Whether you are opening a new veterinary practice or expanding to a new location, the building that you choose to open your business in matters. If you are planning to have your veterinary practice in a brand-new building, a steel building is an excellent choice. A pre-fabricated steel building is highly customizable, which is why so many veterinarians are now choosing to open their practices in steel buildings. In this article, we will look at why you should consider opening your veterinary office in a steel building.
Building a Steel Veterinary Office
One of the biggest benefits of a steel building is that you can customize it to fit the needs of your practice. Some of the things you might need space for include:
- Exam rooms
- Waiting rooms
- Kennels and boarding rooms
- Food storage
- Operating rooms
- Medicine lockup
- Break rooms for staff
- Grooming rooms
- Horse stables
You need to have plenty of space for all of the animals that will be seeking care from you, and by using a steel building, you can customize your space to ensure you have room for every service you intend to offer.
How much space does your clinic need?
When designing your veterinary practice in a metal building, it can be hard to determine how much space you will actually need. You need at least two exam rooms per veterinarian. The average size should be 1,000 square feet per exam room. The room itself does not need to be that big, but factor that into the space you need for your waiting room, office, storage, and more. So, if you only have one veterinarian, your building needs to be 2,000 square feet in total. Since steel is so adaptable, if you hire more veterinarians in the future, you can add more square footage to it.
Steel Buildings Are Strong
When you build a brand new structure for your business, you want to ensure that it will remain standing for years. Steel is the strongest building material in the world, so your veterinary office will be a strong and sturdy building.
Steel Veterinary Buildings Are Customizable
One of the best things about choosing a steel building for your veterinary office is that it is highly customizable. You can completely design your office space to suit your needs. Since steel is so strong, you can enjoy a clear-span interior, which means you will not have to worry about support columns taking up valuable space. You can also design your building to have moveable walls so you can adjust your space as needed.
When many people think of steel buildings, they might think of an industrial building, which does not really line up with what you want in your veterinary office. However, you can customize the exterior so that the building will not be obviously steel to your customers. You can paint it, get wood or faux wood paneling, add stucco, stone, or even faux stone or brick. This will give your veterinary office the aesthetic you want while still giving you the benefits of a steel building.
As your veterinary practice expands, you might find yourself needing more space. With a steel building, if you have room on your building lot, you can expand the building with ease. You will not have to worry about closing down part of your building for too long, and it will be much more affordable than expanding a veterinary building that is made of other construction materials.
Steel is Damage Resistant
As we mentioned above, steel is one of the strongest building materials in the world. It has been known to stand up against hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and other significant weather events. You will be housing not just your business but also the precious pets of your clients, so you want to ensure their safety, and one of the best ways to do that is with a steel building.
Since steel is not an organic material, you also will not have to worry about mold, rot, or pests getting into your building. This also means that steel itself is not a flammable material, so it is unlikely to catch flame if a fire is started nearby, and if you have a fire inside, it will be more contained.
It is because of this damage resistance that many insurance companies will give you a lower rate if your veterinary office is in a steel building. Insurance companies like low risk, and steel’s durability certainly gives it that.
Steel is a Healthier Material
If your building is made of wood, it can eventually outgas. Steel, on the other hand, does not ever outgas, so you never have to worry about chemicals polluting the air in your building.
Any place that has a lot of animals can gather moisture, which can lead to a wooden building allowing mold, mildew, and bacteria to start growing. None of that is able to grow on a steel building.
Essentially, the overall air quality of a steel building is going to be better than a building made of wood.
Steel is a Green Building Material
While you might not think that steel is a green building material, it is actually the best one for the environment. This is because steel is 100 percent recyclable, and it does not lose any strength when it gets recycled, no matter how many times that happens. You are also not chopping down trees or scooping up gravel to make a steel building, which also helps the environment.
The construction is also more energy efficient with steel because it can be built much more quickly than other types of materials.
Once the building is up and running, you will also save on heating and cooling costs, also helping the environment. The insulation used in a steel building will also help keep the noises from your patients down, which your neighbors will appreciate.
Other Things to Consider When Opening a Veterinary Office
Now that we have looked at the benefits of opening your new veterinary office in a steel building, let’s take a look at some other things to consider.
Finding the Right Location
Since you will be building your veterinary office in a steel building, you will need to find a plot of land to build it on. Your specialty will make a big difference in where to look for a place to build your practice.
If you specialize in domestic pets, you might do well looking for a place in a neighborhood. While a vet who specializes in larger animals like cows and horses might do better finding a more rural setting for their patients. If you offer emergency services, you will want to find a place near the city center. You want to be closer to where your patients will be since it can hurt business to be too far from your customer base.
Depending on where you choose to open your office, you might have a hard time finding a vacant lot to purchase. If that is the case, you can always buy a lot that already has a building on it and demolish it. You just need to be sure that your office will fit on that lot.
Another thing to keep in mind with your location is the competition near you. You do not want to open a new veterinary office in an area that is overly saturated with them. Even if you offer lower pricing than your competition, if there is too much competition, you will not be able to thrive. For example, if there are already 15 veterinary offices within five miles of your desired location, there is probably too much competition there already. Sometimes, it might be easier to consider relocating entirely before opening a new office if there is already too much competition in your current area.
