'The Fever'

'The Fever'

Before opening wallet for 'must have' piece of equipment, objectively crunch numbers, assess usefulness to patients
May 01, 2004

David M. Lane, DVM, MS
Dr. Allen Thomas walked swiftly through the hotel corridor. Above him a sign announced a gala event in Ballroom C for all registered veterinarians.

As he passed under the sign he spied a crowd milling in front of the exhibit hall. He knew that the exhibits would open at 9 a.m. but was surprised at the size of the knot of people pressing the entrance.

Allen adjusted the black bag given to him at registration as he walked into the throng. In a few short minutes the doors were opened, and the crowd quickly divided and dispersed into a dozen walkways lined with vendors.

The arcade was now swelling with noise as vendors pushed to entreat each veterinarian with the newest and greatest in the delivery of modern veterinary medicine.

'The dance' begins Allen pulled out his wallet and found the business card crumpled underneath a Wal-Mart receipt. He unfolded it and looked at the business name: "Acme Equipment, John Wilson, Account Representative."

He checked the computer kiosk provided in the exhibit area and located "Acme Equipment" at Booth 323 on Aisle 12. Allen had met John Wilson at the coffee shop the previous evening, and John was telling him about the great deal his company had on lab equipment. Allen stuffed the card back in his wallet and pressed on to Booth 323.

John Wilson immediately recognized Dr. Thomas as he approached the booth. John gave Dr. Thomas a hearty handshake and proceeded to show him a dazzling array of surgical instruments. Allen absent-mindedly sifted though the shiny tools arranged neatly on the table and then coyly looked up and spied the object of his mission to Booth 323: an in- house blood chemistry machine. John took the cue immediately and walked over to show Dr. Thomas the benefits inherent in such a purchase. John opened a bright and shiny brochure with red check marks marking each and every tantalizing quality. The brochure also contained a sentence circled in red that clearly stated how this product was superior to other less advanced products being sold by competitors at Booth 456.

John turned the machine on and deftly pulled a box of supplies from under the apron of the table. In no time, the machine was cranking out blood results on an optional printer. In fact, it took less time than it took for Allen to eat four Hershey's kisses found in a bowl next to the display. Allen was impressed.

He then popped the big question. John was way ahead by now. John reached for yellow legal pad and started scribbling out numbers in a black felt marker. At the bottom he wrote the figure $15,000 plus tax and circled it with a red marker. John said that this was the show special and that this price would be good for the whole meeting. Allen could see at the top of the yellow pad that retail price was originally much higher but various rebates and discounts were factored in along with a free box of reagents and something called a starter kit.

John tore off the sheet and deftly produced another set of figures. This showed that by using this machine only once per day it would pay for itself in less than two years-everything after that would be pure profit. Allen was now boiling with "the fever" and had to walk away for a few moments to keep from signing every dotted line within reach. John was happy and gave him two more business cards.

Afterglow Allen walked away swooning with the possibilities. He walked past scores of booths but showed only passing interest. He didn't really have $15,000 in the bank, and as a solo practitioner he wondered if this week away from patients would drain his bank account before he got back. His wife had come with him and was a little worried about the quarterly tax payment that would be due next week. He decided that he had to go to a lecture just to cool off.

Dr. Fancy Pants Amy Thomas was sitting on the bed staring at the Oprah show when Allen arrived from the lower lobby. Her faced brightened as she asked him how the meeting was going. He had a funny sheepish look that Amy knew only too well.

"OK, Dr. Fancy Pants, what did you find down there to buy?" she giggled.

"A new lab machine that should raise our gross income," he replied.

"How much?"

"Fifteen thousand dollars-which is the meeting special which is quite a reduction."

Her face now grew somber. She could tell he had "the fever," and she had never found an antidote.

I would first of all like to point out that veterinarians are blessed to have first-rate companies that professionally and tirelessly serve this profession. The technology, quality and value that these companies bring to this profession are a legacy. This is true today and tomorrow's breakthroughs will likely be breathtaking.

I would also like to point out that blood chemistry machines have proven track records for bringing new income into the veterinary business environment

On the other hand, veterinary business owners seldom are able to make informed economic alternative decisions about newer and better technology in order to deliver the maximum benefit to clients and the practice. In every case somewhere among all the nation's veterinary hospitals, a need exists for every product or service available at conventions exhibit halls. However, in the end, it is up to the business owner to understand the difference between wants and needs and economic viability.