How COVID-19 helped the veterinary industry expand

Industry titans Cary Crego and Bert Hockenberry predict the future of the veterinary industry and share advice for aspiring vet hospital owners.

Provide Director of Credit Cary Crego and National Sales Manager, Veterinary Bert Hockenberry have over 30 years of combined experience in healthcare finance, and they share trends they’re seeing in a post-COVID-19 veterinary industry, where they think the industry is headed and advice for aspiring veterinary practice owners.

What is your experience in the veterinary practice finance industry?

Cary:
I have 17 years of experience in the healthcare finance industry and have been involved in lending to veterinarians for the past 14 years.

Bert:
I have worked in healthcare finance for 14 years; the past 12 years have been dedicated specifically to the veterinary industry.

A COVID-19 Pulse Study conducted by the American Pet Products Association (APPA) found that approximately 12.6 million U.S. households got a new pet after the coronavirus was declared a pandemic in March 2020. How has this significant growth in pet ownership impacted the practice landscape?

Cary:
The growth in pet ownership has been such a positive for these small business owners. Increased pet ownership, along with increasing pet life expectancy, have been two key factors in the overall growth of the industry. There are no signs of either trend slowing down anytime soon, which only benefits our providers.

Bert:
This growth has impacted the veterinary practice landscape in so many ways. Existing hospitals have seen significant growth in revenue, and many are expanding or adding to current facilities; industry employment opportunities are plentiful; and associate veterinarians have an increased confidence and desire to own their own practice, which has driven major activity in the new hospital market.

According to the American Time Use Survey, the percentage of Americans who work from home nearly doubled following the COVID-19 pandemic. With so many pet owners spending more time at home, practices have seen an increase in patient visits across all areas of care, specifically in senior wellness. How has this impacted existing practice operations?

​​Cary:
Pet owners’ acceptance of more preventative treatment plans, coupled with the transition to more efficient curbside service, has really allowed veterinary hospital owners to thrive. In today’s environment, more pet owners view their animals as part of the family, which has resulted in an increased percentage of household disposable income being redirected to pets. This is another trend that does not appear to be slowing down in the foreseeable future.

Bert:
Practice owners have been incredibly versatile in responding to the increased patient visits. Curbside service, telemedicine, expanded operating hours and increased staffing are some of the efficiencies that have increased capacity and enabled many hospitals to better serve their patients.

From financial to personal (the sky’s the limit), what advice can you give veterinary practice owners who strive for success — or, perhaps, simply relief — in a post-COVID-19 world?

Cary:
I would encourage them to remember why they got into this profession to begin with. If veterinary practice owners focus on providing top-notch service to their clients and patients, they will inevitably see the personal financial results of this industry. The providers I’ve seen struggle have really had those priorities in reverse, and I do not think that is a coincidence.

Bert:
Breathe? Haha. I know it’s been said many times before, but we are in unprecedented times. Hospitals are busier than ever, and the increase in corporate ownership has depleted the associate veterinarian pool in an enormous way. The demands on today’s practice owners are never-ending, and it is important that they find time for themselves and take a little time to enjoy their success. It is also a great time for doctors who are considering their exit strategy to align with industry professionals who can help them prepare to execute their plan to perfection.

Taking into consideration all that has occurred since March 2020, what steps should U.S. veterinary associates take before starting a practice of their own?

Cary:
I encourage them to make sure they are in a stable position financially prior to beginning this journey. Adequate savings, a manageable amount of personal debt and satisfactory personal credit are all key to securing initial financing. From there it all comes down to working with the right team of people to find an ideal location and office for their dream practice.

Bert:
Information is everywhere, so I encourage them to do their research. Starting a new hospital is a major undertaking, and surrounding themselves with experienced, trusted and knowledgeable industry advisors can really help ease the practice acquisition process. As a veterinary lender, we connect providers with these partners everyday — design/build professionals, real estate agents, supply/manufacturing partners, practice brokers, CPAs, attorneys and marketing professionals, to name a few. Aspiring veterinary practice owners should reach out to a trusted advisor and begin to execute their plan today!

Ready to own your own veterinary practice? We can help you chase that dream and make it your reality — and our online experience makes it easier than you might think. Visit getprovide.com to learn more, pre-qualify in as little as two minutes with no impact on your personal credit score and browse current practice listings.

This content is for informational purposes and it does not constitute the rendering of legal, accounting, tax, or investment advice or other professional services by Provide or any of its subsidiaries or affiliates, and it is being provided without any warranty whatsoever. Please consult with appropriate professionals related to your individual circumstances.

All lending is subject to review and approval. Provide, Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Fifth Third Bank, National Association.

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We help healthcare providers achieve their dreams of practice ownership through our 100% digital finance experience.

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