You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple step guide to starting your mobile vet business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
STEP 1: Plan your Business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How long it will take you to break even?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening a mobile vet business?
Initial costs for opening a mobile vet clinic will be substantial. You must equip a van, RV, or enclosed trailer with a veterinarian’s office and exam room in order to take your show on the road. There are numerous commercial vehicle retailers who can convert such a vehicle to your specific needs, but the cost will be significant and will fluctuate, depending on the type of equipment you are installing and the size of the vehicle. An average starting number will be somewhere around $300,000 and can go up to as much as $750,000 or more. Additionally, you will need business insurance, an operating license, an initial medication order from a pharmaceutical supplier, and numerous disposable goods for the office work as well as care and maintenance of the mobile clinic.
What are the ongoing expenses for a mobile vet business?
Most ongoing expenses will pertain to the maintenance of the mobile vehicle and restocking of medical supplies. Fuel costs will also be a concern, as those costs continue to rise. Manage your travels accordingly and look to create a schedule for where you’ll be, week to week.
Who is the target market?
Your target market are pet owners, unable to visit a vet’s office, either because of distance or time. You will be supplying a service in which the customer needs a reasonable method for having their animals examined by a professional, so you may be offering times outside of the typical 9-5 work hours. But, by supplying these options, you will be tapping into a market which will more than likely become quite loyal to you and your efforts.
How does a mobile vet business make money?
Fees paid by customers for the examinations performed by the vet or vet tech will account for the business’ profits.
How much can you charge customers?
Customer rates will depend on the services provided and the average costs for vet services, both mobile and fixed locations, in your area. Doing research on the competitor costs is a necessity for successfully pricing your own services. You must also price for the types of animals you see. Typical house pets may not be as expensive to examine and treat as some more specialty animals or farm and livestock animals. An average vet office visit will run around $100.00 but you may charge a bit more for the convenience you offer.
How much profit can a mobile vet business make?
A mobile vet business can be quite profitable, but will depend on the area in which you’re located. Factors will include the density of the population and the average income of the clients you see. A successful mobile vet can earn between $150,000-200,000, annually. Make sure you have thoroughly researched the landscape of veterinary services in your area so you are able to maximize your earnings.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Offer your services to various animal organizations, societies, and groups. Animal rescues and adoption services often have adoption events. Partnering with these will give new pet owners piece of mind about their pending adoption and will give you an expanded customer base. You can also inquire about specific animal clubs, such as herpetology or aviary groups, and look to offer discounts to group members.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is very important. We recommend checking if the business name you choose is available as a web domain and securing it early so no one else can take it.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC prevents you from being personally liable if your mobile vet business is sued. There are many business structures to choose from including: Corporations, LLC's, and DBA's.
You should also consider using a registered agent service to help protect your privacy and stay compliant.
For most small businesses forming an LLC is a great option, but if you still want to weigh all your options check our our article, What Structure Should I Choose for My Business?
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
In most states, it is necessary to obtain an Veterinary license. Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate an Veterinary Practice. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
Some Mobile Vet businesses chose to market their services with more of a therapeutic emphasis. You will probably come across consumers seeking to reimburse you for your services using their health plans. If this is the case, it is essential to make sure their health insurance covers Mobile Vet visits. If Mobile Vet visits is indeed covered by insurance, you must fill out a health insurance claim form to receive payment.
Businesses are required to register vehicles which will travel across state lines for commercial purposes. Check here for a list of state requirements.
Class B Driver Licensing Requirements
In most states, licences are issued by classes, operating according to the weight of the vehicle being driven. Drivers of standard cars and trucks require a class A commercial driver’s license (CDL), while operators of heavier vehicles, including most tow trucks, require a Class B CDL to operate. More information can be found here.
