By Patty Khuly, VMD, MBA
Have you scribbled out your list of resolutions for the new year? Whether you have dutifully thumb-tapped a detailed list into Evernote or barely managed a mental one-liner, you’re likely to have brooded over a thing or two you hope to improve on in 2017. And if you’re in the all-consuming vet biz, at least one resolution impacts your professional life, too.
1. Seek Out More Stress-Relieving Services
Whether you’ve concluded that you need mental health services and haven’t made that appointment yet, or you simply need more you time to recover from life as we currently know it, there are plenty of realistic solutions to the stress that assails you. This year, hot yoga classes and cheap Asian massages are high on my professional services list.
2. Get Away More
I’ll log more flying miles than usual this year. The more the better. (And the farther the better.) In lieu of remodeling my house—it’s not falling down yet—this year I’ll be headed to Hawaii, Ecuador and Birmingham, England. (For conferences, I swear.) Whether it’s camping in your local state forest or spending a month in Thailand, getting away is a mental health imperative. So what’s on your list?
3. Exercise More
OK, so hot yoga is an exercise, but for me it’s more for my mental flexibility than anything else. For me, real exercise is to be found in more playful endeavors like paddleboarding, horseback riding and running. Apart from just adding plain fun to your schedule, nothing pops that escape valve and makes you feel better all day long than working up a good sweat for half an hour or so.
4. Practice What I Preach
Seeing as it’s always best to take our own advice, I’ll recommend one more of my resolutions for the year: Improve my pets’ life through environmental enrichment.
This year I bought my old, decrepit Frenchie a running stroller. Once strapped in, he sits up tall and soaks in the attention wherever we go. My foster kittens got new digs, too, just in time for the holidays. Who knew an extra-large, three-level ferret cage could be so entertaining, and more so when filled with toys?
While I’m at it, I should probably take them all in for their midwinter dentals and ultrasound my oldies, too. What can you do this year to practice what you preach?
5. Save More
Yeah, I know I just said I’d be using up all my frequent flyer miles (instead of buying necessities on Amazon with my accumulated points), but saving is more a state of mind than it is a literal fact. After all, it’s hard to think about saving when you have a huge debt load. (I pay a chunk of my son’s college tuition, so I know of what I speak.) So think “frugality” if “saving” sounds too remote. In the long run it amounts to the same thing. (That’s what I tell myself, anyway.)
OK, so on to the second half of this list, which addresses my annual predictions for the year. For better or worse, here’s the forecast:
6. Higher Incomes for Seasoned Veterinarians
There will be more money in the till this year. The pet industry is still on the ascent, and that means you will be seeing more of that income. That is, if you’re a seasoned veterinarian who makes over $80,000 or so a year and doesn’t languish under the crushing load of student loans (or your kids’ tuition).
Beyond the practice’s till, it’s my take that you’ll be keeping more of your income, too. That’s because taxes on some of us will likely let up. I’m less secure on that one, though, with political animals being what they are when it comes to keeping promises.
7. No Relief for New Grads
While the news is good for fresh veterinarians on the job front, where it’s a seller’s market for sure, a recent grad’s life is just as tough as vet school. With that in mind, here’s a quick note I’ve jotted off to recent grads:
Dear Class of 2017,
Welcome to Vet School Part 2. Whether you’re seeking specialization or taking on a more traditional role in our industry, you’ll be living the dream á la vet school. It’ll feel much the same since you’ll still be living on a shoestring and learning the ropes, potentially in an even more demanding setting. Which isn’t necessarily bad. But it may not be what you expected. Finding great mentorship is your best bet, even if it’s not immediately financially rewarding.
Your Potential Employer
(applications gratefully accepted)
8. Corporate Practice Makes a Land Grab
Want to sell your old practice? Sell now! Any established practice will do for most corporate buyers. They’re going nuts right now over practices just like yours. In fact, competition is at such a fever pitch that suburban owners like me could easily double our take on the practices we bought just five years ago.
You? If you want to sell out, don’t settle for one offer. Seek at least two more. They’re out there for almost all suburban veterinary practices and increasingly for seasonal and nonremote or higher-income rural settings, too.
But this won’t last. I predict that in less than two years the boom will have busted with consolidation of unprofitable practices incapable of competing with independent players. (Reality check: Banfield’s current success notwithstanding, veterinary services are not like bookstores. Savvy consumers will always gravitate towards value, not to price or convenience alone.)
9. More Building, Buying and Renovation in Leasehold Spaces
Beyond the influx of corporate players, you’ll be seeing new practices and impressive face-lifts in the world of veterinary medicine. In particular, leasehold practices are making a play. With suburbia looking dense and restrictive on zoning and safety regulations, new or existing leasehold practices may be the most attractive frontier.
In other words, that dinky practice in a suburban shopping mall you thought was no competition to your freestanding building? It’s starting to look a lot more attractive now that a corporate player bought it or an existing owner intrepidly elected to invest in its future and fixed up its innards to rival yours.
10. A Plethora of New Drugs and Products Awaits, But Watch Out for Those Prices
It’s no secret that drugs and products are booming. But here’s the thing: Their prices are going through the roof. Apart from helping me amass more miles through my shocking Amex expenses, they’re not always helping my bottom line as much as their prices might promise. After all, my clients aren’t always willing to pay the same premium on these über-pricey items. On balance, however, they are helping my patients.
Which brings me to 2017’s predictive assessment: Optimistic on income, taxes and pet health in general but uncomfortably squished and somewhat over a barrel on expenses. Which, given lots of sweaty yoga, new running shoes and travel, means the year isn’t looking half bad.
Dr. Patty Khuly owns a small animal practice in Miami and is a passionate blogger at www.drpattykhuly.com. Columnists’ opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Veterinary Practice News.
Originally published in the January 2017 issue of Veterinary Practice News. Did you enjoy this article? Then subscribe today!