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Last year’s hurricane season hit the United States hard. For instance, Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall in late August 2017, would cause about $125 billion in damage in Texas and surrounding states, according to the National Hurricane Center, ranking it as the second-most costly hurricane to hit the U.S. mainland since 1900.

However, even after the waters receded, it’s taken a lot of time, money, resources and effort for many business to get back on their feet. That includes veterinary practices.

Vet-Advantage spoke with MWI Territory Manager Joey Braux about how his customers have either rebuilt or recovered since last year’s hurricane, and where he thinks distributor reps can be of most value to their customers during the process.

Two storms
Hurricane Harvey was the second hurricane to hit since Joey Braux, Territory Manager, MWI has been working in his territory. The first was Hurricane Ike in 2008. Both were devasting.

“You don’t want to say we were lucky, because it flooded, but we didn’t have the tidal surge that we had back during Hurricane Ike,” says Braux, who works mostly with equine and livestock veterinarians. “That was worse than this. And a lot of my veterinarians and cattle producers would tell you that. This was tough – we had water standing everywhere – but we didn’t have a tidal surge that tore all of their fences out and wrecked everything. I had guys who had just finished rebuilding cross fences from Ike when Harvey hit.”

However, Braux says he thinks producers and ranchers lost as many cattle in his territory as they did during Hurricane Ike, “because the water stayed on so long, it didn’t come in and go back out, it just stayed. It hung around for a week.”
Making the connection
After the storm hit, Braux says the hardest part as a distributor rep was wanting to get to customers when there wasn’t much access, or much they could do to help until the water receded.

“You’ve got to let the water go down before you can get anywhere,” he says. “That was the hardest part was wanting to get out there and help, but also knowing that these guys are going to be OK, and they are doing what they have to. A lot of those guys, it’s happened to them before. So it was a big deal, but they kind of had an idea of what they needed to do. They helped each other out.”

Braux says he was able to get supplies set up through his relationships with manufacturers. “We did a lot of stuff through manufacturer partners,” he says. He called and facilitated by asking what could be donated, or brainstormed ideas where the manufacturers could help out.

Slow and steady
While most of his customers had to deal with minor damage due to the storm or rising waters, one veterinarian was forced to rebuild. And this after acquiring the practice within 60 to 90 days of Hurricane Harvey hitting. “Most of my customers didn’t have a whole lot of water to deal with, but this veterinarian had a full foot of water that came in,” Braux says.

Because of flooded roads, a straight route to this particular veterinarian that usually took 15 minutes for Braux became a 45-minute trip. Still, Braux was there to help the veterinarian move his stuff out of the clinic to create a space where he could work. The veterinarian salvaged what he could, but it wasn’t much. He was forced to move into a portable unit.

“He went from 2-3 exam rooms to one,” says Braux..

Even a year later, the veterinarian is still working out of the portable unit while his clinic gets rebuilt. But, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. “He is as busy as he can be,” Braux says. “He does a lot of equine and cattle work so he stays out doing a lot of that. He’s having to build a whole new place, it’s just taking time.”

Braux says the veterinarian is rebuilding the right way. He’s not trying to get a facility constructed quickly. Rather, he is building it to his specifications, preferences and engineered so he can practice the way he feels is most effective. “He is doing the rebuild slow and steady, not getting in a hurry with something that’s not going to be what he wants and not practical for him.”