Step one: Weigh the benefits and decide whether you're interested in ownership. Step two: Start developing critical leadership skills.
Many Americans dream about being their own boss—the decision-maker, the rule-setter, and the champion for the success of their business. And, as a veterinarian, there's a good chance this dream will become a reality for you. More than half (63 percent) of the respondents to the 2005 Veterinary Economics Job Satisfaction and Professional Outlook Study own practices. And as baby-boomer veterinarians age and approach retirement, they'll be looking for the next generation of owners to lead their practices. Are you interested in making the leap to ownership? Do you know what it takes to be your own boss?
Figure 1 : Traits to be a successful owner
What does it take to be your own boss? According to the 2005 Well-Managed Practice Associate Management Guide, produced by Wutchiett Tumblin and Associates and
, the majority of owners say associates must work at their practice three to five years before being eligible for ownership. But don't change the title on your business cards yet. The study results also show that 85 percent of responding owners believe that 50 percent or less of associates develop the skills necessary for ownership after three to five years of practice experience.
Interested in buying in? Owners say they consider associates' personality traits, interest in ownership, communication skills, and medical skills most heavily—more than they consider their tenure, for example. So be sure you've expressed interest. Then do what you can to develop the other skills and qualities that'll make you a successful business owner.
Yes, preparing for ownership will take some time and work. But today's owners say the return on their investment is well worth the work. Here are the biggest benefits they list:
On the downside, respondents to the Well-Managed Practice Study report these top disadvantages:
As an associate you may be able to buy into your current practice or buy a practice that you've never worked in. Most owners responding to the 2005
Job Satisfaction and Professional Outlook Study plan to sell their practices to an outside buyer or to an associate.
Figure 2 : Transition strategies
You could also start a practice from scratch, but with some repercussions. The AVMA-Pfizer Business Practices Study shows on average, practitioners in practices younger than 15 years work more hours, produce less revenue, and earn less than those in practices established 15 or more years, says Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Dr. Karen Felsted, CPA, MS, CVPM.
"If you can find a practice with the qualities you want, buying is always a better alternative. You get an established client base and cash flow," says Dr. Felsted, a consultant with Brakke Consulting Inc. in Dallas. "Just remember, those dream practices can be hard to find, so be prepared to compromise—but not on the truly important things."