Updated: Aug 26
A bold headline on Starterstory screams:
“How My Love For Animals Led Me To Start A $200k/Month Veterinary Hospital,”
That’s right, Dr. Ellie Scott makes over $200,000 per month in a competitive market. But it’s not just about the money. The real story is how she got her start and how anyone can do it too!
Some years ago, Dr. Ellie was a busy Relief Veterinarian serving many veterinary hospitals in central Ohio. Motivated by two recurring challenges observed in her line of duty, she decided to start her practice and make a difference in the lives of her furry friends and their owners.
After much research, planning, and preparation, Dr. Ellie purchased Stringtown Animal Hospital in 2004 and has thrived since!
Now it’s your turn.
If you’re a veterinarian, it’s easy to get lost in the daily grind. You worry about how to make ends meet, how to keep up with your clients, and whether you can make it through another day.
But there’s another side of veterinary medicine that doesn’t get talked about much - the entrepreneurial side. Many vets have created successful businesses from their love for animals.
Today we want to share how you can leap from employee to vet practice owner.
Choose How You Want To Become A Practice Owner
You have two options when it comes to starting a practice:
Buying an existing practice (like Dr. Ellie in our story above);
Building one from the ground up.
Each option has its pros and cons, so it’s up to you to decide which one works best for you.
Option 1: Buy An Existing Vet Practice
This option is the easier of the two because you get to piggyback on an established business. You don’t have to worry about starting from scratch and building up your clientele from nothing.
But here is the thing:
Buying an existing practice may be the quickest way to get started, but other factors come into play when buying a business that you need to consider. In other words, you need to do your due diligence.
According to Transitions Elite, vet practice valuation should be top of your priority list.
Well, it’s simple: You don’t want to pay more than what the practice is worth. You don’t want to overpay for something that isn’t worth its weight in gold. And by doing so, you could end up spending more than you can afford.
Option 2: Build A New Vet Practice from Scratch (A New Build)
If you choose this route, you’ll need to rent office space, hire staff, and purchase equipment and supplies before opening day. And once you are open, you need to put in a lot of work because you won’t have any existing clients!
Before moving on, let's clear up a few things:
Non-vets can also own and operate a veterinary clinic in some states-
“Corporate practice” of veterinary medicine laws vary. However, this article will focus on veterinarians and how they can start a vet clinic/hospital from scratch.
Let's dive in!
10 Steps for Starting A Vet Clinic/Hospital
Step 1: Develop A Clear Vision Of What You Want To Accomplish
The first step may sound obvious, but it’s not always easy to do. Many people fail to develop a clear vision because they’re afraid that doing so will limit their options and narrow their focus.
Ask yourself these questions:
What do you want your vet clinic/hospital to be known for?
What services do you want your vet clinic/hospital to provide?
What kind of staff do you want to hire?
What do you want to accomplish?
How will you measure your success?
What are your long-term goals?
What do you see as the “big picture” of the business?
Having a clear vision would allow you to focus on the essential things for your business to succeed.
You need this for others to know who you are and where you are heading with your practice. It also helps them understand why they should invest in your business or patronize you.
Subsequently, everyone involved in the practice must clearly understand what the company stands for and how it will help its clients achieve their goals.
Step 2: Choose A Niche Market
What type of vet clinic/hospital to start? Will it focus on certain types of pets or specific medical conditions? It is a crucial step because it will determine how you market your business, what kind of equipment and supplies you need, and how much money you need to invest.
Once you’ve identified some potential niches, ask why they appeal to you.
Do they offer more profit potential than others?
Are they less competitive?
Would you enjoy working in them more than others?
Or are there other factors involved? For example, if you have experience working with horses or cows, starting a large animal practice may be more straightforward.
Step 3: Choose The Right Location for Your New Vet Clinic/Hospital
After you’ve decided on the type of vet establishment you want to open, it’s time to choose a location. Start by determining where your target audience lives and where they go for their veterinary services.
Additionally, see what other vet businesses are already there. Suppose there are no veterinary practices within a few miles. In that case, that might be a sign that the community would welcome your type of business.
On the other hand, if there are plenty of vets in the area, however, it might be difficult for an independent practice like yours to compete with them and succeed.
When choosing a location for your vet clinic, it’s crucial to understand how competitive forces in the general area can influence your success or failure. You should also assess your strengths and weaknesses relative to your competitors to identify areas such as pricing policy, product development cycles, customer service levels, etc.
