Associates don't want to own: True or false?

If you answered true, you're right! If you answered false, you're right!

General statements about large groups of people—thousands and thousands—are never as interesting as the individual stories behind people's personal journeys. This came alive for me this week when I interviewed a practice manager, herself an excited recent CVPM graduate, about the feline-only clinic she works at.

While we chatted about finances, this practice manager told me a little bit about the doctors who work there. The practice owner is looking to sell the clinic in seven or eight years. She sees it as a two-doctor clinic, so she hired an associate. But this associate didn't want to own now or in the future. The associate loved practicing medicine, but had a terrible experience years before buying into a corporate-owned practice. This associate is a fantastic doctor, the practice owner told me, but she's adamant that she wants the flexibility of associate work.

So the owner was back on the hunt for an associate who wanted to buy. Luckily, the answer to her problems wasn't far. A bright-eyed, bushy-tailed new graduate from a local veterinary school wanted to practice in a feline-only clinic and wanted to own. Score! She sounded too good to be true to the practice owner, but this new associate has worked out great.

Now the owner is grooming a feline-only practitioner who wants to buy her practice in the next 10 years. The associate who doesn't want to own has been happy to cut back on her hours, giving her time to practice with a local animal organization. And the brand-new graduate has a chance to start working on her dream of owning a feline-only clinic right out of school.

In this story, it sounds like everybody may get what they want.

I'd bet there are associates coming out of school who want to own or will decide to own later on. And there are associates who'd like part-time or more flexible work at one or more clinics, shelters, and organizations to pay their bills and set themselves up for a strictly salaried retirement down the road.

Do the statistics still tell us there's a problem with too many owners retiring and not enough buyers? Maybe. But if practice owners are smart in their recruitment and look for associates that love the neighborhood and niche their clinics fill, everyone may be happy.

See? Stories are always more interesting than numbers.

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