27 February 2017

BUSINESS - Pros and Cons: Corporatization of the Veterinary Industry

(Banfield Pet Hospital)
The Mars acquisition of VCA has resulted in concern in some parts of the veterinary community.

There are vets who have felt disenfranchised and restricted by corporatization, and others who feel that corporatization compromises vet care.

Banfield pet hospitals, an earlier Mars acquisition, have faced significant criticism from vets whose practices were purchased and brought under their corporate management.

Banfield was purchased by Mars in 2007, and Mars further expanded into the pet healthcare industry in 2015 with the acquisition of BluePearl.

Although Banfield’s mixed reputation caused some pause for BluePearl executives when Mars approached them, Dr. Neil Shaw outlined some of the benefits of being acquired by Mars.

Some of the benefits that Shaw saw for BluePearl in the acquisition included:  
  1. Ability to solicit input from successful professionals in other service industries on how to develop the very best models for service
  2. Grow our internal team development/training capability
  3. Provide additional advancement opportunities for all team members
  4. Hopefully be able to increase our benefit package over time
  5. Grow the organization by expanding the number of BluePearl hospitals to reach more pets
  6. Increase the efficiency of the referral process for it to have a larger footprint within the veterinary community

These benefits are among the many reasons that corporatization, controversial though it may be, offers hope for an industry currently struggling with mental health crises and frequent burn-out, the high cost of turnover among veterinary teams, and a changing dynamic when it comes to practice management.

As Today’s Veterinary Practice noted last year, “today’s veterinary practice is no longer part of an insignificant, mom-and-pop industry; instead, it is an exciting, evolving marketplace to which the rest of the world is paying close attention.”

Increasing the support base for veterinarians has the potential to alleviate these pressures on individual veterinarians, and that would be good for everyone from the boardroom to the waiting room to the homes of well-cared-for clients.

The Mars acquisition of VCA is an interesting move, and structurally different than both the Banfield and BluePearl acquisitions.

Unlike both Banfield and BluePearl, which were companies founded by veterinarians, none of VCA’s founders are vets.

Despite this, VCA has gained a reputation that eluded Banfield and although views among the veterinary community are mixed, the company has a reputation for providing consistent quality care in its clinics and hospitals.

If Mars is able to incorporate VCA’s positive reputation and approach to pet healthcare, the merger has the potential to offer significant benefits to both vets and clients.

One of the ways corporatization could work as a positive force, and a focus that Mars will benefit from and hopefully avoid the mixed results seen by Banfield, is to centre veterinarian agency and autonomy – to offer support and infrastructure and business training to the veterinarians, without rigidly dictating how they do their jobs.

This was the main complaint from vets who disliked or distrusted corporatization, and, in the UK, where the agency of individual vets has been preserved within corporatization, the response is much more universally positive.

Simon Innes, the chief executive of CVS in the UK, told The Telegraph, “You don’t really need to dictate to clinicians. The minute you start to do that, is the minute they say no… The idea of the model is that at the business end we create an environment where vets can get on with what they are good at: treating clients. We help them by giving them professional support they need.”

What do you think about the corporatization of the veterinary industry?
Watch InfoStream this week for a YourSAYTM survey and share your views.

About Tiffany Sostar
Tiffany is a published academic, an editor with the Editors Association of Canada, an independent scholar and researcher, and a self-care and narrative coach. She is particularly interested in the intersection of technology and identity - how our tools shape our selves and change our stories, and in how the nature of work is changing as we incorporate more technology into our daily lives.

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