Front Row Seat

I often pass on knowledge, wisdom and experience in the form of a story.  I come from a western background in which oral history has a central role in the learning experience.  As Dr Ed Blach and I launch, I am really looking forward to the site making a positive difference in your practice.  I’m anxious to hear the success stories you generate as you reinvigorate your practice into its new, more profitable version.

At the time of the financial crash, I was CEO of Hagyard Equine Medical Institute, the largest equine practice on the planet, as well as the facilitator of two equine veterinary management groups made up of about 18 Equine practices each.  I lived through the crash and recovery with one giant practice and 36 practices of varying size and scope from ambulatory to referral center practices.   Through the crash and recovery, I routinely reviewed the financials of about 40 equine practices.   Since I left Hagyard, I have been busy with my management consulting business.  I review the financials of about 60 equine practices regularly.  Financial statements tell a story and the story they tell me is sometimes an unpleasant one.

I watched our world change around us at an alarming rate.  Almost overnight, starting in September of 2007, what had always been true was now false.  Business practices that had always been successful were now ineffective.  Decades old iconic equine practices struggled.  I know of three equine practices that went bankrupt.  Veterinary Colleges graduate larger classes every year.  According to some reports the horse population may be down as much as 50%.

In spite of all that, there are some equine practices that adapted management to their new normal and are doing well.  They use a current road map to success.  Other practices have not picked up the current road map to success. Instead they have used hope as a strategy.  They continue to manage as they have always managed, hoping things would go back to the way they were.  Those practices have not done well.

I was talking with a client a few days ago about the ‘new normal’ business climate in equine practice and how different it is from the pre financial crash days.  She said “you have had a front row seat for the whole drama”.   After our conference call, I reflected on that statement, and thought about it from the macro view instead of 60 practice micro views, I realized she had encapsulated my position in the industry for the last 8 years.  I did have a front row seat!  From my front row seat I saw it all unfold, border to border and coast to coast.

In the last couple of years I have spent a lot of time in Texas.  From what I have seen, Texas builds more new roads than anywhere I have ever been.  New freeways, new off ramps and new on ramps pop up weekly.  Early this year in Dallas, I rented a car with a GPS and set off to my destination.  A problem almost immediately became apparent.  The GPS had not been updated with all the new roads.  It was useless.  No worries, I had an iPhone so I keyed in the destination and remarkably quickly, sucked the battery dead.  Of course, I didn’t have a car charger.   I was in a new and complex area and my old reliable tools stopped helping me.  It immediately came to me that this is what the crash and recovery felt like to many, if not most, equine practitioners. is designed to help you find the current updated road to success, improve your practices financial performance and help you reach your objectives.  I’m a big fan of metaphors.  Simply put it is an updated management GPS to show you the management roads you must use to reach your objective.

Andrew R Clark, DVM, MBA

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