Our changing world-business in the twenty-first century


The sphere of veterinary medicine is a rapidly expanding universe. It was not too many years ago that the typical veterinary practice was a one- or two-person clinic with a handful of technicians and one or two kennel or barn staff. The most costly piece of equipment by far was the ‘‘X-ray’’ machine, and with a little common sense, these practitioners could make a comfortable living without much help from financial experts. Most veterinarians worked a minimum 12-hour day, and were on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. These veterinarians rarely took vacations and were looked upon by their communities as mainstays and leaders. These practice owners were ‘‘amateur’’ business people trying to sell a few products at the checkout counter and run their business and staff at the same time. From the ‘‘James Herriot’’-type picture of yesterday, veterinary practices have evolved into multidoctor practices with a two- or three-to-one technician-todoctor ratio and highly specialized practitioners with extremely technical and expensive equipment. The modern practice has a business manager, supervisors for the technical and reception staff, a financial planner and accountant. It is now very easy to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on basic equipment and much more on facilities. These businesses follow financial trends, and must be managed very carefully to maintain their solvency. The veterinarian has been relieved of business concerns and returned to the practice of medicine, which is what most of us do best. We prefer not to be ‘‘troubled’’ with the financial concerns, staff interactions, or business planning. We want to hire experts in their respective fields to take over all other aspects of the business and leave us alone to do what we were trained to do and love practice veterinary medicine. This trend toward specialization has not only affected the veterinary community but other businesses as well. The pet industry in addition to most other commerce has become highly specialized. Using the same analogy, the average pet store, not too many years ago, was run by a family who loved animals and was staffed by kids in high school. Most of these pet store proprietors truly loved the animals they sold. The successful pet store owner had to have a good understanding of how to run a retail business, know and understand their market, be sales people, and provide good service and advice. They also had to possess good basic knowledge in animal care and husbandry, and were amateur ‘‘veterinarians’’ who treated their own animals when medical help was required. The simple fact was that there were very few veterinarians qualified or willing to work on exotic animals during that period. Thankfully, times have changes for the pet industry as well. The pet industry, like most of the retail business world, is now dominated by professionals who know and understand how to manage retail establishments successfully. They have become more efficient at providing necessary food and supplies to the rapidly growing portion of our society who consider animals to be their ‘‘children.’’ There is an amazing trend in much of the world with ‘‘pets owners’’ moving toward ‘‘pet parents.’’ To veterinarians, this is a very unusual phenomenon, as most of us have always felt that way! With this trend toward pets as family members comes increased scrutiny of how the pet industry takes care of the animals they sell. Just as veterinarians now need business professionals to compete in today’s business environment, the pet industry now needs veterinarians to advise on the optimal care of the animals on which the business is founded. The expertise provided by veterinarians employed by the pet industry takes corporate America to new levels of understanding on how to successfully purchase, transport, nurture and sell nontraditional companion animals and educate the new “pet parents”.