Need to lay off a veterinary associate? Read this first

Need to lay off a veterinary associate? Read this first

The answer to shrinking profits isn't always to shrink your practice.
Jul 01, 2013

The economic growth seen in veterinary practices from 1990 to 2007 has disappeared in many areas of the country—and it hurts! In those years, practice owners built, remodeled and expanded to meet their growth needs. They hired associates and technical staff and trained and trained some more.

However, in those busy times, their outpatient appointments numbered 15 to 18 per veterinarian per day. In most small animal practices, this has shrunk to just 10 to 11 per veterinarian. The three-doctor practice that saw 50 patients a day is often lucky to see 30 now.

In your multidoctor practice, I imagine that your associates are like family to you now. You cannot imagine letting any of them go. Technicians and receptionists have been reduced in number by not replacing them as they left for one reason or another, and doctors are doing many tasks performed by technicians just a few years ago.

From a business viewpoint, you know you should not renew the contract of at least one of your associates. But which one? Each has been with you for 10 or more years, each owns a home nearby, and between them they have a half-dozen kids in the local schools. They are active in your community and great assets to the practice. Eliminating any of their jobs would seem heartless at this time.

But maintaining these underutilized associates' salaries has hurt your net profit. The result is that your owner salary has dwindled proportionately more than any other member of the staff. This cannot go on without the word "bankruptcy" popping up in your vocabulary. Before you lay off one of your doctors, consider this solution: a satellite clinic.

I know from experience that within a 10- or 15-minute drive of your practice, there's an area that's underserved by veterinary medicine that would make a perfect satellite location for you. (And a satellite practice may deter someone else from opening a full service practice in that area.)

A satellite practice is a relatively low-cost project. All you need is a strip shopping center with 300 to 400 square feet of space. This space will house a desk and phone for the receptionist/technician and an exam room equipped with a table, some cabinets and a few dog crates for transport. There is zero need for a laboratory, radiology equipment, surgical space or offices.