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Building from scratch--take two


In the spring of 1997, Dr. William J. Moyle Jr. and his wife, Nancy, decided to build a practice closer to their home south of Denver. And four years later they broke ground on a new facility. During the building process, Veterinary Centers of America offered to buy their existing 14-year-old practice, and Dr. Moyle agreed.

By Sarah A. Moser, Associate Editor

In the spring of 1997, Dr. William J. Moyle Jr. and his wife, Nancy, decided to build a practice closer to their home south of Denver. And four years later they broke ground on a new facility. During the building process, Veterinary Centers of America offered to buy their existing 14-year-old practice, and Dr. Moyle agreed.

In the sale, Dr. Moyle gave up all of his clients and equipment and several associates and staff members. Proceeds from the sale facilitated the financing and purchasing of all new equipment to furnish Lone Tree Veterinary Medical Center, a 16,000-square-foot facility that won a Merit Award in the 2002 Veterinary Economics Hospital Design Competition. "We came to the new project with the shirts on our backs and operating capital from the sale," says Sam Wright, hospital administrator.

Building in the amenities

Dr. Moyle and Wright spent nearly eight months soliciting ideas from their practice team and putting their ideal hospital down on paper. "Dr. Moyle wanted the new practice to have everything, including a skylight over the treatment area, windows throughout the practice, a physical rehabilitation room, a pampered pet playroom, self-contained boarding and grooming areas, and a spacious reception area with two retail centers. And he wanted to make the treatment area accessible from anywhere in the practice," Wright says. Dr. Moyle adds, "I wanted to provide the best possible work environment for our employees and a state-of-the-art veterinary hospital for clients."

Another requirement: a hallway between the exam rooms and the treatment area to prevent clients from entering the treatment area and to cut down on noise. "In our old building, our voices carried from the treatment area to the reception area and exam rooms," says Wright. "We wanted more privacy in the new facility."

To make sure staff members liked the hospital, Wright distributed questionnaires, asking staff members what they liked and disliked about their work spaces in the old facility. He says he took their suggestions to heart. "For example, the receptionists had to stand all day in the old design," he says. "The new facility allows team members to sit and still gives them a full view of the reception area."

Staff members also suggested installing a garbage disposal in the lab, Wright says. "Their idea really made sense, so we put garbage disposals in other areas, too."

Fighting for architectural freedom

Dr. Moyle and Wright were unable to achieve an acceptable floor plan with the first two architects they hired. So they linked up with Bruce Larson of Larson Architects in Denver. "We knew what we wanted, and the first two architects wouldn't do things our way. For example, one architect didn't want to install a hallway between the exam rooms and the treatment area," says Wright. "So we hired an architect who would listen to us."

Changing architects cost them about two months, but Wright says they were so far ahead of schedule the delay wasn't a problem. "Everything worked out great with Larson-and this was his first veterinary design," Wright says.

An all-white treatment area features a skylight-Dr. Moyle's favorite morale-boosting feature-and four treatment tables that radiate like spokes from the center. Why all white? "Dr. Moyle wanted to be able to fluff a dog's hair and see anything that fell out easily," Wright says.

Dr. Moyle also incorporated a client meditation area on the hospital grounds. The circular walk area features three seating areas for clients and their pets and runs around a large rock, aspens, and flowers. "We designed the meditation area to capitalize on the view of the Rocky Mountains," Wright says.

Dr. Moyle has changed one thing in the facility. The heat-welded flooring in the treatment area had too many bubbles and poorly constructed seams. "I wish we had insisted on seeing the installer's work before we hired him," says Dr. Moyle. "We had a different installer replace the floor shortly after we opened."

Another problem they'd like to fix: "On the main level, the wall partitions don't go all the way to the ceiling, so sound travels in some areas," says Dr. Moyle. "We opted to forgo a suspended ceiling in the kennels below, but I wish we had spent the money. With a concrete floor, noise carries. We installed sound baffles, which help, but we haven't completely solved the problem yet."

Divide the duties, and conquer

During the construction process, Wright devoted much of his time to the building project, freeing Dr. Moyle to practice medicine. "I built a practice in 1987, so I knew how much time and effort it takes to keep the practice running and still supervise the building process," says Dr. Moyle. "I was glad to have Sam watching out for my best interests this time."

During construction, Wright visited the site daily, checking on the building's progress and making tweaks as needed. Wright met with Dr. Moyle every week to review their progress, answer questions, and discuss any problems that arose.

Wright and Dr. Moyle agree this approach worked well for them-and helped them get what they wanted. Their advice to colleagues starting the process: "Take your time planning so you know exactly what you want, and put your ideas on paper," says Wright. "Then talk with your architect-and be open to his or her ideas. But don't allow anyone to push you into anything you don't want. You write the checks, and you control the project."


A client base of zero Selling his former practice to a corporation meant relinquishing all client records-a scary proposition for someone building a 16,000-square-foot facility from the ground up. But Dr. William J. Moyle Jr., his wife, Nancy, and hospital administrator Sam Wright had a plan. And the plan worked.

"We weren't allowed to solicit current clients to visit our new facility," says Wright. "We started just like a brand new practice with no history. So we advertised in the yellow pages nearly a year before opening the new practice to generate interest."

Lone Tree Veterinary Medical Center also posted signs at the construction site, announcing the practice opening to the new neighborhood. The fact that Dr. Moyle chose to open in the fastest-growing community in town, and that no other veterinarians had set up camp in the area, bodes well for his practice. "Now we're so busy, we can hardly keep up," says Dr. Moyle. "We're far exceeding our expectations."

The practice sits amid $1 million homes and upscale townhomes and apartments. Dr. Moyle designed the practice to fit into the neighborhood, and he offers such services as pet physical therapy, boarding, grooming, and one-stop shopping. His reception area sports a refreshment bar that includes snacks and coffee, a service he says builds bonds with pet owners in the neighborhood. "Some clients actually stop in, drink a cup of coffee, and just chat with us for a few minutes," says Wright. "We've made ourselves a part of the neighborhood, and our new clients look to us as the family veterinarian."

Wright says the practice grossed more than $1 million in the first year. "We're growing like crazy," he says.

October 2002 Veterinary Economics

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