Dr. Kent Hart received his DVM degree from Oklahoma State in 1997. He bought and sold his general practice in the early 2000’s and has been practicing emergency medicine since 2005. He purchased the Animal Emergency & Surgical Center in Oklahoma City, OK in 2013 and partnered with AmeriVet Veterinary Partners in 2019. Under Dr. Hart’s leadership, the practice has grown to a team of six DVMs and over 50 team members. He enjoys emergent medicine and surgery, team development, and helping people. When not working, Dr. Hart enjoys spending time with his wife, four children, and two dogs.Read Articles Written by Kent Hart
As veterinarians, many of us choose this profession out of pure love for animals, but we soon find out there’s much more to it than that.
DVM training programs help prepare you for excellence in general practice. Once you are ready to start practicing medicine, there are many additional pathways to consider: completing specialty training, joining an emergency veterinary practice, working as an associate at an established practice, or taking a leap and opening your own practice. The options are limitless – which can make the choice harder.
If you make the right choices for you and end up running a successful practice, your revenue can grow into the millions. While it’s wonderful to be making money and doing what you love, with success comes an entirely new set of responsibilities. As your practice expands and you grow your team, it’s easy to get bogged down with the ins and outs of running your business and lose sight of your original focus: your passion for treating animals.
When you start to notice this shift, it may be time to consider making a move to help you get back to the basics of what you loved about veterinary medicine from the start. It may be time to consider partnering with a veterinary consolidator. But can you do it without becoming a corporate casualty?
If you’re like many veterinarians considering a corporate partnership, you want relief from the headaches of running a business, but…you also want your practice to remain competitive, focus on patient care, and maintain the identity and culture you created and developed. You may also be looking to maintain operational control and an equity stake in your practice and protect your staff. Is all that even possible when you take on a corporate partner? With the right partner for your practice, it is.
Journey to Partnership
My name is Kent Hart and I’d like to share my experience transitioning from practice owner to veterinary partner with AmeriVet. After graduating from Oklahoma State University in 1997, I stayed in Oklahoma City and spent 25 years building my career and caring for animals. I spent some time in general veterinary practice, but quickly realized my passion for emergency medicine. I started working as an associate veterinarian at the Animal Emergency Center, which I bought and re-branded in 2013. Animal Emergency & Surgical Center (AESC) was born.
When I bought AESC, I had a ten-year plan to grow the practice and then reevaluate my options. Four years in, the consolidation craze of 2017 was taking shape and my practice was doing exceptionally well. I realized it might be time to start looking for a business partner and started exploring my options. As my company continued to grow, the pressures of running a business grew with it. I began to think about retirement and started researching my options for corporate partners more seriously.
When a consolidator approached me, I saw what my practice was worth to an outsider and realized the financial gain I could achieve through the sale of my practice. But I didn’t want to just retire and ride off into the sunset! I still had the passion and drive to continue pursuing veterinary medicine, so I looked for a partnership model where I still had partial ownership and the opportunity to profit from the continued growth and success of the practice I built. I learned more about how AmeriVet’s joint venture partnership model worked and decided that it would be an excellent fit for me.
Is Choosing a Vet Consolidator the Right Fit for Your Practice?
Veterinary consolidation basically refers to the process by which larger veterinary groups purchase smaller ones (or independent vet practices) as a form of investment. Their goal is to increase profits from their acquired practices and eventually resell the revitalized businesses. The timeframe from acquisition to resale can vary (depending on the consolidator, their operational results, and the vet industry at large), but often runs around 5-7 years.
It can be scary to consider selling to a vet consolidator because you have spent your entire life building your practice and brand and, when you sell, you’re trusting someone else to guard and continue your legacy – both in the short term and when you eventually decide to retire. Think about what makes sense for you and your practice and, if you decide that a sale makes sense, do your research to find the best corporate partner for you based on your priorities, not theirs.
At the beginning of your search, I’d recommend talking to at least three to five companies to determine which partner is the best fit for your practice. From my personal experience, I would recommend that anyone looking to sell their practice consider selling to larger corporations/veterinary consolidators versus smaller ones. While smaller groups can feel more accessible, they often lack sustainable financial backing, which can lead to future issues.
Once you’ve started to narrow down your options, don’t make the mistake of having the sales rep be your only point of contact. Talk to multiple people at different levels of the organization as well as multiple veterinarians who have gone through veterinary consolidation process with the company you are considering. Hearing their experiences can help you anticipate what the process would be like for you and (hopefully) help you feel more comfortable with your decision. Note: if a company you are considering partnering with will not give you contact information for their current partners, RUN!
Finding the Right Veterinary Partner
In my search to find the best partner for my practice, I met with several groups and came up empty. I didn’t like the culture I saw from them. They just didn’t feel right.
Once I was introduced to AmeriVet and learned more about their business model, I could see that they were aligned with my vision and expectations for my practice. I wanted the company I partnered with to appreciate (and appropriately value) what I had built, but I also wanted to work alongside them to continue growing the practice until I was ready to step away. AmeriVet’s partnership model allowed me this opportunity, which was unique compared to most consolidators who wanted to buy the practice at 100 percent, making me just an employee.
Selling your practice is an intimidating process and handing your numbers over to a corporation can be nerve-wracking, but AmeriVet made me feel at ease during the entire process. They treated me and my practice with compassion and I never felt like I was “just another clinic.”
After the Sale
One of the biggest benefits of joining a larger company like AmeriVet is access to their business support, well-oiled systems, and time-tested best practices. I have definitely found that AmeriVet genuinely wants to collaborate and partner with clinics and hospitals to better support the growth of their business.
Unlike some other veterinary partners, AmeriVet doesn’t impose their name on the practices they purchase. They embrace what makes the practices unique and work to enhance the team and system that is already in place. They are investing in the success you’ve achieved through hard, dedicated work. Established brand equity is essential to the AmeriVet way of doing things and is part of the reason they succeed in partnering with so many practices nationwide. AmeriVet didn’t change my practice’s culture; they actually improved it!
AmeriVet helped me put in place a more robust, viable business structure at my practice to support rapid growth. Before partnering with AmeriVet, I was a successful practice owner. After partnering with AmeriVet, I went from practice owner to CEO of a powerhouse business! My practice has seen substantial growth since bringing AmeriVet on and I have been able to profit substantially from that growth. Is there anything better than making money doing something you’re passionate about and have fun doing? Not in my book, so I consider partnering with AmeriVet to be one of the best business decisions I have ever made.