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Steven May is the founder of Creative Vision House. As a pet expert, May is also a sought after speaker, lecturer, writer, and author. The former publisher of Vetz Magazine, he has appeared in PEOPLE Magazine, CNN, Reuters, AP News, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, New York Times, the Today Show and ABC Nightly News in addition to over 100 various national and international media newspapers and magazines.
He also provides expert advice via nationally syndicated Multi-Vu pet segments which covers TV and Radio markets throughout the country.
Launched in 2002, Creative Vision House provides strategic marketing and business development for the health care industry with a focus on the veterinary industry.
MO: What inspired you to start a marketing and business development company that focuses on the veterinary industry?
Steven: I think my company launch was a result of having so many years in the industry in different areas that I could address both the macro and micro picture. My experience in the veterinary industry dates back to 1976 with my first job which was cleaning an animal hospital. I loved the environment and the facility actually put me in school to study animal technology which is how I began my professional career.
Maybe because I was always an “idea” guy but I soon found myself doing a lot more marketing and in a few years was heading new business operations for a large vet hospital. From there I set out on my own and created a 24/7 animal pick-up and delivery service which I eventually franchised, becoming the youngest franchisor in the State of California.
When I reentered the vet business world after about 10 years my focus was on strategic marketing, product development, logistics and distribution. After so many years in the business I had obviously built up a very strong list of contacts and decided that I could do for myself what I was doing for other companies. I was ready to implement my own ideas and having the background in so many different aspects of veterinary care I was able to see my client’s needs clearly…sometimes before they saw them themselves.
MO: You wrote the book, “What About Wally,” and exploration of what happens to pets after a divorce or break-up. What advice would you give to individuals trying to navigate this challenging situation?
Steven: I think the most important thing is to not think of the pet as an afterthought or as “property” which is how the courts currently view pets. Any pet owner will tell you that the emotional connection that exists runs deep so, just as it is with children, considering what is in the best interest of all concerned is the right course of action.
Divorce isn’t as easy as ending other forms of contracts. A different set of emotions are at play and oftentimes when pet parents come to the question of “Who gets the dog” they are emotionally bankrupt. I suggest taking a step back and literally writing down what will be required to give the best care to the pet moving forward. This simple act of listing what is required helps to create some distance and allows for logic to take precedent over emotions.
The point of What About Wally was not only to explain the legal and pet behavior issues that come with the break-up of pet parents but to promote the concept of co-parenting. And to do that effectively there needs to be a strategy in place. What I’ve found to be very interesting that divorcing pet parents may disagree on most everything but there is almost always some common ground surrounding their pets.
MO: What sites or resources do you use to keep current on what’s going on in the veterinary industry?
Steven: There are three sites that I constantly reference. The first is AVMA.org which is the online platform for the American Veterinary Medical Association. The others are Vin.com which is produced by the Veterinary Information Network and VNN.com by the Veterinary News Network. Each of these provides sound medical, business and marketing content and are considered the “go-to” sites for veterinary professionals.
MO: How do you think that the landscape of the pet industry has changed over the past 10 years?
Steven: On the basis of spending alone the pet industry has exploded. U.S. pet industry expenditures were roughly $28.5 Billion in 2001 and skyrocketed to more than $50 Billion in 2011. And I believe technology has had a lot to do with that growth.
The internet has provided pet owners with countless products they can easily purchase; including pet insurance. And, of course, the vast amount of information available to pet owners didn’t exist 10 years ago. While I think there can be some danger in people possibly misdiagnosing a pet’s condition based on information they’ve found on the internet, it most certainly gives them the background they need to make informed decisions when speaking with their vet.
A side benefit to so much new information via the internet is the background it provides on breeds. I think this has gone a long way in helping people make informed decisions on the kind of pet that would work best for their lifestyle.
From the veterinary side I think the industry is now focusing more on early detection than on just treating the symptoms. Part of this is due to new technology but another element to this sea change is the consumer market itself.
Over the past decade many patents have run out on products that were previously seen as “vet only” which has opened up a whole new product market. And when the Walmart’s and Target’s of the world start making them available to their customers, in addition to the proliferation of pet pharmacies, it’s required the vets to rethink their focus so they can be viable in areas other than emergency situations. The byproduct of this is that animals are benefitting because of early detection which is the best way to promote a long and happy life.
MO: Are there any trends within the animal health industry that you’re excited by?
Steven: There are incredible technological advancements taking place that are enhancing the quality of vet care such as CAT scans, MRI’s, digital radiography and even telemedicine. There’s also a new product out that could be a game-changer even though there’s only one currently available for pets in the U.S. The “Cyber Knife” is a non-invasive alternative to surgery for the treatment of both cancerous and non-cancerous tumors. It delivers highly accurate beams of radiation that destroys tumors but leaves healthy cells intact.
One of my clients, ANTECH Diagnostics, is also developing diagnostics tests that will provide faster and more accurate diagnoses of existing pet conditions. They’re harnessing available technology and applying it in a very practical way to support vets and their patients.
MO: Can you tell our readers about the new social media site that you’re launching?
Steven: I’m getting ready to launch a new website called ePetExpert.us which I’ve gone about a little differently. I actually created the social media platform in front of the actual website going live. The site will provide pet owners with the absolute latest in veterinary technologies and advancements in addition to advice on nutrition, behavior and products. The Facebook component is called The Daily Growl (facebook.com/ePetExpert) and we already have more than 35,000 fans so I know the audience is there. We also have an active Twitter feed under @epetexpert. The goal with the social media platforms is to not only provide sound information and advice but to give subscribers the opportunity to share their own stories and experiences.
When someone brings a pet home they are entering in to a lifestyle shared by more than 62% of all U.S. households. And when given the opportunity pet owners love to share and learn about others experiences. Social media allows for that direct interaction and I’m always amazed at the passion people have about their pets. I’m not surprised though. I’m the same way!
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