Practice survival: The new face of veterinary practice ownership


Practice survival: The new face of veterinary practice ownership

Women have been steadily climbing the profession's ladder for years, and now they're taking on a new challenge—practice ownership.
Jan 01, 2013

The myths and stereotypes about female veterinarians are plentiful and include lots of speculation about whether they want to own practices and what kind of owners they'll be. But what do we really know about women who are buying veterinary practices? Who are they and what are their stories? How do they feel about being owners? Are they capable of driving the growth needed in veterinary medicine?

First, some general trends: The number of female owners in all areas of business is increasing. There are 8.3 million female-owned businesses in the United States, and the number of female business owners has grown 54 percent during the past 15 years, according to the 2012 American Express OPEN State of Women-Owned Businesses Report. The veterinary profession is starting to see these changes as well.

Recently Simmons and Associates, one of the largest veterinary practice brokerage firms in the United States, pulled together some interesting statistics on purchasing trends in veterinary medicine. A State of the Market report by the firm showed that in 2008—the first year of the recession—39 percent of veterinary practices were sold to women and 48 percent to men. And from 2006 to 2011, the majority of new buyers in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Alaska were women—56 percent of practice sales. In 2010 and 2011, in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia, 30 percent of practice sales were to women, 50 percent to men and 20 percent to corporations. The data clearly show that women are buying practices even in these challenging times. And given that women represent more than 50 percent of the overall veterinary profession, it's likely this trend will continue.

Navigating a winding path

One veterinarian I recently had the pleasure of meeting is Kate Knutson, DVM, owner of Pet Crossing Animal Hospital and Dental Clinic in Bloomington, Minn. Knutson is passionate about veterinary medicine and loves her profession. She's an active member of the Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), where she will be stepping into the role of president in 2013.

Although she's now a successful veterinary practice owner, Knutson is the first to admit that her career path wasn't necessarily clear-cut. She originally wanted to pursue advanced degrees from Johns Hopkins after graduating from veterinary school, but life didn't quite go the way she planned and challenges intervened.

In her second year at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, her father, who ran an engineering construction business in South Dakota, was disabled in an auto accident and sustained serious brain damage. Unable to work or return home, he was moved to a rehabilitation institute in Minneapolis, leaving it up to his daughter to run the business and attend to his personal affairs, which she willingly did in the hope of his eventual recovery. Looking back on those times, Knutson doesn't know how she did it. She was a veterinary student trying to run a full-time business in another state and be her father's caregiver.