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Veterinary Forum March 2008 (Vol 25, No 3)

Doctor to Doctor: Diversify and do well

by Ronald E. Whitford, DVM, Julita Ramirez, DVM, PhD

    For a practice to grow and thrive, it must see annual revenue increases to offset the ever-increasing overhead expenses. Practice owners will attest that staff compensation continues to grow at rather dramatic rates, as do the costs of insurance, utilities and taxes.

    In past years, veterinary practices have experienced major growth in client visits, which has made the goal of increasing revenues attainable. Unfortunately, national statistics now show that the number of new clients per veterinarian is decreasing, as well as the number of daily visits per veterinarian in practices older than 5 years.

    Because you can no longer rely on a windfall of new clients, additional revenue can be generated by increasing fees or the number of services. Increased fees can raise gross income overnight but may eventually cause clients to shop around for better prices for certain procedures, such as spays and neuters. When a client goes elsewhere for one procedure, often additional services, such as vaccinations and parasite testing, are lost as well.

    The other way to increase revenues is to provide more services. Enhanced services can include conducting more thorough medical histories and comprehensive physical examinations. If problems are discovered, clients will need to consider the possible solutions, which can be presented in a manner that promotes acceptance of the recommended solution.

    It is crucial to weigh the potential advantages against the probable expenses for any diversification strategy that you consider. Each practice is unique. What works for one may not work for another. Sometimes well-intentioned diversification fails because of a lack of perceived need, poor timing, poor implementation or being spread so thin that the level of client service is jeopardized.

    Diversification strategies that limit competition should be considered first. Providing services that do not require large outlays of capital also are more likely to add to the bottom line, rather than just increasing the gross income of the practice. It is senseless to add diversifications that increase workload if they are not profitable.

    You do not have to be board certified to have a special interest and expertise within a particular area of veterinary medicine, but it does require you to seek advanced education within that area. Continuing education (CE) courses are available to help you reach your goal in the following areas:

    • Advanced dentistry
    • Ear diagnostics and therapeutics
    • Ultrasonography
    • Laser surgery
    • Radiosurgery
    • Dermatology
    • Nutrition counseling

    Not only does advanced education make your practice more attractive, it can broaden your clinic's overall standard of care. Your future prosperity as a veterinarian depends on your level of professional expertise.

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