Good advice for great renovations

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Jun 09, 2008

There are lots of reasons to renovate, Chapel says. You may not be able to find a buildable lot in close proximity to your current clients. Or neighbors might block your your zoning variance on a new building site if they worry—unfairly or not—about odors and noise. There's also talk of an economic downturn affecting many areas. "Now's the time when veterinarians' accountants start telling them, 'Put your building project off a year or two. Maybe you could remodel,'" Chapel says.

If you're thinking of building because you lack space, keep in mind that sometimes cramped quarters can be fixed with a well-planned renovation. You can make room for new equipment, exam rooms, or treatment space. Perhaps your retirement-age clientele is traveling more and needs better boarding options—and you could provide them.

So if you're ready to spruce up or expand your current building instead of moving elsewhere, check out Chapel's advice on renovating right.

Care for your clients
In Chapel's experience, practitioners get the most bang for their buck by renovating the areas clients see: signage, landscaping, the building exterior, the lobby, exam rooms, and boarding. But that means clients will be inconvenienced and possibly aggravated. So try to make it fun for all with extra touches:

> Give kids free play tools and hard hats printed with your hospital logo.

> Offer clients coupons for a free car wash if construction is kicking up a lot of dust and mud in your parking lot. (You can usually get a great deal on coupons in bulk from a local car wash.)

> Put plastic booties on dogs that will be walking to and from vehicles outside.

Also, it's nearly impossible to put up too many posters or send out too many mailings letting clients know you'll be renovating. Tell them as often as you can that you're fixing the place up for them and you apologize for the mess. All that apologizing will pay off in the end, Chapel says. "Especially if you spruce up the front of your building, you'll see a spike in business of 25 percent to 30 percent," he says. "There's a group of people out there always looking for new places to go to." Capture those curious clients attracted by the new storefront, and you'll be building toward a banner month—and year.