Dr Katie Currie never planned to own a practice, but when she got a chance to buy one she worked in, BOQ Specialist was there to help.
Katie Currie says that she had no intention of buying her own veterinary practice and is a little amused to find herself having done exactly that just a few months ago.
Since 26 June when she was handed the keys, she’s been juggling raising her two young children as well as bringing elements of the worryingly outdated practice into the 21st century.
What prompted her, then, to buy a business after 17 years happily staffing someone else’s practice? As she explains, it was simply an opportunity she found too good to refuse.
The perfect opportunity
She’d been employed at Warnbro Veterinary Hospital (about an hour’s drive south of Perth) for four years when the opportunity came up for her to become her own boss.
Dr Currie says normally there are a couple of paths vets can take to move into management. One was to start a clinic from scratch, but that was expensive and risky; it meant a huge loan for medical equipment, building a team of good staff and most importantly building a clientele from zero.
The second way was to buy into an established partnership and third, become a director for a corporate vet. But Dr Currie says the whole ‘KPI’ side of corporate life just didn’t appeal to her.
“I’m not a corporate person—while I see the benefits for some vets to pursue that path, I personally don’t respond well to the pressures of sales targets and never want to. I find it difficult selling my clients other products like food; I’m not a trained sales rep,” she explains.
“Buying Warnbro was an opportunity to become a boss and run things my way at a practice I loved and understood well, with staff and clients I knew and liked. The opportunity was too good to ignore and I’m so glad I took the leap.” In addition, she knew Warnbro was busy and she already had four years of clients built up there.
“Day one, I knew I could walk through the door and no one was even going to know that anything had changed and my clients would continue to come along,” she says.
Dr Currie says it all happened pretty quickly at first.
To help with the finance she turned to her contact at BOQ Specialist, Richard Curia, who had helped Dr Currie and her husband Angus buy their first Australian home about ten years prior.
Angus, also a vet, was self-employed at the time running a ‘one stop shop’ for people wanting to migrate their pets overseas. But since he’d only been in the business less than a year, none of the other banks ‘would even look’ at giving them a home loan except BOQ Specialist.
“With the others we needed to have financial proof of up to two years of being in business as a self-employed person,” Dr Currie explains.
“But BOQ Specialist understood our profession and are so experienced in supporting medical professionals. They were happy to provide us with finance for our home and help again recently so I could pursue the opportunity of practice ownership.”
The final hurdle
“Our consultant, Richard Curia, did an amazing job along with his colleague Hannah Winter. They were able to connect us with a lawyer and the team basically made sure the contract and finance were ready,” Dr Currie says.
Dr Currie’s only been in charge a few months but says it was when the deal was finally done and the last handshake over that the hard work really began. It started with the mammoth task of updating standards and a computer system that was first implemented in 1991—a DOS system with the black screen and white writing. Trying to get the data off it is a nightmare.
In addition, the practice has a new blood and anaesthetic machine also financed by BOQ Specialist. They have also since rebranded the business. Staff have uniforms and Dr Currie is looking forward to a relaunch when the time is right.
“Perhaps I shouldn’t have changed so much so quickly because trying to stay afloat with all the work we do for our clients and patients is challenging, but equally I feel if I want to make changes, I don’t want to drag my heels and just do one thing at a time,” she says.
“So, we’re ploughing through. I’m hoping it will be a full on six months and then everything will be smooth sailing after that. It’s great now; my whole life is within 10 minutes of home; school, day care and our practice.”
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