Hiring the Right Staff
You cannot run your veterinary office by yourself; you will need to find a team with the right skills to round out your business. This includes administrative staff, an office manager, a cleaning crew, veterinary technicians, and veterinary assistants. Spend time thinking about your capacity and how many staff members you need. You do not want to hire too few people because that can cause you to do a lot more work than you planned, or you might be stuck doing more administrative work than practicing medicine. You also might have to outsource some things, like digital marketing or professional cleaners.
Check Local Licensing and Regulations
Every city and state varies a little in their licensing and regulation policies, so make sure you spend some time researching them. You will need a license to administer medication and controlled substances to your patients. Your state also might require you to have other operational licenses, which is why you will need to research the requirements for your state.
You also will need to spend time looking into the construction permits when planning your building and apply for them as early as possible because it can take a few months to get approved.
Invest in the Right Equipment
One of your biggest expenses is going to be your equipment and technology. You will need diagnostic technology, lab equipment, surgical implements, kennels, software, office equipment, and more. All of this can come with a high price tag, but you need to have the necessary equipment before you open.
You may need to take out a small business loan to get some of the necessary equipment for your new practice. You can also try to work with local vendors and set up a payment plan for your equipment. Keep in mind that you do not need to do it all right now. If you want to offer something in the future but cannot afford the equipment right now, you can always plan the space for it and wait until you can afford the equipment to offer it.
What equipment do you need to open a veterinary office?
Some of the equipment you will likely need includes:
- IV Pumps
- Exam and procedure tables
- Anesthesia machines
- Autoclaves and sterilizers
- Tools for exams
- Laboratory supplies
- X-ray machines
- Surgical equipment
- And more, depending on your size and specialty
What are the average costs of veterinary supplies?
According to How to Start an LLC, the average costs of supplies are:
- Medical and surgical equipment: $40,000
- Exam rooms and waiting rooms: $10,000
- Lab equipment: $30,000
- Kennels: $5,000
- Practice management software: $3,500
- Clerical and bookkeeping setup: $2,000
These costs are your basic startup costs for all of the equipment you will need in order to get everything up and running. They do not include the building itself, insurance, marketing materials, and other types of startup expenses.
Creating a Business Plan
Your business plan can work as your guide to help you plan and execute starting your veterinary practice. Think of it as your map to success. If you are seeking loans to start your business, then you will need to have a well-written business plan to submit as part of the application process. Some of the things you need to have in your business plan include:
- Executive summary explaining what your veterinary clinic is and why it will succeed.
- A detailed description of your veterinary office that details the needs your clinic will solve. For example, if you are the only emergency vet within 30 minutes, you can explain that and how it will help you thrive.
- A timeline with milestones and projected deadlines to reach them. For example, what date do you want to open? When do you plan to begin the hiring process?
- Steps broken into tasks with the expected deliverables.
- Financing needs.
- Your financial forecasts based on market research.
- Competitor analysis.
- Monthly goals.
- A marketing plan.
Finding Your Niche
What kind of vet clinic do you want to start? Will you focus on specific medical conditions or certain types of animals? You have to decide on that before you get your business up and running. This will determine the equipment you need, how you should market your business, and even how much money you will need to get everything up and running.
Some common niches in the veterinary field are:
- Housepets (dogs and cats)
- Small animal specialist
- Reptile and amphibian medicine
- Exotic pets
- Fish medicine
- Farm animals
- Animal Dermatology
- Animal internal medicine
- Large animal medicine
- Emergency hospital
When you determine some potential niches for your clinic, ask yourself why these appeal to you.
- Are they more profitable than other niches?
- Will you enjoy working in one of these niches more than others?
- How competitive are the niches?
Once you have your business plan ready and have determined everything you need to get your practice up and running, it is time to secure financing. Most places that you would seek financing from will require a business plan, which is why it is so crucial that you take the time to make it right. You can seek funding through banks, independent money lenders, or even investors. Since you are just getting started, you can also apply for loans from the Small Business Administration (SBA). The SBA can be a great resource not just for financing but for other things you might need help figuring out along the way.
There are also grants that you can apply for to get essentially free money, but those can be time-consuming. If you decide to try for some grants, it is highly beneficial to hire a professional grant writer to get the job done.
Marketing Your Veterinary Clinic
You need to get the word out about your new animal hospital before you open, and you have to have a marketing plan in your business plan. Some things that you should consider with your marketing plan are:
- Creating a website. You will need to make sure it stays up-to-date and is optimized for search engines. It might be a good idea to hire a web designer here to help get your site up and running.
- Create social media accounts. You need to have social media for your animal hospital. Once you open, you can share pictures of your patients and possibly their owners. Sharing success stories and special events you are holding. Invest in social media ads in addition to sharing posts on your account. Try to reach as many pet owners in your niche and area as possible.
- Place ads in the local newspaper, and contact them to see if they can run a story about your new vet clinic.
Whether you are opening a brand new clinic or just a new location, we hope this helps you get going. Using a steel building saves you time, money, and it is better for the environment, which is why you should consider using one for your new veterinary office.
About the Author
Auz Burger is a freelance writer and an expert in steel buildings. She has a BA from Washington State University and has been writing and editing professionally for over a decade.