Most veterinarians chose their career path because of their love for animals.
They want the opportunity to do something meaningful and helpful. But in order to make that dream happen, veterinarians often need to also have a firm grasp of running a business. Every veterinary practice needs to be rooted in sound business practices and understanding.
Unfortunately, veterinary schools often fail to teach the sound business knowledge needed to run a successful practice.
This means vets may be shorthanded when it comes to tools and knowledge they need to start, run, and grow their dream. But it also presents an opportunity. Vets who do invest the time in learning and implementing best practices for running a business can achieve tremendous results.
In this guide to running a veterinary business, you’ll find a whole range of useful resources on business planning, accounting, marketing, and more. Each section and resource is designed to give you the knowledge and advice you need to build the most successful practice possible.
Strategy & Planning
Business is often about planning and strategy. It takes both short-term work and long-term vision to find financial success, especially in competitive markets. How will your practice evolve over time? What policies will you have in place?
Especially for those who have never run a business, this part of the process can seem daunting and overwhelming — there are many potential pitfalls that can be overlooked.
But there is a wealth of information to be found online. There’s a nearly endless sea of business strategy and planning help that’s just waiting to be tapped.
Relevant resources for strategy and planning:
This article from entrepreneur, investor, and author Tim Berry gives a strong overview of the role that strategy and planning play in the success of your business. This is a perfect primer for thinking about the role of your strategic plan.
This is a fantastic resource for how to gather and organize information on your competitors. Competitive research is a key component to any successful business plan, and veterinarians are no different. You’ll want to learn how to analyze the market and make decisions that will help you stand out and compete with other practices.
Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs, are often considered the most important metrics that describe the health of your business. As the name implies, these metrics are used as indicators of how well your business is doing in terms of its most important performance goals. It can be difficult to determine if you’re on track to hit a yearly goal, but you can measure KPIs as a way to see incremental progress every day, week, or month. KPIs should be part of any business plan or strategic document.
Goals and metrics matter, but ultimately, you need to operate in order to achieve them. The operational part of your business plan will detail the systems, processes, and strategies that will be used in your practice to make things run smoothly.
If you have an established practice that’s primed for growth, this guide will help you learn to plan and manage that growth in a strategic and deliberate way. It offers a variety of considerations and specific strategies for growing the veterinary business over time.
If it’s time to move on or if it’s on the horizon, you’ll want to start planning for how to exit from your practice. There are different ways you can do this, but no matter the case, you’ll need to transfer ownership to another person or entity. This guide provides a basic outline of what the process looks like.
Tools & Technology
Your vet clinic will likely rely on tools and technology as a way to grow and improve. There are many tools out there — too many to try them all — so this collection offers a few of the best ones.
It’s the 21st century: every company needs a website, and a good one. Build a simple, gorgeous, and functional website with Squarespace. The nice thing is that your setup and maintenance are all included — you won’t have to worry about dealing with hosting or other stuff.
Shameless plug! Apptoto is used by veterinarians around the country to manage their appointments and reminders, providing a seamless experience for clients and saving a ton of time for the office staff.
Manage all your customer relationships with a powerful CRM. Insightly offers robust functionality and it’s super affordable — even free to start.
Email marketing keeps your clients engaged and coming back. MailChimp offers a great email platform that includes free tiers and lots of features that can help you get more sophisticated as your practice grows.
Get a free card reader and accept credit cards using a smartphone or iPad.
QuickBooks is a tried-and-true solution for all kinds of businesses to help them track and manage their money.
Accounting & Bookkeeping
One of the most critical components of running any business is keeping track of finances, setting a budget, and forecasting expenses.
Unfortunately, this is probably not first nature to someone who has started a veterinary business.
That being said, learning the basics of accounting and bookkeeping — even if you plan to outsource or hire someone to manage this part of the business — is a great step for any entrepreneur. You don’t necessarily need to be an expert in all of the minutia surrounding accounting methods and cashflow analysis, but a working knowledge of how to think about accounting is important for any business owner.
