Veterinary medicine can be both competitive as well as collaborative, but can our competitors also be our greatest assets?
I’ve been thinking about this question a lot lately as I watch the continued consolidation of veterinary hospitals, the rhetoric within the profession, the quickly changing technological environment—we are, after all, in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution—and the skyrocketing student debt. If that wasn’t enough, data is bombarding us, stating that veterinary hospitals are inefficient businesses.
The last statement would be my greatest fear and what would keep me up at night if I was still an associate in practice and labeled as “inefficient.” To employees, that statement immediately translates into “management will be squeezing us for everything we’ve got as if we aren’t overworked and underpaid enough.”
So how do we reconcile the inefficiencies, the competition and the high debt loads as a profession?
Collaboration is one possible answer to this question.
I challenge each of us to ask the following questions and seek to collaborate whenever we feel that we might be reacting from a place of fear rather than joy.
How can we work fewer hours and make more money?
What if we could leverage technology to work fewer hours and not be sucked into the technological ether?
What if our greatest fears were our most significant strengths?
What if the world was conspiring for us rather than against us?
This concept and practice boils down to the fixed mindset versus the growth mindset. If we choose to believe that the opportunities in this world are finite or fixed, then, if a competitor opens down the street, we will, of course, be negatively impacted. If, on the other hand, we believe that opportunities are infinite and we have a growth mindset, then we may view competition as a means to create more awareness of the services we also offer—which may positively impact our business. Free marketing can only help!
The best part about this concept is that we get to choose which mindset we will have each day—and our minds are powerful.
We’ve all heard about and have probably experienced a phenomenon known as “frequency illusion”1. It’s the fancy term for a trick our brain plays on us. For example, when we are shopping for a new car, and decide we want the new Ford Focus in blue, the next thing we know, we see blue Ford vehicles on every road and every corner, or so it seems. Well, actually, they were there all along, we just weren’t looking for them. The same thing holds true when we are looking for opportunities; they seem to be magically lurking around every corner. But the truth is, they were there all along, we just weren’t cueing our brains to seek out positive solutions.
What if we decided to view our competitors as our friends and neighbors? How would that feel? Weird, right? But wouldn’t it also build a sense of community; of belonging, and maybe even friendship?
We got into this profession to serve our communities, to serve pets, to serve pet owners—or maybe all three. If we honestly had a service-focused mindset, would you care that your favorite client with three kids, four dogs and two cats went down the street to a wellness clinic that was open on your day off? Or would we be grateful that our favorite client was able to get heartworm prevention for their pets on short notice while juggling three kids, four dogs and two cats, and you got to enjoy your day off?
Throughout my career, I’ve met leaders and mentors who had both views of the world; those who think the sky is falling because of how rapidly our profession is changing and being disrupted through consolidation, technology and entrepreneurship, and those who embrace and lead change through innovation and entrepreneurship. The sky is not falling; however, the world is changing—and fast. The people and businesses who will not only survive, but thrive, are those who are embracing technology, innovating and being customer-focused.
A customer-centric business may go all out by trying to put themselves in their clients’ shoes—adding incredible value, often at a high cost and chipping away at profits—but at the same time, also creating loyal, repeat clients and customers.
So how do we put this theory into action?
I recently tested this theory for myself. I noticed someone on social media with a very similar message to my own; not the same training, but we were essentially both engaged in related businesses. She was following me on multiple channels and liking my content, all while promoting her own, very similar business.
I had choices; I could get upset and immediately block her from all of my accounts, because, how dare she snoop on me! Or I could reach out, say hello, and see what opportunities there might be to collaborate. So, I reached out, said hello, and invited her to connect because it looked like we were doing something similar. After all, a rising tide lifts all boats, right?
We might just find that we are most successful and happy when we are working together and looking for opportunities. We might even create a more robust community than we would otherwise have by toiling away on our projects alone.
My colleague agreed. We are exploring opportunities to collaborate in our businesses, and I might have even made a new friend that, otherwise, I would never have had the opportunity to meet. +
1. The News Wheel. (2019, April 16). Why Do You See Your Car Everywhere After Buying It? Retrieved February 6, 2020, from https://thenewswheel.com/why-do-you-see-your-car-everywhere-after-buying-it/