Competition can be a wonderful thing... - Veterinary Practice
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Competition can be a wonderful thing…

Competition is a wonderful thing. As the war between the newspapers warms up, the reader is being treated to a rainforest’s worth of content as the publishers attempt, daily, to give us more for less.

Actually, it’s not really for less at all, as it is hard now to find anything worth reading at a price below £1 per day which makes it cheaper to buy a paperback each week – especially at Tesco where there’s always an offer on paperbacks – and there’s scarce difference between the fiction/non-fiction content of either.

You see, I’ve done it again. Given the need to solve a consumer-type problem, I simply turned to Tesco for a solution – something the nation does day in and day out, but I digress.

Today’s paper leads with an in-depth investigation into the psyche of the average Englishman – I think they meant Briton but that’s a topic for another day – in the fractious aftermath of a national drubbing by 11 young Germans who did as much in an hour-and-a-half to render the nation clinically depressed as decades of conflict in the first half of the previous century.

Collective flogging…

The editorial cuts a swathe through our emotional turmoil with lines like “Hang your heads in shame!” and so, bearing in mind that this is an expensive, seemingly intelligent broadsheet, heaven only knows what the red tops will have been demanding: nothing less than a collective flogging or perhaps incarceration in the Tower – enough to curdle the very milk on one’s breakfast cornflakes.

It’s not all concentrated on football, however, as the front page of today’s “Business” section carries the impassioned plea from David Raistrick, UK manufacturing leader at Deloitte, “How can we be this far down the list when we are the 17th largest manufacturer in the world?”

That came as something of a surprise to me, as a doyen of pub quizzes, as I was firmly of the view that Mrs Thatcher had sold off almost everything we’d ever had in terms of manufacturing, apart from MG which seemed to fall into the hands of the Chinese after some midnight skulduggery with the previous owners – I can’t quite recall if they were the Birmingham Five or the Tamworth Two but I suspect the latter were a couple of porcine escapologists .

Again, maybe there’s not that much difference and this may be more to do with making a Savile Row suit out of a sow’s ear than anything else.

Lack of manufacturing

Whatever the history, most of us have long believed that Britain has become a hub of service industries rather than the centre of any serious manufacturing and that it is this lack of manufacturing clout which is seriously delaying our emergence from recession.

It was, then, all the more interesting to see the index that gave the UK the ranking of being the 17th largest manufacturing economy, where we languish well outside the top 10 nations, nine places behind Germany and 13 behind the US.

The more chilling figure was that the UK was, last year, responsible for just 2.6% of the world’s manufacturing output, compared to 5.5% in 1980. True, the BRIC countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China are expanding at a staggering pace which will always skew any comparisons with previous periods, but the fact remains that our economy is producing far less in tangible output than 30 years ago.

The paper is, however, full of surprises and on the same page as manufacturing gloom comes a burst of sunshine in the form of an announcement that the City is anticipating its biggest bounce in business in almost two decades.

Apparently, the financial sector is growing again at its fastest rate since the collapse of Northern Rock in 2007 and business volumes also grew for industrial and commercial companies, which could be seen as a signal that firms are finally finding opportunities to borrow and invest.

Good signs

The cynic in me believes that big business is still likely to benefit before small businesses which are suffering most but it is, at least, a step in the right direction.

At local community level, these are indeed good signs because for veterinary practice to survive and prosper, not only do we need a buoyant economy with a healthy and growing GDP, we also need a measure of confidence to be returned to the nation, something which will filter down to the purses and wallets of those who bring their animals in to be seen and in particular those who bring their healthy animals in to us to be seen.

Few of us doubt that, even in times of acute financial stress, the vast majority of pet owners will continue to bring their sick and injured pets into the practice for treatment but it is the elective purchasing that we need to
secure on top of the distress purchase if we are to restore practice to an ascendant business curve.

There’s a lot that remains to be done to restore confidence in small animal practice business across the nation but the good news is that people’s pockets will be in far better health if the nation’s finances regain some bounce amid a growing sense that business confidence is improving. Of course, the real solution to our problems lies in getting foreigners to buy more of what we produce and we’ve tried awfully hard to do that by letting the pound fall against other currencies but surely we should be targeting those countries which, despite the fiscal woes in other lands, are managing huge trading surpluses? To date, that doesn’t seem to be happening.

Ineffective formation

Returning briefly to football, through the ministrations of Signore Capello in playing our few talented players in unaccustomed positions and resolutely playing an ineffective formation, we seem to insist on a little national intransigence in the face of irrefutable proof to the contrary.

Maybe, one day, the FA and our trading advisers will all learn that adopting a new strategy can be both productive and effective.

As we know, competition can be a wonderful thing – so long as we get through.

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