By: Nikki Nitz, CPA, CMA – Simmons Northwest & Simmons Midwest
A common theme heard from potential clients is, “I just want to be a doctor and practice medicine. I don’t want to deal with all the management headaches anymore.” Can you relate? Are you reconsidering veterinary practice ownership?
Let’s look at the causes of these feelings and possible solutions that can help you live the life you dreamed of when you first decided to take the path of business ownership.
Veterinary Practice Ownership Challenges
Lack of Time
One of the first things that probably comes to your mind is that you just don’t have enough time, but this is not why you feel the way you do. We all have the same number of hours, minutes, and seconds in a day. So, there is enough time! You just aren’t spending your time as you want — or need — to. Spending our time on things we don’t enjoy brings us stress instead of pleasure. We always have the time to spend on the things that are most important to us.
Lack of Education
You are a very intelligent person and had to be to graduate from veterinary college. However, you may be uninformed when it comes to successfully operating a business. Just because you are an excellent veterinarian does not automatically translate into you being an excellent veterinary hospital owner.
You likely received very little, if any, business education while attending college. If you have not personally taken it upon yourself to become educated in business you are running your hospital by chance. This lack of education may be the root of your frustration with the ownership and management of your hospital. You don’t know what you are doing because you have never been taught! Therefore, you are not experiencing the results you thought you would as a practice owner.
If you have no desire to learn about business management, practice ownership may not be the right option for you. Even if you have a stellar practice manager and hospital administer, you are still the CEO of your business. You are the owner and with this comes ownership responsibilities beyond being a veterinarian. You need to know at least the high-level components of business management. The buck stops with you.
Lack of Delegation
Do you feel like your hospital is consuming your life? When you entered into ownership, you had dreams and visions of the life you would have. You would make plenty of money and have plenty of time to enjoy life with the people you love most. Now that dream seems impossible, but it is not. There are plenty of veterinarians who own hospitals, or even multiple hospitals, and who live your dream life. How are they doing it? They have learned to delegate, gaining time in exchange for control.
Suppose you are working full-time as a veterinarian seeing patients and have complete responsibility for managing the practice. You have a choice. You can keep doing everything yourself or hire people to help you. Some of these people will be employees, and others will be hired from outside your hospital. In that case, it is no wonder you don’t have any time for life outside of work.
Cut Back on Hours
If you want to continue to be in complete control of the management of your veterinary practice, then you simply have to cut back on your patient hours. It really is this simple. I caution you to really consider if this is the best use of your time, education, and passions. If you don’t have a passion for learning how to operate a business successfully, I suggest you hire someone else to do it for you. This will allow you can spend your time being a doctor.
You might argue that you can’t afford a practice manager. If you hire the right manager, they will grow your business to levels you couldn’t even imagine doing yourself. This is assuming you are in an area with plenty of market potential. If you are in a market where your practice is already seeing the majority of the patients, this is a whole different issue and outside the scope of this article.
Hire a Practice Manager
How many hours a week are you devoted to practice management? How much do you earn per hour when you are practicing medicine? Do the math. Then there are the hours you would prefer to be spending with your loved ones or traveling or on hobbies. These hours are harder to quantify. Some of them are priceless. How do you put a price on seeing your kid’s first home run or a date night with the person you fell in love with and married because they are the most important person in your life? You likely can’t afford not to hire a practice manager. Right now, you are trading your life for working hours, and it is making you miserable!
If you decide your passion is really taking care of the patients, you need to delegate the management duties to someone else who has a passion for these duties. So often, hospital owners place an employee, often a technician, into the practice manager role. You feel you are giving this person a “promotion.” If you don’t provide them with the proper management education and training, you are not promoting them and instead are setting them up for failure. Just as you have not received business education, neither have they. So how do you expect them to successfully handle employee conflicts, inventory control, scheduling, payroll, financial management, and all of the other management responsibilities without the proper training? Just because they have been an amazing technician for many years does not mean they will be an amazing hospital manager. They may share your passion for medicine over management.
Assess Your Schedule
Log every hour of your day for a couple of your average weeks. You will find you are wasting a lot of time on things that are not of value — television, social media, online videos, all the negativity delivered by the news media are just a few things that come to mind. What duties and responsibilities are you currently doing that would be better to delegate? Should you hire the neighborhood kid trying to earn a few dollars by mowing lawns, so you free up those same hours to attend your kid’s soccer games? Should you hire a house cleaner so you can spend more time with your aging mother? The studies repeatedly show that people nearing death wish they had spent more time with people they love, not on their careers. Make informed choices on how you spend your time, both professionally and personally.
Take some business management courses. It has never been easier to get educated. You can do this from your recliner at home with online education. There are also plenty of practice management courses offered at veterinary conferences. Sit in on some of these instead of limiting yourself to scientific courses. Again, if you are going to be the owner, you are the CEO and need at least high-level business education to be successful. If you don’t have any interest in business management, delegate! Make sure whoever you hire for the management of your business is passionate about management and proper management education to be successful.
This is perhaps the most important piece of advice when you’re stressed from veterinary practice ownership. You have to decide if owning an animal hospital is really what you have always wanted. There is no denying the benefits of ownership, but the added rewards come with additional stress and responsibility. Practice owners don’t get to “just practice medicine.” Even the best delegators will still have business decisions to make and need to have some of their schedule dedicated to maintaining their business.
Simmons Can Help You Make the Best Decision
If ownership isn’t everything you wanted it to be, it may be time to consider letting go of ownership and returning to a career where you can just focus on improving the lives of animals. At Simmons Veterinary Practice Sales and Appraisals, we have spent decades helping advise veterinarians like you. Our team is always willing to help you assess your options and guide you towards a decision that will lead to a happier life. Contact your local advisor today.
We have been fortunate enough to know and assist hundreds of veterinarians. They understand what their practice needs. The challenge is the lack of resources and experience to create the veterinary practice of their dreams. Practice ownership is rewarding and can lead to financial security. Don’t tackle it on your own. Instead, tap into knowledgeable resources and people you trust who can help you reach your dream of medicine and practice ownership.