5 reasons women give for not owning veterinary practices


And why you shouldnt let them stop you.

When I retire from owning my practice, I hope to hand the reins to a noncorporate buyer. But I may struggle to find a female veterinarian to take my practice. Although more women are entering the profession, there's a lack of female veterinarians embracing practice ownership. 

Sheryl Sandberg's book Lean In talks about how women often set themselves up for failure by staying on the outskirts. Let's not do that. Here are my arguments against five common reasons women give for not owning practices:

1. “I want a more flexible schedule with more time for children and family.”

Owning a practice makes my schedule flexible. I can go to my children's school events because I can designate myself "out of the office" when necessary. Being the owner does entail hard work when I'm in the office, but it also provides more leeway than if I worked for someone else. (Plenty of associates complain about bosses who don't respect their need for family time.) Having power over your own schedule does have benefits.

2. “I don't want to work 100 hours a week.”

I've worked 100 hours in a week once-during my internship. I spend approximately five hours per day for a total of 30 to 60 hours per week seeing appointments four days per week. That adds up to 20 hours of appointment time, and the rest is business time. My associates are responsible for 30 to 35 appointment hours per week, and they work with the clients much more than I do.

With my flexible schedule, I can work at night tying up loose ends after I spend quality time with my kids before they go to bed. If I need a short week because of outside commitments, I take it. If I have to spend additional hours launching special programs, I work more that week and get it done. Considering I am a working mom, my schedule constantly changes. Owning my practice gives me the freedom to choose where and when I work.

3. “I'll burn out.”

Running a business is something new everyday. Sometimes it's medical questions, customer service decisions or marketing ideas. Each day brings variety and the opportunity to learn something new and open up channels with experts in many different fields. My career fulfills me.

4. “I can't manage people.”

I don't believe I'm good at managing or accounting-so I hired a great practice manager and accountant. Medicine, customer service, selling, marketing and teaching are my fortes. I stick to my strengths and hire people for the other areas.

Two years into practice ownership, I learned a valuable lesson. I had been doing all my bookkeeping because I was convinced I couldn't afford someone to do it for me. After stewing in frustration and falling behind on my bookkeeping, I hired someone. She completed six months of bookkeeping in eight hours. I was convinced it would take me weeks to complete, and it cost me $160. This taught me that I don't have to excel at everything and if I hire experts where I need them, it costs me less.

5. “I have too much student debt.”

If you have good credit and pay your loans, you can buy a practice. Veterinarians have the highest payback rate on loans than any other profession. I was surprised how easy it was to get approved for my practice loan. I applied to three banks and received three loan approvals with just 10 percent down. I still had veterinary school debt, but I had been paying it every month. In the long run, practice ownership will be more lucrative for me than working for someone else.

If more female veterinarians buy practices, we'll have more women to serve as mentors. They'll serve as models that women can venture into practice ownership to reap the benefits of flexibility, work/life balance and a higher income.

Melissa Magnuson, DVM, is owner of Canobie Lake Veterinary Hospital in Windham, New Hampshire, All Pets Veterinary Hospital in Nashua, New Hampshire, and Greenland Veterinary Hospital in Greenland, New Hampshire.

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