mark r. hafen, veterinary hospital design
smaller can be better.
Another example of a consumer group is young veterinarians. Young vets, possibly like you, are in the market, buying and/or building veterinary practices. You may be burdened with debt, under capitalized, trying to balance work and life, struggling to find a way to succeed. . Many of you are opting out of buying, instead going into corporate practice, but a few of you want your own clinics. You want to succeed, to make money, but just as important,you want to know you are doing good things for the world. But to do that you need to know your consumer group, your clients, and for that matter know yourself.
FOCUS ON PRODUCING THE MINIMUM VIABLE PRODUCT (MVP)
It seems that most of us are chasing the next shiny "thing". The tech world, the automakers, the media are always coming out with a new and flashier product. The loaded down products can do what we don't need, or even want. Some of us are asking if veterinary medicine has evolved to this point. Ask yourself, are you providing the medical care your clients are actually asking for? Steve and Bob tell us we need to focus on identifying a core product responsive to core needs... the most fundamental, basic "thing" the consumer needs.
If you know your core product, then you can built it. If you stick to building the simplest core product, then you don't have to spend money on the unnecessary and the unwanted, instead you've built the Minimum Viable Product (MVP), and by building the MVP you've minimized your initial costs and on-going overhead.
Turning again to young veterinarians, I would propose that one of the best MVP clinics would be a small, urgent care, neighborhood veterinary clinic. This MVP clinic would be a small two or three exam room facility, primarily out-patient, needing only minimal surgery capacity, and no long term animal holding. It would include a decent office and team room so as to make you and your staff's day-to-day life better. I think this could be done for not a lot of money. And it would certainly make your life better and easier compared to some of the other more grandiose alternatives out there.
BUILDING A SMALL NIMBLE ORGANIZATION
Your organization should be its own MVP. It needs to focus on providing the core need to your consumer, and not spending money on other irrelevant things. Your organization needs to stay small, some would say "lean", so you can change direction, innovate, be ready to move to respond to future emerging core needs.
An example of a small, nimble organization is: smaller/smarter is better.
Small because it is just me... and smarter is something I'm working on. Recently I've been assembling a portfolio of veterinary design and technology innovations. The goal is to create a list, but more importantly an on-going forum of ideas that can be used to make small practices smarter, i.e. still more effective, efficient (and also relevant).
Once assembled this portfolio will be shared with friends and clients. The ultimate goal to revolutionize the veterinary industry by building one MVP clinic at a time... taking incremental steps, one idea, one innovation at a time. I think it could be fun, and I know it will be productive... in an iterative kind of way.
Maybe you'll want to join me in making this happen.
Recently I attended a veterinary innovation conference at Colorado State. It was fun and full of exciting ideas. There was a lot of conversation about building for the future... but the most important thing I came away with was a book:
The Startup Owner's Manual: The Step-by Step Guide to Building a Great Company, by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf.
Maybe some of you have read it, but I hadn't. It is a detailed guide to how to build a high-tech, app based product and company. The authors write about growing a business in the fast paced world of Silicon Valley. But what they wrote about applies to any industry. Fundamentally, they are describing how to innovate.
As a veterinary design expert I have for years been looking for the next big "thing". The lightning bolt that will transform the veterinary industry. Unfortunately it hasn't happened yet. Instead I found this book. In it they tell you where to focus and how to build a great company. They describe an iterative process; research, production, testing, reinventing, repeat.
I firmly believe this same innovative/iterative process can be applied to the design of veterinary clinics. With each new clinic built we can make one or two small changes that can in turn change the way you relate to your clients, perform medicine, or streamline the working process of your hospital. Eventually this will add up to a transformation of the veterinary industry.
KNOWING YOUR CONSUMER
Innovating starts with an existing baseline. You have to know what your clients (the consumer) wants before you can build a product, or build a clinic that reflects their values and needs.
Steve and Bob spend a lot of time talking about how we rarely listen to what our clients are saying, instead we are focused on what we want to sell. For veterinarians it could be: Do your clients want the best possible medical care for their pets? Do they even know that that is? Or do thy just want convenient, reasonably priced day-to-day care, from a source they implicitly trust.
Over the past three years I've been fortunate to work with a range of veterinarians, designing both start ups and reviving existing practices. During this time I've seen one very specific veterinary client consumer group emerge: Inner city Latino neighborhoods needing low-cost, urgent, routine and emergency veterinary care.
This isn't a group many of us know, or would go looking for. It isn't necessarily pretty, but it is a group with very specific needs that for the most part have gone unmet. The few veterinarians that I have worked with over the past years that have practices the provide care for this group have been tremendously successful and are doing important work. These practices meet their needs by being cash-based, walk-in, high volume urgent care practices.