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Competitive rivalry

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Competitive rivalry is determined by the competitiveness of the industry and all of the other forces affecting and influencing it.

Research undertaken by the Zoetis team showed that the veterinary industry was growing at around only 3 per cent each year, and it was suggested that unless ‘medicalisation’ of the market increased and more people visited practices, new clients could only be gained by attracting clients from other practices; this was where the competition lay.

Corporate practices and buying groups have the means to create large advertising and marketing campaigns, and have modern buildings to attract clients. Together, buying groups and corporates make up two thirds of the market. However, many participants did not see this as a problem. One stated: ‘We are in a better place now than we were five years ago; that is because of corporates’; another said ‘Competitive rivalry is not a problem, [it's] better for an industry to grow’.

It was acknowledged that the market was changing and that there were a lot of people coming in and ‘shaking it up’. However, many participants felt that, compared to other industries, the veterinary market was not competitive, and agreed that competition is good for the profession. Some believed that, to compete with corporates, veterinary training should be changed. They suggested that taking away the more complex, technological aspects of the veterinary course, and replacing them with business skills and customer services would allow graduates to enter any practice with a more rounded knowledge, not just of the clinical side of the job, but with the business acumen that was needed from day 1.

Contrary to some of the other opinions expressed, one participant believed that corporates should not be viewed as the ‘better’ business model; rather, practices would succeed by ‘establishing solid teams, understanding their customers, doing a lot of community-based work and feeling passionate about what they do’.

One group drew attention to the difficulty of differentiation between practices that have disappeared as a result of the economic crisis or those that have disappeared because of competition. The veterinary industry had been, in their opinion, quite recession-proof, but it would become clearer in the next five years or so which practices survived through merit. In addition, the groups thought that competition could increase in the future, especially given the changes, some as yet unknown, that are bound to happen in the next 10 years.

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