There are close to 73,000 veterinarians in private practice in the United States. These private practitioners have a wide variety of practices.

Are you thinking of becoming one of them and opening your own veterinary clinic? You might have the experience as a veterinarian to do a great job.

What do you know about starting a business? It requires a completely different skill set. These skills are not taught in veterinary school.

It’s not easy. Many businesses don’t make it past the first five years.

Don’t get discouraged, this article has you completely covered. Read on to learn what it takes to open a veterinary office and be successful.

1. The Business Plan

Did you think you could open your practice without a business plan? That’s a great way to start your veterinary clinic off on the wrong foot.

It’s expensive to open up a veterinary practice, and you might need to get outside financing for it. Every lender outside of your personal network needs to see a business plan before they approve your loan.

What goes into a business plan? Start with your vision for the practice. Define the veterinarian office that you want to have.

Who will you serve? Do you work with companion animals, thoroughbred horses, animals for food consumption? You have to choose one as your primary focus of the business.

You’ll then figure out your financials. This is where you do research to find out how much it costs to open the doors, and how much you need to make each month to be profitable.

You’ll be able to set your pricing for visits, procedures, and medication.

2. Gather Experts

The easiest way to have a successful veterinarian clinic is to surround yourself with people who are experts in a certain area of business.

You want to spend your time focusing on seeing patients, not processing payroll or studying taxes. That’s why you’ll need to get an accountant.

You should always have a business attorney on standby to review contracts and give sound legal advice. They can tell you the best business formation you should have and help you set up your veterinary clinic.

Consider hiring someone to assist with building a website and marketing your practice.

These investments are significant, but they’ll pay off because you can earn more seeing patients. They’ll reduce your business risk and help you get clients in the door.

3. Make the Practice Legal

Do you have a name for your veterinary clinic? Once you do, you or your attorney will register your practice with the corporate division of your state.

It’s pretty simple to do, even for an LLC. LLCs usually require an operating agreement and articles of organization.

You’ll fill out an application with your state and pay a small fee.

4. Obtain a Location and Licenses

The location is the most important aspect of your veterinarian clinic unless you’re a mobile practitioner. The location has to fit your present needs and allows your practice to grow.

For instance, you might only need one exam room right now. In a few years, you might need to have three more.

It has to be in a convenient location for people to get to and there should be plenty of parking. Look at office buildings and strip malls. Work with a real estate agent who can find the perfect spot for your new business.

The next step is to get the appropriate business licenses in the municipality of the practice. Your office will also need a certificate of occupancy.

5. Get Equipment

This is where you’ll spend most of your startup budget unless you come across a practice that’s closing and selling its equipment.

Invest in things like anesthesia machines, IV pumps, exam tables, ultrasound machines, x-ray machines, and portable lighting.

You’ll need to have internet access and a phone system set up. You don’t want to rely on cell phones to run your veterinary clinic.

Don’t forget about veterinary prescription labels. These are labels that have your business information and brand on them.

6. Manage Finances

Most new businesses close because they don’t know how to manage finances. If you’re doing your financials on your own, be sure to learn about taxes.

If you have employees, you’ll need to pay payroll taxes. You’ll pay a percentage of your profits, as well as state and local taxes.

You should always strive to have positive cash flow in your business. You’ll be able to make better business decisions that way.

7. Market the Veterinary Clinic

You have to let people know about your veterinarian office. There are dozens of ways to market your clinic. Start by learning about your target market.

Know where they hang out. If you focus on companion animals, you should focus on social media and community advertising.

Two areas that are worth investing in are search engine optimization and search ads. Most people turn to search engines to find veterinarians online.

Both of these methods let you appear at the top of search results. Keep in mind that search engine optimization takes months to build.

You can spend money on search ads while you build your online presence. That strategy ensures you get patients right away.

Keys for Starting a Business

You can open a veterinary clinic without going to business school. Just follow the steps in this article.

Make sure you have a sound business plan and surround yourself with a great team of outside experts and employees. They’ll help you deliver a great customer experience and stay on top of your financial obligations.

You’ll be able to market and grow your new business and turn it into a thriving veterinarian office.

Would you like to learn about the stories of other new startups? Check out the Startup Story section of this site for inspiration as you start your new business.