What kind of veterinary practice would you like to work at? What kind of veterinary practice would you like to own? Young veterinarians wonder if they are willing to take over existing practices with business models that very much relate to old school thinking: “If you always do what you always did you will always get what you’ve always got”. There is a reason why large corporates acquire veterinary practices and a reason why current practice owners sell their practices to these corporates. To me it has become more and more obvious that a large part of the current practice owners do not connect with the new generation(s) of young colleagues and customers. Most of them are too occupied with their daily work, managing their practices on the go. There is no time to contemplate on how things are going and what is needed to remain relevant in this dynamic timeframe. Then, when out of the blue, a buyer appears at their clinic, willing to pay a fair price for their practice and apparently (in their view) there are no young colleagues around who are willing and able to buy, the deal is done. They buy “peace of mind” in a way that they have no more financial worries and no more managerial and human resources pressure. From the moment of sale on they can focus on their professional work. Everything else is taken care of by the buyer.
From what I see happening now, this is where things start to get complicated and expectations are not being met. The veterinary corporations have grown incredibly fast and are still trying to invent themselves. They are confronted with a large number of small and bigger veterinary practices that they acquired and that need help in their day to day management, staffing, logistics, leadership etc. This was the reason why the owners sold their practices in the first place, because they struggled with it and now they sit back and expect instant solutions from their new owner.
Setting up a back office that supports the individual practices, takes care of all these things and especially human resources in a profession that has neglected this for a long time is not easy. Buying a veterinary practice is relatively easy, but there is a reason why human capital is not on the balance sheet. Human capital in the veterinary practices is getting scarce due to a lack of interest of young people to become veterinarians, veterinarians leaving the veterinary practice in an early stage of their career next a growing demand on health care due to an increasing number of pets globally and more willingness of owners to spend money on health care.
The corporatization of the veterinary industry brings new dynamics to the profession and shows that our veterinary services are part of a larger supply chain of health and welfare of animals and their owners. It makes you feel humble as a veterinarian when you see how much money and other resources are available out there. However, we should never forget our own responsibility and role we have as veterinarians, for the animals, the owners, our colleagues, our staff, our profession, our families and ourselves.
It is a good thing to move our profession forward, collaborate with other stakeholders in the total supply chain, think about the influence and added value of new technology in our profession, work on new business models and working environments for our practices and our staff. But implementing all these changes and making it happen is people’s work, it is hard and difficult and usually cannot be outsourced. This is something we must do ourselves in our own working environment daily and needs dedication, team spirit, open mindedness and alignment. This is not something you can buy; this is something you must create yourself. This is your unique value proposition to your patients and owners, but perhaps even more important, to yourself, your colleagues and staff. In subscribing to this ethos, you create a sustainable, successful veterinary business where great people want to work and which customers appreciate and value.