Four generations present opportunities and management challenges in veterinary practice


The ability to connect with the full spectrum of age groups can increase effectiveness with veterinary clients and employees.

Although the 49- to 67-year-old Baby Boomer clients are often seen as a top priority, Cam Marston says veterinary practice owners should learn to connect with young Millennials as consumers and employees. "You've got to dance with the people who brought you-that's the Boomers-but you've got to get ready for the next dance," says Marston, president of professional coaching firm Generational Insights and 2013 Western Veterinary Conference speaker.

Marston presented "Four Generations: One Opportunity" Feb. 18 in Las Vegas to help veterinarians understand the differences among their clients, who range in age from the 68-and-older Matures to the Millennials just now entering the work force. Each group seeks different things as consumers and employees.

Attributes of the 4 generations

"I'm a Gen X-er," Marston told his veterinary audience. "We'll pay your bills, but we won't build your wealth." That's up to the Millennials. He says these 13- to 33-year-olds will be consumers in earnest in five or six years. And while there are 75 million Baby Boomers, Millennials number 85 million.

In many ways, Boomers couldn't be more different from their Millennial heirs. Millennials seek recognition as individuals and want services and products tailored to their specific, unique needs. "This is the participation-ribbon generation," he says. In other words, Millennials were raised as the center of their parents' attention and told they were uniquely special, whereas the Boomers and the Matures were raised to be "seen, not heard" as children.

He says as employees, Boomers usually exhibit a strong traditional work ethic, while Millennials often have a play first, work second mentality. Millennials are also more communal and social at work while Boomers can be "work hoarders" with difficulty delegating. It's the Millennials' social tendencies that set them apart from Generation X as well—Gen-Xers tend to be less personal and more cynical overall—but Millennials' communal attitude, especially at work, often endears them to Matures.

While there are fewer Matures in the workforce, Marston says, as clients Matures are spending the most on pet food and veterinary care right now. Mature clients put a high value on the veterinarian's expertise and experience. Generation X may be the most difficult and demanding client, but if a veterinary practice can get the endorsement of a Gen-X female, it's a big win—she is the "consumer purchase goddess" who directs the most money in that generation.

Insight into each generation may give veterinary practices the ability to increase revenue and more effectively serve their Mature, Baby Boomer and Generation X clients and employees. But Marston says it's essential to prepare for the largest segment of generational purchasing power ever seen. "With 85 million Millennials coming of age," he says, "they will be the future of your veterinary practice."

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Angela Elia, BS, LVT, CVT, VTS (ECC)
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