Should I sell product or not?

A common question heard amongst practice owners and that is discussed at length in veterinary press is, "Should veterinarians sell product or not?"

There have been many articles written recommending that veterinary practices should not sell product, but instead, they should focus only on providing services.  The logic has been that 'veterinarians aren't good at managing inventory, so they shouldn't waste their time and money in doing so.'  This does not have to be true.

Veterinarians are very capable of establishing excellent inventory management in their practices.  They have industry partners who are specialists at managing inventory, and they are hungry and willing to share those resources to improve the inventory management in veterinary practices.  Veterinarians can identify individuals with the skill set and accountability to ensure strict inventory management, and they can arm them with the empowerment of leadership to implement their inventory management program in the practice.  This is all possible and many practices do it very well today.

What is missing in the conventional wisdom that tells veterinarians not to sell product is the viewpoint and desires of the customer.  Customers want excellent service and convenience.  If offered at a fair price, most customers would prefer to purchase product from the veterinarian, because it's convenient, it's immediate, and it solves a need.  As veterinarians, we are in the service business.  Our goal should be satisfied customers and happy, healthy patients.  

Therefore, as long as the practice is committed to managing inventory strictly and efficiently, to protect the financial performance of the practice, there is a lot to be gained by providing point of sale product that meets customer demand.  That said, for products that are rarely required or requested, it may be best to provide your clients the opportunity to purchase those from your practice's online store, assuming you have one such as VetSource or VetsFirstChoice.  This is a very effective use of these services.

However, there is a word of caution.  Whether you sell a lot of product or not, if you aren't committed to strict inventory management, it is best not to house a lot of inventory that isn't effectively managed.  Your financials will suffer greatly.  If done well, with strict inventory management, selling product can be a competitive advantage in providing convenience and immediate solutions for your customers.  That is excellent customer service!

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