Sure, it's fun to dream about a beautiful new facility, but a few small and inexpensive steps could win you far more points that you might think with potential veterinary clients.
Dr. Lloyd Meisels, who started his career in a 2,500-square-foot facility, says that cleanliness and attention to detail trumps even the most lavish design features.
“A veterinary practice doesn’t have to look like a fancy lawyer’s office to give clients a good impression,” he says. “In fact, I don’t want an overly fancy practice. But I do want a clean, presentable, fully functioning practice that shows clients we care about the details.”
While a larger practice with all the bells and whistles might sound nice, it’s not always feasible. But keeping the practice clean, in good repair, and up to date are easy things to accomplish, and best of all, they don’t take much money—if any. Here are some tips for keeping your own hospital shipshape, whether it’s brand-new construction or a 125-year-old converted Victorian.
1. Keep it clean. Grout is a sticking point for many animal practices—literally. “Give the grout a good, thorough scrubbing,” says Dr. Meisels. “You might be surprised what a difference something so simple makes.” Also scrub everything in sight: door jambs, countertops, baseboards, walls, and fixtures.
2. Fix what needs fixing. “A missing light bulb or a broken fixture announces to clients that you don’t care about the details,” he says. “We strive to fix things as soon as they need attention. It gives a better impression, and it’s easier to take care of one thing at a time.”
3. Pick up a paintbrush. Painting costs very little and can give a practice a nearly instant facelift. “Just changing the color, or even repainting in the same color, can freshen a practice considerably,” Dr. Meisels says.
4. Change out cabinetry. If you want to spend a little bit of money, changing out cabinetry or cabinet fixtures can give a practice a whole new look. Dr. Meisels recently visited a practice that was in the process of changing out its cabinetry. “I saw the new cabinets first, and they looked great,” he says. “Then I saw the last room they were still working on, and couldn’t get over the difference something so simple could make for relatively little money.”
5. Install Plexiglas behind lift tables. The area behind the lift tables, where dogs’ bottoms rest, can get messy and look dingy. To protect this area, Dr. Meisels installed Plexiglas, which is easily cleaned.
6. Update dog runs and cat cages. “Get rid of the Alcatraz look in your dog runs and cat cages,” he says. “The chain link look is out. A more modern, glass-walled run or cat condo style gives an updated look and shows clients that you really care about their pets.”
7. Check out your first impression. Don’t forget to enter the practice from the client entry from time to time. Is your parking lot in good repair? Is the landscaping neat? Also check that the front door is clean and in good working condition, the welcome mat is fresh, and the first view upon entering is a pleasant one.
“I’m quite obsessed with my practice’s appearance and odor control,” says Dr. Meisels. “I truly don’t want a fancy building, but it must be clean and neat to give clients a good impression.”
Dr. Meisels relates the tale of recently driving alongside a painting company truck that was beat-up, filthy, and in bad shape. He immediately knew he would never hire that company because of the truck’s appearance. “If you can’t take care of the details, you don’t need my business,” he says. “Clients feel the same way about us. Show them we care about our facility, and they’ll believe we care about their pets.”