As the old saying goes, what are the three things that matter most in real estate? Location, location, and location. Starting any business is an exciting time. When you're getting into the finer points of planning your veterinary clinic, choosing the location is one of the most important decisions you'll make.
With your veterinary clinic, there are a few reasons that location is important. You need to make sure that the space you have is appropriate for the type of clinic or specialty you're offering. You also need to research the competition in the area and the market size. We discussed location briefly in our first post on what to consider when purchasing a veterinary clinic. Here, we'll take an in-depth look at choosing the location of your clinic. There are several important considerations when choosing the best place for your clinic, which we'll cover below. For more information on other aspects of starting your veterinary clinic, see our veterinary industry page.
The first thing you want to consider is the type of veterinary clinic you want to operate. A clinic that specializes in domestic pets, like dogs and cats, might have an excellent market in a city neighborhood. A veterinary practice that specializes in large animals, like horses or cattle, might not do as well in an urban environment. The type of specialty you work with and the services you offer should inform the space you ultimately choose.
You might want to look in an area where you'd like to live. If you'll be available for emergency visits, you may need to live somewhat close to your clinic. Some veterinarians choose a location in their hometown because they already have a base of customers and colleagues in the area. You might also want to move to a new location. Your personal goals and aspirations should be a factor in the decision-making. You should also consider how long you'd like to run your practice.
You should look at the structure and zoning of the actual space to make sure it can be renovated to fit your needs. Are you offering boarding or overnight care for animals? Do you offer grooming?
Start with your own business plan. Decide on your market positioning. What type of veterinarian clinic do you want to run? What makes you the best clinic for your clients to choose from?
Here are some of the primary considerations when choosing a location:
The physical location is important. It's the first impression for your clients. It also needs to be fully equipped for you to offer the services you envision.
You need to look at the building and decide whether leasing or buying would be the best option for your practice. You also need to consider parking options, convenience for customers, and the physical space inside. Most veterinary clinics lease for extended periods of time. With that in mind, don't only think about your business goals for this year. Think about whether the space fits your goals for the future. If you plan to add services or grow to include more providers, you need to make sure the space will still be adequate for your projected growth.
Customers also need the location to be accessible. You want to make sure that parking is available. Some animals are not socialized or comfortable near other animals, so you want to make sure the space is adequate to separate animals that get skittish or aggressive. You need to accommodate for waiting room seating and private rooms for exams. If your practice offers surgical procedures, boarding, and other services, space and equipment will need to be considered when choosing your location.
The way your clinic is designed is an important aspect of customer care. Creating an organized workflow for your staff will mean better customer service and greater satisfaction. If the space is smaller, you might consider whether you can add to the space as your practice grows.
The actual neighborhood and outside location will matter to your clients, too. This might include neighboring shops and the type of town or city. If you're located in a shopping mall or area where there are other businesses, make sure to check the lease to verify the other types of businesses in the area. You don't want another veterinary practice to open up in the same plaza.
Visibility is a concern, as well. Customers need to be able to find your practice. Make sure the space is easily visible from the street and that you add clear signage to help new customers find you.
Most pet owners choose a veterinarian within a few miles from their home. This might not be exceptionally important if you're a specialist. But, for the most part, you'll want to pay close attention to the population in the surrounding area.
The size of the population in the area will give you a good idea of the possible client base you can attract. For most businesses, it's more beneficial to set up in the higher population areas. But this is going to depend on your competition and the type of specialty you offer. For instance, veterinary practices that specialize in large animals often travel to farms, so their location is less important.
When you consider the location, make sure that your client base will find it easy to do business with your clinic. This might mean choosing a location that's walkable or where there are no similar veterinary clinics in the vicinity.
The demographics in your area are also a factor. You want to consider the household sizes in the area and their income. If you can get information on the number of pet owners in the area, that can be a good indication of your ability to thrive as well. Generally, families tend to be more likely to own pets and higher-income families tend to have more disposable income to spend on their pets.
Do some market research on the area. For instance, you might research the number of dog parks, pet daycares, and other pet services in the area. If there are a number of services catering to pet owners, it's a good indication that you have a market base in the area. But that also leads us to the next consideration — your competition.
You need to know how many other veterinary clinics and services are in the same general area. There may be several, but this information will help you decide what makes your practice different and whether you can compete in the market. In some areas, the market is already saturated with providers and there isn't a lot of room to grow. You need to know that in advance.
In most cases, you can tailor your services to meet an existing need in the location. For instance, there may be big box stores that also offer vaccines and grooming but not full veterinary care. If your clinic offers fully licensed veterinary care, you address a market that the big box stores likely won't be able to meet.
You should also consider the types of services that aren't currently available in the area. Filling a need that isn't currently being met means that you're positioning yourself in the market where there is no direct competition. When you consider what makes you different, it might be something simple. You might offer great prices or excellent customer service. You might also offer something extra, like house calls for sick animals or extra care for families when they have to put down their pet.
Solid research on the competition in the area will help you understand what the needs are for pet owners in the area. It also gives you advanced information on how to successfully position your clinic.
If you're in the process of researching or starting your veterinary clinic, Dental & Medical Counsel can help. You'll need to consider the best type of business structure for your clinic, whether to buy or lease property, intricacies about associate agreements, and other legal aspects of successfully running your clinic.
We specialize in helping veterinary practices understand and adhere to the legal requirements involved in their business. Whether you're considering the right business structure, drafting associate agreements, considering leasing or purchasing property, or thinking about the future of selling your clinic, Dental & Medical Counsel is your go-to expert.
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