How to Compete with Corporate

January 2022 |

Get a leg up in the intensively competitive hiring game.

Hiring associates for a veterinary practice used to be straightforward: Place an ad in the newsletter or on the website of your local veterinary medical association and start sorting through the resumes that arrive.

Not so today. With the exception of a few geographically desirable pockets, many practices looking to add an associate are having a very difficult time. And with veterinary unemployment at record lows, experts say it’s not going to get easier for the foreseeable future.

Independents practices trying to hire these days need to think differently to make their practices places where veterinarians want to work, experts say.

1. Make culture king. For many veterinarians, especially Millennials, practice culture is a crucial consideration in the job hunt. “Independent practices that offer a great culture and good work-life balance might be able to get away with paying a lower salary,” says Karen Felsted, CPA, DVM, owner of management consulting firm PantheraT. “But if your culture is not stellar, figure out what’s not working, because otherwise you won’t be able to compete with corporate on any level. And if your salary is too low, great culture won’t be enough.”

The best independent practices have a strong vision, mission, core values and standards of care, says Peter Weinstein, DVM, MBA, president of Simple Solutions for Vets. “Many independents offer the ‘mom and pop’ feeling that might be missing in a corporate practice environment,” he adds. “And working in an independent practice often allows for more freedom of thought and collaboration.”

Be creative when constructing benefits programs, advises Bonnie Bragdon, DVM, president of the Independent Veterinary Practitioners Association. “Consider benefits that may not cost much but add value to the position, such as job sharing, flex time, sufficient vacation, mentoring and paid coaching,” she suggests. “And don’t forget CE and training programs, which not only keep veterinarians engaged but can also add new and profitable services.”

2. Be proactive. For better success, anticipate future staffing needs and be on the lookout for good candidates even when you are not actively hiring, Weinstein suggests. Go beyond the old “post and pray” approach of simply waiting for candidates to respond to ads.

Continue to place ads in the usual places, such as the AVMA job board and local and state VMA newsletters, but also attend veterinary school career fairs, participate in the Veterinary Business Management Association’s regional events, and network with veterinary school classmates, colleagues and drug reps who may know of qualified veterinarians looking for a change.

3. Sell yourself. To attract top candidates, create job postings that are friendly, warm, professional and fun. “If you post only a basic job description, candidates are not going to be attracted to working with you, regardless of location or salary,” Felsted says. Instead, she advises, write a creative ad that catches people’s attention and highlights what makes your practice special.

“Be different, be colorful, stand out,” Weinstein advises. “Go beyond the basics. Consider video tours and staff introductions on your website. And if you are an indie … promote that proudly.”

4. Match the money. “Many independent practices believe they can’t afford to match corporate salaries, but the reality is that if you want to hire a good new associate, you can’t afford not to,” Felsted says. She advises practices to look inward to evaluate expenses and revenue, so you can get closer to the salaries being offered by corporate.

  • Inventory control: Are you paying too much for your inventory? Keeping too much of an individual drug on the shelves, or too many variations of a type of drug? Are you giving too much away? What about theft?
  • Current staff: Is their time used well? How do they work together? Do their abilities match your practice needs? Look at your team’s skill set and practice workflow to see where you can make improvements.
  • Revenue growth: Today’s pet owners want convenience and customer service. Are clients able to schedule appointments and order prescriptions online? Is the practice open on weekends and evenings? Are clients waiting too long for their appointments