Step 4: Learn Basic Principles
Before starting your veterinary clinic, it’s essential to understand how a business works. One of the critical things you need to understand is cash flow. It is the amount of money your business has available at any given time, and it’s essential to know how this affects your business. Cash flow helps you determine whether or not you can afford certain purchases and expenses, and it also helps you plan where you want to spend your money. You can use cash flow statements to determine whether or not an investment is worth doing and how much money your business needs at different times of the year.
You’ll also need to familiarize yourself with the principles of operating a veterinary practice. When it comes to being successful in the industry, there are certain rules and regulations that you must abide by.
You will want to read these rules and regulations to avoid trouble with the law or other authorities. You must also understand how taxes work, insurance, and how to keep track of all of your financial transactions. For example, when dealing with employees, there are certain things that you have to pay attention to and make sure that they are being paid accordingly.
Step 5: Create a Business Plan
The next step is to create a business plan for your vet clinic. A business plan is a document that outlines all of the details of your business. It includes financial information, marketing strategies, and other details about the company. It will help you think through all the details of starting your practice and assist you in obtaining financing. The business plan should include:
A description of the services you will be offering;
An estimate of how much each service will cost and what the projected revenues are for each service;
An assessment of how many clients you expect per month and how much money each client will spend on average;
A description of how much it will cost to start the business and how long it will take before you see a profit.
Step 6: Establish Financing
Once your business plan is ready, it’s time to apply for financing. This can be done through banks, lenders, or directly from investors. The type of financing you get will depend on the size of your project and how much money you need to make it happen. If you’re starting and don’t have much money, you may want to look into acquiring an SBA loan.
Step 7: Hire A Team of Supporting Professionals
Think you can start a vet clinic/hospital on your own? Think again. You will need to work with a team of professionals who are non-vets to ensure that your business is a success. You will need the help of an accountant, a lawyer, and an insurance agent, at least.
Step 8: Set Your Premises
Your practice will need a physical address it can call home. It could be a clinic, hospital, or even a mobile clinic. It all depends on the job you want to do and how much money you want to spend. You can rent a place, buy one, or build one to get one.
The next step is ensuring that your premises are well-equipped with all the necessary equipment for running your vet practice smoothly. It includes:
Equipment for surgery, such as surgical lamps, surgical tables, and instruments.
Equipment for other specialized procedures, such as X-ray equipment and ultrasound machines;
Supplies such as latex gloves and bandages
You also need to ensure the availability of amenities like electricity and water supply systems. You’ll also need office stationery, some furniture such as chairs, desks, filing cabinets, etc.
Equally vital are licenses and permits, so ensure you get those from the appropriate authorities.
Step 9: Hire Staff Who Will Work in Your Practice
Once you’ve purchased your equipment and supplies, it’s time to hire employees. You’ll need at least one veterinarian on staff (this could be you), but depending on how busy your clinic gets, you may decide to hire other professionals like veterinary assistants or technicians. You should also consider hiring receptionists or front desk managers who can help answer questions from clients in person and over the phone.
Step 10: Market Your Vet Establishment
You need to do some marketing to get the word out about your practice and attract clients. There are plenty of ways to market a vet clinic, but here are a few of our favorites (in no particular order):
Create a website. Ensure it is up-to-date and easy to find on search engines like Google. It should include information about your clinic, staff, and services offered.
Post on social media! Post photos of adorable pets with their owners, and be sure to share success stories or special events at your clinic.
Contact local newspapers and magazines about doing interviews or stories about your business.
Create flyers for your clinic that you can hand out at the local events or leave in mailboxes around town.
You will need to create a marketing plan and implement it regularly.
Our tips, tricks, and expert advice
How does a clear vision influence the success of a vet clinic/hospital?
A clear vision for your vet clinic/hospital guides decision-making motivates the team, attracts investment, aids in brand building, and ultimately drives business growth.
How does the location affect the success of a vet clinic/hospital?
The location impacts accessibility for clients, competition level, and market demand, significantly affecting a vet clinic/hospital's success.
What are some effective ways to market a vet clinic/hospital?
Effective ways include creating a website, posting on social media, doing local press interviews, and distributing flyers at local events.
That’s it! You’re ready to start your veterinary practice. You’ve got the information you need to start, and we hope it was helpful.
For assistance with a valuation for your veterinary practice or for guidance on growing and marketing your new practice, contact us for a no-obligation consultation.