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Why A Co-operative Practice Partnership Can Be A Great Move For Veterinary Entrepreneurs

Many vets face a current reality where they must drink the company Kool-Aid and put up with leadership that falls short of what they need. For some, this will result in burnout and the decision to quit. For others, this will stir entrepreneurial passions to shake things up and do things differently.

But fear of competition against bigger corporations, a lack of leadership and business training and the fear of spiralling debt (caused by overpaying for a practice) can make ownership avenues with potentially more control seem like risky endeavours.

Despite these fears, there is an option with significantly reduced associated risk, higher reward than a salary alone can provide and a greater degree of control.

In this article, multiple time practice owner Dr Dave Nicol argues the case for a co-operative partnership to lighten the load and become an agent of change for good in the profession.

If you are one of those vets who desires more control, to build your leadership skills and take up practice equity as a co-owner, without feeling like you are getting in over your head, then read on. Here are six reasons why a co-operative partnership with an experienced, independent partner might be the right move for you.

1. Reduced risk – Risk management is a big part of being a clinician and a business owner. If you don’t have the right cover, lawyer, insurance or clinical skills, then you can get into trouble fast. Choosing an experienced business partner who has learned where the risk lies reduces your exposure and helps you to prevent mistakes saving money to spend on the important things like people, processes and technology.

2. Acquire and spend your money wisely – where do I get money? What are good terms? Is this deal my vendor is offering and good deal or bad deal? How much should I spend on my team? There are so many questions, and most vets new to business make entirely avoidable mistakes. Swerve these costly landmines by teaming up with someone who has the answers.

3. There are almost no problems that can’t be solved – problems can feel overwhelming sometimes. But you should know that what can seem like a hurricane sized problem to one person, is nothing more than a gust of wind to another. With experience comes perspective. So, problems that may cost you many sleepless nights on your own, can be addressed quickly and effectively when you have an experienced partner.

4. Focus on what you love – most veterinarians are great with animals but suck at understanding marketing – especially digital marketing - for example. But these technologies and the processes needed to make them work are very effective and 100% necessary to grow a runaway business success in the modern age. A business partner with savvy in these fields can help fill your exam room, leaving you free to focus on what you love - fixing problems with pets.

5. Learn before you leap – nothing has to be forever. So, getting into a supportive co-operative partnership early in your career can help you learn the skills required to be an effective leader and practice owner before you take the full leap on your own (if that’s what you want to do).

6. Your net worth and student debt – working as a practice owner might initially cost you a little because your salary could be a little below market rate (if you are building a business up), but this is no bad thing.

Because after pouring your soul into something you co-own, your salary will quickly catch up, and you have two other financial instruments in your corner.

Firstly, your shareholding (your investment) will increase in value as the business grows and performance improves. And secondly, the shares you own will pay an annual dividend when your practice generates a profit (note - practices are not guaranteed do this, so you should never bank on it). A role where you act only as a clinical director will never afford you these wealth-building extras.

Setting up your practice is not for the faint-hearted. It’s lonely, expensive and highly stressful. Much more so than just being a clinician. But a partnership with an experienced co-owner who can share the burden of responsibility and bring proven strategies and processes to the business massively reduces this stress, and improves the chances of success significantly, leaving you free to focus on clinical work and leadership.

If you are thinking about taking this leap and are based in the UK, please get in touch. I’m looking to partner with like-minded vets who are ready to become the leaders of tomorrow, are willing to back themselves and change veterinary medicine for the better. But I'll happily help you with any questions you might have as you go on your journey. Drop me an email to set up an informal chat.

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