4 Minute Read
Great businesses are constantly reevaluating their operations, strategy and the alignment of both. Whether that means once a year or once a month depends upon the pace of change. After nearly 20 years in the veterinary industry, the most common conversation I’ve had with clinics, partners, clients, peers, analysts – and even competitors – has revolved around one thing: the rapid, seemingly unending change in our industry. In the last 10 years, an influx of investor money, outside technology and changing pet owner demographics has created a reactive industry chasing the next shiny thing. The unintended consequence is that purchasing and selling expectations are now at a level where most practices do not have the business experience to manage such rapid change, only able to work “in” the business, i.e. what’s happening now.
When Dr. Hank Schwartz and I launched VerticalVet in 2018, both of us were aware of this trend-line and made a commitment to frequently work “on” our business for the long-term. That’s part of the reason we never wanted to be a typical GPO; we recognized that part of the industry’s fire-drill permanence stemmed from GPO’s unwillingness to evolve their mentality or the way they did business. It’s why we chose technology as our differentiator – bringing members real data insights put the purchasing and selling power back in the clinic’s hands, providing stability. But even being equipped to help clinics at our initial launch, we also hypothesized that members would eventually need, want and demand more from their GPO, and soon. VerticalVet 2.0 had to be prepared to rethink everything we knew for the future.
It was with this in mind that our team got together in September 2019 (as we’ve always done every few months) and asked ourselves questions about the future of the industry. We recognized that the new normal – constant change – had to be managed. In discussing the process of trying to manage change, though, we stumbled onto a bigger question: What if, instead of managing a new normal, we helped members create a better normal? What would be required? How would we do it? Was there a risk to being different? We had just finished piloting our Platinum program, (a peer-to-peer best practices sharing group,) paired with our Reminders technology. The results were undeniable and a better future for the industry, our business and our members started to take shape: A Group Resource Community.
What is a Group Resource Community?
A brand new, mission-driven class of service, a Group Resource Community brings together like-minded but wholly independent members and evolves traditional purchasing and peer-to-peer learning opportunities provided by GPOs and cooperatives through 1) the integration of in-house technology, 2) real-time data insights and 3) a commitment to build community among its participants (including vendor partners). Active GRC members are better equipped to engage with industry or marketplace changes on their own terms to define individual success, while also proactively supporting peers and partners.
The team got to work rethinking our GPO, excited to embark on this journey with our members, elevating practices – together. Little did we know COVID-19 was less than 6 months away.
Almost overnight, we had to actionize the structure we’d put in place to support our transition from GPO to GRC and pivot our strategy to respond to immediate needs. In a matter of weeks, we launched Facebook Live Town Halls with Dr. Ernie Ward to focus on the pandemic and stood up a COVID-19 Resource Center; we negotiated, signed and rolled out new partnerships to help clinics meet CDC standards. Members now have access to VetCove, helping them check prices and we continue to evolve our Elevate platform and our communications technology. All of these resources are tailored for easy consumption by practice managers and designed to provide members the future of the industry today in an environment that promotes community, stability and service.
The faces, energy and insight you’ve come to trust over the last 2 years all remain the same in our GRC, and to be clear, we will absolutely continue to amplify our Savings program with our valued partners. But if COVID-19 has taught us anything, to create a better normal, we all must evolve our mentality and the way we do business. Every clinic at VerticalVet still remains responsible for its own success, but the facts are clear: we have a better chance of achieving success together if we are also responsible to each other.
I’m excited for the future of our work as a Group Resource Community, and sincerely hope you are, too.
About the Author
John Wagoner is an accomplished investor and entrepreneur. A graduate of Ohio State University, John has spent nearly 20 years in the veterinary industry, beginning his career as founder and owner of the 2nd largest distribution network in the South Atlantic region before exit. Currently, he serves as President and Co-Founder of VerticalVet, a Group Resource Community providing purchasing, education, technology and community solutions to 1,500+ independent veterinarians. John resides in Cornelius, NC with his family.