Generational shifts in Veterinary Medicine at Rocky Gorge Animal Hospital

By Dr. Steven Wolchinsky, Veterinarian

My grandfather taught me that the only constant in life is change. He said unless you embrace change you will eventually become irrelevant, no matter what business you are in. That is why Rocky Gorge’s motto has always been “evolve or perish”. Take a look at some of the great businesses over time; Kodak, Toys R Us, Blockbuster, Radio Shack, Sears, Pan American Airlines, and Compaq computers. All have vanished. The world around them changed but they didn’t. So what was different about Microsoft who was able to rebuild itself into one of the most successful companies in the world before it became irrelevant? They embraced change, maybe better than any company has. How did they do that? First, their founders were smart enough to step back and let someone who could see the future take over. The new regime embraced the generational and cultural changes that were slowly occurring. You would think most companies could see these trends, but we get so tied up in our past successes, and too often no one is brave enough to be honest with them. 

The truth is as you get older, change becomes more difficult. As our joints age and become less malleable and as our eyes don’t focus as well so do most people’s brains. We all say that it isn’t going to happen to us and then it does. I was destined to not let that happen at Rocky Gorge and my grandfathers’ words stayed in the front of my mind. I never thought that a class in Anthropology would help how I ran my business and how I saw the future but I learned and it stuck with me. Changes in our environment may lead to slow evolutionary changes in our body but drive fast behavioral and cultural changes. Species go extinct slowly but businesses go extinct quickly if they don’t evolve. If anything the pandemic has shown us it is how quickly things can change for businesses and how fast business models must change to be successful.  

Rocky Gorge has been evolving and the younger generation with Dr. Pasekoff, Dr. Appelbaum, Dr. Lane and Dr. Bricker are embracing the changes that are needed to keep Rocky Gorge successful for the next 70 years.  

What has been happening gradually that too many veterinary businesses have chosen to ignore are huge generational changes (enter the Millennials). Marvin Ellison the CEO of Lowes maybe said it the best – “All businesses must create a model to allow customers of all generations to shop in any way they desire to shop. Every customer in every era will look for value and look for simplicity. It is our job to provide the systems that offer simplicity and value”.  

To me, the key is blending cutting-edge technology,  customer service, and understanding the generational shifts so Millennials and Gen-Z’s will trust us to care for their pets. We just need to give every customer from every generation the tools that they are comfortable using whether that means coming in and doing business the “old fashion way” or doing business through our app, text or whatever technology they want to use. Most importantly we need to learn to communicate better with the younger generations so they trust us. Veterinarians have always been one of the most trusted professionals and that may have begun to change.  

My most sage piece of advice to young veterinarians is “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care and no matter how good a doctor you are, you won’t be successful if people don’t trust or believe you”. That goes for every generation. It speaks to the core of human nature. The younger generations want to be more involved with the decisions on their pet’s wellness and healthcare and I love how much they want to be involved.  

I have learned that Millennials and GenZ’s care as much about their pets as baby boomers and will do at least as much if not more for their pets than the previous generations. We need to not only adopt the best medical advances (which frankly is the easy part) but also show the Millennials and Gen Z’s that we care enough about them to do business in a way they are comfortable with. We need to take the time and hire the expertise to be able to communicate to all of our clients in a way they are comfortable receiving what we are saying.  

Rocky Gorge became successful because we never focused on the dollars, we focused on people and their pets. That built trust and relationships that spanned generations and has led to our success. 

That won’t ever change.

As always, thank you for trusting your pet’s care to Rocky Gorge. 

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