If you have just finished veterinary school and you are deciding on what your next steps should be, it is likely that you will be looking for open positions at existing practices. That’s a good option and you can earn a good living working at a veterinary practice. However, if you want to start paying off your student loans as soon as possible and secure your financial future, you may want to consider opening your own practice instead.
It’s a big undertaking, but if you are successful, you can increase your earnings in a big way. However, starting any business is a big risk and it’s not a decision that you should take lightly. If your practice does not do well, you could find yourself in a worse financial position than before. But as long as you know what you are doing, there is no reason why you cannot succeed. Here are a few important things to remember if you are trying to set up your own veterinary practice.
Do Your Research
When you are at veterinary school, you will learn everything that you need to know to start practicing as a vet. However, you will not learn how to successfully run a business of your own, so it is important that you do your research. Before you decide whether this is the right choice for you, you need to know what you are getting yourself in for. If possible, try to get in touch with other veterinarians that have opened their own practice and ask them about their experience. You also need to look into your funding options and work out exactly how you are going to pay for all of the startup costs involved with opening your own practice.
Often, it is a good idea to find a position at an existing practice and get some experience. Not only will this give you experience working as a practicing vet, but it will also give you the chance to see how a practice functions from the inside. While you are there, make an effort to learn everything you can, and ask plenty of questions.
If you have done all of your research and you still think that opening your own practice is right for you, it’s time to start moving forward.
Consider Your Personal And Professional Goals
Before you start drawing up a business plan, you need to think about what your personal and professional goals are when opening this practice. For example, are you going to start out on your own or will you open a larger practice and bring some more associate veterinarians on board? Do you want to specialize and only treat certain animals or will you offer a large range of services? These kinds of questions will help you to decide how large your practice needs to be and whether you need space for kennels etc.
You also need to consider what you want the future of your practice to look like. For example, do you have plans to expand into other locations or are you happy to run a single small practice? Once you start answering these questions, you will have a clearer idea of the kind of practice that you want to open and the challenges that you will face.
Draw Up A List Of Your Costs
Now that you know what kind of practice you want to open, you can start drawing up a list of the costs. The first thing to consider is the building itself, so have a look at some potential locations and see what kind of price you are likely to pay. Next, you need to think about all of the equipment that you will need, and this is often the biggest cost. You will need a stock of medications and some medical fridges to keep them in. You may also need surgical equipment, x-ray machines, and other diagnostic tools as well. This specialist medical equipment can be very expensive, so it is important that you draw up a detailed budget.
As well as the specialist veterinarian equipment, you need to cover all of the general costs of running a business. For example, you will need furniture, computers and appointment booking software, and you will also need some accountancy software. In some cases, it is best to outsource to an accounting firm to ensure that all of your money matters are handled correctly, so you need to budget for that as well. Finally, you need to decide how many employees you are going to take on, so you can calculate your staff costs.
Find The Perfect Location
Drawing up an approximate list of your costs is important, but before you can put together a clear business plan and start looking for investment, you need to find a specific location where you plan to open the practice. In any business, choosing the right location is key to success, and there are a few different factors that you need to balance.
Firstly, you need to find a premises that suits all of your needs. Consider how you are going to organize your space and where you are going to put the waiting area, the examination rooms, and the kennels if you are going to have some. You also need storage areas for all of your medications and other equipment.
Next, you need to think about the local competition and the potential customer base. If you open a veterinary practice right near an existing practice, you will find it hard to get off the ground. If people have already been taking their pets to a vet for a long while, they will be reluctant to switch because that practice already knows their pet’s medical history, and the familiarity makes it a little less stressful for the pet and the owner. That means that you will have to offer something pretty special if you are going to get people to switch to your practice. You will have a much higher chance of success if you can open your practice in an area where there is not one already. If people have to travel a long way to take their pets for treatment, they will be likely to switch to a new practice that opens nearby.
Finally, you need to consider the cost because if you do not keep your overheads under control, your practice will not survive for long. You may be able to find the perfect practice, but if it is outside of your budget, you need to keep looking. It’s important that you find a good balance so the cost of your premises does not eat into your profits too much.
Draw Up A Business Plan
Once you have found a shortlist of locations, you can start drawing up a solid business plan to take to investors. If you are going to get the money that you need, it is important that your business plan is airtight and it covers all bases. It needs to include a detailed list of all of the costs so you can justify the amount of money that you are asking for.
You also need to explain how you plan to market the practice and find customers, and what your projected earnings are likely to be. This should be set to a detailed timeline so you can show when you plan to open, how long you expect it to be before you start turning a profit, and most importantly, when the investors are likely to get their money back.
Investors will also want to know how you plan to deal with any hurdles that come up along the way. Businesses never work out exactly as planned, so you need to lay out your ideas for dealing with low customer numbers and cash flow issues.
Pitch To Investors
When you have your business plan ready, it’s time to start pitching to investors. Veterinary practices stand a good chance of getting the money that they need from banks or investors because they are usually a good investment. However, your performance during the pitch and the quality of your business plan is very important. If you get tripped up by simple financial questions, that is never a good sign, so make sure that you have studied the business plan and you know it inside out before you meet with investors.
Open Your Doors
Hopefully, you will get the investment that you need and eventually, your practice will be ready to open. At this point, it is important that you invest time and money in marketing the practice so you can get your first customers. Social media is always a good place to start, especially if you post details of introductory offers that will attract new customers. You should also focus on marketing products, like flea treatments and food, as well as marketing your services. This is often an entry point for customers who will begin using your services at a later date.
If you follow all of these steps correctly, your new veterinary practice should be a huge success.