PRACTICE: RIVER FOREST ANIMAL HOSPITAL
LOCATION: SARASOTA, FLORIDA
Handling National Chain Competition by Learning How to Run a Business.
Dr. Ezekial (Zeke) Thomas has been in practice for 46 years. He is a small animal vet and works with exotics such as reptiles and birds. His father was a general veterinarian and, in 1960, Dr. Thomas went to work with his father at the practice. The elder Dr. Thomas retired in 1964 and moved to a fishing village in northern Florida and Zeke has been running it since.
Dr. Thomas had an unusual occurrence happen that prompted him to take on a practice management consulting firm. He found out that PetSmart, a large national chain, was going to be opening up about 700 feet away from his office. Numerous people told him that this would severely impact his practice and that he better do something about it. “They were an unknown,” said Dr. Thomas. “Many other vets in area also were concerned about the chain moving in and took unusual measures to prevent problems such as lowering vaccination charges.”
Dr. Thomas had been practicing veterinary medicine for over 30 years when the chain moved in. He had never used consultants before and was averaging $180,000 a year. But he knew he needed to do something, so he took the plunge and hired some outside help.
From the management skills he learned, he was not only able to retain his clientele and not lose them to the big chain, but also his production soared to over $500,000 a year in less than 3 years. And, again, at this point he had already been in practice for over 30 years, which makes this quite a remarkable change.
“The absolute biggest benefit I received from taking on a consulting firm was learning how to run a business,” explained Dr. Thomas, “Practicing veterinary medicine is one thing, running a business is another. They don’t teach you how to run a business in vet school That’s not why we were there. It didn’t make sense that some people did great coming out of school and others didn’t. The difference is what I learned through using consultants.”
Dr. Thomas has been married for 16 years to his second wife Susan and has two children from his previous marriage and two step-children. His greatest passion, aside from his family, is boating on the Gulf of Mexico. He has a 41-foot boat that he regularly takes out to help him unwind.
Dr. Thomas feels that anyone can handle any practice and cause it to grow, no matter the competition, no matter the demographics and no matter whether you are up against big chains like PetSmart, WalMart, etc. His experience shows that if you know how to properly run a business – including internal and external marketing, hiring and training staff, having proper office policies and job descriptions and financial systems in place, you can be successful. He knows this because he did it and feels that anyone could do the same.