North Maclean Family Vet started out as a dream I had to establish myself in independent, professional veterinary practice. What is amazing is that, through a simple online conversation, I discovered two of my friends shared the same vision, which led us to where we are today. A new practice with state-of-the-art equipment, in North Maclean, Queensland.
Our goal was to build a business together that provides exceptional care in a community-orientated environment. We knew it would be an exciting and scary journey. In particular, we understood that restrictive processes and dated equipment would limit our capacity. We knew that delivering the best standard of care using modern tools and technology in a small clinic environment would be the key to turning our dreams into reality.
The journey to starting our own clinic was an unfolding process that took time. Like any new, big venture, we started talking about our future business regularly and slowly but surely gathered information and ideas which started coming together and forming a picture. Because we were good friends, we knew we could get on together. We shared the same goals and aspirations too, and a passion for veterinary work, so we figured this was a good combination for being able to work together too. We were confident our good friendship would provide a stable foundation for us to become successful business partners.
However, we weren’t naïve or idealistic. We knew there were going to be challenges, so we discussed the pros and cons of becoming partners in a veterinary practice. This included the risks that came with owning our own business and how this could impact our families. Any concerns – including worst-case scenarios – were discussed at length.
It took us more than a year to identify an ideal location which could support our business. This meant identifying what other vet clinics were in the area, plus a local community that needed our services. Once we had this nutted out it was time to deal with the financial aspects of owning our own veterinary practice.
Seeking professional input
We needed some professional input, so we met with an accountant as well as the banks to talk through the important financial considerations. We also got going on the exciting stuff – the design of our clinic layout and branding elements like logos, colour schemes, client handouts and other marketing material. We also did a thorough research of the equipment we would need, as well as the best practice management software to run our business.
We also investigated stock suppliers, which was very important. At the end of our discovery, we had settled on what items we could get from which wholesaler for what price. All of these elements together would make a big difference to our profitability – something we needed to get right from day one.
We were initially excited to find a potential development site to locate our practice in the area we wanted to operate. Unfortunately, however, the development stalled so we sadly couldn’t progress with this. We started getting a bit desperate and even approached businesses in the area to see if any of them had premises available. We also met with the landlords of a popular shopping complex to see if there were properties for sale or lease.
Unfortunately, our efforts came up unfruitful. Nothing was available, which left us feeling a bit despondent after all our hard work and research.
But, just to prove that you need to persevere in life, the good news was just around the corner! Unexpectedly, we were approached by the landlord of the shopping complex who told us a shopfront was coming available in a month’s time. He had remembered us from our enquiries six months before and wanted us to come on board.
When this happened it was a bit like a bolt from the blue. Was it ideal timing for any of us? Absolutely not! But, could we turn down this ideal location, with a large volume of foot traffic and busy road exposure? No, it was too good an opportunity to pass by. Our three- to five-year plan was quickly becoming a reality.
The pressure was on! We had a month to decide if we could swing into action with such short notice and realise our dream of starting our own veterinary practice. It was a crazy month, in particular getting the finances sorted, but we got there in the end with support from our families, local community and suppliers. Our landlords were amazing too, giving us a rent-free period while fit-out took place.
It takes a team to open a clinic
We were extremely fortunate in two respects. Firstly, we had already invested a lot of time and energy doing a lot of the preparation leg work. We knew what we wanted and had everything lined up – we just needed to action everything. Secondly, we were fortunate to have three of us involved in setting up the business so we could share the load. If there was just one person doing everything I really don’t think it would have been possible! We were smart and divided and conquered each task, which helped keep our stress levels to a minimum.
The fit-out period was very testing and there were many big, time-sensitive decisions. It was a difficult process, as we’d never been through anything like this before. There were the inevitable delays, which put a lot of pressure on us to get our equipment and software installed and operating before we opened for business. We definitely had some tough times, but we pulled through with our open communication and strong friendship.
North Maclean Family Vet has now been open for three months and our business is growing each day. We have successfully achieved our goal of getting our veterinary business off the ground together and we love providing exceptional care to very important members of local families!
Recommendations are starting to flow in and we are well on our way to becoming a part of this community. Their pets are our family too!