If you're thinking of relocating your hospital, your current clients can "point" you in the right direction. Post an area map on corkboard in your reception area and invite clients to mark their neighborhood with a pushpin, says Dr. Sue Summers, an associate in Midwest City, Okla.
Q. I've owned a small animal practice in a suburb for nearly a year, and business is fair. There's one big problem, though: No one can find my practice. It's not on a main thoroughfare or a corner lot, so we don't attract many new clients--if any--from drive-by traffic. Even my established clients complain the hospital's too far off the beaten path. Are we sunk in this location? Is there anything we can do to try and make it work?
Q. I'm considering building my own clinic. What should I ask when hiring an architect?
A. Hiring the right architect is one of the most important decisions you'll make during the building process, say Sal Longo Jr. and Michael Crosby, co-owners of Crosby Longo Architecture studio in New Orleans, La., and designers of the 2000 Hospital of the Year.
Is your practice crying out for a new look? And is your budget screaming, "No!"? Well, help is here. Our team of design experts, all members of the Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board, knows you probably can't afford a complete hospital overhaul. But you can give your practice a makeover--just take it one room at a time. These eight tips will help you get started:
Q. I lease space in a strip mall that imposes strict regulations on signage. For instance, my sign must sit flush against the building and not stick up above the roof, I have to use muted colors, and it must say "Veterinary Hospital" instead of my clinic name. Without a distinct building and sign, how can I make my presence known?
Even if you're planning to build a new, bigger facility, you need to make the most of your space. These tips from Tony L. Cochrane, AIA, a principal with Gates Hafen Cochrane Architects PC in Boulder, Colo., can help:
Q. After 23 years in the same location, my veterinary practice is landlocked. Parking space is almost nonexistent, and traffic is so heavy clients sometimes struggle to even enter the lot. My wife suggested we move into an area where housing is booming. But our practice is still growing where we are, and I don't want to move too far from this location. In a city with 80,000 people and nine other clinics, how far can I move without losing my client base?
If you come to work every day, park in back, and hurry in the staff entrance, you may be missing out on the little things that detract from clients' impressions of your facility. To identify areas where your practice falls short, look at your hospital the way pet owners do. Here's a guide:
You're finally ready to build your dream hospital or expand your existing facility. For years, you've read design articles in Veterinary Economics and carefully studied every floor plan. You've also planned to hire an award-winning veterinary architect. But one of your clients is an architect, and you like her work.
Do veterinarians and staff members constantly trip over each other's feet at your practice? Or maybe you round corners with caution to avoid taking out unsuspecting clients. Even remodeling or expanding your facility may not fix the problem if you don't develop an efficient floor plan.
Q. I lease space for my hospital but want to purchase some land and build a facility when my lease expires in three years. My Individual Retirement Account (IRA) contains enough money to cover the down payment on the land. Is this a wise use of my IRA funds?
Q. I want to move my veterinary practice from a strip-mall leasehold to an adjacent property that the mall owner recently bought to expand the shopping center. I can either rent a larger leasehold in the new shopping center or lease part of the land. Is it wise for me to lease the land while owning the freestanding building on it?