Preparation is key when starting a veterinary clinic.
After you’ve done your research, established goals, developed your business plan, and obtained financing, you can proceed with the next steps in this exciting journey! Follow tips 7-10 in Part 2 of our blog series, and ensure your veterinary startup is a success story. Want a refresher? Review tips 1-6 from Part 1.
7. Finding the Right Location for Your Veterinary Clinic
Every realtor will say it, but it bears repeating: clinic location is everything! For a veterinary practice startup, an optimal location can mean the difference between a revolving door of customers and a ghost town. So, when searching for and securing a veterinary office space, here are some things to ask yourself:
- Does the office location see a lot of foot traffic?
- Does the demographic of the neighborhood align with your target market?
- Are there other animal health businesses in the building or vicinity that you will be competing with?
- Is the space itself suitable for your practice needs, and is it accessible to clients? (i.e. close to highways, public transit, parking, special needs accessible, etc.)
- If the space isn’t conducive to a veterinary clinic/hospital, can you afford the cost of a significant redesign, aside from standard buildout costs? (Note: Sometimes it’s possible to negotiate a “tenant improvement allowance” with the landlord to help with buildout costs. Alternatively, some landlords will provide a “fixuring period” for tenants, a time during buildout where you will not be required to pay rent for the space.)
8. Negotiating the Veterinary Office Lease Agreement
Consider the veterinary office lease as one of the most important and expensive contacts you will ever sign in your career. The lease is a tool that can help facilitate the success of your clinic by providing protection and flexibility – or, can be destructive, contributing to the demise of your clinic. The following are some important considerations in the veterinary office lease agreement:
- Does the lease commencement date and length of term align with your practice goals?
- Are the proposed rental rates fair market value?
- Is it a Gross or Net office lease?
- Does the lease contain “death and disability” protection in the event you become disabled and cannot work? This language will help protect your family/estate from suffering unexpected, unmanageable debt.
- Do you have clinic location protection? Ensure the “relocation clause” in the lease prevents your landlord from uprooting your clinic throughout the lease term. In the event that they do so, ensure that all moving expenses are covered on their end and that you face no down time.
- Are you protected from the landlord moving competitors into the building/center? Negotiate “exclusivity” language into the lease to prevent this from happening.
- Does language in the lease allow you to expand your services and introduce specialties or expand to offer boarding or grooming? Check the “use of premises” language to ensure you can grow your business without landlord interference.
- When the time comes to sell your veterinary clinic or retire, will the landlord have a right to collect proceeds of your practice sale? Will they have a say in the selection of a future tenant?
These are just some of the unpleasant issues that can be avoided with a well-written veterinary office lease agreement. It’s recommended to seek out professional veterinary office lease negotiators like Cirrus to review the details of your lease to ensure you’re signing off on one that will help you flourish, not close your doors.
9. Veterinary Clients are a Virtue
Whether you’re a mid-career vet branching out on your own, or you’re opening a veterinary clinic at the beginning of your career, you will need to attract new clients. You don’t have to be a marketing wiz to drum up buzz and interest in your practice; there are many ways to attract new customers:
- Using a branding agency to build a cohesive and compelling brand for your clinic can increase recognition and build credibility in your community, setting you apart from competitors.
- Invest in a good quality website that supports the kind of functions your clients look for – an online scheduling tool, easy-to-find contact information, a “meet the team” section where they can learn more about you, and a gallery or virtual tour of your clinic/hospital so customers know what to expect before they visit you. A website is not the place to cut corners – it’s your digital calling card, and the first impression you’ll make with prospective clients.
- Even though we live in a digital world, referrals from existing customers are one of the best ways to attract new ones. If you provide your customers and their furry friends with excellent care, don’t be afraid to ask them to refer you to friends and family. Be sure to help the process along by asking for testimonials and online reviews.
- Engage your customers by maintaining a strong social media and email presence. You can hire a digital marketing expert or firm to manage your online updates, web content, and patient mailing list.
10. Stick to Your Budget!
Your business plan should include a proposed budget for every facet of your practice development, including operational costs, ancillary support services, veterinary equipment, office rent, insurance payments, etc. Every financial or business decision you make should take into consideration this budget, and the overall impact that any expense will have on your bottom line. It can be tempting to spend lavishly on the finest tools, supplies, a premium clinic space, etc., but exceeding one area of your budget means you will either have to cut back elsewhere, or increase your revenue. As a new veterinary practice owner, it’s difficult to achieve the latter, so you will likely need to sacrifice somewhere. If you stray from your budget, it will be hard to find your way back, and unfortunately some clinics never recover. Frugal or conservative budgeting is never a bad idea for a veterinary startup.
If you’re ready to embark on an exciting new journey and become the owner of your very own veterinary clinic, then Cirrus has got you covered! To find out how we can help negotiate the best lease possible for you, with fair and affordable financial terms, call us at 1.800.459.3413, today. We can also refer you to members of our intricate network of animal health professionals to help get you the business support you need for your exciting new venture as a clinic owner.
Preparation is key when starting a veterinary clinic. Ensure you do your research and establish your goals before you start looking into location, funding or marketing. Click here to read Part 1 of our “10 Tips for Starting a Veterinary Clinic” blog series.