Plant your seed in the right soil
The most common question I get from veterinarians is, "Can I move my practice somewhere close, keep some of my clients, and
bring in more dollars?" Two out of three times, a move of five or so miles can bring a whole new level of success without
dislocating home and family.
Where are you now? Sometimes a town with three hospitals can easily sustain a fourth, fifth, or sixth clinic. In other cases,
the town without a veterinarian lacks one for a reason. Not enough population! Not enough income! Not enough discretionary
income! Not enough per capita pet spending! Simply not enough!
You may be surprised to learn the worst place to open is millionaires' row. Clients with extremely high incomes don't always
pay. Dealing with chauffeurs and personal secretaries gets old fast. Wealthy people are often wealthy because they hold onto
every dime. I think your best clients are blue-collar, with family incomes of $60,000 to $90,000. Yes, 54 percent of your
clients earn more than you do. Live with it!
To find out whether your local area and its neighborhoods are primed for growth, call your local Chamber of Commerce. What
does the 2010 estimate say about your neighborhood's five-year projected growth rate? Greater than 5 percent is good. Less
than 5 percent means it's time to make some real changes.
Unfortunately, selling a practice in an area with low or shrinking population and income is a herculean challenge. The choice
is a bad one: Relocate to a site at a considerable cost or remain where you are with little or no net profit and unable to
sell or retire. I hope you never have to make this choice. Practices tend to be successful at five years—or doomed to fail.
Almost every bankrupt practice owner realizes too late that he or she stayed too long.
Prevention is key
I guess the big lesson here is: Prevention is the first key to success. No bank or grocery store opens without demographic
analysis. Are there 6,000 or more people per veterinarian? Are family incomes high enough to support your level of quality
medicine? What is the per capita spending on pets? Is the area's population growing or shrinking? Look before you leap, young
Dr. Snyder, a well-known consultant, publishes Veterinary Productivity, a newsletter for practice productivity. He can be reached at 112 Harmon Cove Towers Secaucus, NJ 07094; (800) 292-7995;
; fax: (866) 908-6986.