Free workshops on business savvy in rural veterinary practice

Seats limited; applications due Dec. 31

December 8, 2016 (published)
By Jennifer Fiala

Veterinarians who practice in rural areas, derive at least 10 percent of their income from food animals and graduated within the past 10 years can apply to attend for free workshops on financial management and how to increase profits.

Next Generation Practice Analysis Workshops are hosted by the American Association of Bovine Practitioners, which received a $200,000 federal grant in May to offset the workshop's $500 tuition and offer $500 travel stipends to as many as 96 qualified veterinarians.

Awards are aimed at veterinarians who graduated in 2007 or more recently. Priority will be given to those who've spent fewer than five years in practice and serve in or adjacent to veterinary shortage areas designated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Applications must be submitted online and are due by 5 p.m. CST Dec. 31. AABP will contact accepted applicants in mid-January.

"We have 20 to 25 applicants already. They're coming in every single day," said Dr. Fred Gingrich, AABP incoming executive vice president. "We have enough funds for four workshops in 2017, with 12 people per workshop."

Each class of workshop participants gathers twice, over two consecutive years, for two-day meetings held in either March or May at a central U.S. location. AABP will admit an additional 48 veterinarians in 2018 for another round of workshops that will end in 2019.

The classes are aimed at teaching practice finances and business management to relatively inexperienced food-animal and mixed-animal practitioners. And there's homework. Those accepted to the program are required to complete pre-workshop assignments. If attendees don't have access to their practice's financial records, a mock set of financials will be provided, Gingrich said.

"Once they're accepted, the faculty emails a spreadsheet where they can input their own financial records," he said. "But this is not just about poring over records; it's about improving your business — how to monitor your business decisions and track your results."

The workshop's curriculum involves analyzing practice cash-flows to determine profitability and identify trends. Attendees will use value proposition concepts — statements that describe why customers should buy a product or service — to assess client needs. Workshop participants will learn how to determine a practice's valuation for sale, transition or buy-in and gain insight on practice acquisition financing. They will have the opportunity to share their experiences, Gingrich said.

Presenters include AABP business consultant Dick Lewis, Dr. David Welch, an AABP committee leader, and Denise Tumblin, CPA and owner of Wutchiett Tumblin Associates, a veterinary financial and management consulting firm in Columbus, Ohio.

AABP has hosted several Next Generation Practice Analysis Workshops, which any owner or associate can pay $500 to attend. Applicants selected by AABP can bring a companion for $250. "If their spouse runs the books or another team member wants to come, that's great," Gingrich said.

The goal, Gingrich said, is to train veterinarians to better-manage the finances of their businesses. Many new veterinarians graduate with six-figure educational debt and earn around $70,000 a year. With a  debt-to-income ratio at 1.6:1 — the highest among health professions — business savvy is paramount to the veterinary profession's future success, Gingrich said.

"AABP believes that one way to address the student debt-to-income ratio to address incomes and to encourage ownership," he said. "We want to see them successful."

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