Rewards eventually outweigh challenges of a new practice

Rewards eventually outweigh challenges of a new practice

Nov 01, 2011

NATIONAL REPORT — Veterinarians starting a new practice in today's economy say they have learned to accept the challenges along with the rewards.

New practices demand time and patience. Just ask Dr. Jennifer Lesser who is working to set up her new practice in Vermont, or Drs. Chris Jordan and his wife Leslie Dowd, also a veterinarian, in California.

Jordan and Dowd opened Rancho Viejo Animal Hospital in 2010.

They had previously owned a veterinary hospital in Northern California before moving back to Orange County.

"We chose this area because there was previously only one other veterinary hospital in the city of Ladera Ranch," Jordan says. "We thought we could offer a level of care and medical treatment that was not being offered locally."

"We thought that our practice philosophy and the presence of hands-on ownership would be unique to our locale," he adds. "It has been very rewarding to watch the hospital grow out of an empty shell to an established practice."

While Jordan says it also has been rewarding to see the positive response from the public to the hospital, the staff and the quality of care, there have been plenty of challenges.

"We had no idea how busy we would be at opening," he says. "So staffing and supply issues were an early hurdle."

He adds that the struggling economy has made it difficult to grow new business. "All in all, I would do it again, but I would scale back from the start and be more prepared for a delayed growth in this economy."

Lesser is very familiar with building a practice from the ground up. She started her first practice—Ocean View Animal Hospital in Delaware—in 2008.

"It was a pretty successful practice," she says. "I had a phenomenal staff. That's key to a successful practice."

With 2,500 clients at her small animal practice, Lesser says communication is also important.

"I developed a website and tried to keep my clients very informed," she says. "I try to work with my clients as far as time and finances, and tailor each case to what the client wanted."

Lesser sold the practice in April when her family moved to New Hampshire and plans are already underway for her new practice—Norwich Regional Animal Hospital—slated to open in December.

"This is my second time around," she says laughing. "Things are supposed to be easier."

Despite the work involved in establishing a practice, Lesser said the rewards far outweigh the challenges.

She says having her own practice allows her to structure things according to her personal beliefs.

"The level of care; the physical environment, everything is a reflection of who you are as a person," she says.

Ownership also offers more flexibility. "I could take my reports home and work on them until midnight if I needed to."

Despite the challenges, veterinarians at both new practices say they would do it again.

Jordan offers this advice, "Be financially and emotionally ready to endure a slow growth that may take longer than a year to reach acceptable levels of production."