Six steps to success in building a new veterinary hospital

VettedVetted March 2020
Volume 115
Issue 3

If you’ve got big dreams of building a practice of your own from the ground up, take it from the winner of the dvm360 Hospital Design Competition in the “less than 8,000 square feet” category: It can happen for you.

Blues and greens are the featured colors throughout most of Tustin Legacy Animal Hospital. Pictured here is the reception area (complete with a crystal chandelier).

The Hospital Design Competition judges praised Tustin Legacy Animal Hospital in Tustin, California, for a nicely detailed interior, great finishes, and a solid, efficient plan. Owners Drs. Celine Hayek and Kristin Negvesky noted that they had “complementary styles and ways of thinking about things,” which combined to create a winning formula for this startup hospital.

1. Find a good realtor

Drs. Negvesky and Hayek first found a realtor to help them choose a site. Never having owned a business before, the two say they had a steep learning curve. Thankfully, their real estate agent “had a lot of experience with veterinary hospitals and was a huge help.”

2. Find a good bank

Securing loans and handling financing proved challenging for these newbies, but they say Bank of America was a big help.

3. Design your dream

“Our main goal was to design a place that gave people a really good vibe when they walked in the door,” says Dr. Negvesky. For them, “client service is No. 1, and we wanted our hospital to feel approachable, with a clean, fresh style.” The pair wanted an easy-flowing plan, with plenty of sunlight, where they were “able to see the back of the hospital from the front.”

There was also one more must-have: “A chandelier, a big one!” says Dr. Negvesky. The doctors got their chandelier and the fresh, clean vibe they wanted throughout their 2,685-square-foot practice, which houses four exam rooms and separate dog and cat waiting areas.

4. Be prepared to make adjustments

The doctors did want two-door exam rooms, but they had to scrap that idea because it took too much space away from their tight floor plan. Another strategic choice: To focus on practicing medicine, the pair decided not to offer boarding and grooming services as they had originally planned. “We had heard a lot of stories of things not going well for others, and it seems that a lot of negative reviews online stem from boarding and grooming, which should not be a reflection of your medicine,” says Dr. Negvesky.

5. Hire a great interior designer

For help with getting the right vibe for the practice, Drs. Hayek and Negvesky hired an interior designer. They outlined the colors they wanted (blues and greens), the style they were looking for (upscale yet inviting), and the requirement of a chandelier in the reception area, and the designer ran with it.

6. Get set to open (and repeat step 4)

A week before the practice officially opened, the doctors held a grand opening event to introduce themselves and get to know the community they would be serving. Food trucks, activities, raffles and hospital tours brought in about 100 people, who toured the practice and got to know the owners.

To help start off the first day of business in their new space, they scheduled an 8:30 a.m. appointment with someone whose pet they knew. “We were super surprised, though, when someone we didn’t know walked in at 8 a.m.,” says Dr. Negvesky.

Tustin Legacy Animal Hospital has grown steadily since that first unexpected appointment, no doubt because the two young practice owners started off right and have adjusted course as needed along the way.

For more details about the design of this hospital—and lots of photos—click here.

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