Seven Steps to Buying a Veterinary Practice

Friday, Nov 4, 2022 by Cindy Barnes, DVM, CVSMT
4 Min Read
Seven Steps to Buying a Veterinary Practice

Are you thinking about buying a veterinary practice? Let me be the first to congratulate you! As you begin your new journey into practice ownership, here are seven helpful tips to guide the process.

Step 1: Determine which type of veterinary practice you’d like to own

First, decide which kind of medicine would fulfill you the most. A large specialty hospital? A small general practice where you know each client and patient by name? Or perhaps, an exciting emergency practice? Which practice type piques your interest in ownership?

Additionally, consider the practice size you prefer if you’re a veterinarian considering ownership. Do you want to be a solo practitioner, or do you want to work with a team, meaning a more relaxed work schedule? Visualizing your dream practice is the first step toward your purchase.

Step 2: Pick a geographic location

While you may be dead set on owning a hometown veterinary practice, that may not be the best business decision. Assess the need for the type of veterinary services you’d like to provide—can the client base in that location support your dream? The average income in your chosen area is another key consideration. For example, a low-cost-of-living, low-income region may not be able to support a large specialty hospital. However, your acquisition may benefit a local veterinary practice owner looking to retire.

Step 3: Build an advisory team

No matter how well-prepared and business savvy you believe you are when buying a veterinary practice, it’s best to have a professional team, including an accountant, attorney, and veterinary practice broker, behind you. It’s best to consider including a veterinary practice mentor who can help personally guide you every step of the way and ease your transition to practice ownership.

  • Accountant — An accountant can help you assess the practice under consideration by reviewing the seller’s documents. This will help you determine if the practice is currently profitable or if you will need to take on excessive pre-existing debt.
  • Attorney — An attorney can ensure a potential practice is in good legal standing and guide you on the rules and regulations of practice ownership in your chosen city and state.
  • Broker — A veterinary practice broker can help you establish a working relationship with lenders for financing and loan options.

Depending on your veterinary medicine and business ownership experience and whether you feel you can navigate practice ownership yourself, you may need additional members on your advisory team (e.g., professionals who have been through the process themselves). Having multiple professionals on your team will not only spread out the workload but also ensure an expert in that field handles every aspect of the purchasing process. 

Step 4: Secure financing

Once you’ve decided on your practice type and location, it’s time to secure financing for your purchase. Assess financial reports to verify your potential practice is a sound business investment. Also, ensure that the practice will turn enough profit to help you pay your expenses, including paying back your loan. Check your credit report carefully to ensure that your personal finances are in order and that no reporting errors will negatively impact your financing options. A veterinary practice broker can help you choose the right type of loan for your business. Understanding lenders' financing options can benefit your business in the long run.

Step 5: Shop around

Next, begin shopping for your dream veterinary practice. Remember that the perfect practice may not have a “For Sale” sign out front, but the practice owner could still consider selling. If you have a specific veterinary practice in mind, set up a meeting with the clinic owner. They may be considering retirement or taking on a partner with retirement in mind down the road, which could be your perfect opportunity. 

Step 6: Recruit a robust veterinary team

After everything is in order with your purchase, decide on the veterinary staffing positions you need and begin recruiting. After all, your new practice will need an all-star team dedicated to your new endeavor to be successful. Begin by interviewing the practice’s current team members one-on-one about their responsibilities and feelings for the profession. That way, you can ascertain whether their vision for a veterinary practice aligns with yours and if they would be interested in staying on after an ownership change. Then begin the process of hiring additional staff members. Check out How to Build a Robust Team of Veterinary Professionals for hiring tips. 

Step 7: Fulfill your dream

After envisioning your ideal practice, securing financing, locating a clinic for purchase, and recruiting a support staff team—now it’s time to live out your dream of practice ownership! Although you’ll have challenges along the way, you will always have help, and operating a veterinary practice according to your values and vision can be incredibly fulfilling. 

“A small business is an amazing way to serve and leave an impact on the world you live in.”

-Nicole Snow

The practice you purchase may come with practice management software. If the current software is not a good fit for you, change to something that better serves you after the purchase. Intuitive, easy-to-use veterinary practice management software can make a world of difference in your new veterinary practice. As you learn practice ownership ropes, your team can easily learn to operate a user-friendly software program like Shepherd Veterinary Software. See how Shepherd can make settling into a new practice easier for the whole team by scheduling a demo of our practice management software.

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