Dated. That's how the eye of a discerning consumer views your practice if it's been more than five years since you've changed
your look. But why does it matter what your practice looks like? It's all about the medicine, right? You know the story. Clients
can't judge your medicine, so they'll judge your appearance. Let's take a look at what pet owners might see when they visit
your hospital—and what every practice can do to improve.
Stop and smell the flowers: Lush landscaping at Brown Trail Animal Hospital in Bedford, Texas, helps frame the front of the
TAKE A CLOSER LOOK
Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Dan Chapel, AIA, owner of Chapel Associates Architects in Little Rock, Ark., photographs
every single wall in a practice and creates a slideshow for his clients. The dust, the clutter, the chipped paint, and the
cracked tiles you don't notice during your daily stroll through the halls often pop when you're facing them on the computer
Try it yourself: Walk through your practice with a camera and review any evidence of cobwebs and clutter. Then consider these
10 ways to beautify your practice:
A welcoming entry: A gravel path allows clients to walk through the garden in front of Brown Trail Animal Hospital in Bedford,
Texas. The entry garden also has a patio, a fountain, and bench seating so visitors can enjoy the flowering plants and trees.
1. Tame wayward extension cords. You bought high-tech equipment to improve the quality of the medicine you practice and now that high-speed dental drill is
leaning against the wall in surgery. Chapel says he sees extension cords everywhere: stapled down the wall, running across
the counters because there aren't enough outlets. The treatment: Hire an electrician. You'll pay about $100 for each outlet
you add. Considering that loose cords are a fire hazard and can be a threat to patients who see them as chew toys, this is
a smart fix.
2. Tend to neglected landscaping. Your practice may be obscured by overgrown bushes, tree branches, and the very plants designed to make your facility more
welcoming. Get in the thick of your thickets and trim out the overgrowth. Remove plants that are withered or sick-looking.
Before you replace them, do your homework and talk to a landscape expert. Slower-growing plants that don't require much water
are a good choice.
Let there be light: At Mt. Tabor Veterinary Care in Portland, Ore., pendant lights provide a controlled glow and the chandelier
adds visual interest in the client waiting area. (Photos by Michael Sulis)
Kimberli Bragg, a partner with thoughtSPACE architecture firm in Lexington, Ky., suggests using plants and trees that change
colors at different times of the year. Also, choose pet-friendly plants and avoid those that are common allergens. "Keep plants
and trees a safe distance from the path to the entry, so that animal elimination doesn't kill them," Bragg says.
3. Rebuild the porch. If it's sagging, it's time. "You can rebuild it and put up new columns for not a lot of money," Chapel says. "It'll cost
around $10,000 to $15,000 to tear the old one off and rebuild one with new columns."
4. Apply a fresh coat of paint. Painting your interior is cheap and easy, and it makes a world of difference, Bragg says. Don't be bashful about color, either.
"No off-white. No beige. No mauve or country blue," Bragg says. "Paint most of the walls a crisp white or some definitive
color that makes everything look clean. Then feature your reception desk or your corner store with a bold color."
Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Mark Hafen, AIA, a senior partner with Animal Arts/Gates Hafen Cochrane in Boulder, Colo.,
says that painting can make a big impact on the outside of your hospital, too—as long as your colors send the right message.
Hafen recommends light colors that draw the eye in, like taupe. Then use brighter colors sparingly. Red, orange, blue, and
green make great accent colors on chair rails or shutters. Awnings can also add pop to your curb appeal. "You can get backlit
awnings and feature your logo," he says. "That's one of the neatest ways to add pizzazz to your building for a couple thousand