Will we step up to the challenge and strengthen our local appeal? - Veterinary Practice
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Will we step up to the challenge and strengthen our local appeal?

No one reading this will be surprised that a dose of exogenous stress with a couple of weeks of nagging anxiety would elevate blood pressure sufficiently to trigger concern among health professionals – except me that is.

I cannot imagine why, after the last couple of weeks, I was surprised to see my BP reading hovering somewhere in the region where a cartoon rendition would show a steam gauge flashing red with jets of steam emerging from the joints, but there you go.

Few of us really believe that the rules quite apply to ourselves as they do to others. I fully understand the science, it’s just that I have a different view of the art of healthcare when it’s my own.

I must confess that I’ve given up listening to Radio 4’s Today programme in the morning as I find it all rather combative and so, on the way back from the doctor, I stopped off to buy a paper and have a quiet read over a coffee before leaping back into the tidal flow of everyday life.

I suspect that may have been a mistake as the headlines show Moscow using cyber warfare on an unprecedented scale, the presence of around 3,000 violent extremists in Britain, a leading London teaching hospital being taken into “special measures” and an exposé of Rolls Royce’s questionable tactics used to win contracts. Where will it end?

Like everything in life, our way of dealing with unpalatable thoughts is to make light of them, and this is such a part of our national and individual culture – after all, we haven’t entirely lost our cellular memory of the stiff upper lip and the spirit of the Blitz, both an inherent part of the British DNA and invisible contributors to our code of socially acceptable behaviour.

This is what makes us who we are and, while we may have moved on from the acerbic derision of Jack Dee, it remains a constant thread in our nightly entertainment, from drama to comedy.

So, while it’s easy to dismiss the unpalatable and to consign it to a back room somewhere in our inner psyche, there is no doubt that we are all living through a stressful period.

Shaky security

Business confidence has stalled in the post-Brexit interregnum and people’s job security feels just that little bit shakier, particularly so if anyone is trying to make or meet a meaningful business plan.

Five years ago, most of us realised that a five-year business plan was more or less impossible, a three-year one almost as difficult and, while a single-year plan was achievable, quarterly reviews might still require significant adjustment, particularly if one’s business is sensitive to exchange rates or has been subject to major borrowing.

Education has become a battleground and our children have been quietly conscripted into that battle against a backdrop of reduced funding similar to, but less well recognised than, the ongoing problems in the NHS.

So, on all fronts, families and individuals are feeling the pressure and particularly so if they have lower incomes.

The net result is that the sensitivities of communities are changing and, as small animal practitioners, being part of the community is becoming more of a prerequisite. This does not require us to change the business model but there is, I feel, an increasing need for practices to operate within the local community and to recognise the pressures that affect it.

As in all things, the coin has two sides, and despite the latent risk of significant change, the UK is still performing pretty well without major incident. Employment rates remain higher than in previous years and the interest rate is still extremely low so, subject to the ebb and ow of Brexit negotiations, there are many reasons for optimism in the longer term.

Whatever happens, business will not stand still and we can reasonably assume that the pet retail sector will continue to seek an increased share of the market. This presents us with as much of an opportunity as it does a threat, and there are myriad reasons to foster a wider set of connections for our practices within the communities where we live and operate.

We cannot know how events will turn out once Article 50 has been triggered and, in legend, Nero fiddled while Rome burned.

Instead, we have the opportunity to step up to the challenge and to strengthen our local appeal both by more enthusiastic and targeted use of social media and by holding seasonal events, centred on our businesses, within our communities.

Without doubt, the UK will become more inward looking in many ways before we start to seek out new markets further afield, and strengthening our position within our communities can be not only strategically sensible but also rather rewarding.

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