Competition can be hard to measure


In some cases the competition is fierce, but so too is collegiality.

HOUSTON — In some cases the competition is fierce, but so too is collegiality.

At a time when about half of all veterinarians describe their region as "somewhat competitive," according to a recent DVM Newsmagazine survey, it's a measurement of the business reality, not their state of mind.

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Two veterinarians in the nation's fourth largest city demonstrate how a pair of professionals in the same city can view competition differently.

Dr. Ben Johnston joined the Westbury Animal Hospital in Houston, which employs five DVMs and 20 other staffers, in 1965. It's a general practice that offers 24/7 emergency care as its specialty.

Dr. Paul Young opened Sunset Boulevard Animal Clinic in 1974 and employs four veterinarians, one of whom is on leave. He has 20 other employees and believes his general practice carves a niche by offering more surgical services than some other general practices.

The practices seem similar, but both veterinarians feel very differently about the level of competition in their city, where, according to the Texas Veterinary Medical Association, about 420 veterinarians cover 600 square miles of territory.

"There are lots and lots of practices in our area, but there are fewer now than there used to be," Johnston says. "I look at them as colleagues. They're not competition. We do our own thing and don't pay attention much to what other people do."

Not many new practices are opening anymore, Young agrees, but his opinion differs on how competitive the city is based the volume of veterinarians in the city. He says he would describe the area as very competitive, explaining that it isn't so much the number of practices, but how many veterinarians each practice now employs that has changed over the years.

Still, Johnston says he thinks competition is an issue, but it's lower than in the past because more veterinarians are specializing and offer some sort of niche service. Past DVM Newsmagazine polls demonstrate that, since 1997, the veterinarians surveyed also felt that competition had decreased.

"I don't think it's as competitive as it used to be. I think there's more diversity between practices in the area, and certain clientele are going to choose the type of practice they want," Johnston says.

To both veterinarians, finding a niche seems to be key for survival in a competitive market, though.

"Our main strategy is to stay ahead of the pack as far as our knowledge base, the types of services we offer and the kind of care we give," says Young, adding he thinks a high level of competition is common to any major metropolitan area and its suburbs.

One thing both doctors agree on is that there's no telling what the recession will mean to competitive markets.

"It's just hard to say," concludes Young.

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