If you’re experiencing financial difficulty, BOQ Specialist is here to help. Call 1800 950 399 (option 2) Learn more

Dr Jess Paterson on taking the plunge into veterinary practice ownership

Although initially doubting herself, Dr Jess Paterson decided to take the plunge and start her own vet clinic—now she’s reaping the rewards.

  3 minutes


About three years ago, Dr Jess Paterson was working in middle management in a corporate vet clinic and feeling a bit uninspired. Any promotion would take her away from the clinical work she loved. But the clinical work she was doing didn’t live up to her idea of what she could be doing. She thought about maybe doing further study, but then her partner suggested she could look into owning her own practice.

“I said, ‘Don't be ridiculous. I've been a single mum for years and had to look after my two kids and make ends meet. That’s not something I can do’,” she recalls. “He kept removing all of the reasons and doubts that I had of why I couldn't do something. And I finally said, ‘Fine, I’ll give this a look into’.”

She reached out to her network of former colleagues and mentors looking for someone to talk her out of it. And the answer was a resounding, ‘Yes, you should definitely give this a go’ from everyone I spoke to. So, I thought, okay, there's no-one putting hurdles in my way here. I'll just keep on going.” The big question was, what would her clinic look like?

Making it happen

“I was very lucky that one of my friends does business plan development, and she offered to have a look at what I’d come up with,” says Dr Paterson. “She gave me some amazing pointers on what to look into and what to consider. It really helped open my eyes as to what I should be considering.”

Dr Paterson suddenly found herself writing market research reports into other local clinics and drawing up risk matrices. At the same time, she started scouting around for suitable locations. “I was not in a massive hurry,” she says. “So I just kind of kept looking around but nothing was inspiring in the slightest.”

Then she saw an old residential site on Unley Road, which was the right size, in the right spot, and could be turned into her ideal practice. She called the agent immediately and began negotiations. With that done, she started looking into fit-outs. She was determined to stay realistic and not over-stretch herself or her budget. “I thought I would project manage the entire build myself to keep costs down. However, every time I had conversations with other people who know much more about these things than I do, they would make it clear that I was making a really bad decision if I did that.”

She engaged an architect and, following discussions with her accountant, organised a meeting with Annie Feist from BOQ Specialist to talk about finance. “Meeting Annie was a really lovely experience,” she says. “She was very personable and very approachable and made me feel like I wasn't completely fooling myself that this was a possibility, because I definitely walked into that meeting thinking there's a large chance I'm going to get laughed out of here.”

Holistic vision 

When Dr Paterson was a child, she thought her dream clinic would be one where all the animals lived happily forever in her backyard. Now she has actually created her dream clinic, she found it naturally grows around a cycle of holistic care—if she set up in the right location, she would attract clients who think of their pets as family, staff who shared that vision, and referrals from like-minded practitioners.

“I think the biggest thing I've noticed is the emotional attachment to the business decisions I make. I guess it's that 360-degree view; I'm here for the betterment of staff as well as the business, otherwise it doesn't work. My belief is very much that when you look after your staff, they will look after your clients, and that is always going to be good for business.”

The proof that her approach works, comes from client feedback and the growth of the business. “We've had beautiful feedback,” she says. “Almost inadvertently, I've started attracting a lot of people who want a holistic approach to their vet care.” 


Thinking about starting or growing your practice? Click on the link to find out more about our tailored financial solutions for setting up a practice.

Ready to take the next step? Contact us to find out how we can tailor a practice finance solution for you, or call us on 1300 160 160.

Subscribe to Best Practice

Our bi-annual magazine which features case studies from our clients and gives you first hand examples of how we can help you to grow your business.

Subscribe now


Related products

Commercial property 

Asset finance


  • Important Information

      The information contained in this webpage is general in nature and has been provided in good faith, without taking into account your personal circumstances. While all reasonable care has been taken to ensure that the information is accurate and opinions fair and reasonable, no warranties in this regard are provided.