It has been a very tough and slow winter for many veterinary practice owners.  If your veterinary practice is subject to seasonal fluctuations, no matter when they might fall, you’ll need to prepare ahead and make adjustments to ensure your practice remains cash flow positive.  First, consider your cash reserves.  During your busy season, set aside enough in reserves to cover at least one month of operating expenses.  Next, focus on proper expense management.  Can you avoid bringing on new employees or offering raises until business will pick back up?  As you set your team schedule for the seasonal downturn, can you ask a little more of some of your team members and trim staff hours?  On slow days, you may have to ask team members to go home early.  Finally, manage your inventory expenses well throughout the year.  It always is a good idea to keep no more than a 15-30 day supply of product on your shelves and to avoid bulk purchases.  However, if historic numbers suggest that a bulk purchase of a heartworm preventative, for example, REALLY is a good financial move, don’t get yourself in a bind by having a large, delayed payment hit when business is slow.

Of course, you will want to focus on the revenue side as well.  Have you considered offering wellness plans?  These plans should allow you to schedule services during seasonal downturns.  In addition, if your clients pay for the plans monthly, you can spread this revenue stream over the course of the year.  February traditionally is “dental month”.  Maybe you should extend this promotion and feature other promotions to bring more of your clients in during your slow veterinary season.  Have you considered scheduling wellness services six months out to get appointments on the books during your slow season?  If you are experiencing a particularly slow day, have your receptionist offer selected phone shoppers a complimentary exam if they bring the pet in right away.  Often you will be able to provide care for the pet and may bond the new client to your practice for life—a better option than losing the opportunity to help that pet altogether.

Seasonal fluctuations in business do not have to drag down your revenue or trim your “bottom line”.  Prepare ahead so you can weather your slow season.

Carol Hart , DVM