Vet Business

What Can We Learn From Other Professions

Whenever I have discussion with equine veterinarians, I am amazed at how we think the equine vet business is different from any others. We complain that “Nobody else shares our hours, our cutthroat competition or our risk of injury”. There is nothing wrong with this, and I am sure all professionals do it. But are we really unique? Let me describe a business that we probably visit at least once a week. With respect to the old TV show “What’s My Line” lets see if you can recognize this profession.
  • Horribly long hours. It is not unusual to work 12 plus hour days 6 days a week. Maybe you will get Christmas off.
  • The constant work and irregular hours makes it hard on family life.
  • Only the rare few make a good living at it. The rest are constantly struggling just getting by or working at places that are not what they dreamed of when they went to school.
  • Injuries are commonplace and to be expected. When they happen you bandage them up and carry on. If you are not working you are not getting paid.
  • Most of the clients are great. Some become friends. But there are a small minority if people that are rude, insulting and do not show any respect to us at all.
  • Even though you have spent years getting an advanced education you are stuck in a dead end job that gives you no satisfaction at all.
Who am I? 
Believe it or not I have described the life of a chef. One doesn’t have to scratch the surface much to see that the restaurant business has many similarities to the equine veterinary world and indeed the horse world in general. You ask, Why does this matter to me? Well it is easy to find comfort that our situation is not unique, but I like studying other businesses to what I can learn from them and apply that to our own.
Here are a few problem areas of equine veterinary practice that have sent me to other industries for insight.
Develop new profit centers:
How do clothing stores introduce new fashions twice a year?
How does Apple bring to the market new products with such success?
Veterinary compensation:
How do lawyers and accountants pay their associates?
Dealing with the slow season:
How do businesses in resort towns survive during their slow season?
What prompted Bombardier to develop the Sea-doo to give them another product than the Ski-doo?
And what did I learn from the restaurant business? The successful ones treat their clients like they are very special. The successful ones have the same staff year after year because they treat them well and train them to have pride in their work. The successful chefs have a well trained sous-chef so they can take some time off. Those of us who think their clients want them and only them could learn from this. Restaurant patrons won’t know that the main chef is not cooking that night if the sous-chef is confident, competent, and well-trained. If you have chosen and mentored your associates properly there should be no reason a client would be unhappy with them working on their horse. Do you really think Gordon Ramsay is cooking at all of his restaurants every night?
What are some problems you have about your practice that may have been solved in another industry? Email me or write in the comment section and we can work together to look for alternative solutions.

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