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This month, we’re doing something a little different. We’re focussing on one of the sectors Fresh Clarity specialise in, which is independent veterinary practices.

Every sector faces its unique challenges when it comes to financial management and business growth.

For vets, the administrative side of managing a practice can feel at odds with why you started in the beginning.

When you trained to be a vet, you didn’t necessarily do it because you wanted to run a business. You did it because you’re passionate about animals and the work you do.

You enjoy finding the cause of problems and quickly identifying solutions. Nothing compares to the delighted smiles of your customers when you treat their sick or injured pets!

That’s why you trained – not to be an ‘entrepreneur’ or business owner.

But running a business does create its own challenges. Rules and regulations must be understood and implemented, staff must be trained, protocols need to be followed.

On top of that, finances need to be managed, insurance and risk has to be considered. All of that comes before you even think about making your veterinary practice profitable.

Below are some of the questions we’re most frequently asked by practice owners, and some advice on how Fresh Clarity can help you overcome these challenges.

 

HOW CAN WE STAY INDEPENDENT?

Over the last 20 years, we’ve seen a rise in the number of corporates taking over smaller, independent veterinary practices.

This has happened for a variety of reasons. However, we firmly believe that there’s a strong case for independently owned veterinary practices.

Your clients want to feel valued, and be able to trust that their pets looked after. As an independent practice owner, you’re much better placed to do this than the large corporates.

We often encounter a misconception that pet owners primarily shop on price. However, we only tend to see this happening when they have nothing else to differentiate on.

If customers can’t see any more value from one vet to another, the only thing they can differentiate on is price.

Therefore, it’s important to focus on why you’re doing what you do, because that’s ultimately what your customers buy into.

The more you build your practice around your ‘why’, the easier it will be to attract the patients you want.

If you haven’t seen it already, I’d recommend watching Simon Sinek’s ‘Start With Why’ talk in the TED series.

 

HOW CAN WE GROW OUR BUSINESS?

Whilst many of the veterinary practices we work with are profitable, cash flow can easily become an issue.

You may encounter cash flow blocks because of financing new equipment, or because your start-up capital has to be repaid.

Fresh Clarity specifically helps independent practices to build solid foundations on which to run and expand their business, and put the right systems in place to support cash flow.

Our programme includes an annual business plan and cashflow forecast with regular accountability meetings alongside our take on compliance services.

Forget the kind of business plans that banks asks you for when you want funding – this is a really focussed plan with key figures, measures and actions to get you where you want to be in 12 months time.

We’re hugely passionate about independently-owned businesses. After all, we’re independently owned ourselves so we understand what it means to you.

 

HOW CAN WE REDUCE OUR WORKING HOURS?

Practice owners work long hours. Often, they’re managing their own roster of clients and are on call in the evenings and weekends, unless that’s outsourced.

For owners, this means you don’t always have the time to look at the business side of your practice.

Naturally, long hours will also have an impact on your family life and ultimately, your health.

The Vet Times estimates that over the past five years, contact with the 24/7 confidential support service Vetlife Helpline has risen by 500%.

Running a business adds to the pressures on vets, so it’s important to recognise the impact on your health and wellbeing.

But there are solutions. Technology is developing in many sectors, and the veterinary sector is no different.

As a practice owner, you’ll be using some form of technology to run your business – such as Vet-One to manage your clients and patients.

But you may not have the scalable or up-to-date technology in place to bring all your financial bookkeeping together. If that’s the case, it can be difficult to clearly get an overview of financial and non-financial performance.

You might, for example, be running on old versions of Sage or Quickbooks desktop software, which means having to manually enter data from one system to another.

Technology truly can make a big difference to the daily running of a successful independent veterinary practice.

Having the right technology can help save time and money, and give you peace of mind that your systems are compliant.

As cloud-focussed accountants, Fresh Clarity can give you the right tools to support your practice, transform the way you work and save you countless hours of back-end admin.

 

HOW CAN WE MAKE SURE WE’RE MTD COMPLIANT?

This is especially important as we approach HMRC’s new Making Tax Digital deadlines. In the first year of ‘soft landing’, practice owners can probably get by using basic, MTD compliant software.

But further changes from April 2020 may mean you’ll need to fully integrate your practice management software with your bookkeeping software.

From that date, HMRC will require each piece of software to be ‘digitally linked’ to othersoftware to create a holistic digital journey.

A digital link is an electronic or digital transfer, or exchange of data, between software programs, products or applications.

The use of ‘cut and paste’ does not constitute a digital link – except during the soft landing period.

This means that if you’re currently creating a sale and calculating the VAT on that sale within your practice management system, but your bookkeeping and VAT return is completed on separate software, there needs to be a clear digital link between the two systems.

Just as we can advise you on the right tools to save time and money, we can also help you become fully MTD-compliant and link up your systems.

 

WHAT NEXT?

Fresh Clarity work closely with veterinary practice owners like you to understand how your business operates and what your challenges are.

We are highly focussed on helping practice owners build the right foundations to free up your time, improve your finances and get that all-important work-life balance.

Above all, we can empower you to manage and grow your practice successfully and sustainably.

Arrange a free discovery call with us this week to find out how Fresh Clarity can help you build a stable and manageable independent veterinary practice.