5 ways to fight the Goliaths of the world

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You don't have to be a veterinary underdog if prepare yourself well.

The story of David and Goliath is extremely popular as an achievement anecdote in business. If you're not familiar with the Old Testament story, a young Israelite shepherd boy takes on the Philistine terror Goliath in a winner-takes-all battle when everyone else is too afraid to confront the challenge. These days, the idea of an upstart underdog going to battle in any real or metaphorical arena is referred to as a David challenging a Goliath.

I grew up thinking that the young and, by all accounts, diminutive David had won a mano a mano battle to the death against a far larger, more skilled opponent. But after reading Malcom Gladwell's book David and Goliath, I understand that David didn't defeat the giant, but rather the giant, by failing to take his opponent seriously, defeated himself.

The bigger they are, the slower they are

According to historians, Goliath was oversized but not the “Jack and the Beanstalk”-sized giant people envision. In fact, certain scholars believe that some of today's athletes are likely as big as he was. But in an age when the average man was quite small in stature, an opponent whose armpit you could walk under would have been an intimidating anomaly. Sensible men refused to battle Goliath. I'm sure Goliath must have had a good laugh when he was challenged by David, and he likely figured he would be back to his tent in no time. He had destroyed so many opponents that his self-confidence had long been replaced with arrogance. He relied on his size rather than his skill. He knew only one way to win-by using brute force and strength, which left him slow to move and ill-prepared to adapt to a new kind of opponent.

The little guy has an advantage

Now look at David. He took on the contest with Goliath willingly, if not eagerly. No doubt he was more than a bit scared. He might have been just a shepherd, but he was also confident in his skills with a sling, and he had devised a plan that would more than make up for a difference in height and weight and his lack of both protective armor and combat experience.

And he was prepared-with his trusty sling and five well-chosen stones. He went into battle on his own terms. Goliath would have destroyed David in close combat, so David maintained his distance. He looked for a vulnerable spot in Goliath's armor, timed his attack and literally stunned Goliath with force. Then while Goliath was trying to gather his wits, David gathered his strength and rushed in for the kill, beheading the giant and sending the enemy packing.

What does this mean for us?

It seems that many veterinary practices have developed Goliath's attitude of feeling invincible with a false sense of superiority that results in the same lack of flexibility and adaptability. The problem arises when we find ourselves surrounded by other Goliaths that outman, outspend and outpromote us. They are bigger, badder and, yes-maybe better. If we do hand-to-hand combat with the giants we will most likely see ourselves crushed. Or at least engaged in perpetual combat.

David's five stones

The key is to emulate David instead. Recognize your strengths, then arm yourself with the stones that will allow you to find the chink in your competition's armor. Those stones are what distinguish your business model and your level of service. The five stones are:

1.Observation. Watch your competition and see what they do right and wrong. Look for needs not being met for clients.

2.Ability to connect and bond. People want a positive experience and a relationship with their healthcare providers, both human and veterinary.

3.Inventiveness. Identify developing trends among pet owners. What are they doing more of? What are they doing less of? What changes have occurred in family lifestyles? How can you better serve needs not being met?

4.Flexibility. Take risks and try changes, but never surrender your commitment to quality and integrity. Your clients may not be able to judge quality care, but you can. Accept nothing less than your best.

5.Swiftness. The goal is to take the lead, not wait to see what others do. Because you are a David and not a Goliath, you can make changes and course corrections rapidly. Be ready to do so.

Change your perspective. Stop being the underdog and focus on adaptability and speed of change. Remember that hanging onto a large and cumbersome business model puts everyone at a disadvantage. Size doesn't equal success. Don't let Goliath intimidate you-be David and be victorious.

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