Sizewise, reach for the stars—not your wallet

February 13, 2020

Easy, budget-friendly ways to make your small veterinary practice appear larger.

As small business owners, we're always looking for ways to make improvements without budging our bottom line. Replacing less-efficient products with newer, more effective ones is something everyone should be doing. Creating more in-house content like handouts, website posts and videos is also a good idea. But what about your physical space? Here are some useful tips to help make that small space feel larger.

Don't weigh that cat in here

Do you have a scale in every exam room? Some clinics do, but it's really unnecessary. Put one scale in a corridor and have a team member check patient weights upon arrival. Or, the technician can check the patient's weight on the way to the exam room. Cats can be weighed right in their carrier. Once the cat is removed for the exam, weigh the carrier and subtract the difference to get the cat's weight. Removing excess scales can give you more floor space in your exam room for an extra chair, a retail display, a handout rack or something else.

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's … retail space

Horizontal shelving is a wasted opportunity. Instead, take those shelves straight up to the ceiling, and provide a method of retrieval like a gliding ladder or even a foldable step stool. Don't want to climb? Place empty boxes on the higher shelves, keeping the actual stock out of sight. When customers see those boxes at checkout, it might prompt them to make a purchase. And that new open wall space can be a great place for a product ad or even a television.

Please fold up your tray table before we … operate?

We installed a wall-mounted workstation (Bjursta from IKEA) in a hallway at our clinic and we're loving it. We use it to sort paper records, stamp envelopes, arrange waiting area poster installations and more. Installation only took about six minutes with a level and a hand drill. The best part is that it only sticks out about three inches off the wall. With a workstation like this, you can easily add a wall-mounted computer screen to access patient records while examining paper client packets.

Curbside to go, for the gold

Is your waiting area getting full? If so, try kindly asking if clients would like to wait in the car with their pet. Many pets are more comfortable, and may even be safer, when they aren't in the middle of an animal-infested panting party. Offer to call your clients when you're ready for them, or take it to the gold-star level and meet them outside to escort their dog or carry their cat carrier in. Just be sure to let clients who enter the reception area after them that there’s a customer ahead of them.

Rethink your layout, it may be all wrong

Talk to your team. Ask them to tell you what isn't working well with the layout of your rooms. Sometimes it makes more sense to have a smaller room for examinations and a larger one for staff operations, like pharmacy and treatment areas. Improvements need not be reserved for your customers—your staff will work more efficiently in the right environment. While you're at it, submit yourself to a game of "what's wrong with this picture?" Take photos of your rooms and view them later when you're at home. You'll notice clutter better this way and will want to go in the next day and clear it out.

Take out the trash

Just like at home, we tend to save things we think we'll use or things we have weird emotional attachments to. But the truth is that if you haven't touched it in a year, you likely won't any time soon. If you're cleaning and even have to pose the question "should we keep this?" then you probably don't need to. Chuck it and bask in the glory of your newly open space.

Go paperless, or at least use less paper

Do you have cabinets loaded with files you rarely touch but sometimes need, like, every few months or years? Consider scanning and organizing them electronically. Back them up to a cloud-based system. Google Drive is free with an email account, and extra space is cheap. Then, dump the paper files and loose the cabinet. You know you'll just fill it back up again!

That's enough food already

We’ve never sold dog and cat food products at our clinic because of space, but home-delivery programs like Purina Vet Direct have helped us get prescription diets and nonprescription foods to our customer's homes without the heavy lifting, expired bags and occasional cat (or even mouse) holes punched in the sides. Take advantage of these programs. The profits aren't much different, and the headache and space constraints are nonexistent. Your team can help older customers set up auto shipments using the clinic's email address for updates.

Brent Dickinson is practice manager at Dickinson-McNeill Veterinary Clinic in Chesterfield, New Jersey.