Certificate of Occupancy
A Mobile Vet business is generally run out of a small storefront. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a location:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to Veterinary business.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a location:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your Mobile Vet business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
STEP 7: Get Business Insurance
Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
How to promote & market a mobile vet business
As mentioned previously, you will need to tap into the power of social media and the internet. Create an account through Facebook and Instagram to get your name and services out to the public. Create a website, as well, to offer customers the options of scheduling for your mobile service and pre-screening their pets with info about their species, age, and any prior medical history. This will increase your word of mouth advertising and can streamline the process of seeing animals through your clinic. If you have the money available, advertising through radio and local TV can be effective, as well. Finally, flyers, business cards, signs, and banners are still effective methods for reminding customers and potential customers about your services.
Recommended: Get started with local advertising for your business with a $300 credit from Yelp.
How to keep customers coming back
As mentioned above, reputation is everything. Once customers know they can trust you with their fur babies, your reputation will grow. You will also be able to point to success stories of your practice. If customers allow you, these testimonials can be shared via social media and in your advertising literature. Offer discounts for customers allowing the shares, as well as your returning customers. Economic incentives, no matter the size, are often seen as goodwill gestures and can draw existing and new customers, even if they don’t necessarily take advantage of the incentives
STEP 9: Establish your Web Presence
A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.
Start A Mobile Vet Business In Your State
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Mobile vet services are growing in popularity with many Veterinary professionals looking to expand their business and service area to customers not in their immediate vicinity. Vets and vet techs in rural areas are also seeing this as a great opportunity to provide customer service to a wider customer base, not always able to travel the distances to reach a Veterinary hospital.
What happens during a typical day at a mobile vet business?
As the name implies, a mobile vet business is traveling from place to place, setting up for the customers and pets in a localized area. Much of the day to day activities will revolve around the travel and animal examinations, recommendations, and treatments. Additionally, the mobile office must be restocked with medical and office supplies, as needed.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful mobile vet business?
First and foremost, you must have proper schooling and training to be a successful veterinarian or vet tech. You must be knowledgeable in the care and treatment of a wide variety of animals, as you may see all kinds of animals in your mobile clinic. You must also be personable with the public and be able to discuss exam findings, diagnoses, and treatment options with the owners in an professional and compassionate manner.
What is the growth potential for a mobile vet business?
People love their animals and most are willing to do whatever it takes to make sure they’re healthy and will live long, happy lives. Mobile vet services make these desires all the more accessible and obtainable. Mobile services are also popular, as they often are able to offer hours of operation different from the typical 9-5 scenario. This offers working men and women the option to make sure their pets are being examined and cared for regularly. This all adds up to a very favorable market for such services and a market with great growth potential.
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One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a mobile vet business?
If you are starting out as a veterinarian from scratch, you will need to spend some time shadowing another vet or at least inquiring about the ins and outs of such a business from professionals already in business and thriving. The American Association of Mobile Veterinary Practices and the American Association of Housecall Veterinarians are both great resources. You won’t probably get a lot of information from rival vet services in your area, so you may need to travel to or carry on regular correspondences with a vet or vets outside of your potential service area. They can supply invaluable information which will help you avoid many of the pitfalls and obstacles encountered when first starting such a business.
Next, you will need to grow your business’ name and reputation. This will come from interactions with customers, but you won’t see the customers unless they’re aware of your business. Therefore, advertising and interactions via social media and a website become critical. Ask to advertise at pet supply and feed stores. Partner with local businesses to use their parking lots as mobile locations. Set up banners and signs to make people aware of where you will be and on what days. This will help you and the businesses, as many customers visit the stores before or after they see you. And make yourself available to the public through social media. Offer Q & A options where you can answer more basic questions about pet types, behaviors, and health concerns. As you and your business become more well known, you can even ask customers for suggestions on mobile locations which will best serve the public.
How and when to build a team
In the beginning of your business, you’ll want to keep the overhead costs as low as possible and will want to keep any employee team to a minimum. Also, when working from a mobile clinic, space is limited, so you won’t want that many team members with you at any given time. Ideally, you will want employees with vet tech experience, as well as office management experience. If your business is highly successful, you might want to consider another mobile vehicle, vet, and vet staff. Especially in rural settings, when travel must be to regional locations, a second outfit may be able to successfully cover a wide range and customer base without spending excessive amounts of time and resources on travel.