When team members are constantly bumping into one another in the hallway or getting access to an available exam room has become a daily battle, it might be time to consider expanding your space. Or, perhaps the signs of growth in your veterinary practice are a bit more subtle.
In either case, taking on a potential construction project can be daunting, whether it be renovating your existing building or designing and building a brand new clinic. To make the process a little more straightforward and improve the chances of a positive end result, here are four important things to keep in mind before you begin.
It’s people who should ultimately be at the heart of your decision to renovate. This includes your team members as well as your clients and patients. It may be worth the effort to discuss the idea with your employees and a few of your most loyal clients to gain perspective as to how such a project would impact their experience. By taking more of a human-centered approach and focusing on the end user, you might discover solutions to problems you didn’t even realize existed.
Start by sitting down with the people who will most closely be effected by your growth initiative. Ask them about their experiences. Try to get a good picture of how things are for them now, whether it’s the internal working conditions of your employees or what it’s like to interact with your clinic as a client. Find out what they like most as well as what issues they’d like to see resolved. Even if the information you gather isn’t earthshattering, you’ll be able to confirm what’s good and uncover hidden pain points.
Deciding whether to build from the ground up or renovate what you’ve already got will hinge heavily on what type of budget you’re dealing with. At the end of the day, the real question you need to ask yourself is whether you can afford what you need. Remember that your ultimate goal is to increase and improve business, not strain your cash flow. Overdoing it could leave you in a situation in which you cannot enjoy your new space because you are so stressed out trying to generate adequate return on your investment.
By conducting an in-depth analysis of your current financial situation, you’ll be able to establish much more realistic expectations of what the final result will be and how much it will likely cost you in the process. Keep in mind, too, that total project costs can be significantly different than construction costs alone. Make sure you are looking carefully at the whole picture (i.e. architectural, structural, electrical, site acquisition and development costs, etc.) as you plan out your budget.
Lastly, you need to figure out how you will fund the project should you decide to move forward. Will you use your own capital, get investors, take out a business loan or go a different funding route? If you can’t afford to fund the project on your own, you’ll need to start getting your plan in order to demonstrate to investors or lenders that your business is sound and your project is worth funding.
Wants vs. Needs
Armed with insight from your team members and clients, and a clearer picture of what kind of budget you’ll be working with, the next step is hammering out the details on what you want to accomplish with your practice growth project. In other words, start with the end in mind. Sit down with your architect and make a list of your wants vs. needs. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What, if any, additional services do you hope to start offering?
- What additional equipment might be required?
- How much space will you need?
- What kind of building and style do you prefer for your practice?
The answers to these questions will help determine the design of your building, which will also help you gain even more insight as to what the project itself will likely cost.
Finally, it’s important to understand that renovations don’t happen overnight. You need to set realistic expectations on how such a project will impact your business. The planning process alone could take months or even longer – especially if you are looking to build from scratch. Once the project begins, depending on the type of construction you’ll be doing, it can take anywhere from several months to a year or more before your new space is fully operational.
The key to setting a realistic timeline is getting the right team in place as early as possible. This team will likely include an architect, contractor, lender and, of course, you as the practice owner. Partnering with folks who have specific experience and expertise in the veterinary industry is a wise decision. It may cost a bit more upfront, but the time, money and aggravation it could potentially save you will be well worth it in the long run.