Having ownership makes you more committed to the business’ success and more interested in the people who work there, because they are your employees. Your entire mindset changes, making your business involvement a much more personal experience. The investment also leads to a much more fulfilling work life, because you know your efforts are financing your family’s future.
My entrance to the veterinary industry
I’m a licensed electrician by trade, and while I had learned a little about veterinary medicine through osmosis from my wife, who is a veterinarian, I had no personal veterinary experience. I first entered the industry by designing a veterinary exam trailer for sled dog races across the Midwest. My wife, Taylor, and I would travel across Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan for sled dog races, and I met many veterinarians at these events. While driving home from a race in Michigan, Stith Keiser, Vice Chairman and Chief Operating Officer of Inspire Veterinary Partners and Chief Executive Officer of Blue Heron Consulting, whom I had known since my wife was in veterinary school, called me. He said he had an opportunity for me in Kentucky and asked me to fly out the following week. I told him I was nervous and concerned that it would be way out of my element, and his response was, “Nick, we can teach you the operational components of veterinary medicine, we can’t teach what you already bring to the table—a passion for our profession, a genuine personality, a servant leader mindset and a positive attitude.” That was the moment that changed everything.
Learning the veterinary ropes
After nearly a year of training “in the trenches” as a practice manager in a new hospital, my focus shifted to guiding aspiring owners through startups and acquisitions for Blue Heron Consulting. I would help owners who were looking for guidance on starting up a hospital and lead them through the entire process until they opened their doors. I filled this role for my first couple of months post-training, and then became a full-time operational coach when our clientele expanded. I traveled across the United States, helping managers and owners restructure their finances and build the appropriate culture that would help the practices thrive. After several years as an operational coach, I recently became division director, which means I now work primarily on the internal side, helping Blue Heron train and onboard new employees. I still coach at two hospitals to remain relevant in the industry in addition to my role as an active minority partner in a few privately owned hospitals.
Gaining equity in a veterinary practice
There was a trip to Canada—more specifically a five-mile walk with Chuck and Stith before work each morning—that inspired everything that has transformed over the last six years into ownership. When I joined Blue Heron, everyone talked about owning hospitals and becoming a hospital partner and how that could change my life. I started to think I should pursue it, but I was raised to be extremely conservative with my money. My parents taught me to be debt-free, make smart investments, and trust in our Lord! I was concerned about how I could become a hospital partner while having to take out a loan and keep the mindset of being debt free. One day in San Antonio, I was talking to Dr. Chuck Keiser, an Inspire Veterinary Partners board member, and I asked him about the process to become a partner in a practice. He responded, “Young man, the first step is asking.” About a month later, I was offered 10% equity in a practice in Wauseon, Ohio. Becoming a minority partner changed my mindset from being an employee to being an owner. Now, the staff members aren’t simply employees, they are my employees—and I’m responsible for taking care of them.
Additional veterinary opportunities
This initial foray as a veterinary practice partner opened the door to another opportunity in Memphis, where I was coaching a hospital. One partner was selling their share of the practice, and the practice owner asked if I would be interested in purchasing the additional percentage. I asked why she would sell the percentages to someone she hardly knew. She responded that since she and her practice had benefited from my coaching through Blue Heron Consulting, she wanted to invest in me and my family. So, now I’m a partner in two practices. While the financial benefits have been nice, the best part is the personal fulfillment of knowing I own a piece of these businesses.
Ongoing veterinary involvement
I work closely with the Blue Heron coaches responsible for these two hospitals because I believe that being an involved owner is important. I meet with each veterinarian in each hospital weekly, and every two weeks, I meet with the financial partners, the manager, and Blue Heron coaches to discuss financial plans. I also put together contracts, facilitate contract negotiations, and meet any new hires—I meet everyone we hire, because they aren’t only employees, they are my employees, which means a lot to me. Having equity in these practices has truly changed my life, and I want to provide opportunities for other people to improve their position in life. I’m no longer focused on the dollars, but instead on what the future holds for my colleagues in each hospital.
Inspire Veterinary Partners offers people from numerous backgrounds the ability to own a stake in a veterinary practice and help build an ethical, sustainable, and profitable business. If you are interested in joining this exciting team, contact us to learn more.