Feeling squeezed by corporate competition?


Large corporations buying veterinary practices get a bad rap. If you dont want to join them, at least take a look at their management style to help your practice run more efficiently.

Getty Images

Running a single veterinary hospital can be a challenge for managers and practice owners, so how do the ever-growing corporate groups manage to successfully run 20, 50 or even 100 practices? Although it's tempting to spend your time gnashing your teeth with anger or blaming them for everything under the sun, I think you can learn a lot from corporate-owned practices. And it's not all bad.

Team and client education

Group practices often have their own online training, and these courses are a great way to ensure that everyone is well versed on all aspects of their job-covering topics ranging from OSHA compliance to pet restraint and anesthetic protocols. Any noncorporate stand-alone hospital can and should develop a training program, and there's a plethora of training modules available. Some are free from vendors, consultants or education companies.

When it comes to client education, the big groups typically have handouts and online information on major disorders. (Editor's note: dvm360.com has hundreds of printable client handouts and team training forms to get you started. Find them here.)

Marketing, philanthropy and statistic reporting

Corporations are masters in these areas. You can be too. Spend time on your marketing plan. Align with adoption and shelter groups or get involved in charity events and fundraising efforts. These things get your clinic involved in the community and are just as easy for you to do as it is for that big group practice. (Editor's note: Not sure where to get started? Check out these five ways to get started marketing on social media.)

It's also important to share your practice numbers, goals and expectations with your team. They know you want to be successful-but they need to know what that looks like. (Editors' note: If you're ready to delve into open book management, check out Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board Member Dr. Ross Clark's book on the subject here.)


Finding and keeping key team members is a big challenge facing all practices, but because of their bigger employee pools, corporate practices sometimes have an easier time offering more attractive benefits. Highlights include better vacation time and paid holidays, matching 401(k) plans, better health insurance and often dental and vision coverage. These benefits don't come cheap, but attracting and retaining good team members is worth the investment.

(Editor's note: Need some ideas for your benefit package? Check out this data from Benchmarks 2015: A Study of Well-Managed Practices on what high-performing practices offer as benefits.)

Quality control

Managing multiple locations successfully requires good quality control protocols. You can develop those too.

On the medical end, review all medical and surgical cases that have had adverse events. Instead of being defensive and taking everything personally, realize that mistakes happen. Taking the time to learn from these cases is important so we don't let them happen again.

To better maintain pet owner satisfaction, it's also a good idea to survey clients on a regular basis. Doing so allows us to get a pulse of client satisfaction and we can respond to areas that we are weak on. (Editors' note: For tips on building a better client survey, and an editable survey form from Bash Halow, LVT, CVPM, click here.)

Facility maintenance and appearance

Keeping facilities in tip-top shape and reinvesting in the latest equipment is an important and expensive commitment that corporations make. It's easy for an individual hospital to be shortsighted in this manner. In the long run though, the investment pays off in terms of growing the business and providing the best care. (Editor's note: See what two veterinary architects say you can do to spruce up your clinic with $1,000 or less.)

Purchasing power

Want the purchasing power-and the discounts that come with it-that practice groups enjoy? Join a buying group. I belong to a local management group that buys together, and we do much better than if we were all on our own. Savings on medical and office supplies, medical equipment and laboratory services can be substantial, so make sure you don't lose out on this.

Nearly 10 percent of veterinary hospitals are now a part of corporations, and that number will likely continue to grow. This shows that the business of veterinary medicine is alive and well and can be reasonably profitable if managed well. Yes, there are advantages to independent ownership over group practice. For one, having a vested owner on site is always powerful, with that personal touch. On the other hand, mimicking what corporate practices do well can only help your practice be more successful, and it will help you compete nicely against the big guys.

Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Dr. Jeff Rothstein, MBA, is president of the Progressive Pet Animal Hospitals and Management Group in Michigan.

Related Videos
© 2023 MJH Life Sciences

All rights reserved.