What is the Financial Future for Veterinary Clinics?

Dog-x-rayIn the current issue of Veterinary Practice News, there’s an article entitled, “Financial Picture Far from Rosy.” At first glance, this sounds as if veterinary practices are doomed, but it’s not that simple. The article does report that a study conducted by the Veterinary Pet Insurance of Brea, CA, concludes that the majority of veterinarians do not have an optimistic view of the financial stability of their practices. The study didn’t look at potential solutions for vets who are struggling financially. This week’s blog post will take a closer look at what might be causing that pessimistic outlook, and provide some potential solutions.

Why Are Vets Pessimistic About Their Financial Future?

Like many adults in the professional world who have college and graduate degrees, veterinarians are also faced with enormous student debts, but there’s also been a drop off in the last 5 to 10 years of how many pet owners are taking pets in for regular visits. When we interviewed Dr. Marv Greenberg, CVA, for one of our Clinic of the Month posts, he proposed that the slow economy in recent years was part of this problem. But he also said that he’s seen a slow increase in client visits in the past 2 or 3 years. Dr. Greenberg has even seen an increase in alternative medicine for pets, such as acupuncture. However, according to the study in California, “One-third of practice owners reported their hospital was doing well, [while] the same proportion thought the opposite.”

What is the Financial Health of Most Veterinary Clinics?

The following stats were taken directly from the study and the VPN article:

* The average practice owner was 50 years old, compared to 42 for associates.
* 7 percent of practice owners and 34 percent of associates were age 35 or under.
* Household incomes average $187,000 for practice owners and $138,000 for associates.
* Practice owners had nearly $398,000 in personal investments. The average for associates was almost $195,000.
* 22 percent of associates had no idea how the practice was performing financially.
* Half of all practice owners were paying off business loans, with an average debt of $362,240.

Addtionally, the VPI President, Scott Liles, makes this conclusion: “It’s not about solutions, it’s about developing a foundation so we can work together to create solutions for the betterment of the industry.”

Solutions for the Betterment of the Industry

river-cove-animal-hospitalSo what are some of those solutions? As mentioned above, the study didn’t look at solutions, yet the authors of the study’s results did have one general recommendation: “Associate veterinarians need to be provided with a better understanding of personal financial choices, and practice owner veterinarians need to re-evaluate time-honored ways of doing business.”

While it isn’t clear what some of those time-honored ways of doing business are exactly, it is evident that many vets need to take advantage of less traditional forms of promoting their business. Social media is one of these avenues that veterinary clinics could benefit from, especially with younger clients. You can look at some tips on how to use social media in your practice by clicking here. Other methods might be to offer special services not offered by other vets in your area. Building your reputation as a reliable vet with a caring staff is also one of the best ways to increase your business. No matter how you do this, you have to find ways to highlight the qualities that make your clinic unique, even as a vet who offers natural supplements.

How do you feel about the future of your practice? Do you have suggestions for the solution to the financial stress many clinics are experiencing? Share your comments with us on Facebook.