALS alumnus Jeff Barnes founded Synergy Veterinary Consulting after working extensively with veterinarians and learning the intricacies of their business.Photo courtesy Jeff Barnes
Where can veterinarians go when they need help in realizing their practices’ full business potential? The answer is Synergy Veterinary Consulting, a company founded two years ago in Tampa, Fla., by Jeff Barnes, a 1999 graduate of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Barnes, who holds a bachelor’s degree in agricultural and extension education, with a minor in business management, describes his company as “a full-service firm that is focused on assisting veterinarians achieve their revenue, compliance, client service and professional/staff development goals.”
Along with veterinary practices, Synergy advises businesses and non-profits. Its Web site (www.synergyconsulting.com) offers its client organizations “proven and effective strategies to help your leaders and team members realize corporate and personal success… . Synergy will help you focus on the daily occurrences that can improve compliance, profitability, employee satisfaction and client satisfaction.”
The firm offers “on-site management consulting, business coaching, public speaking and business development/client satisfaction training (through an affiliation with the Sandler Sales Institute of Tampa),” says Barnes, who is also a business intermediary licensed in the state of Florida with Legacy Mergers and Acquisitions group. “I focus on developing exit strategies and purchase strategies, as well as the facilitation of any purchase-and-sell agreements involving veterinary practices.”
A typical work day for Barnes might include “all the administrative things that come along with running a business such as phone calls or email,” before he goes to visit veterinary practices. “I spend roughly four to six hours on each visit,” he says. “I typically visit each hospital one to two times per month.”
During these visits, he spends time “with the doctor and his practice manager going over goals and initiatives and tracking progress,” he says. “I also make any necessary adjustments and suggestions in order to grow the business. They are given customized templates and instructions to reinforce desired behaviors and outcomes.”
Barnes brings extensive agricultural business experience to the job. Upon graduating from N.C. State, he went to work for the agricultural chemical and pharmaceutical company Rhone Poulenc (now Aventis CropScience) as a territory manager in central and southeast Michigan. “My job was to sell to ag retailers who serviced commercial farmers,” he says. “Needing a change, I moved back to North Carolina and took a marketing role with John Deere Golf and Turf as a product specialist for greens mowers.”
He then took a position with Merial, Merck's and Aventis' animal health division, which gave him the opportunity to work extensively with veterinarians and learn “the intricacies of their business and how different their business is as compared to [that of] human’s physicians,” he says. “I built strong relationship and developed a passion for the industry.”
Within four years, he became director of marketing “at the largest veterinary referral center in the southeast United States,” he says. “I further developed relationships and my business acumen for the industry, and in late 2007, Synergy was birthed and officially opened for business in February 2008.”
Throughout these endeavors, “my education and business background obtained through CALS prepared me very well,” Barnes says.
“While in the sales dialogue, you find yourself using a number of things learned in all those education and psychology classes that are key to effective communication. In addition, after you get the deal, [the] fundamental training in marketing, accounting and economics help you provide the clients with sound advice to grow their businesses exponentially and at an accelerated rate.”
Barnes, who now resides in Tampa, came to N.C. State from Garysburg, N.C., near Roanoke Rapids.
“I chose N.C. State because of my love for agricultural education instilled in me by James Tillery, my high school ag teacher,” Barnes says. “Although he attended N.C. A&T, he always supported my decision and encouraged me to strive for greatness at State. My uncle Wilbert Bullock Jr. was a die-hard NC State basketball fan and made us watch the Pack anytime they were on. To this day I still hear him yelling ‘Cardiac Pack!’ He was a big fan of the 1974 team and especially the 1983 team.”
Among his fondest memories of N.C. State are “meeting some very cool people that I still speak with frequently to this day,” he says. “Also, seeing the Pack defeat then football powerhouses Florida State and Syracuse in football created some fond memories, as well. Something about goalposts being carried down Hillsborough Street still resonates today.”
And among his favorite faculty members were CALS’ Dr. Jim Flowers, now head of the Department of Agricultural and Extension Education, and Dr. Ron Schrimper and Bob Usry, both now retired from the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics. “These professors challenged your way of thinking and forced you to get outside of your comfort zone,” Barnes says.
When he’s not helping clients maximize their business potential, Barnes says, “My wife and I spend time relaxing and reading a good book. Most times I enjoy just sitting on Davis Islands watching boats go by or if I get the chance, and 18 holes of golf is always a welcome event.”
What’s next “is just to continue to form strategic alliances and grow my business to where I really focus on mergers and acquisitions,” he says. “My goal is to make sure that clients get the best value for their business upon exiting, as well as helping clients find a great deal when purchasing.”