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Starting from Scratch

5 Tips for Starting a Veterinary Practice

The Story of Dr. Neil Kelley & MyVet Chesapeake

Dr. Neil Kelley is the proud owner and lead veterinarian of MyVet Chesapeake. His practice is dedicated to providing top-notch, accessible veterinary care. Originally from Philadelphia, Dr. Kelley spent 21 years as a Navy Deep-Sea Diver, supporting Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Naval Special Warfare, including service on the USS Grapple and at the Naval Medical Research Institute in Bethesda, MD.

After retiring from the Navy in 2007, Dr. Kelley pursued his passion for veterinary medicine, graduating from Virginia Tech in 2012. His clinic focuses on offering same-day and urgent care services, ensuring quality veterinary care is readily available to the community. Dr. Kelley and his wife, Rae, are both Philadelphia natives who met at a Barnes & Noble in Virginia. Married for over 20 years, they have teenage twins, Brian and Maggie, and they run the practice as a family.

Opening MyVet Chesapeake in December 2023, Dr. Kelley shares important insights from his experience of starting from scratch. His top five tips for success include:

  1. Embrace a Family-Oriented Approach
  2. Focus on Accessibility
  3. Set Realistic Expectations
  4. Understand Your Limitations
  5. Seek Help and Network

Embrace a Family-Oriented Approach

MyVet Chesapeake thrives on a family-oriented approach, creating a close-knit, supportive environment for both staff and clients. This philosophy fosters a warm, welcoming atmosphere that enhances the overall experience. Dr. Kelley’s practice is a true family affair. His wife, Rae, an RN for 30 years, now handles customer service and administrative tasks. “It’s nice having my wife and daughter here with me,” he shares. This involvement of family members adds a unique, personal touch that clients appreciate.

The family-oriented approach extends to the staff. “The staff I hired, I’ve known for almost 10 years from my last practice, so we’re pretty close,” Dr. Kelley explains. This familiarity and trust translate into a cohesive and efficient working environment. Dr. Kelley ensures clients receive personalized care by involving his family and building a close-knit team. “Keeping the practice smaller and more personal ensures clients get the attention they need,” he says. A family-oriented atmosphere can significantly contribute to a veterinary practice’s growth and success and help establish them as the local family veterinarian.

Focus on Accessibility

In a field where timely care can make a significant difference, Dr. Kelley prioritized making his services readily available. MyVet Chesapeake provides same-day and urgent care services, ensuring pet owners receive timely care. Dr. Kelley explains, “I wanted to be accessible, so we see walk-in appointments and offer same-day urgent care.” This commitment to accessibility builds lasting relationships with clients. “When you can accommodate urgent cases and walk-ins, you strengthen the trust and loyalty of your clients… The response from the community has been really positive,” he says. Focusing on accessibility enhances client satisfaction and loyalty because when your pet gets sick, or injured, you as a pet owner, want to know that your veterinarian can help you today, not in 5 days when it’s the next available appointment.

Set Realistic Expectations

Setting realistic expectations is crucial when opening a new veterinary practice. Dr. Kelley learned the importance of patience and preparedness. The journey involved unexpected challenges and delays. “The process from the first phone call with Vetcelerator to opening my doors took about 14 months,” he notes. Financial preparedness is equally important. “Save and put away a nice nest egg,” Dr. Kelley advises.

A financial cushion helps manage unexpected costs and delays, ensuring smoother operations.

Dr. Kelley suggests that aspiring veterinary practice owners set realistic expectations, prepare for a steep learning curve, and ensure financial readiness.

Understand Your Limitations

Understanding and acknowledging one’s limitations is crucial for opening a successful veterinary practice. Recognizing gaps in your knowledge and seeking expert assistance can prevent costly mistakes. In the early stages of establishing MyVet Chesapeake, Dr. Kelley relied heavily on Vetcelerator. “Vetcelerator helped with everything from plans to finding the architect and getting approvals,” he explains. This support allowed him to focus on veterinary medicine while experts handled the business setup.

Seek Help and Network

Establishing a veterinary practice can be daunting, but seeking help and building a solid network can make it manageable. Dr. Kelley realized early on that he needed external help. “I didn’t realize how much I didn’t know before this process,” he admits. Recognizing the complexity of opening a new practice, Dr. Kelley leveraged the expertise of Vetcelerator, which specializes in assisting veterinary professionals. Networking extended beyond Vetcelerator’s services. Dr. Kelley also connected with local professionals for specific needs. These local connections were vital in setting up a secure and efficient infrastructure for MyVet Chesapeake.

Dr. Kelley emphasizes the importance of recognizing your limitations and seeking help. “Knowing where to get help is part of being wise,” he advises. Building a robust support system helped him navigate the complexities of starting a veterinary clinic. There’s a network of people who want to see you succeed. Tap into it.

Dr. Kelley’s journey from a Navy Deep Sea Diver to a dedicated veterinarian is a testament to his unwavering commitment to serving his community. His experience teaches us that seeking help, setting realistic expectations, understanding limitations, focusing on accessibility, and embracing a family-oriented approach can turn a dream into reality. As Dr. Kelley continues to positively impact his community, his story inspires aspiring veterinary professionals to pursue their passions with dedication and resilience.

Let Dr. Kelley’s journey inspire all aspiring practice owners. Success is attainable with the proper support and mindset despite the challenges.

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