Many Americans dream about being their own boss—the decision-maker, the rule-setter, and the champion for the success of their business. And, as a veterinarian, there's a good chance this dream will become a reality for you. More than half (63 percent) of the respondents to the 2005 Veterinary Economics Job Satisfaction and Professional Outlook Study own practices. And as baby-boomer veterinarians age and approach retirement, they'll be looking for the next generation of owners to lead their practices. Are you interested in making the leap to ownership? Do you know what it takes to be your own boss?
Figure 1 : Traits to be a successful owner
A place of your own
What does it take to be your own boss? According to the 2005 Well-Managed Practice Associate Management Guide, produced by Wutchiett Tumblin and Associates and Veterinary Economics, the majority of owners say associates must work at their practice three to five years before being eligible for ownership. But don't change the title on your business cards yet. The study results also show that 85 percent of responding owners believe that 50 percent or less of associates develop the skills necessary for ownership after three to five years of practice experience.
Interested in buying in? Owners say they consider associates' personality traits, interest in ownership, communication skills, and medical skills most heavily—more than they consider their tenure, for example. So be sure you've expressed interest. Then do what you can to develop the other skills and qualities that'll make you a successful business owner.
Yes, preparing for ownership will take some time and work. But today's owners say the return on their investment is well worth the work. Here are the biggest benefits they list:
- A voice in the direction and growth of the practice; the ability to set the standard of care and mold the practice culture
- Greater earning power and increased financial return
- Long-term financial security; an investment that pays dividends now and also provides value when you're ready to sell.
On the downside, respondents to the Well-Managed Practice Study report these top disadvantages:
- Dealing with personnel-related issues—hiring and retaining qualified employees; developing a strong, cohesive team; and resolving conflicts
- Increased financial responsibility and risk, and increased management responsibility
- The time required to balance medicine, management responsibilities, and family commitments.
Making the transition
As an associate you may be able to buy into your current practice or buy a practice that you've never worked in. Most owners responding to the 2005 Veterinary Economics Job Satisfaction and Professional Outlook Study plan to sell their practices to an outside buyer or to an associate.
Figure 2 : Transition strategies