We've gathered many valuable recommendations on what it takes to open an animal hospital.
Veterinarian Industry Snapshot
For many people, pets are members of the family. So when their furry family members need medical care, a high percentage of pet owners are willing to do whatever it takes to restore their dogs, cats and other pets to health. Subsequently, the nation's 28,000+ veterinary clinics and animal research facilities represent a $25 billion chunk of the U.S. economy.
Aspiring animal hospital entrepreneurs typically come from the ranks of practicing veterinarians. But launching an animal hospital startup isn't as easy as it sounds. With the average employed veterinarian earning approximately $90k in gross annual income, you'll need to be on top of your entrepreneurial game to create a startup capable of duplicating the revenue you earned as a wage-earning vet.
Animal Hospital Facility Selection
Finding the right location for an animal hospital startup can be exceptionally challenging. It's almost always smarter to lease a facility than it is to build one, at least during the startup phase. The trick is finding an available rental property that is suited to veterinarian care and boarding.
If possible, look for standalone buildings that will require a minimal amount of retrofitting. A storefront space in a strip mall won't work unless you're confident in your ability to soundproof the facility to inoculate neighboring businesses from the inevitable noise and barking that happens in an animal care facility.
Staffing an Animal Hospital Startup
Even though you may sell limited pet supplies, an animal clinic is a service-based business – and that means labor will be your biggest expense item. Startup animal hospitals should be structured to operate with minimal staff until the business gets on its feet.
A typical animal hospital employs 3-4 staff members (vet assistants, techs, kennel attendants, receptionists, etc.) per veterinarian. When you hire for your startup, consider staffing it with part-time workers to minimize labor costs and avoid benefit requirements.
For more information about best staffing practices for animal hospitals, visit the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and its journals, the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) and the American Journal of Veterinary Research (AJVR).
Business Plan Mechanics for Animal Hospitals
Haven't created a business plan for your animal hospital yet? You could be in big trouble.
In many cases, the best approach is to keep your business plan simple. Even though there are certain issues your plan needs to address, business plans are fluid documents that are intended to adapt alongside your animal hospital.
If your time is limiting, outline the essentials of your animal hospital's business plan now and make a commitment to come back to it later.
Where to Set Up Shop
Most people think about customer density when exploring site selection, but there are many other important factors. Are there many viable employees nearby, for example? There's a lot to consider and you need to do a thorough analysis.
Review the Competition
Before you open an animal hospital within your community, it's a smart move to see what the competition looks like. We've provided the link below to help you find competitors in your city. Complete the form by entering your city, state and zip code to get a list of animal hospitals that are close by.
Gain a knowledge of how existing firms have positioned themselves in the marketplace, and then design your business in a way that sets you apart from the others.
Getting Advice from Experienced Entrepreneurs
If you are seriously contemplating launching an animal hospital, it's essential that you learn as much as you can from somebody who is already in the business. If you think owners of nearby animal hospitals will give you advice, think again. Why would they want to educate a future competitor?
Thankfully, an owner of a an animal hospital on the other side of the country may be willing to share their entrepreneurial wisdom with you, after they realize you reside far away from them and won't be stealing their local customers. In that case, the business owner may be more than happy to discuss the industry with you. In my experience, you may have to call ten business owners in order to find one who is willing to share his wisdom with you.
How does one quickly and easily locate somebody who runs an animal hospital who is willing to advise you because you live in different cities?
Here's how we would do it. Try the useful link below and key in a random city/state or zipcode.
Why You Should Buy (Instead of Start) an Animal Hospital
We know . . . From the time you were a kid you dreamed about starting a business from scratch and growing it to a position of market dominance.
But from a business and financial perspective, it may make more sense to leverage an existing animal hospital as your vehicle for world domination.
Most notably, an animal hospital includes more than just assets - a brand identity and customer base come with the keys to the front door. As an added bonus, you'll also gain the ability to headaches and hassles of startup trial-and-error.
Is Franchising the Right Option?
If you don't want to have to do everything on your own, you ought to think about going with a franchise network.
Before opening an animal hospital, you may want to determine whether purchasing a franchise might help you avoid common entrepreneurial mistakes.
The link below gives you access to our franchise directory so you can see if there's a franchise opportunity for you. You might even find something that points you in a completely different direction.
These additional resources regarding starting a business may be of interest to you.
If you already are in business and came here to learn about growing an existing animal hospital, these resources will come in handy:
If you sell to animal hospitals, you're in the wrong place. These resources are more appropriate for you:
If you are interested in starting a different kind of business, please browse our directory of guides below.