Like any business, owning a veterinary practice can be rewarding and challenging in equal measure. One of the biggest challenges is ensuring your practice continues to grow year-on-year.
To achieve this, you need to have a strategy for long-term growth in place. Without one, your business will be at risk of stagnating. Intuition and guesswork aren’t often the basis for long-term success. Here we look at three of the biggest challenges to growing your practice, and how to overcome them.
Challenge: Attracting new clients – Veterinary client numbers have dropped in recent years due to the difficult economic climate, an increased number of care providers and services and a greater use of the Internet as a source of information.
Solution: In order to attract new clients, you need to create a clear and compelling reason for prospects to use your services over your competitors’.
Increasingly, people regard their pets as members of the family and want them to remain healthy throughout their lives. This presents a brilliant marketing opportunity for veterinary practices.
You can exploit this opportunity by recognising the bond owners have with their pets, and gearing your practice’s services towards honouring this bond in every respect. By assigning value to the continued, lifelong health of client’s pets, and communicating this at every opportunity, you’ll give prospects a convincing reason to choose your services over others.
Challenge: Retaining high quality clients – Many clients are ‘casual’ and only use the practice’s services occasionally or when absolutely necessary.
Solution: Clients who come back regularly offer an opportunity for massive returns. As mentioned previously, many pet owners place extreme value in the continued health of their pets, and practices can take advantage of this.
Preventative healthcare offers huge potential for client retention and continuous income over an animal’s lifetime. A well-structured preventative healthcare programme will provide regular opportunities for vaccinations, worming, flea control, neutering, microchipping, dental care, skin and coat care, nutrition and behavioural work.
Of course, you need to back up your promises of lifelong pet health by delivering excellent value, both through high-quality animal care and brilliant customer service. If clients feel that they and their pet’s health are valued and in good hands, they’ll keep coming back. These are the clients that offer the greatest opportunity for growth.
Challenge: Making a significant profit – Expenses are too high and it’s difficult to charge enough without driving clients away.
Solution: Many practices have relatively fixed costs, so it may be difficult to see how to reduce them. One way to address this is by increasing productivity in your team. Whilst you may not see an actual reduction in costs, you’ll extract more value from staff hours, which will help to increase turnover.
The key to a productive team is staff engagement. To engage your team you need effective leadership and a solid performance management process in place. This means deciding your business goals for the coming year, communicating them to your employees and discussing how each of them will contribute to the achievement of those goals.
Engaged employees who feel valued will be more productive and more likely to feel invested in the success of the practice.