Bounce back: Grow your practice regardless of the competition (Proceedings)

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Bounce back: Grow your practice regardless of the competition (Proceedings)

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Apr 01, 2010

Competition between veterinarians and veterinary practices has never been more intense, nor have so many opportunities been available to become successful. That may seem like a paradox but many practices are becoming more successful in the face of more and more competition. More 2 person practices are able to reach the $1,500,000 level than ever before.

One of the major reasons that some practices have been so successful is that they are constantly changing to meet the needs of their clients. The old ways of doing business using the old service methods do not work well today. Consumers today are not looking for businesses that are open limited hours, selling outdated products and services and operating in worn out facilities in out-of-the way locations.

The changing landscape

Consumer buying habits have changed greatly due to the current life style of most families. More families today are single parent families with limited free time. In those families which are dual parent families, both members work full-time and again have limited free time outside the regular work day. Ten years ago, industry consultants were forecasting 35 hour work weeks. However, the work week for most people has expanded to about 45 hours per week; not contracted. In addition, more professional couples are deciding that children are not compatible with a career, so pets are becoming substitutes.

These changes in family life result in less time being available to obtain veterinary services during the typical 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday work week. The changes in work force demographics and the changes in consumer habits (constant search for value) have changed the way businesses must do business. Main Street USA is not like it was in the 1960's. Prior to 1960, the larger successful retail stores were J.C. Penney, Sears, Roebuck and Company and Montgomery Ward. Most small towns had one or more of these stores.

In the 1960's, a new breed of retail store started to develop as K-Mart, Target, and Wal-Mart stores came into town. These "new breed" stores were different as they extended hours of business and promoted their products based on quality and value. "Money back" guarantees were made to assure the consumer that the products would perform as advertised. Other features of these "new breed" retail stores were their convenient locations, large inventories, and competitive prices.

As an example, between 1962 and 1980, Wal-Mart opened 276 stores but between 1980 and 1990, 1,000 stores were opened. Today Wal-Mart has over 8,900 facilities world wide. The concept of large format stores offering everything at a volume price, 7 days-a-week, in a convenient location really caught on. In Wal-Mart's search to listen to the needs of the new consumer, Wal-Mart Super Centers were opened. These larger stores carry all of the regular Wal-Mart items but in addition have groceries, fast-food (i.e., McDonald's), 1 hour photographic service, 1 hour eye glasses service, cleaners, bakery, and fresh flowers. This is truly a one-stop shopping experience in a convenient location in a bright and clean facility, using well trained staff. By 2009, Wal-Mart had 2,746 Super Centers open with more opening all the time.

The "new breed" stores were joined in the 1980's by new competition as the "Category Killer" stores opened. These stores use the Wal-Mart approach to business (convenient location, extended hours, inventory at rock-bottom prices) but specialize in one category of products and services. Examples of the Category Killers are: Walgreens (Drugs); Toys "R" Us (Toys); Home Depot (Home Supplies); Best Buy (Electronics) and PetSmart (Pet Items).