Veterinarian Mike Ammermon was a senior in the University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine when UGA Small Business Development Center consultant Jeff Sanford started teaching fourth-year vet students a new curriculum on core business principles in 2008.
The program, still going strong, includes a practice management rotation that brings these students together with veterinarians who own practices to examine their operations and identify opportunities for improvements.
“A friend, Marcus Harden, and I were the first two vet students to do a rotation with him,” says Ammermon. Sanford took them to a private practice where they conducted a valuation and told the owner his practice’s value if sold. “Through Jeff, we were exposed to a lot of the business side of practice that most people going through medical training just don’t receive.”
This experience came full-circle for Ammermon five years later when he and his wife Myra – also a UGA veterinarian from the class of 2008 – decided to open a practice near Savannah.
“We were working in separate practices,” says Mike. “Five years out, we had started a family and were trying to figure out how to juggle our careers and kids. We decided it was time to open our own practice.
“So we explored several ideas. We tried to buy property and build an office, but with no active clients, it was difficult to get financing for such a large loan.”
The Ammermons had remained in contact with Sanford, who helped them explore various options. “He walked us through the entire process.”
“We talked many times before and after he got started,” says Sanford. “I provided a spreadsheet for new practices that we used to budget his expected expenses. We also discussed his break-even point.”
He provided a demographic study on the area to estimate the market for veterinary services. And they discussed staffing a new practice and bookkeeping with QuickBooks.
About two years after they began planning, the Ammermons opened Pooler Veterinary Hospital in a large home they leased and renovated.
Sitting on a couple of acres on a main road, the hospital has been successful from its first year. And along with Mike, the hospital employees two part-time associate vets and five technicians.
“Mike and Myra are wonderful doctors and well-liked. Their growth reflects it,” says Sanford. “And he has good business sense, too.
“They found a good spot, went in modestly – without much debt – and are growing the practice based on quality medicine and care. And because they planned and spent well, they are starting to see the rewards quickly.”
Ammermon agrees. “Our revenues were 25 percent over what we’d projected our first year. And at this point, in June, we’re already ahead of our projected revenues, which we’d based on last year’s numbers.
“We’re still in the growing phase and trying to be cautious, but we feel pretty secure about where we are.”
And coming full-circle again, Sanford has asked Ammermon for permission to bring a rotation of senior UGA vet students to his practice to analyze his financials and offer feedback.
“Jeff has been very helpful, and we’re grateful to the UGA business department for allowing us this service – as a student and a practice owner,” says Ammermon. “It is invaluable for a young, potential practice owner. We hope that they continue it.”