Who Will Own The Future?

Posted: December 27, 2010, 12:30 p.m., EDT

In my work as a consultant, I have the opportunity to meet many veterinary professionals in various positions. One of the trends I’m seeing is that veterinarians, who are now associates and do not have any ownership in the practice in which they work, really don’t have any desire to own a practice in the future.

It may be coincidence that it seems I hear this more from female veterinarians, although I seem to recall an article a year or two back that presented data to the effect that fewer female veterinarians are interested in ownership as compared to male veterinarians. This becomes pertinent when you take into consideration that the females are beginning to tip the scales in numbers…there will soon be more female veterinarians out there than male it seems. So what does this non-interest in ownership mean for the professional and the profession?

I’ve asked myself this question: “If veterinarians are content being associates, then who will own veterinary practices in the future?”

I believe the answer may quickly become the corporations that are buying up practices even as we speak. Today I’m not discussing the pros and cons of private practice vs. corporate practice, but simply pointing out this observation.

On the other hand, because there are always two hands after all, I am hearing more about non-veterinarian ownership of practices. Many of my manager colleagues have either bought into ownership of their practice, or are considering this move in the future.

Of course it depends on the state, because in some states you must be a DVM to own; others, maybe a majority of the ownership must be DVM, but the minority ownership is up for grabs; still others allow non-DVM’s to own the whole kit and caboodle. So this “trend” in manager ownership may be regionally affected. But I do think it’s interesting to see a slight shift in desire for ownership move away from the veterinarians, and toward the managers.

I can only assume that veterinarians buy into or open a practice because they want to be able to practice medicine in the manner they prefer, and establish a business doing what they love to do best. As for managers, are they more focused on making the business run smoothly?

Well, this would depend on where the manager comes from so to speak, either moved up from within veterinary medicine, or crossing over from a business related profession. Perhaps the best model for the future is to have a DVM partner up with a manager, so that the patient needs are addressed as well as the management needs; the best of both worlds perhaps?

This much is for sure: Over the 20 years I’ve been in the business, I’ve seen changes that seem slow at the time they are noticed, but make profound impact on the profession when looking back many years at a time.

The best way for us to command the direction of the profession is to be on the lookout for trends, and try to ascertain the effects on our profession in the future.

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