Congratulations! All your planning and hard work have paid off. Your schedule is full, the surgical suite is booked for weeks and online referrals are superlative; however, your reception area is crowded, your team members are sharing lockers and you desperately need more exam rooms.
For many practice owners, the pride of success is tempered by realizing that you have outgrown your current location. What you do next can be the deciding factor between many more profitable years and “should have, would have” regrets. Here are seven questions you should be asking before taking the next step to expansion:
1 Is it Time to Expand?
Your business plan is the best guide for determining the viability of an expansion. But despite your best-laid plan, things can change fast…a local veterinarian may retire, referring all their patients to you; an upscale, pet-friendly townhouse complex may open across the street; or a building you drive by every day and consider the perfect location is suddenly available for lease. Many factors can influence the decision to renovate to expand your current space or move to a larger facility. Having confidence that you are making the right choice requires extensive due diligence and an open mind.
2 Should I Stay or Should I Go?
Similar to the couples on HGTV’s Love It or List It, you may find yourself deciding between expanding your current space to meet your changing needs and seeking an entirely new location. Like the conflicted homeowners on the popular show, you will want professional guidance to help you resolve this dilemma.
Start by researching general contractors who have experience with similar projects. Specialization is crucial. Talk to your colleagues who have chosen to renovate or build new veterinary practices, animal hospitals or surgical centers. Who did they use? What was their experience? Would they wholeheartedly refer you to their general contractor? Ask them why or why not. Interview several potential contractors and be prepared to ask hard questions.
3 Is It a Match?
The best outcomes result from working with partners you trust. You will want a general contractor (GC) and their team to be excellent communicators and honest when confronting any problems that may arise. Engage the firms competing for your job on a range of qualifications, including their experience, history, industry knowledge, reputation, financial stability, management style, team building, corporate culture, subcontractor relations, safety record and diversity policy. Your priorities may differ, but the answers to each will impact the quality of your experience.
Your GC may recommend an architect, interior designer or perhaps even a landscaper with whom they have collaborated on previous projects. If you already have relationships with these professionals, you will want your GC to work cooperatively with them while having overall management responsibility for the project.
4 Should I Lease or Own?
Determining whether to lease an existing space or build to own is a decision that requires extensive discussion with your partners, financial advisors, commercial realtors and potential landlord(s). Both scenarios will involve distinctive pros and cons.
One widely held misperception is that moving your practice into a leased space is always less expensive than investing in a stand-alone, new building. You may be surprised when comparing the limitations of leased space and the costs to make it work for your practice to the expense of building the perfect new space configured to your current needs and plans for the future.
If you choose to build, you might want to include unfinished suites for tenants, creating a new revenue stream.
5 What Other Factors Do I Need to Consider?
As a growing practice, you will have plenty of data on where your clients are coming from, your most popular services and your most profitable procedures. In addition to analyzing marketing information, an informed decision requires an assessment of variables like local space availability, cost, future growth, staffing and long-term practice goals.
Is the space you are considering configured to accommodate your practice’s mechanical systems and advanced technological requirements? Will significant renovation be necessary to accommodate your need for a surgical suite, radiology, ultrasound, onsite lab or outdoor exercise area? Your GC is the best resource for determining how the costs of renovating your current space or a different location compare to creating a new building.
6 How Involved Should I Be?
Once you have selected your GC and determined whether you will renovate or build based on their feasibility assessment, you must decide how involved you want to be in the project’s day-to-day operations. Inarguably, your time is best spent caring for your patients and running your practice. The amount of time you plan to spend onsite should be based on your preferences and schedule. Ask your project manager how often they think you should visit and which milestones in the process require your physical presence. Let them know how you prefer to communicate (by text, phone or email) and how frequently you want them to send you updates.
Be prepared for setbacks that may impact your schedule or budget. Extreme weather, supply chain problems and new regulations can create unforeseen interruptions. Even the most minor changes can have far-reaching consequences. Flexibility, patience, and trust that your GC is doing all they can to complete your project on time and on budget will make any hiccups easier to overcome.
7 How Should I Market My Expansion?
Your expansion is good news for your brand and your GC’s. Work with them to announce the new project. Ask them to send you photos or videos of their progress and post these to your social media pages or website. Also consider sending email blasts to your contact list at significant milestones like groundbreaking, the foundation laid, roof installation and interior completed. In addition, highlight the technological advances you will be adding.
You are growing because of the loyalty of your pet owners. Let them know about your new building or renovations and your investment to improve their experience at your practice. Onsite “Under Construction” signs are a great way of identifying the new location. Consider collaborating with your GC on a ribbon-cutting event sponsored by your Chamber of Commerce to create awareness and positive public relations for both of you. +