April 27, 2022
Dr. Saye Clement was the co-owner for over 18 years of a 7,577 sq. ft. practice, Carling Animal Hospital, located in Ottawa, ON. In addition to being a practicing DVM, she often lectures about practice management and sits as an advisor on several veterinary councils.
In September 2021, she and her co-owner made the decision to partner with VetStrategy. Dr. Saye shares her experience stepping away from practice ownership and what to keep in mind.
Dr. Saye Clement
I wish I could say I started thinking about succession planning early in my tenure as a practice owner. I did not. So, when it came time to seriously consider it, I really hadn’t done any research or prepared myself in any way. I had always said I would never partner with a corporation when it came time to retire from ownership. It will likely come as a surprise to many that, in fact, that’s what I ended up doing.
I had many fears about partnering with a corporate group.
- Would our current team be looked after? How would they be supported after partnership?
- Would a corporation mandate how we had to practice medicine?
- Would it be obvious we had partnered with a corporation and lose our identity?
After having gone through the succession process myself, I will tell you that having the right partner helps to alleviate these fears. If you are thinking about letting go of practice ownership, be sure to ask about, and consider, the following.
1. Find out how a corporate partner will support your entire team throughout the succession process and beyond. This is a time to explore career development opportunities for everyone.
The very first thing we discussed with all possible partners for the practice was how they would look after our team. Our Clinic Manager was a key player and we wanted to ensure she would have the help, training and support she would need to take on her expanded role in the practice. We wanted to ensure associate veterinarians in the practice could take on formal leadership roles and have the opportunity to partner themselves. We wanted our team members to be taken care of. Ultimately, our final choice was heavily influenced by the fact that our corporate partner had a network in place to provide the type of support we were seeking for the practice.
2. Let go of the misconceptions about partnering/selling to a corporate group. Learn about how they will honour your hospital’s unique legacy and personality.
It has taken years to create and achieve the vision my business partner and I have for our practice. We didn’t want to lose that identity and culture. We felt genuinely supported in our desire to continue to drive our own medical protocols and maintain our relationships with our clients. “Business as usual” has been the motto all along. I am happy to report that is indeed the case when it comes to medicine and how we communicate with our clients.
3. Transitioning will be a challenge for your entire team. Make sure the company you are partnering with has expertise and a robust system in place for the transition process.
So has the process been perfect? Well, truthfully, no. Transitioning the practice to a partnership has been difficult at times. What I can report is that when issues came up, the Head Office team listened to our concerns and acknowledged that aspect of the system was not working well. I have witnessed the efforts they are making to ensure they learn and grow when things don’t go well, rather than making excuses. This goes hand in hand with the growth mindset we aspire to at the hospital, so this does make us feel like we are partners in the journey.