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On the Job with Karl Dockery

Dr. Karl Dockery checks one of his patients at Dockery, Williams, Odom and Deriso veterinarians in Albany.

Dr. Karl Dockery checks one of his patients at Dockery, Williams, Odom and Deriso veterinarians in Albany.

Karl Dockery always figured he would join his father’s veterinary practice when he finished school at the University of Georgia.

A change of plans brought him to Albany, and he’s never left.

He’s parlayed a strong work ethic into a successful veterinary practice here. He credits his parents with instilling that strong work ethic at a young age.

When not on the job, Dockery says he always got a lot of enjoyment out of traveling across the country with his parents. He says they’ve seen most of the United States by taking off on trips of a week or more while his sons were still at home.

“We’ve seen most all of the national parks and have a lot of interesting stories to tell,” he said.

Dockery recently participated in a question-and-answer session with staff writer Jim West.

Q. What was your first job?

A. I was very young. I worked where my dad told me to — either at his office or at my grandfather’s farm. We worked after school, Saturdays and full-time during summer breaks.

Q. What was the first thing you spent money on when you received your first ever paycheck?

A. I didn’t get to keep my first checks. They were deposited in the bank or in a brokerage account and I was given a small allowance — far less than the paycheck. None of us bought very much anyway, except for birthdays and Christmas. That was about it.

Q. What’s the single most effective technique you found during the past two years for keeping employees motivated?

A. I don’t have a technique. I try to lead by example. I strive to do more than my share of the work and never ask you to do something I wouldn’t do myself.

Q. What led you to your current position? Why did you want to operate your own business?

A. I came to Albany in November 1977 for an internship with Drs. Wilson Joiner and Chuck Lingle. I had always planned to go home and practice with my dad — he’s still a practicing vet at age 82, but I was offered a job. It was an opportunity I couldn’t refuse and I’m still here after 34 years.

Q. Do you have a role model or mentor in your career?

A. My parents. They established very strong work ethics in all their children. My dad would judge us on how hard we worked and how we paid our bills.

Q. What is the biggest lesson you as a business leader learned from the recent recession?

A. No lesson. I already knew that there is a large segment of our population that have limited ability to care for their pets. The recession only made that worse.

Q. If you could turn the clock back on one aspect of technology – examples email, automated phone systems, cell phones, PDAs, etc. – what would you most like to see go away?

A. Automated phone systems. The selections you’re offered normally don’t fit your question. I like to talk to a real person.

Q. What is your favorite work-related gadget?

A. Unfortunately, I’m a real dinosaur when it comes to gadgets. I don’t require very much. I do plan to join the 21st century soon.

Q. What is your favorite tradition?

A. When our children were old enough to travel we began taking family adventures to places we’d never been. We’ve traveled most of the United States over a number of trips.

Q. What was the last book you read? Do you have things you read daily or regularly?

A. I don’t read books, I watch television. I do read newspapers and some magazines, though. I read things I can finish in just a few minutes.

Q. I’m up and going by and what is your morning routine?

A. I’m up between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. and then some limited exercise. I’m at work most mornings by 7:45. I don’t eat much breakfast — coffee and juices, mostly. I don’t eat much solid foods first thing.

Q. What famous person would you like to meet, and Why?

A. I really don’t have a person in mind. I would rather have a conversation with friends or meet an interesting every-day kind of guy.

Q. Favorite hobbies or activity outside work?

A. I don’t have a real passion. I like variety. I fish, hunt and golf. I also enjoy social outings where I might see my friends.

Q. If you could take back one business decision you made in your career, what would it be?

A. None. My career has been great. I’ve just followed the pathway that was presented to me.

Q. Best thing about your job?

A. Every day is different. Hardly a day goes by my partners and I don’t say “I don’t believe I’ve ever seen this before.” I enjoy the satisfaction of a helpless animal restored to health and reunited with its owner.

Q. Worst thing about your job?

A. Stress and pressure. You want every patient to do well and have a successful outcome. It doesn’t always happen, no matter how hard you try.

Q. The most beneficial course I took in school was?

A. I don’t know. I took seven chemistry courses in three years of undergraduate studies. I know chemistry is important but I didn’t enjoy the courses that much. I would have taken some business courses if given the opportunity.

Q. Finish this thought; “on the first anniversary of my retirement, I see myself…

A. I see myself working part-time, just one or two days a week with no emergency calls or weekends.

Q. What kind of music might I find on your list of most played on your iPod?

A. No iPod. I listen to the radio in my car. If I don’t like it, I’ll change the channel.

Q. What was the best vacation you’ve ever taken? Why?

A. I can’t answer that. My family has had quite a few trips and adventures. We’ve seen most all of the national parks and have a lot of interesting stories to tell. We would travel long distances and see as much natural beauty as we could in seven or ten days.

Q. What are the biggest changes you have seen in your specific line of business over the past few years?

A. We’ve seen technological advances allowing better treatments for your pets. The growth of specialists available to the public outside of teaching hospitals is strong as well. On the negative side is the increased regulation and red tape that affects our margin and ultimately raises fees.