This year’s American Association of Bovine Practitioners (AABP) conference followed a theme of “Become Indispensable.” Many of the presentations, including the popular “Practice Tips” session, explored ways practitioners can build their business by expanding services and helping clients become more successful.
One of the short “Practice Tips” sessions featured Em Mowrer, DVM, outlining how she built a solo practice in Southeastern Ohio, an area comprised mainly of small farmers who traditionally only called on a veterinarian when they had an animal-health emergency.
Starting “from scratch,” Mowrer says her first steps involved an honest assessment of her own abilities, strengths, weaknesses and professional goals, needs of local producers, services she wanted to provide and what she would need to effectively serve producers in the area.
She quickly recognized a need for education regarding animal-health practices and particularly for prevention of disease or production problems, and area farmers were hungry for information. Her first client meeting attracted about 75 producers, many of whom had never attended such a meeting before, because they never had the opportunity.
Based on her experience, she offered these tips for other young practitioners starting solo practices:
- Be frugal, but invest in what you need. Mowrer has concentrated on keeping overhead costs low, but based on service goals she invested in equipment for bull-soundness exams (BSE), ultrasound equipment, a portable chute, and initially, a well-used truck. “Beware of the shiny-object syndrome,” she says. Try to limit your spending to equipment and supplies that will generate revenue for the practice.
- Your practice is a business; run it like one. Farmers like to pinch pennies, but they know the veterinarian needs to make ends meet. Charge appropriately and don’t be embarrassed by success. When Mowrer had to trade her worn-out truck in for a new model, none of her clients indicated any resentment.
- Be the expert. Demonstrate self-confidence and integrity in client relationships. Use meetings, newsletters and other communications to demonstrate you are up-to-date in your veterinary skills and have expertise to improve their operations. Be authentic.
- Find a mentor. Interact with other veterinarians, either locally or through professional organizations. If you are the only veterinarian in town, get to know other professionals, such as physicians, bankers, crop consultants – people who face similar business challenges.
- Take care of yourself. Take time for recreation, relaxation and personal growth.
- Be available. Follow up on farm calls, ask about the progress of animals you’ve treated, show interest in a client’s family. Text messaging, she says, is an easy and efficient way to check in regularly with clients. “They don’t care how much you know,” Mowrer says, “until they know how much you care.”