UGA helps veterinary hospital adapt to COVID-19 restrictions, get back on track for expansion
Dr. Mike Ammermon, a UGA alumnus and doctor of veterinary medicine, opened Pooler Veterinary Hospital in 2013 with two veterinarians and two staff members by his side.
By 2018, the business had grown to four full-time veterinarians and 20 staff members. Ammermon needed a hospital large enough to serve his growing client base. So, he designed one with seven exam rooms, two surgery units, a dental suite and separate treatment areas for dogs and cats.
A long-time client of the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center, he worked with Becky Brownlee, area director of the Savannah office, to secure Small Business Administration (SBA) funding for the new hospital. Together, they developed a business plan and financial projections, which he took to the bank.
Then the coronavirus pandemic hit.
“The lender came back to us for project revisions,” said Brownlee. “They, like all lenders, were suddenly required to show the pandemic’s impact on all outstanding loan applications.”
“Our loan went on the back burner,” said Ammermon. “The larger question for us was how we’d continue to operate and keep our staff paid and intact. Fortunately, we could pivot and focus on how to take care of our clients’ pets under the new safety measures.”
The hospital instituted curbside service using new mobile pay readers. It saw only sick or emergency cases at first, eventually resuming normal functions. During the first two weeks, its workflow flipped from disrupted to efficient, putting its case volume and revenues back on track.
“The lesson Mike brings to all businesses is, when something bad happens, make adjustments to your operations and continue on,” Brownlee said. “The hospital is flourishing now.”
“So, we moved forward with the SBA loan, working with Becky to update our projections. That made the SBA comfortable with moving forward,” said Ammermon. “If a small business owner feels they’re moving into unfamiliar territory, it is very easy to contact the SBDC and get great advice. I’ve found a good thing, so I’m sticking with it.”