Hospitality with a heart

A see-through philosophy and facility give rise to happy, informed clients at this Mobile, Ala., practice.
Sep 01, 2010

About once a week, a client interrupts Dr. John C. Courtney during an exam and asks to step into the hall to greet a friend he or she saw waiting in the reception area. Thanks to an abundance of glass everywhere in the practice, including between the exam rooms and reception area, socializing is easier than ever at Bit & Spur Animal Hospital in Mobile, Ala. And Dr. Courtney couldn't be happier.

Floor Plan: Bit & Spur Animal Hospital
"I wanted to create an environment where clients didn't feel like they were locked in some clinical room," he says. "I envisioned the place being more of a social hour. Sometimes I have to drag clients into the exam room because they're having so much fun in the reception area. And even that doesn't stop them from chatting when they see someone they know."

With a facility he describes as "transparent" and a life philosophy to match, Dr. Courtney enjoys coming to work each day at his 10,756-square-foot country club. Complete with a kids' nook, educational area, pet adoption center, bright colors, and comfy seating, Bit & Spur Animal Hospital is more than a culmination of years of work and planning. It's also a 2010 Veterinary Economics Hospital Design Competition Merit Award winner.


Two years after building his first practice, Dr. Courtney found himself in a pleasant predicament. He had outgrown his new digs. After moving all offices and the employee break room into a leasehold space next door, he managed to cobble together more clinical workspace to buy time until he could build again. "At that time, the economy was great and I jumped in with both feet," he says.

Little did he know the economy would tank partway through his latest endeavor to grow his facility from 3,500 square feet to nearly 11,000. Under new financing standards, Dr. Courtney wouldn't be eligible for the same loan today, and he's still trying to figure out permanent financing.

"We're doing OK, but not nearly as well as we'd hoped when we started the building process," he says. "The first time I built we doubled our revenue the first year, then again the second year, but that's not the case in today's economy." But Bit & Spur is surviving, and Dr. Courtney is anticipating the day when it will once again thrive. "I'm glad I built, but sometimes I wish I'd waited a bit longer," he says.