The veterinary industry experienced a significant boom during the pandemic as people turned to their pets for companionship and comfort while spending more time at home. This surge in demand created its own set of challenges for veterinary practices, however, including high turnover rates, burnout among staff, and staffing issues.
Now, as the world gradually returns to normalcy post-pandemic, veterinary practices face a different challenge: a decline in appointments and revenue.
With people returning to work and adjusting to a more regular routine, some pet owners are finding it difficult to accommodate the needs of their furry companions. This has resulted in more pets being surrendered for adoption or rehomed, leading to decreased appointments for veterinary practices. Appointment numbers are also declining because pet parents are back to work and don't have as much time for vet visits. Additionally, the industry is still grappling with a staffing shortage, as burnout and the demanding nature of the job have driven many talented professionals away.
So, what's the solution?
The last few years have been difficult for everyone. We work with thousands of veterinary practice owners nationwide and understand the many struggles practices face as they learn to navigate the "new normal." Despite decreased demand, hiring and retaining staff remains difficult. Practices are seeing a 5% (or more) decrease in appointments, leading to flat or reduced revenue. As a result, owners must make a huge decision: Sell, Struggle, or Grow.
You're Not Alone
Are you feeling alone in your struggle to thrive in a post-pandemic world? You're not! We frequently speak with practice owners who are on the brink and feel like they are the only ones facing difficulties. This is far from the truth. The pandemic altered the veterinary industry, and practice owners spanning the globe are feeling the impact. Fortunately, resources are available to help practice owners survive this challenging time.
What Is Happening?
At the height of the pandemic, pet ownership grew exponentially as people sought companions while on lockdown. Reports vary, but 1 in 5 households adopted pets during this time. That's at least a 4% increase in a single year, which is more growth than recorded in any other year. These new pet parents swamped veterinary practices, leading to excessive demand. This fueled burnout and further contributed to staff shortages.
- With restrictions lifted and people returning to offices rather than working from home, overall demand has decreased.
- Countless pet owners are still coping with the pandemic's economic impact. Along with inflation, this has created financial constraints that could influence their ability to schedule routine veterinary appointments with their pets.
- Practices are facing more corporate competition than ever before.
- Many pet owners are also facing new issues with their beloved companions, like separation anxiety and behavioral problems.
Overall, demand has decreased. However, veterinary practices are still struggling to stay ahead and provide care for the pets who need it. Burnout and exhaustion during the pandemic have led to high staff turnover and made it difficult for veterinarians to keep up with even the reduced demand, resulting in long wait times for appointments and customer dissatisfaction.
Growing Your Practice in a Post-Pandemic World
In this new business environment, veterinary practice owners must adapt and find strategies to navigate the challenges ahead. First, it is crucial to address the staffing shortage by implementing employee retention strategies and creating a supportive work environment. Paying competitive salaries, offering opportunities for professional development and prioritizing work-life balance can help attract and retain skilled veterinary professionals.
Making your practice stand out to job seekers does more than attract potential employees. It also shows pet lovers and your local community that you genuinely care about your staff and their pets.
To counter the decline in appointments, practice owners can explore new avenues for revenue generation. This may involve expanding services, such as offering specialized treatments or partnering with local pet-related businesses to develop cross-promotions or referral programs. It's also essential to focus on client education and marketing efforts to ensure pet owners know the importance of regular veterinary care and preventive medicine.
Collaboration and partnerships can play a significant role in overcoming the struggle. Practice owners should consider partnering with organizations specializing in helping veterinary practices grow. These partnerships can provide valuable resources, expertise, and marketing support to enhance client outreach and improve overall business performance.
Marketing should always be a primary concern when it comes to growth. If you fail to promote your business and service offerings, the rest of your efforts will likely be for nothing.
Sell, Struggle, or Grow?
The difficult choice of whether to sell, struggle, or grow remains in our post-pandemic world. While it is up to each practice owner to determine what's best for them, we believe growth is the best option. Growing your business better serves you, your staff, and your community. Even if you are thinking about breaking free from the struggle by selling to a corporate group, we encourage you to focus on improving the culture within your practice and running it profitably first. This will yield a much higher profit when selling than trying to unload a failing practice. Once you get things in order and your business starts running smoothly again, you may even decide to keep it for a few more years and focus on growth.
If you're still considering selling, look at other practices in your area that corporations have purchased. You'll likely notice that they're all pretty similar. You may also find that their employees and clients aren't happy with their treatment since the sale. If you sell, your life's work will become a cookie-cutter clinic. Is that what you want for your favorite clients and patients?
The Bottom Line
The veterinary industry must adapt to the changing dynamics brought on by the pandemic. Practice owners should address the staffing shortage, explore new revenue streams, prioritize client education and consider strategic partnerships to facilitate growth. Marketing plays a large role in acquiring new staff and clients, so you should never neglect it — even if selling is your ultimate goal. Keep in mind that practices that have solid marketing strategies in place sell for higher prices than those that don't.
Don't let your practice fall victim to the impact of changes in the veterinary industry. By proactively addressing challenges and embracing innovation, you can navigate the post-pandemic landscape and ensure your practice continues to thrive in the years to come.
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We’ll continue with more articles and videos to support you with each of these steps, with quotes and experiences from other top practices to inspire you. Please stay tuned. And if you need help with culture building, recruitment, and improving profitability, please schedule a GeniusVets Demo!