August 29, 2013

A Word With the Boss: CEO builds business that helps vets treat pets

By Edward D. Murphy
Staff Writer

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Ben Shaw is CEO of Vets First Choice, which partners with veterinarians to set up online stores offering pet medicines and supplies. More than 10,000 veterinarians have signed up.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

The third scenario is the one that's exciting, and that's the one where, increasingly, veterinarians are ending the inventorying of medicines in their practices. The medicines ship from our warehouse to the client, and the vet no longer has to be burdened with (carrying) a large amount of product. We have a lot of practices where we manage probably 80 percent-plus of their inventory. For a lot of pets with chronic illnesses or diet needs or maintenance and preventive medications, we're a perfect fit.

Q: How have you been able to rack up such a high growth rate?

A: We have veterinarians signing up at a high rate, and the reality is that our business is going to continue to grow very quickly. Our current customers dispense over $1 billion worth of drugs, and we have a tremendous growth opportunity. There are material benefits in economies of scale, in drug purchases and in making bigger and better investment in equipment and better business intelligence tools.

We've been able to leverage the buying power of our 10,000 veterinarians and make some unique and compelling pet owner offers that the veterinarians wouldn't have been able to develop on their own. Our growth also requires us to maintain high service levels. To date, our team has done a fantastic job keeping up with that.

Q: Presumably, you have a house full of cats and dogs.

A: My father has two dogs, my sister has one and a cat, and my mother has a cat. I'm dealing with a newborn baby at the moment -- we have a 6-year-old, a 4-year-old and 6-month old -- so we're not actively dog owners. We love dogs, particularly, and the whole family has had lots of cats, but the kids need to be at a good age where they can take care of them.

Growing up, we've always had pets and my wife has, too -- she's had five dogs. Our kids will have dogs -- we're under a lot of pressure from them to get one -- but our baby, Hannah, could be a little tough. She likes to chew.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:


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