A Tail of Success
Two Vets Claw Their Way to Ownership
“Don’t wait until you are 47…I should have done this 10 years ago! I am doing better for my family and kids by being my own business owner. If buying your own business is in your heart…just do it! It is important.” Dr. Sarah Mongan preaches as she reflects.
Dr. Sarah Mongan and Dr. Melissa Gardner met at a veterinary clinic in Omaha where they practiced together for sixteen years. Both dreamed of owning their own practice one day, but when a vet graduates from school they typically have a lot of debt, so the hope of stepping out on their own seems impossible. Most DVMs out of school will associate with an established practice with the thought of one day becoming a partner. These two ladies believed that they would become partners one day, but that didn’t happen after a decade and a half.
One day Sarah’s husband, Nate Mongan, said something that got her thinking, “What Omaha needs is a clinic that provides affordable veterinary care.” There are families that want to provide quality care for their pets but also want to pay reasonable rates to do it. She should start a practice that has that as a mission.
"It really saved the deal to move that fast. If we hadn't taken the leap of faith...we would still be in the 16-year grind of being an associate."
- Dr. Melissa Gardner
Three months later, Sarah asked Melissa what she thought of the idea. Her immediate response? “Let’s do it.” The question now was whether build or purchase an existing practice. To start one from scratch was too hard: find a location, do a build-out, find clients, etc. One week later they called The Firm Business Brokerage looking for a practice to purchase.
They quickly identified one that fit their criteria: a good location, a full staff in place and established clientele. They put in an Offer to Purchase and started to prepare for Closing. Then, a snag. Just before Closing the existing Owner placed an additional qualification on the sale: he wanted a two year employment agreement so he could stay on. Concern deepened as they calculated the cash flow once the existing Owner’s salary was added into the mix. They would not be able to run the business with the added expense. They pulled the Offer to Purchase just days before the scheduled closing.
Disappointed by the turn of events, the two started researching the cost to build out a new location. There were so many reasons not to travel this path; there would be no staff present during the build-out, there would be no place to see patients until the facility was ready and it was not the turnkey business they had hoped for. Of bigger concern: how would they pay the bank loans if they couldn’t see patients?
They soon realized that the grass isn’t greener when you start from scratch. The pair decided to hire The Firm to find them a Seller. The Broker went out “On a Wing and a Prayer” to talk to six vets who may be close to retirement. Within two weeks, The Firm secured Dr. Goodrich as a client ready to sell his practice. Within twenty-four hours of listing, Dr. Mongan and Dr. Gardner submitted an Offer to Purchase. Less than three weeks later, the practice was theirs!
“It really saved the deal to move that fast. If we hadn’t taken the leap of faith… we would still be in the 16 year grind of being an associate.”
"It is not just a business venture...it is an adventure. We feel happier and healthier. We landed exactly what we wanted."
- Dr. Sarah Mongan
The biggest challenge that they have faced as new business owners? They laugh and say “Figuring out where everything is!” Three employees stayed after the Purchase and out of 1,700 active clients only one has left. “Every day we continue to move up and move forward!”
It was a learning experience for both of them. They would now advise any vet student to have a plan and know where they are going. If you want to be a partner, get something in writing up front and don’t wait for sixteen years like they did. In fact, when they are ready to expand and take on a new associate they will find a person who can be the next Owner of the practice.
The advice they would give someone looking to own their own business is simple: JUMP! They took a leap based on faith and now they control what comes next.
“It is not just a business venture…it is an adventure. We feel happier and healthier. We landed exactly what we wanted” says Co-Owner Sarah Mongan.
The Firm Deal Review
Financing: Conventional Loan by Access Bank, Nathan Christ
Profit Margins: 42%
Days on the Market: 20 days from listing to close
Transition: Seller agreed to stay on to transition all families/pets to new owners
Year Established: 1990