Like any other business, starting a veterinary practice requires proper planning and preparation for it to be successful. Since veterinary services involve the protection of animals and human beings, you ought to have proper guidelines on how to start the business and its sustainability. You have to conduct in-depth market research on veterinary practice and understand the ins and outs of running a successful business. Some basic steps to follow before you start practicing include:
Get Some Experience as a Practitioner
Before starting a veterinary practice, first, get some experience. You can work under another veterinarian and learn a few skills like dealing with clients, then branch out on your own. Experience helps you avoid mistakes while running your practice. While it is possible to start your business soon, you should get comfortable with the practice first. That way, you can see whether this is a good fit for you.
Learn Basics of Running a Business
The veterinary practice is just like any other business, meaning you need a solid foundation in entrepreneurial skills. Even if you have learned some vet skills in school, that alone is not enough to run a successful vet practice. If you have not learned any business aspect in veterinary medicine while in school, then take a short course on business. You can even do online research and get business tips without necessarily enrolling in a class. Talk to other vets and learn what challenges they have encountered and how they overcame them.
You cannot run a successful business without first conducting research. Starting a veterinary practice is no different. You will have to research the cost of starting a vet practice, who your target market is, how much you will charge customers based on their cases, what your profit will be, and the expected daily expenses. Check the competitors that are in your target area. What are they doing, and what can you do better to attract customers? Remember that these potential clients have already established a working relationship with their vets. You can also talk to prospective clients. Get to learn about their needs and wants and see what is missing, then provide that.
Consider Your Professional and Personal Goals
Think of your long-term and short terms goals for your veterinary business. That way, when you open, you can take the necessary steps to achieve these goals. You can plan if you want to run the practice for 20 years before you retire and sell the business. Think of how you will acquire the finance to start you off, and if it is taking a loan, how do you plan on paying it? Also, are you looking for partners to invest in your business, or will you be going solo? What are your future expansion plans? These are things you will consider before starting a veterinary practice. It is easy to get knocked off course when running a business. Having clear goals and a strategy helps you navigate challenges. The good thing about goals is that you know why this is important to you, and you can use them to measure your business’s success.
Finding a Good Location
Before starting a veterinary practice, you need to research the location you want to be based on. Consider whether there is a lot of foot traffic where you want to set shop. Also, consider the demographic of your target area and see if they require vet services. Check how many other vet practices are ongoing, as it will give you an idea of the demand for vet services. The location you choose should be easily accessible to your clients, i.e., close to public transit, highways, and convenient parking spots.
Acquiring the Necessary Equipment
Once you have secured a space for your practice, you need to get the necessary equipment like procedure tables, veterinary stethoscope, and portable ultrasound scanner. If you are buying an old practice, then most of this equipment is already there, but you will need new equipment if you are starting from the ground. Do some research on where you can get such items at a lower price or on sale to save on cost. You will also need office furniture for the staff and waiting chairs for clients.
Negotiating a Lease Agreement
You should negotiate the lease depending on the goals that you have. Do you want to lease for five years before you have something of your own? Some details to check to include whether you are allowed to expand your specialty in the future as you grow, whether the building owner is allowed to move in your competitors in the same building or exclusively you. Also, check on the relocation clause. The building owner is not allowed to uproot your business during the lease term, and if they do, they should cover the cost of moving.
Anticipate the Needs of Your Practice
Before starting a veterinary practice, you have to determine what resources you will require to run a successful practice. This will depend on the size you want to open. How many staff members will you need? What size of equipment will you need? This will help you avoid taking in much that you can handle or taking less than you need. It is easier to expand your business as you grow than to scale down.
Get a Team
You will not be running a whole practice by yourself. You will need professional help like an accountant, a receptionist, an assistant, and a veterinary business consultant. It is also good to find lawyers for veterinarians who will advise you on legal matters. Remember, as your practice grows, you will be adding more staff members to provide services efficiently. If you want a janitorial service, you can either outsource from a cleaning company or hire your own. You can even enlist a payroll service provider to help you process payroll calculations and assist your employees in filing taxes. Talk to other vets who are at different career points and get some advice. Invest in a customer care team, even if it is one person. Let there be a friendly face that will welcome clients into the veterinary. Address any concerns and complaints that clients may have in a patient and understanding manner and pay your staff members well to produce quality work.
