How I managed my bosses big veterinary hospital build


Communication and organization were essential for keeping things going smoothly.

This was written by one of 10 finalists for the Veterinary Economics Practice Manager of the Year award, sponsored by VPI. For more from each finalist and a slideshow of the nominees, visit

I'll be honest: Before helping my bosses manage a move to a new building, I'd already had a little experience at construction project management. At my previous job as an associate director at a nonprofit, I spent several months with a Realtor looking at buildings and looking at blueprints to help design a new refurbished space to meet our needs. But any high-functioning veterinary practice manager can help practice owners manage the tough job of construction oversight, team management and transition that a hospital brings.

R to L - Dr. Janice Sosnowski, Dr. Walter Orth, Annette Von Stetten (two of the four owners).The most essential part of any construction project is communication-and practice managers can manage that. For our veterinary hospital, that meant daily or weekly meetings with the practice owners to review details regarding the new building: colors, equipment, flooring, electrical, plumbing, etc.

At monthly staff meetings, we updated team members and asked for input. I spent time researching various components needed for the practice. I handled everything from construction traffic directors who weren't letting employees, clients and owners into the parking lot, to the City of Dover's permit process which long and involved meetings and several letters of explanation on the need for the new design for the permits needed for any changes to our new building plans. We decided to add solar panels to our building, which was another involved project.

Construction manager, Bill Ireland and Annette Von Stetten, practice manager.As construction moved forward, weekly (sometimes daily) walkthroughs of the site became routine. I was the liaison between the attorney, the builder, the city of Dover and other various vendors. I was lucky to have capable help back at the practice from our office manager and administrative bookkeeper, because I was off-site at the construction site wearing the construction manager hardhat several hours a day.

I'm grateful to the owners of Governors Avenue Animal Hospital for their trust in my leadership abilities and the authority given to me to lead this multimillion-dollar project.

Annette Von Stetten is the practice manager of Governors Avenue Animal Hospital in Dover, Delaware.

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