NationWide Laboratories Logo

An Interview with Catriona Bailey on a positive outlook at work and beyond, by Fiona Farmer BVSc MRCVS

Kindly sponsored by

Catriona Bailey Headshot

Catriona Bailey is the type of person you wish every company had. The connector, the carer, the listener, the do-er, the laugh and the light, giving clients what she describes as “a touch of love”. Smiling in front of me, Catriona opened up about her role at NationWide Laboratories and the power of being optimistic.

“I’m an account manager with a difference,” she laughs. “I don’t just look after a few big accounts, I oversee them all.” All, being several thousand. “I call them TLC calls, I check in on them all personally, to find out how they are doing, see if they have any niggles and just to let them know we are here.” Catriona appears to be the master at developing relationships, both with her clients and her team. “I work alongside some amazing people, and we all support one another to make sure we are doing our very best.”

No two of her days are ever the same, and she spends them talking to clients, ensuring everything is running smoothly and taking action if it’s not. She feeds back suggestions and queries from vets, which has helped shaped the development of new and exciting initiatives for NationWide Laboratories, such as the new online portal.

“I can speak to anywhere between 10 and 50 vets a day depending on what is going on”. I wondered if she found it draining, particularly in the current overstretched landscape of the industry. “No, I love it, I love my job, I love talking to people. I don’t think I’m extrovert, I don’t really label myself to be honest, or think of myself as anything other than me. I am a chatterbox though,” she laughed.

She has been with NationWide Laboratories for nine years and I was interested in her opinion on how vets were doing at the moment. “They seem tired. They’re working so hard. That’s what motivates us to do as much as we can to help them. I think of my job as being a safe space for them, where they can express their concerns and know that we are listening.”

A huge part of Catriona’s job is communication. “What makes for good communication?” I asked her. “Listening. You must listen. Give people space to talk and vent if they need to. Even if you don’t agree with their opinion, there is always a middle ground to be found. There should never be a definite ‘no’; there is always something we can do to make it easier.”

Catriona has been instrumental in the implementation of the new Customer Voice Feedback Programme, a tool to allow vets to easily get in touch with comments and suggestions of ways the team can improve their service. “Big things have come from the feedback, such as the creation of our online portal and digital pathology, but also smaller things such as including larger tubes for sampling in mixed practice welcome kits rather than just small ones. Our clients have responded really well to the feedback programme and on a recent customer survey we scored very highly. It makes me feel proud.”

“You must listen. Give people space to talk and vent if they need to. Even if you don’t agree with their opinion, there is always a middle ground to be found. There should never be a definite ‘no’; there is always something we can do to make it easier”

Her feelings of pride extend across the whole company. I asked her what NationWide Laboratories means to her and she said she hates thinking of it as a family. I presumed she meant that the saying was annoyingly cliched but instead her answer was striking: “Because families can be very dysfunctional. And we’re not. We’re a team, we all work together. I work very closely within my unit but beyond that I can go to all teams, including the senior management team, and everyone goes above and beyond to get the job done and done well.”

It’s obvious how highly she rates the company, but I wanted to know how Catriona felt being part of the process that directly helps animals. “It’s amazing, I am incredibly proud. Everyone in this company truly cares, and with every sample that comes in, they always think about the animal it is from. Even though we are removed from the pet owner and their pet, we are still connected and invested. We have to be: if we can’t stay connected, we can’t help.”

It didn’t come as a huge surprise to find out that prior to working at NationWide Laboratories Catriona has always been in customer facing jobs, helping people. “I worked in hospitality. I was in a busy hotel in Blackpool for 21 years! The industry started to change though so I took redundancy and thought I’d take a bit of time to figure out my next move. During that time, I started working in a pub and also for Jet2 as part of the ground crew. I still do a Sunday shift in the pub, I love it.”

Her experiences in these roles have helped her with some of the more challenging aspects of her current role. As the client’s direct point of contact there can be high pressure on her as the liaison between clients and the labs. “Yes, it can be stressful sometimes if a client is anxious about something. What I’ve learnt though is that nothing is ever personal and so I always deal with people with compassion in a positive manner.” She continues, laughing, “After dealing with drunk people in the hotel bar for many years, believe me, I know how to defuse a situation!”

Catriona is a self-confessed optimist “The glass is always half full. Things will be ok, it will always work out. If you look on the downside you’re going to bring yourself down and you can’t always look at the worst. I’d rather look for the good, and for the best in people and think ‘yeah this is good’. And if it is a little worse, its still not as bad as it could have been. If you dwell on the bad bits you’re going to feel bad.”

“I’d rather look for the good, and for the best in people and think ‘yeah this is good’. And if it is a little worse, its still not as bad as it could have been. If you dwell on the bad bits you’re going to feel bad.”

She seems incredibly happy. It is clear she has a job that she thrives in and her home life sounds similarly content. She has a dog whom she adores, stepsons she has helped raise, her mum is her best friend who she regularly takes trips with and she is happily married. “I don’t know how being a woman has shaped my career. Maybe it makes me a bit more caring? But my husband is really caring too.”

Catriona and her dog dressed as an elf

“Having a dog has made me softer though” she laughs, talking about her Labrador, Taz, “He was the star of our internal newsletters throughout Covid.” The pandemic gave Catriona more than Taz’s spotlight “It made me re-think what was important. I take a lot more time for myself now. My ‘me-time’ can be anything from walking Taz, to watching a movie or just getting an early night. It’s important to notice what you need and give yourself that.”

Does she have any other advice? “If I could give my younger self some tips, I’d say don’t get too upset over the little things. And stick to your guns and carry on.”

I asked her to expand on that and Catriona told me about her previous marriage and subsequent divorce and the passing of her dad. “It was the most stressful time of my life, I almost walked away from my career, but I didn’t. I knew what I wanted, and I stuck to that.”

“Everything that happens in life brings you to where you are now. I can’t look back and regret any of my choices. I made them and they have all brought me here. At 18 I had the opportunity to go to Australia. I almost went, but I didn’t. Who knows where that would have taken me, but I wouldn’t be with my husband today, I wouldn’t be in this job, and I would have really missed my mum!”

She is not religious but declares herself a spiritualist who believes in karma and fate. “Things don’t just happen. You have to make decisions, big decisions. But I do believe everything happens for a reason, and that everything will work out and be ok.”

I had already decided how I was going to describe Catriona in one sentence. It was going to be “Smiling and laughing, Catriona has the ability to put a positive spin on the most stressful of situations; she’s tougher than she lets on and is a caring and loving woman.”

But then she did the job for me and did so much better, “Cheerful, happy, confident.”

The world needs more of that. I’m rather happy she didn’t move down under.

NationWide Laboratories

NationWide Laboratories is committed to making a positive impact on animal health by offering innovative products, technology and laboratory services to your veterinary practice. They have been providing a comprehensive range of veterinary diagnostic services since 1983. Their expert teams can assist you in making decisions on relevant testing for companion, exotic and farm animals. They offer full interpretation in a range of testing areas including biochemistry, haematology, cytology, histopathology, endocrinology, microbiology, etc. Their sample collection service is powered by National Veterinary Services.



You may also like:

Alison Lee – The woman behind the microscope

Sandra Wells – the leader who believes change starts at home

One response to “Catriona Bailey – Looking on the Bright Side of Life”

Leave a Reply