Written by By Bill Murray, Bank of America Practice Solutions
As my team and I travel to trade shows across the country, network with industry professionals, and work with our veterinary clients, we hear lots of stories. Some good, some bad, some indifferent—and some just outright wrong. I like to call them the “Myths being told to Associates.”
We routinely hear from the associate veterinarians we work with—those who are moving into practice ownership opportunities—that they are surprised at how supported they feel when they talk about their ownership ideas with us. When we ask them why, they usually say it’s because they have been told most of their professional lives that they can’t own a practice.
Here are the top myths and misconceptions our associate veterinarians tell us they hear in Veterinary School and during the early stages of their careers
1. You can’t become an owner because you have too much student loan debtLet’s be real—Veterinary School is expensive. It’s likely the largest amount of debt a veterinarian will incur before buying their first home. It can be downright scary to be taking on that amount of debt with no guarantee that you will be able to pay it back.
Student loan debt comes up time and time again in focus groups and surveys as one of the top three stressors for early-career veterinarians. That’s why it’s so important to work with a bank that understands your industry—as well as the financial and personal commitment you made to earn your degree and status as a veterinarian.
We expect to see student loans in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. That’s right, we expect it. We work with hundreds of Veterinarians each year to find the right product to help them fulfill the dream of practice ownership.
Whether you are seeking to acquire an existing practice or build a new hospital, Bank of America can help you get you get started. It’s common for veterinarians to finish school with approximately $300,000 in student loans. If you are effectively managing your finances and you meet other criteria—including credit score, earnings, and production capability to name a few– we will work with you to fulfill your dream of practice ownership.
2. You can’t become an owner because it’s too hard to compete with large corporate groups
Let’s be real (again). Ownership is hard, but it’s also rewarding in many ways. With the demand for veterinary services continuing to increase and given the nationwide shortage of Veterinarians to handle those needs, community-based Veterinarian-owned private practices are thriving.
Bank of America has been lending to private practice veterinarians for more than 18 years. We continue to lend money to new owners based on the industry’s historical and projected performance of our loan portfolio. Over 99% of the time, our veterinary clients pay back their loans. While well-funded corporate groups may be able to offer some technology efficiencies or leverage buying power to drive down their supply and equipment costs, not all pet parents opt for the look and feel of a corporate run practice.
So, while the corporate owner will tell you, “You can’t own; you need to come work for us”, our data tells a much different story. You can own, you can be successful, and you absolutely can compete—with anyone!
3. You can’t become an owner because there are no practices for saleThis comment ebbs and flows with reality. For the last several years, it may appear as if corporate owners gobbled up all the private veterinary practices for sale, but the reality is different.
During 2022, while corporate sales accounted for much of the existing hospital acquisition market, there were still many private practice ownership opportunities. Some were sold by veterinarians to other veterinarians for various reasons, including the owner not wanting their staff or themselves to work for a corporate owner post sale. Others did not meet the requirements to be sold to a corporate owner. These opportunities were viable for an associate to buy their way to ownership
We have also seen an increase in the number of startup inquiries in the last 12 to 18 months. Associates who have worked for someone else and cannot find the perfect practice to buy are considering leasing or buying space to open their own office from scratch.
In 2023, we are already seeing a major change in appetite from some of the corporate groups. They are looking for larger, multi-doctor locations, leaving the single-doctor locations available for private sale. Don’t take my word for it—check out your local practice brokers’ websites and peruse their listings.
One general rule I follow and tell all the veterinarians I interact with is this: If someone is telling you that you can’t do something, they probably have a vested interest in you not doing it. Always be aware of the messenger, and the next time someone says you can’t be an owner remember this: Yes, you can.