Get a Financial Plan
This is one of the most important aspects when starting a veterinary practice. Are you planning to construct from scratch or rent in a building, and what is that going to cost you? Are you going to be taking a loan, or you already have enough savings? What is the cost of equipment that you will need? What is the salary of the team you will hire? Such are the questions that you have to ask yourself. If you already had clients before and are now establishing an office, you already have cash flowing to keep you going. Have an experienced financial advisor to walk you through this process. You can also go for veterinary practice financing to start you off if you have a debt repayment plan. Take business insurance coverage that will protect you against risks like lawsuits, loss of a business income, and the cost of property damage.
Open a Business Bank Account
When starting a veterinary practice, open a bank account that will help you in growing your business. The account should be separate from your one. This account comes with several advantages like:
- Separating the business and personal expenses so that you can manage the needs and expenses of your business
- It helps you save on cash as you can track business purchases and deposits, manage the budget and transactions, and file taxes easily
- You get accurate and clean bookkeeping because all the transactions are done strictly business-related
- It is a sign of professionalism as some vendors and suppliers want only to deal with a business account
Stick to Your Budget
Before starting a veterinary practice, you will need a budget for operational cost, equipment cost, and insurance payment. Do not be tempted to spend more than what you have allocated on these facets. Even if you run into a sale or discount on equipment if you buy in bulk, do not purchase if the overall cost will be higher than the amount you had allocated it. If you exceed one area of your budget, it means you have to cut back somewhere else. Even as you continue with the business, always have a budget for items. It will help you set priorities and a spending cap on things. It can also help you evaluate your company’s performance; this is because you will tell where you went overboard and what caused that.
Come Up with a Marketing Strategy
Once you have settled the financial aspect, now it is time to attract customers. You need to set aside some money to advertise your practice. Create a brand for yourself that lets your potential customers know what services you will be giving and why they should choose you. With the digital age, having an online presence helps a lot in reaching customers. Use it to update customers on any new treatments you provide, like pain management treatment and MRI tests. You can also market via newspapers, magazines, posters, or billboards. Have a brochure at the front desk informing clients of your services like a wellness program and vaccination services you provide for animals. Request your clients to refer you to other clients. Your services should be excellent enough to make your clients write great online reviews about your practice. Once you have acquired the customers, you need to retain them by offering discounts on return clients or something similar.
Work on Achieving Profitability
Work toward achieving a positive cash flow after starting a veterinary practice. That way, after you have dealt with expenses like rent and salaries, you still have money left. Ways that you can achieve this include:
- Accept various forms of payment like cash, credit cards, and pet insurance
- Expand your practice to big animals like goats, horses, and other farm animals
- Organize occasional mobile services where a few members of your staff visit clients and offer services
- You can partner with farmers in organizing agricultural fairs where you can offer consultation services to animal owners
- Promote pet insurance among your clients as this will attract more clients
One thing to note is that you have competitors, so in as much as you aim to make a profit, let your pricing be fair. If you charge your clients more, then you will lose them to the competition.
Expect Future Challenges
Even with the best laid out plans, things do not always go as expected. You will encounter challenges that you did not see coming, and you will have to deal with them. When you start, things will go sideways from time to time before they stabilize; you only need to be patient. Learn problem-solving skills so that as the challenges arise, you are equipped to handle them. Change is inevitable, and as the market changes, so you will. Just because some tactics have worked in the past, that does not mean they will always apply. Revisit and update your business plan and embrace new ideas, doing away with what no longer works.
Get the Required Permits
In most states, you are required to get a certified veterinary license before you start giving out prescription medications. You will also need a business permit from the local authorities. Laws differ in different states, so check what is required of you at the county clerk’s office. Remember to register for taxes and be in compliance with the government regulations.
Of course, starting a veterinary practice can be a scary thought because you cannot tell how it will go. However, with good planning and the right team of helpers, you can manage. With that in mind, you can open doors to receive customers.