Practice Ownership v Salary Security: Head to Head – A Guide For Today’s Vets
A guest post by Vesta Veterinary Partners co-founders Dr Ericka Carroll and Amanda Kattan.
Here are a few of the many reasons veterinarians say practice ownership is not for them – I want work-life balance, I have a lot of student debt, I do not know how to run a business – sounds familiar?
However, with recent advances in business processes, structuring, and technology, practice ownership is not only possible, it’s worthy of serious consideration. Here are some valuable insights for you to consider…
- Of veterinarians who choose ownership, very few regret it. A 2016 survey by the California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) found 87% of veterinarian owners were glad they made the leap!
- Despite the stereotype that millennials cringe at the thought of commitment and material objects, preferring instead to invest in experiences, practice ownership can be one of the best ways to invest in people, communities and yourself.
Not convinced yet? We think by the time you make it to the end of this article you might well be persuaded to at least explore the options a little more. You owe it to yourself. And we even throw in a little Frank Sinatra along the way – feel free to sing along.
Reason #1: Owning means empowerment
- When you own, you decide when to work. Sure there might be periods where you are working harder than your peers down the street, but veterinarians are no strangers to hard work. It’s never the hard work that drags us down. It’s not having a say or control on how hard and when to work. When you own, you decide whether to close on holidays, whether it is worth squeezing in that last client of the day, or whether you want to be open on weekends. You are in control.
- Similarly, do you have a preferred PIMS, a particular NSAID you like to prescribe, or a desire for an ultrasound machine? Have you always dreamed of what your ideal clinic would look like? As an owner, you decide. Imagine what it could be like to spend your days at a place that truly reflects your vision, your voice, and your values.
I’ve lived a life that’s full
I traveled each and every highway
But more, much more than this
I did it my way
Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption
I planned each chartered course
Each careful step along the byway
But more, much more than this
I did it my way
Reason #2: Owning means you have control
- As an owner, you decide how to spend the business profits. Maybe you want to give back to your community, pay your staff more, or re-invest in the clinic. Your practice becomes part of the fabric of a neighborhood or a town that is better off as a result.
- Undoubtedly, when you are an owner, there will be some things to fret about. But you will never have to worry that you will arrive to work one day after 10+ years at the same practice, only to discover that it has been sold and everything is about to change. Ownership means a certain sense of stability, like going home for the holidays – it is nice to have the comfort of the known, while still having the ability to introduce the excitement of the unknown.
Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all, when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out
I faced it all and I stood tall
And did it my way
Reason #3: Owning means building long-term wealth (and paying off your student debt faster)
- Ownership is a chance to build meaningful wealth from your hard work. Owners at 3+ DVM practices make 2x more than their employee counterparts (CVMA survey), and 4x more overall when resale values are included. Like an investment in a home versus renting, you can accumulate real wealth by expanding and developing your practice over time. As the practice grows, you gain more flexibility to invest in systems and management, which ultimately means more flexibility for you as an owner.
For what is a [wo]man, what has [s]]he got
If not [her]himself then [s]he has not
To say all the things [s]he truly feels
And not the words of one who kneels
The record shows, I took the blows
But I did it my way
Veterinary medicine has changed a lot over the past few decades
And ownership has too. Some key things to remember are:
- It does not have to be forever: Ownership should not be seen as an indefinite life sentence. People move, get sick, priorities shift – life happens. If you build a great practice and develop your team the right way (your way!), there will be no shortage of eager associates ready to take the helm. In fact, the most successful owner-veterinarians often start multiple practices.
- You do not have to go it alone: You can buy into an existing practice with a mentor, partner with a fellow DVM or tech, or find business partners to help with all the parts you do not want to take on (i.e. accounting, marketing, HR, legal, etc.).
- You’re not starting from scratch: you have many options for ownership that don’t require drilling holes in the ground, building a clientele, or recruiting an entire team. There is an entire generation of veterinarians out there (40%+ according to CVMA) that would love to transition their practices to a younger vet and make it their own.
Phew! You made it all the way down to here
If you are even the slightest bit ownership-curious, Vesta would love to hear from you! It is never too early to start thinking and understanding about what the ownership path can look like.
Whether you are looking to buy into the practice you work at, acquire an existing practice, or open a new one, our door (or zoom line!) is always open to help you make that decision. And if you’re not ready yet, come join one of our existing practices and we can teach you all about the rewards of an equitable, transparent and inclusive ownership model with a front-row seat!
Authors: Ericka Carroll, VMD, DABVP and Amanda Kattan
Dr. Ericka and Amanda are two women on a mission to make veterinary practice ownership more accessible, supported and rewarding.
They founded Vesta, a platform aimed at empowering exceptional women in the veterinary profession to build and own life-changing practices. They provide the mentoring and coaching, operational support, and financing to bring dream practices to life!
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