Veterinary practices are hiring less this year, and owners may just have to wait out the recession.
You've seen the news reports and read the dire financial predictions. But what do they mean for your practice? Don't expect a change anytime soon, says Gary Glassman, CPA, a veterinary financial consultant and partner with Burzenski and Co. in East Haven, Conn. "It will still be a while," Glassman says. "This industry won't turn around until unemployment begins to decrease and consumer spending confidence improves." That's because spending money for veterinary care is a consumer decision. Certain services are more discretionary than others, but you likely know of a few clients who no longer come in for regularly scheduled vaccinations. "When people begin working again and feeling safe in their jobs, they'll be more willing to pay for veterinary care," Glassman says.
And client spending affects your labor costs. "For the most part, we're seeing that revenue levels in most practices are down," Glassman says. The fact that practices are less busy and have more open appointment spots is causing more hospitals to cut down on hiring, trim staff hours, or freeze hiring. "Nobody wants to lay anyone off," Glassman says. "And employees aren't willing to leave their jobs, because they don't see the opportunities they have in recent years."
For your veterinary practice to thrive, your clients need peace of mind, Glassman says. For most practices, that means riding out the recession while doing everything you can to fight it off. But don't get impatient, Glassman says. Some industries are getting back to normal, but many pet owners are still jobless—and therefore unable to pay for veterinary care. In fact, Glassman has consulted with a few practices that expect to be down $100,000 in sales by the end of the year compared with 2008. "Those practices have to simply hunker down and do what they can to avoid laying off employees," he says.