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Thinking of owning your own veterinary practice? What's stopping you?

Posted in Management @ Oct 15th 2018 - By Dr Belinda Parsons, Rouse Hill Family Vets
Rouse Hill Family Vets 1

I've always admired Dr Belinda Parsons' use of social media & have often shared both her blog posts and vlogs (check out the Dr Belinda The Vet Blog) so I was really pleased to find out that Belinda has recently opened her own mobile veterinary practice. But as I know that she's also a mum, a practising vet, a General Manager, NSW Representative AVAG and on the Board of Directors of ACVA - how in the heck did she find the time? So I asked her, and a few other questions along the way....

First up, congratulations on starting your own practice!

1. Tell us about Rouse Hill Family Vets

We are a family owned veterinary service that provides in-home palliative care, acupuncture and euthanasia services to the pets and families of North West Sydney. We support families through the end of life stages so that families can be less fearful of what is happening, more comfortable in making end of life decisions and ultimately provide their beloved pet with the final gentle goodbye they deserve. By doing this, we will be making a difference when it matters the most. 

2. What made you decide to open your own business? How long had you been thinking about it for?

I have been looking at purchasing or starting my own practice for over 10 years. I assessed all my options, considered and investigated purchasing existing practices, looked at startups and have been offered various partnerships however none of them was right for me until now. 

3. Rouse Hill Family Vets is a mobile practice. Why did you decide to follow this path rather than opening a physical practice?

The overhead for a mobile practice is considerably less than the overheads associated with a bricks and mortar practice and for this reason, going mobile was my best first step. Further to this, I am passionate about geriatric pet care and providing families with the service and goodbye that I would want for my pets, and so the business model is based the pet being in comfort of their home and so has dictated the type of practice.

4. Do you work in association with a physical veterinary practice? 

I am still the General Manager of Great Western Animal Hospital and will continue to work there 4 days a week. This will allow me to have a hospital to refer back to if needed, however, my patients are not generally ones who will require in-hospital treatment. 

5. How long did it take from making the decision to have your own practice to commencing the business?

The decision was made in May and I treated my first patient in August with the official launch taking place in September. It would have been sooner if I hadn’t been going on holidays to Canada for a month in June. 

6. What was the hardest part of the process?

Moving past the fear and self-doubt that come with the unknown. It is new territory for me. I constantly remind myself that I am an experienced vet, that I am experienced in this area of veterinary medicine and that I have run other people’s businesses. Now it’s time to put my skills to use for myself. 

7. In hindsight what would you have done differently?

I would have done it sooner. I had been toying with the idea for well over a year, but it took me a long time to get serious about it. However, once I got serious about it I have moved fairly quickly and I’m really enjoying knowing that what I’m doing is getting me closer to my dream of building a team of likeminded staff, who value the emotional well-being of themselves and their patients, who challenge and support each other, who want to grow and ultimately make their own individual mark on the veterinary industry. 

8. What advice do you have for other veterinarians out there who think they couldn’t possibly be a practice owner?

Get comfortable being uncomfortable.

Growth happens when you are stretched. It’s not been an easy road and I have been playing the long game for a long time. Take lots of little steps towards your goal and one day you’ll look up and notice you are so much closer than you first thought.

There is more than one way to achieve the result of becoming a practice owner.

Yes, corporates are making their mark on our industry and are hard to outbid, but not every retiring practice owner wants to sell to corporates and not every pet owner wants a cookie cutter approach to their pet’s care. 

Practice ownership is not for everyone.

I suggest a try before you buy approach. Why not 'practise' practice ownership with someone else’s money? Consider taking a leadership/superintendent position in a corporate veterinary hospital and make your mistakes with their money, find out if people management and the horrors of the financial spreadsheet are for you. It will give you a feel for what it is like and give you an inside understanding of how they are running their businesses. If it turns out it wasn’t for you, you haven’t invested all your saving into a situation you can’t stand.  

9. Many in the veterinary industry (particularly females) believe they don’t have the time to be a practice owner along with their other commitments – what’s your advice?

I certainly don’t have the time. I have accepted the fact that I’m going to be in a world of time-poor pain over the next 1 - 2 years, however, this is short-term pain for long-term gain. I am not someone who believes that I can do all of this on my own. I have an incredibly supportive husband who helps at home and has built a beautiful relationship with our girls. I will be asking for help and probably lots of it.

I plan on employing staff as soon as I can who are wanting flexible working arrangements and the ability to dictate their own schedule. We are a female dominated industry and we need to get creative to keep women in the workplace. In fact, with all our mental health concerns I believe flexible working arrangements and part-time positions are going to become the norm. 

I graduated 13 years ago and only spent the first 3 years of my career working full time. Since then it has been part-time positions only and I haven’t let that hinder my career. I want to give the same opportunities that I was offered to my staff and so I plan on being the change I crave. So ladies, yes time is an issue, but if practice ownership is something you want let’s get creative and find a way to make it work that works for you!

If you'd like to find out more about Rouse Hill Family Vets, click here to visit their website and on social media:

     Rouse Hill Family Vets Facebook Page    |     Rouse Hill Family Vets Instagram

 Rouse Hill Family Vets Twitter    |     Rouse Hill Family Vets Pinterest

 Rouse Hill Family Vets YouTube   

If you have any other questions for Belinda about how she started her own veterinary practice, just ask them in the Comments section below.

About Belinda

Dr Belinda Parsons is a veterinarian and certified veterinary acupuncturist. She is the owner of Rouse Hill Family Vets, the public figure Dr Belinda The Vet, the General Manager of Great Western Animal Hospital, NSW Representative AVAG and on the Board of Directors of the Australia College of Veterinary Acupuncture. She graduated from University of Sydney in 2005, gained her Acupuncture qualification in 2008 and has completed papers in Small Animal Oncology, Endocrinology & Neurology through Massey University. She is a Fear Free Certified Practitioner and an avid campaigner for the emotional well-being of both her patients and her staff.       


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