The Path to Extinction

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Resistance to change in the face of great change will accelerate the rate at which many proceed on the path to extinction.

The veterinary and animal health industries are experiencing great change. With change comes fear for most people. Even though many like to believe that they are open to progress and change, in reality, few like change when it affects them. They prefer changes that affect others much better. Resistance to change in the face of great change will accelerate the rate at which many proceed on the path to extinction.

Across the industry, leaders acknowledge that the veterinary industry is extremely resistant to change. In veterinary practices and companies that serve the industry, each one has its way of doing things. Any change or disruption to that ‘way of doing things’ represents a risk to current lifestyles. Therefore, most people resist change when it affects them because of the unknown. How will this affect me? How will this affect my job? Will this ‘new way’ make me have to do more work? These are the subconscious questions being asked in the minds of people who are faced with the prospect of change. No wonder they are uncomfortable.

Avoid the wrong path

The irony is that these are not the questions that should be asked, and asking the wrong questions is what leads to extinction. Instead of looking inward and wondering how a change will impact them, people in the business should be asking, “How does this impact our customers?”

Change is driven by customers. They find a better solution compared to what is currently available or being offered, and they migrate quickly towards that preferred solution. Their original supplier continues to provide what suits their needs, ignoring the preferences of their customers. All of a sudden, at some point, the business finds that their business is declining and they have no idea why. This is what results when people ask the wrong questions to avoid change.

This is the path to extinction, and many in veterinary medicine and animal health are on it. Over and over, in working with veterinary practices, one sees that the practice manager has been well-trained at keeping outsiders away from the owner. The owners have invented many innovative ways to avoid talking to people outside the practice, including in most cases, avoiding talking to clients. This is because the business serves to provide a lifestyle to the owner. And the practice manager, who is relied upon heavily to make sure the practice operates often without the owner present, doesn’t want ‘one more thing’ to do. They get hit repeatedly with new projects that fail and only create more work. This scenario is also found in animal health companies. We are taught, rightfully so, to focus on the priorities of what drives our current revenue. Few people have the ability to proactively identify new opportunities that will move the business in a new direction and provide solutions that customers actually want.

To avoid getting on the path to extinction, or to get off of it, it is mandatory that the enterprise has a concerted, consistent, and proactive appetite for keeping their focus on what customers want. The enterprise should have people who are solely focused on the customer experience, and this group should be empowered and funded in a manner that allows them to identify and pursue customer-centered solutions that meet customer needs, not just the short term needs of those who run the business.

What are some examples of companies that are sprinting on the path to extinction? Let’s look at a few obvious examples.

Veterinary practices that refuse to identify customer solutions using technologies to serve customers remotely are squarely on the path to extinction. Consumers want what they get for themselves, and telehealth services are becoming mainstream in human health. In human telehealth, the patient is able to connect with a doctor remotely for a consult and to get a diagnosis and a prescription within minutes. If you deny, for whatever reason, that this should be possible and is potentially beneficial in some situations with animals, then you, too, are on the path to extinction. Failure to serve customers in the manner that meets their needs only, to protect the flow of patients and practice visits, is an injustice to providing optimal care for our patients to protect financial interests.

On the corporate side of animal health, for years distribution companies were requested to provide the best pricing and transparency. Now we see a tremendous change in distribution with aggregations of buying groups and roll-ups of large numbers of practices having more power in their purchasing process, as well as Amazon now representing tremendous potential competition. In order to avoid the path to extinction and succeed with these new dynamics, distributors will have to focus more on their customers’ experience.

Get off the path to extinction. Identify your customers’ true needs and preferences, and make decisions to deliver an unbelievable customer experience, rather than only offering what suits your needs.

About the author: Edward L. Blach, DVM, MS, MBA
Dr. Ed Blach works as a business and market specialist in veterinary medicine. He has a unique background that combines veterinary medicine, market research, business development, and management. Dr. Blach is also an inventor whose professional passion is innovation and improvement. He is co-founder of two current startups: Ask.Vet and IsMyPracticeHealthy.com.

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