In veterinary school, you learned how to care for animals, but in the real world, you also need to know how to care for a business. Ideally, you should see a positive cash flow after 6 months of operation and sustained profits after a year, putting you in a stable position shortly after opening. However, putting together an operation that manages that steady growth can be daunting with challenges ranging from construction delays to ineffective marketing. Through this process, there are several issues you need to address to make sure your new clinic will be successful in this increasingly competitive industry.
What Does Your Clinic Do?
Opening a clinic is a balancing act between getting services up and running as soon as possible to turn a profit while still having room for expansion as your operation grows. Establishing targets from the start will help guide you through the process of putting together your business and making sure you don’t outgrow your space and resources too quickly. You need to know how big the practice will be when you first open your doors and how much you'll want it to grow. You should also have a plan in place to offer something unique in your marketplace, whether it’s an unusual service, under-served areas of pet care, or a convenient location.
Where Should Your Clinic Be?
Demographics can make a big impact on both the success of your clinic and it will determine the type of patients you’ll get. Larger housing spaces equate with more pet ownership, while average income determines the level of service you can deliver. The location should balance between being near pet owners while also being visible to help draw in business.
Who is Working for You?
Before you start hiring office staff, you need to put together a team of professionals to help you start your business. This includes an attorney, accountant, insurance agent, contractor, architect, marketing consultant and financial consultant. Together, they can help you start a clinic that is safe, profitable and legal.
On average, clinics have two to three employees on staff per doctor, while top quality care providers have a ratio closer to 4:1. This includes receptionists, kennel caretakers, assistants and technicians. If you plan on offering weekend and after hours office visits, you’ll need additional staff to keep your clinic staffed at these times.
What are Your Prices?
Between local demographics and the market space of competing clinics, you should be able to determine the best space for your clinic in the marketplace, whether that means aiming for top quality, low prices or something in between. Getting price lists from local clinics can help you determine what you can charge in your area.
What Equipment Do You Need?
Plan your clinic around having space for the equipment you want, but keep the initial investment focused on what you need to open your doors. Having a smaller debt load will take some stress off your clinic when you’re getting established. Once your clinic has been open for a year or more, you can usually get better financing on equipment, saving you money in the long run.
Where is the Money Going?
At the end of the day, you need to pay for your staff, your equipment and your clinic rent or mortgage while still having enough left over to cover your personal expenses. Initial financing needs to be set up to pay everyone until you start making a profit.
What Software Will You Use?
Billing, inventory management, patient records, prescriptions and more need to be handled by computers to keep everything running smoothly. Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution: one clinic may find cloud-based services simplify IT. management and cut costs, while another clinic may need a local, portable system for on-site visits. Getting a clear idea of your software needs can help you choose a combination of hardware and software that will be easy to use, easy to learn and have the support you need.
How Will You Market Your Clinic?
A successful marketing campaign is a multi-step process. Direct advertising and participation in pet-related events can make people aware of your clinic, promotional goods can keep get your contact information into customer’s hands, a website can be used for more in-depth information, and your staff can fill in the details for their pet when they call your clinic.
Positive Impressions is Your Promotional Partner
Starting a new clinic can be daunting, but we can make it easy to manage your promotional goods. Since 2008, we’ve helped new and established clinics reach out to new patents and build relationships. We make it easy to get the reminder cards, labels, supply bags and other products that you’ll need to publicize your business. Once you have an account, you can save your address information and previous orders, making it easy to refill your supplies. Looking to save some money on your first order? See our latest specials on our website.