3 Tips for Selecting Your Veterinarian Practice Location
After years of veterinarian school and working for someone else’s practice, it’s normal to begin daydreaming about taking control of your career and opening your own practice.
One of the first steps to opening your own practice is to begin considering prospective locations. At Ashton Gray, we’re experts in guiding the development of medical, dental, and veterinary practice real estate. Here are a few tips we’ve learned that’ll help you find your dream practice location.
Research Location Demographics
Start with the big picture and find your target market. If you’re currently working at a practice, start digging into your practice’s data to determine what type of pet owners are visiting your practice and why.
Once you have demographic data that lays out the people who need your services, the next step is to find out where they live and work (but not in a creepy way).
Traveling with a pet can be stressful. For every Labrador retriever who loves a car ride, there are a dozen cats who will patently refuse to get into a carrier. This means plenty of pet owners will visit the closest veterinarian, making local population density an important area to research when selecting a location.
Also, consider the growth of the community – is the population expanding or shrinking? Are new developments being built or are houses on the market for long periods of time? It’s easier to establish a relationship with a pet owner or farm owner who has just moved to an area.
There are plenty of tools available online to research relevant demographic data, such as the United States Census Bureau. It offers stats regarding language, education, employment, health insurance, housing, and more for every community in the nation. The University of Virginia’s Guide to Publicly Available Demographic Data is another great resource for a large overview of demographic data resources. The team at Ashton Gray can also pull demographics for any area, nationwide.
Narrow the Search
Once you’ve established the general area that will suit your services, you can start to dig a little deeper into specific available locations. There are a couple of things to consider when looking at possible locations:
- Nearby Competition – Similar practices can be a sign that your prospective area has enough demand to support your business but there are only so many practices an area can support. Researching your competition’s wait times or online reviews can offer some insight into their performance and help you determine if there’s a gap in the community that needs to be filled.
- Accessibility + Visibility – While a town or county might be able to support your practice’s services, they’ll need to be able to access it and hear about it. Finding a location that is on the corner of a major intersection could offer high visibility but does it have enough parking or is it accessible for traffic going in either direction? Finding the right balance between practicality for your facility and visibility to market your practice is crucial. While most vets can be found online, there is something to be said for the folks that say, “Oh, I drive by that place all the time – I’ll check it out.”
As a vet, it’s also prudent to figure out how “pet-friendly” an area is. Are there dog parks nearby? Drive around the local neighborhoods on a nice day – any dog walkers out? You can even look into how many nearby rental properties allow pets. There are a ton of factors that can offer clues to figuring out how pet-friendly an area is.
Does the Location Fit You and Your Practice?
Are you a specialist or a companion animal vet? Do you want to work with exotic animals or livestock?
Your specialty will have a huge impact on where you should set up your practice. Companion animal vets can start by researching areas with growing families, whereas livestock vets could start identifying areas with plenty of farms.
No matter your specialty, be sure to visit the prospective location yourself before making any sort of commitment. A location with excessive wear and tear or a less than ideal surrounding area may affect a pet owner’s desire to visit.
As a practitioner, you’ll want to consider your daily commute. Are there areas nearby you’d be happy living? What about your staff? If you’re bringing existing staff from one location to this new one, does this location make sense for them? If you’re not bringing staff, maybe research employment data in the area.
There is no perfect science when it comes to choosing a practice location. Each practice has to prioritize what’s most important to its business, whether it’s price, visibility, competition, accessibility, or any of the above. And even then, it’ll likely be a balancing act to satisfy every need. Take the time to do the research, it’s the surest way to achieve that warm and fuzzy feeling you’ll get when your first patient walks into your brand new location and says, “Wow.”
From concept, all the way to retirement, the experts at Ashton Gray are happy to help you navigate all of the rewards of opening your very own medical, dental, or veterinarian practice location. Contact us here to learn more about how we can help.