As a veterinarian, you have spent a huge portion of your academic career pushing toward the ultimate goal of becoming a veterinarian. You toiled for experiences and jobs that would look good on an application, obsessed over taking the right courses for the right schools, and then fought and struggled through the final four years to victoriously come out on the other side as a veterinarian. Finally, you reached your lifelong dream of being a vet. Now what?   

A captivating new goal—and the slap of reality

Your initial veterinary job is typically thrilling and challenging for the first six to 12 months. However, the excitement can slowly wane if it doesn’t go quite as you expect. For those of us who are used to setting and reaching goals, post-graduation life can feel a bit directionless once you learn the ropes and the dust settles. Changing jobs a few times can provide additional excitement and practice perspective, but your career still may not feel fulfilling enough. This is when veterinarians often consider buying or starting a practice, and the thrill of a new goal again becomes all-consuming. You are captivated by the new challenges and increased control—and a little risk sprinkled in! You believe the same starry-eyed idealism that got you through the initial part of your career will certainly get you through the first year or two of practice ownership, and you assume you will figure out the logistics and details as you go.  

Reality may eventually hit you right where it hurts—ouch! You get bogged down with staff problems, client issues, a bank account that seems to grow smaller, a fruitless associate search, and the constant barrage of administrative work required to run a business. And, you also need to care for your patients! You start wondering why you decided to buy a practice, as it’s just not turning out to be as fun, easy, and fruitful as you thought it would be. Should you sell? Should you just close the doors and walk away? 

Imagine your happy place

The good news is that it is absolutely possible to enjoy practice ownership and veterinary medicine again. It’s not easy, because it requires a lot of change—personally and professionally—but it’s worth it! Take a few minutes today to think about why you became a veterinarian and practice owner. Try to imagine your perfect day in this role:

  • What are you doing? 
  • What are you not doing? 
  • Who surrounds you? 
  • What resources do you have available?

Now imagine how that day could fit into your life in the most ideal way. Perhaps you imagine yourself working a four-day week so you can go camping on the weekends with your family. Perhaps you imagine caring for patients on Friday afternoons instead of paying bills. You can make it happen.

Make way for learning, growth, and change

Now that you know what you want to change, how do you make it happen? This part is difficult because our brains like predictability and hate change. In fact, this Fast Company article shows that people rarely change their habits even when faced with real, life-threatening risks. 

This is where outside coaching and support comes in, and it is the solution spurring change. We have all been coached during our lives at some point. I started music lessons at age 5. My music teacher was patient, supportive, kind, and challenging. She trained me to be accurate and disciplined, supported my creativity, and taught me how to perform and handle stage fright. As a young adult in Boston, I continued performing and taking weekly private lessons. Are you wondering why I would continue paying for lessons when I had already learned to play the instrument? Of course you aren’t—that is what musicians do! We continue learning from people who are more skilled at their art than we are, hoping to hone our craft. 

So, it is strange that veterinarians and business owners are reluctant to take “lessons” in our craft. About 15 years into practice, I was able to shadow a talented specialist for a day at a large referral hospital in my area. The experience was like a day of “mini lessons,” and I am forever grateful. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I’ve always had a team of coaches sprinkled throughout my life: sports, music, veterinary, business, financial, and emotional. I encourage you to consider what areas of your career and personal life would benefit from consistent coaching and support. This is one of the ways we set new goals, reignite career passion, improve, and move forward. 

Find the right support

If you aren’t finding joy in veterinary practice ownership right now, I urge you to find support to navigate a path forward! The right team of professionals can help you reach your personal and professional goals and coach you and your team through the necessary personal, financial, and operational changes. 

 Skilled professional coaching and support can help you: 

  • Identify new opportunities within your practice to improve or expand your services, processes, or medicine
  • Establish best practices, protocols, and guidelines
  • Set financial goals and a long-term strategic plan
  • Reach your personal and professional goals
  • Align your team to go in the direction of your vision and hospital goals 
  • Identify and resolve roadblocks in day-to-day efficiencies
  • Learn to be a stronger, more effective leader 
  • Assess, manage, and improve clinic culture 
  • Implement change and establish long-term habits 
  • Rediscover why you became a veterinarian

Having a professional coach who has first-hand experience working in a veterinary hospital, extensive knowledge in staffing and operations, skills, and resources to teach hospital financial management, and the training to support medical and leadership excellence is imperative. The right coach will walk next to you during the entire journey.

This is a big job, and you need big support. And, since fixing these issues requires a systemic change within the entire practice, professional coaching for all key hospital leaders will help support team accountability and healthy habits for long-term change that sticks.  

At Inspire Veterinary Partners, we are all about helping veterinary professionals rediscover the joy of practice ownership. We offer ownership opportunities for every member of the veterinary team, from associate veterinarians to client service representatives, and provide coaching and support to set you up for success. Contact us to learn more about our unique equity model of practice ownership.