47% of vets ‘would consider’ selling to a corporate entity

47% of respondents would consider selling their veterinary practice to a corporate entity, according to a recent survey of Irish vets in the 2018 Veterinary Practice Survey Report.

Published by accountancy and business advisory firm HLB Sheehan Quinn, the report notes that this figure is up 18% on last year.

27% of respondent vets would not consider selling, while a further 26% were undecided out of the overall sample survey population.

This trend is likely to continue as more practices seek to survive and thrive in an increasingly competitive landscape, according to the document.

“Across Ireland, the landscape in which veterinary practices operate is changing,” according to Mark Butler of HLB Sheehan Quinn.

Ownership structures, corporate transactions, staff shortages, financial management and succession planning rank high on the list of current challenges.

Despite their willingness to sell, however, very few respondents know what their practice is worth, while only 12% have had their practice valued in the last two years.

Of the vets to take part in the study, 23% are already operating in an incorporated practice structure, with 56% not incorporated. The remaining 21% did not know what practice system was in place in their situations.

37% would consider incorporation – up 7% on last year.

68% of survey respondents cited a better work/life balance as their most important aspiration, with 43% of vets putting in more than 60 hours per week, according to the study.

This has not affected job satisfaction levels, however, with 41% “satisfied” with their job; 44% described themselves as “neutral”, and just 15% said they were “unsatisfied” with their job.

Individual earnings vary with the top earners (26%) making over €100,000 before tax; however, almost a fifth of respondents are earning less than €40,000 which may be an indication of average salary levels for recently-qualified vets.

Succession

Less than a quarter (21%) have a succession plan in place while only slightly more (24%) have considered succession in general. 56% have not considered succession, while 20% said it is not applicable to them.

Respondents highlighted challenges recruiting vets and vet nurses with rota difficulties and poor work/life balance in particular deterring potential candidates from accepting roles – particularly in rural practices.

“The new graduates want 9-5 and weekends off or just one weekend a month on. Most rural practices can’t give that,” according to one respondent.

In spite of the growing number of corporate-owned practices, the entry of ‘corporates’ into the Irish market was the third most frequently cited challenge, after recruitment/retention/rotas and fees/credit control.

“Corporates coming in will make it impossible to buy practices and will affect care given. Small independents can’t compete with them,” commented one respondent.

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