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How do I start my own veterinary practice?

Monday, October 13, 2014

This is a question that we hear a lot. So we figured we’d write an article designed to give you a general idea of all the steps it takes to open up your own veterinary practice.

GETTING STARTED

Before you get started, make sure you consider any limitations that may affect any decisions you make regarding the new practice. Did you sign a non-compete with your previous employer? If so, check the terms of that agreement.

You’ll also have to consider how you’ll finance the practice. If you need a lending partner, contact a reputable lender such as, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, or the SBA. If you have some money saved up and need to just cover equipment, you might look into a lease, we recommend Highland Capital. After you have made contact with your bank, your account manager will help you through the process.

You’ll also have to consider the time of year that you would like to open, and then build out your timeline based off of that. To help you plan out all of the steps, consider hiring a Practice Consultant. It can be really beneficial to have this person guide you through the entire process and to help things along.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

Finding a good location is important for obvious reasons, but make sure you’ve done your due diligence on your chosen location. Of all the steps involved, we’ve learned that this is the most common reason an opening is delayed. Choose a reputable realtor to help make an educated decision and walk you through the process.

Decide whether you’d prefer to buy property and build from the ground up, lease space and renovate, or locate an existing clinic. Whatever you choose, you’ll want to select a location in a thriving neighborhood with other high-traffic businesses nearby.

BEGINNING CONSTRUCTION

After you find a location, you need to assess your build out plan. We recommend getting multiple bids with general contractors and architects. Prices will vary depending on whether you’re going with an existing space or building from scratch.

Also, be sure to get approved for proper zoning. Once you have that, start the process with your chosen contractor to get approval on all building permits. This can cause delays if not done well in advance.

Establish a realistic opening day and make sure the timeline works with the contractor and build out. Many projects can take up to three months or longer.

Depending on your vision, you may need to work with your architect or an interior designer to help you design the space. He/she will help you pick out furnishings and other elements to create the desired atmosphere.

OTHER THINGS TO DO

Of course we can’t forget about naming your new practice. Once you decide on a name, be sure to register it and get it incorporated. You may also want to hire a graphic designer to design a logo that represents the brand you’re creating.

You’ll also want to build a website in order to build awareness for your new clinic on the web. In order to ensure that your website is found when someone searches online, consider hiring a company to help with Search Engine Optimization. This will increase your website’s visibility online. There are hundreds of companies that offer this service, but a couple that specialize in the veterinary industry are Demandforce and Beyond Indigo.

One of the most important things you’ll need to do is hire and train your staff. Your team will be the face of your practice, so be sure to choose individuals that you can trust and have a good work ethic.

At some point, you’ll also need to set up an account with a pharmaceutical distribution company so that you can get your initial orders for medication placed and schedule recurring orders.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT

Contact a qualified equipment consultant to help guide you through the equipment selection process.

Equipment consultants specialize in veterinary equipment and will be able to help you choose the right equipment for your budget. We always recommend getting equipment that is reliable. You’ll be using it for the next 10+ years so don’t just shop for the cheapest price.

When purchasing equipment, we recommend the “less is more” strategy. Get the essentials, and once you’ve started to generate some income, purchase more equipment as you need it. The equipment consultant will work with you to establish an equipment timeline.

In general, plan to order all of your equipment 8-12 weeks before your opening date. This is because not all equipment is ready to ship immediately; some are made to order. Also, the majority of equipment will be drop-shipped from the manufacturer, so it is hard to control when the equipment will arrive. For example, new surgical lights can take 8-12 weeks before they’re ready. This is because parts and raw materials are sourced from many locations around the world, so if there is a backorder on a small piece, it can result in delays of shipments.

Your equipment consultant will help establish delivery windows once you have identified everything you need. Be sure to find out who will be installing your equipment and who will be training you and your staff on how to use the equipment. Some companies offer these services on-site at your practice to help make your start-up easier.

Make sure that you and your staff take the time to familiarize yourselves with the equipment prior to opening day. Avoid trying to learn how to use something once an animal is present; you want to avoid any complications due to unfamiliarity of the equipment.

CELEBRATE YOUR OPENING DAY

Have a big Grand Opening party! Make a splash and let the neighborhood know that you are here. Plan something fun to attract people and their pets, like giveaways and contests. You may want to team up with neighboring businesses to generate even more buzz. Try to get some free publicity by reaching out to local newspapers and asking them to spread the word. Be sure to collect the information of your attendees and start building your database of potential clients.

Congratulations! You’re now open for business!

Now that you’ve read our tips for opening up a vet practice, you should be well on your way! Good luck in your endeavors! Call us if you’d like apexx to manage the equipment portion of your new practice.