Veterinary Pet Business: Opening a Second Location

By First Financial Bank
Your current veterinary practice/clinic is doing well. Is it time to expand and open that second location?

It sounds like a simple question, but it can take a bit of work to get to the right answer for you. That simple question leads to a set of other questions that need to be answered before you can determine whether you should move forward on opening a second business location now – or later.

Are you truly ready to expand your business?

Before you open a second business, you’ll want to be sure you have the team, infrastructure, repeatable processes and a solid revenue stream established at your current location. If those are all good to go, then you have a major “to-do” marked off your list and can look at building out your business plan for expansion. You also have to be ready to delegate and trust your team to keep your current business going while focusing your attention on launching a new one. If not quite all there yet, it’s a good time to assess what needs to be done and get an action plan for correcting before adding the complexity of managing a second business to what may already be your overflowing plate.

What kind of second business are you planning to open?

If you are looking to duplicate exactly what you have today, just at a second location, the pluses are easy to spot. You can get some economies of scale when purchasing products used in the practice and/or available for resale. You’ve “been there and done that” so you know what needs to make that type of business work effectively. The services and product offering described on your website are still relevant, you are just offering them in a second location. Depending on the locations’ proximity to each other, you may even be able to leverage your staff to work at more than one location (or at least at the beginning while you are training new hires).

But is this the best approach?

If you are looking at another location and it is close enough to your current one to be an easy commute for you, it may be too close. You want to carefully analyze the new market for potential and to avoid cannibalizing your current location’s revenue.

Another option could be to offer a complementary practice or services. If you already have a traditional veterinary practice established, your second business could be:

● An urgent care clinic
A pet resort or spa
● A hospital, clinic or rehab facility for specialized care
● A daycare

Or your second business could be headquartered out of your current one – such as a mobile veterinary practice or house call service. Expanding to a second business that provides complementary services to your current practice could provide you more opportunities to grow your reach and cross-pollinate clients between the two. It will, however, require different types of planning, infrastructure and staffing than you currently have in place. What is right for you is what best fits your business, your interests and your clients.

What about your team?

A large part of what makes your practice successful are you and your team. How you work together to work with patients and their human families is key. Team dynamics are always challenging, and become even more complicated as you add a second location or other service offerings into the mix. Can you replicate that formula with a new team?

You’ll need to think about:

  • Are all your current team staying in their current roles – or will some be promoted, reassigned or moved to the new location?
  • What talents and skills are going to be needed at the new location? What training will people need?
  • Where are you planning to spend your time – and who will play that role at the other location? Will you need to hire more veterinarians?
Attracting, hiring and retaining talented veterinarians is a challenge.

There are currently 3,200 graduates of Veterinary programs in the US every year, with an industry unemployment rate of less than 1% and an expected increase of demand over the next decade by 16% according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Competition may be tough. And if you are in a strong employment market, you may find it almost as difficult to hire veterinary technicians, technologists, practice managers and other administrative staff.

You’ll want to do your research to see what potential employees in your market might be expecting for compensation and benefits. Some resources that can help include job posting services like Indeed or Glassdoor that allow you to search based on job title and geography to see averages and ranges of salaries, as well as job postings for those positions. You’ll need to incorporate these costs into your financial plan, but also think about what you might be able to offer as a perk that is low cost but may be considered valuable to potential employees: flexible scheduling, days off for birthdays or volunteering, and opportunities to apprentice with another member of the team who has skills they’d like to acquire are just a few possibilities.

What are you going to communicate to your current clients?

You’ve established a relationship with your current clients. They trust you and your team to care for their furry family members. They refer friends and family to your practice. What are you going to tell them about your second business? You’ve probably already got a marketing plan in mind for communicating with potential new clients, but more importantly, you want to be sure that your current clients clearly understand your plans and how it will help them. What will they get out of your expansion? Think carefully about how you’ll position the new business, especially if it means a change in the team they are used to working with – you, your tech, assistant or receptionist may be key to their feeling connected to your practice. If one or more of you move to the other location, customer satisfaction may take a hit. Have a plan for helping them understand “What’s in it for me?” and view your second business as a positive for them and their family.

You’ve already created one successful business. Now, working with your trusted advisors to assess and build a plan that answers the questions above – and you could be on the road to your second one.

Want to learn about other trends in the veterinary industry? Check out this article. Ready to chat about your expansion plans? Let’s chat.

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