Veternarian Cathy Alinovi owns Hoofstock Veterinary Service in Pine Village, Ind., where attaining and maintaining animal health is the primary goal.
‘Ah ha’ moment that led to launching the business: I was four months pregnant and my business partner decided she didn’t want a partner anymore! I knew it was time to do my own thing.
Ideal customer: One who is ready to challenge the norm, ask “why,” and wants the best health for themselves and their pets.
First customer: A friend whose dog no one else could fix. It was a lot of work, but the vomiting stopped and I learned a lot.
Measuring success: Word of mouth keeps my business growing. I now have clients who drive from four hours away, and some call for consultation across the country.
Biggest struggle: Personnel issues; the bigger my business gets, the more help I need. I have to clearly tell people what I’m looking for and what they need to do to fit in. It is hard to find staff with my same values.
Surprise!: The amount of time paperwork takes. Not just record keeping, but personnel, bookkeeping, and management – whew!
Promoting Business: Education! I spend three-fourths of my time with the client explaining how and why. Then, I have their buy-in and they opt for the best treatment plan.
What you wish you would have known: How little sleep I’d get some days, and how big my business would grow. (The two are intimately related!)
What keeps you up at night (business wise!)?: What else can I do? I rack my brain for more treatment options.
Ever tempted to throw in the towel and just get a job?: I did for a year. I had no freedom – no freedom to chose my clients, no freedom to chose how to do things, no freedom with my family; it was very claustrophobic. My clients and I were all very happy when I came back.
Biggest goal: Continued 10% annual growth in a down-economy (most of my colleagues are down 4-10%, but my business has grown). Published a new cookbook, Dinner PAWsible, to teach my clients how to save money and have the healthy pets they want.
Pricing: Veterinarians have a national pricing database. I set my prices in the middle where I am comfortable. For the few things I don’t like to do, I raise my price until I charge enough that I feel like it makes up for my discomfort. I also benchmark with the local competition (mystery phone shopper calls); I keep my prices right in the middle.
Funding: I am the queen of zero percent credit card loans. I budget so the last payment is done on the last day of the term and roll the “transaction fee” into the first payment.
A few good tips: Customer service is the key in any service-based industry. Where I am successful is taking the time to listen, explain and involve the client in patient care. I’m not afraid to go learn something new for a patient – and I tell my clients “This is new. Let’s try!”
The absolute best part of owning my own business is: knowing it all revolves around me; if I don’t get it right, no one else on my staff can either.
If I had to start all over again, I would have: done it all the same; I’m delighted about where I am now – I think changing one thing would have me in a different place now.
I never imagined: dealing with people all day everyday would be so difficult.
If standing on a rooftop facing crowds of aspiring or struggling small business owners, I would shout: “Believe in yourself. No one can get you there but yourself!”