Those who know me know that I love a good, strong woman. And, I’m fortunate to be surrounded by powerful women in the work that I do every single day. I know so many women who have gone out on a limb to become veterinary practice owners, and I know even more women in the industry who have exactly what it takes to be practice owners, but they’re hesitant to take the plunge.
Today I continue my Q-and-A blog series with female veterinary practice owners. Throughout this series, these inspiring (and brutally honest!) women will describe the best and worst parts of practice ownership, share their hopes and dreams for the future, and show you that becoming a practice owner is possible for any female veterinary professional who wants it badly enough.
Dawn Boman, MS, DVM
Name: Dawn Boman, M.S., DVM
Practice: Rancho Village Veterinary Hospital
Years in industry: 20+
Became a practice owner: 2015
Partner/Co-owner: None—she’s a solo owner
Furry family: A 7-year-old “naughty!” Great Dane (Portia) and two cats (Beamer and Maeby)
Human family: Married to Erik
Can you tell me the story of how you became a veterinary practice owner?
When I decided to go to vet school, my husband went to pharmacy school at the same time. The plan was that he would make good money once he got out of school. Then, after some time, we would buy a practice and he could go part time to help and we could both focus on running the business. That plan was in the works for many years.
I graduated from UC Davis and was working in Sacramento, where we both had great jobs that we loved. We wanted to move back to San Diego and I felt that I couldn’t risk ending up at a practice with poor management or restrictions on my practice, so we made the jump and bought a practice.
What’s your favorite part about owning a veterinary hospital?
The best parts: The money is good and the control is good. I have been fortunate to buy into a practice that was struggling. I was able to more than double the gross revenue for the practice in 2 years, which enabled me to pay off those huge student loans.
I have the freedom to leave the hospital when it’s slow.
I have the freedom to fire a crazy client! On a whim! I have never actually done it, but just knowing that I can, there is a certain freedom with that feeling.
What’s your least favorite part about owning a veterinary hospital?
I hate dealing with staffing problems. It seems like no matter how hard I try, I’m always down one client care representative. It causes a lot of stress on the team and myself.
I also spend way too much time dealing with “clinic stuff.” Something is always broken, an employee is sick, a client is upset… It can feel hard to break away.
Tell me about a day you regretted buying your practice.
Ugh… I regretted it every day for the first 3 months. I just had to wait for the anxiety to wear off so I could think straight.
What’s the most surprising reaction you’ve gotten after telling someone you own a veterinary hospital?
Other doctors are shocked that I bought after being out of school for only 5 years.
I knew I was a good doctor and surgeon and that I was ready to take on the challenge.
As a practice owner, how do you balance your personal and professional lives?
It’s a struggle. I really try to get my workouts; I use a trainer to keep me on track. My husband and I used to travel a lot, so now we schedule trips that are a little closer and a little shorter. I leave work if I can when we are slow.
What would you tell a female veterinary student, veterinary technician, or veterinary practice manager if she asked you for tips on how to become a practice owner?
Make sure you save some money. You will need it to get funded from the bank (and the first few months can be stressful).
Pay your bills! If you have bad credit, you won’t get money.
Don’t pick just any practice—pick a fixer in a good area. It’s like buying a home. If you put some sweat equity into it, you will make more money.
Don’t be afraid to start a new practice.
Otherwise, just do it. I see so many vets complain about not making enough money, having student loan burden, not agreeing with management, AND complaining about corporate takeover of veterinary medicine. There is literally no excuse not to if that is what you want. My only real advice is to be realistic about how much you know as a vet. Are you a good medical doctor? What about surgery? How many of your cases will you have to punt to a specialist because you don’t know how to treat it? That is all money out the door… Most of all, it really has nothing to do with being a female.
What are you scared of?
I’m afraid of my largest client leaving me (I have a client that spends more than $300K annually). I’m afraid the economy will tank and we will go bankrupt. I’m afraid that I won’t have enough time to travel the world while I’m still young.
What do you hope to accomplish in the next 5 years?
I want to sell my practice and have a couple million in the bank so I can work part time and volunteer in other countries.
Thank you for sharing your story, Dawn!
Are you a female veterinary practice owner who’d like to be featured in my Female Veterinary Practice Ownership Series? Contact me! I’d love to hear your story and use it to inspire others to follow in your footsteps.