Feb 1, 2017 by Edward L. Blach, DVM, MS, MBA
Veterinary Study Groups (VSG) is a remarkable program for the veterinary industry. It provides an opportunity for owners of veterinary practices that is unparalleled in many industries today. Disclaimer: The author (Dr. Ed Blach) is a paid consultant for VSG who has been helping facilitate groups for more than ten years.
How does VSG help practices?
The traditional model for veterinary practice has been private ownership of a veterinary practice by a veterinarian or multiple veterinarians. It has provided a wonderful lifestyle for practice owners and a very enjoyable experience for many veterinarians as both owners and associates while serving their local communities. With the transition from an agriculture-focused practice model 30 to 40 years ago to a pet or family member-centered practice model today, customers of veterinarians are less price sensitive and willling to pay for services that weren't possible just a few years ago. The profitability of the best practices has improved, and many in the financial community have learned that veterinary practices are relatively recession-proof as well. When the best practices are creating higher EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest Taxes Depreciation and Taxes) than many other service enterprises, the financial markets will take notice.
VSG created a group-of-20 model for veterinary practice owners in which approximately 20 practice owners from non-competing areas join a group and meet twice per year to learn and discuss best practices and procedures that will improve their practices. They learn business. Trust is crucial to these groups, as members share challenges, successes, financial results, and many other aspects of their practices with each other. Members quickly learn that they are no longer alone. They aren't operating a veterinary practice in isolation any more. They have a group of like-minded practice owners with similar objectives and similar challenges. They learn from each other, set goals with each other, and hold each other accountable. It's a very energizing and results-oriented program. Members get very close, because they support each other through both prosperity and challenging times.
It is not unusual for practices in these groups to improve the quality of care they provide, their profitability, and as a result, the value of their practices. A common sentiment shared by many VSG members is that it is 'the most invigorating experience of my veterinary career'.