Relevant resources on accounting and bookkeeping:
Learn the basics of doing accounting — what to track, how to track, and what to watch out for — with this handy resource. It’ll help you make sure you set up the correct basic accounting principles from the outset.
It can be difficult to predict the future, but there are proven systems that will help you forecast the revenue and growth of your practice. Read this whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been in business for 20 years and are creating a strategic plan for the next five.
This resource digs a bit deeper into the specific accounting considerations for veterinarians and how to keep things running smoothly without spending all day pouring over the numbers.
“No-lo” vet practices are ones that — although they may have been in business and provided a living for years — generate little or no extra profit that would create value for the business on its own. This article explains how veterinarians can know if their practice falls into this category and how to generate more profit (and value) with the business.
Pricing Veterinary Services for Profit and Value
Setting and changing prices can be one of the trickiest parts of balancing the books for a veterinarian. Use this resource to give you some strategies for determining the right price for your services to maximize profit and provide the highest value to your clients.
Employees, HR & Legal
A critical and often overlooked component to running any business is human resources: employees, contracts, salaries, etc. These things can seem informal at first, but as your practice grows, you’ll need specific policies and procedures in place to protect yourself and your employees.
It’s important to understand how making these decisions now can both affect employee performance and also protect your business from future lawsuits or other unexpected problems.
As a veterinarian, dealing with the intricacies of employment law and managing things like employee handbooks may feel out of place. But it is important to have at least a working understanding of these systems and to figure out what decisions make the most sense for your growing business.
Relevant resources on employees, HR, and legal:
Just starting out? Ease your fears about hiring your first employee with this informative guide from the SBA. It answers all the questions you have about legal documents, taxes, and other concerns.
Whether you’re starting a new practice or expanding, hiring the right people is easily one of the most important things you can do. Check out this informative article on hiring great employees — applicable to all industries and positions!
Wade into the HR pond like a pro with this resource that will teach you the basics of what you need to know about setting up and running human resources for your growing practice.
One big part of dealing with HR and employees is setting specific policies like sick time, vacation, benefits, perks, and more. This guide will help you navigate the specifics of your policies to create the intended outcome and avoid any major oversights.
Help your employees do their best work by implementing these management practices.
Managing people is not always simple or easy. This article offers some practical but important advice on dealing with employees who are difficult to manage for one reason or another. This can be a lifesaver when trying to navigate a difficult employee situation.
Sales & Marketing
One of the most important aspects of any business is, obviously, generating revenue. That usually comes from the result of successful sales and marketing strategies. How will you get the word out about your practice? Where will people find you if they search online?
For your practice, you’ll need to understand a few basics about both sales and marketing and employ these practices to keep new patients coming through the door.
Relevant resources on sales and marketing:
Marketing can be a daunting task for those who are not familiar with it. This resource on high-level marketing planning is an effective way to think about marketing your veterinary business. In particular, it provides ideas about specific promotional activities and explains how to measure the success of those activities and forecast growth based on your marketing/advertising budget.
This cautionary article explains why many vets struggle to generate results from their marketing and just end up wasting time and money that doesn’t help them generate more business.
(Hint: The blunder is marketing without a strategy.)
Social media is a powerful marketing channel, but it can take up a lot of time. This guide provides a no-nonsense look at how to use social media to help grow your practice without dedicating dozens of hours or thousands of dollars to it.
Here are some additional marketing strategies that are specifically designed for vets who are too busy running their practice to spend a ton of time on marketing and promotion.
It’s imperative to claim your local listing online and manage the details about your practice in search engines, on social media, and other places across the web. This is a complicated topic to master, and this guide is very long and comprehensive. But you can start slow, get the basics, and figure out the rest as you go.
PPC ads are especially useful for businesses that want to boost their visibility right at the moment someone is searching for their services. For vets, this offers a great marketing opportunity to reach anyone looking for a local vet.