Investigating the competitive landscape


Half of veterinarians surveyed think their facilities and medical equipment are better than the other practices in their area. But how do they really know?

SIXTY-ONE PERCENT OF RESPONDENTS SURVEYED IN the 2006 Veterinary Economics Business Issues Study say they don't regularly evaluate their competition. But if you don't know what your colleague down the street is up to, how can you be confident your facilities and equipment really are better?

Clearly, there is competition to think about. Fifty-one percent of respondents to the 2006 "State of the Veterinary Profession" study conducted by DVM Newsmagazine say their geographic region is somewhat competitive, and 36 percent say five or more practices operate within five miles of their clinic. Yet the data seems to indicate that you don't feel that you need to keep particularly close tabs on these nearby colleagues because, according to the DVM Newsmagazine study, half of respondents think their facilities and medical equipment are better than the other practices in their area.

Dr. Craig Woloshyn, Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member and owner of Sun Dog Veterinary Consulting and the Animal Medical Clinic in Spring Hill, Fla., says this is probably because veterinarians get a lot of feedback about other clinics without necessarily conducting any formal evaluation. "Fortunately, sales reps are big gossips," he says. "So yours may mention that Dr. So-and-So just bought the latest and greatest piece of equipment. This information can help you keep tabs on your colleagues."

Word of mouth

But, Dr. Woloshyn cautions, just because the practitioner down the street bought an ultrasound doesn't mean he or she practices better medicine than you. "Not every practice has exactly the same needs," he says. "So don't feel pressure to keep up with the Joneses." On the other hand, he says, if you're the only one in the area with an ultrasound, you could offer this service to other practices and help fill a need.

Figure 1

You could also ask your client base why they picked you—which could give you insight into your competitive strengths. Thirty-four percent of respondents to the 2006 Veterinary Economics Business Issues Study say they survey clients for information. (See Figure 2 for more.) One caution: "A new client may be all too happy to share a bad experience at another clinic—or reluctant to tell you anything," says Dr. Woloshyn. "So weigh that when you consider the information clients are sharing with you."

Of course, if you want to know more about your neighboring practices, you could try just asking. "It doesn't hurt to call another clinic and ask, 'What do you do in this instance?' or 'We've had problems with _____, do you have a solution?'" says Dr. Woloshyn. "Knowing what your colleagues are doing can spur you to provide better medicine and customer care or try a new drug or procedure."

Figure 2

Shooting the breeze with colleagues also gives you an outlet to ask questions. Dr. Woloshyn recommends using a quasi-social event to connect with peers. "Invite colleagues to see your new equipment and show them how to use it."

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