It’s not breaking news that women dominate the veterinary profession these days. But, although there are more female veterinarians than male, when it comes to practice ownership, men still rule.

Why are fewer women than men willing to take on the role of veterinary practice owner? Here are four fears I often hear from female veterinarians:

1. I’m not a leader

What some women say: “I don’t have the personality to lead others and run my own business.”

What I say: Yes you do. You have a degree in veterinary medicine and are seen as an expert and a leader already. Leadership skills are learned. Trust me, if you can learn to practice veterinary medicine, you can learn to be an effective leader.

What I recommend: Begin to develop your leadership skills by reading books and attending online workshops. Some of my favorite books include:

  • Becoming a Person of Influence (John Maxwell)
  • Good to Great (Jim Collins)
  • The One Minute Manager (Kenneth Blanchard)
  • The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Fail and What to do About It (Michael Gerber)
  • Team Satisfaction Pays (Carin A. Smith, DVM)

2. I don’t understand business

What some women say: “I went to veterinary school to learn how to practice veterinary medicine. I don’t have the skills to own and operate a veterinary practice.”

What I say: Yes you do. Just like I said above, if you are intelligent and driven enough to get an advanced degree in veterinary medicine, you are certainly intelligent and driven enough to learn business quickly.

What I recommend: Never do it alone. The best leaders and business owners have excellent people backing them. Surround yourself with experts who can provide sound advice and a strong support system to ensure your success. As you work toward practice ownership, hire a veterinary management consultant, a CPA, and a veterinary attorney to guide you.

3. I can’t have it all

What some women say: “I can’t be a successful business owner, practicing veterinarian, wife, and mother all at the same time.”

What I say: Yes you can. Too often, women take on too much. Too often, veterinarians take on too much. Put these two together, and it’s common for women to believe it is impossible to wear all of these hats and be successful. You CAN have it all, but you can’t be the person to do it all, or you will set yourself up for failure.

What I recommend: Focus on owning a business that has a life of its own with a strong vision and purpose. Hire a professional, experienced practice manager and associate veterinarians, and build a self-reliant team that is dependent on systems rather than the owner (you!). This will ensure that your business can operate successfully, even while you’re on vacation with your family or attending an event at your children’s school.

4. I can’t afford it

What some women say: “I have student loan debt and very little savings. I can’t afford to buy a veterinary practice.”

What I say: Yes you can. Banks love, love, love to loan money to veterinarians. Why? Because, with a default rate of less than 1 percent, banks believe you are the most trusted professional group. Also, student loan debt is considered “good debt” and has little bearing on whether you are approved for a loan.

What I recommend: If you have good credit and the practice can make the loan payments and pay you the salary you were accustomed to in your previous job, a bank will loan you 80 to 100 percent of the purchase price of an existing practice. Find a veterinary practice finance expert in your area to get started.