Building Design for Animals

Article by Dave Gasser, AIA, NCARB

Adding to Your Practice: Boarding

Boarding has become popular for both practice owners and clients. It offers clients a much-needed amenity for their pets, and veterinarians a new income stream for their practice.

There are a variety of service offerings that can be added to a veterinary practice to increase revenue and provide more ways to care for clients and their pets. Boarding is one of these services that has become popular for both practice owners and clients.

Why add boarding?

Incorporating boarding services into a veterinary practice not only adds a new revenue stream, it provides ancillary benefits to practice owners as well.

  • Increases client/clinic bond by offering whole life services – your practice becomes a place that pet owners can go to for all of their pet's needs; from general health and wellness to a 'home away from home' when they need one for their pet.
  • Attract new clients – when a client is looking for somewhere to board their pet for a weekend and they come to your practice, they are also potentially finding a place for routine annual care and other future medical needs.
  • Opportunity to add other services – many veterinarians incorporate additional services along with boarding, including grooming, daycare and training. Almost every boarded pet could use some type of additional service while boarding – from a hair cut and nail trim to a dental cleaning.
  • Increase revenue stream – and of course one of the big reasons to add boarding to your practice is the additional income it came provide from clients utilizing your boarding services.

How to integrate boarding

In order to make boarding a more profitable service, it is important to look for ways to integrate it into the current veterinary practice. There are a few ways that a practice can go about this.

  • Shared facilities – typically a veterinary hospital can share its reception area and lobby with boarding on the frontend, and spaces like food prep, laundry and mechanical rooms on the backend. This saves on both staff and construction costs. A separate waiting nook or area for boarding clients is a simple solution to separate clientele.
  • Separate facilities – while many hospitals opt for shared spaces, some will choose to separate the veterinary and boarding sides of their practice. Separate entrances, reception areas and lobbies provide clients with a designated place to go for their pet's specific needs.
  • Swing spaces – one way to add boarding to a veterinary hospital is to add housing that can work for both sides of the practice. "Swing spaces" allow cat condos or dog runs to be utilized as medical housing wards for part of the year, and be converted into boarding only rooms during the holidays and vacation seasons when they're needed most.

How to up your boarding game

With boarding, as with any other service offering of a veterinary clinic, making a good impression matters. There are ways to help your practice stand out when it comes to the boarding game.

  • Offer different tiers – when it comes to size, and style, more than one level of accommodations is worth providing. Some clients will only board in home-like luxury rooms. Others require more modest/economical accommodations. Planning for both allows coverage of a larger demographic.
  • Luxury boarding – for those clients who want the luxe offerings, providing suites with high-end accommodations can provide for the physical and emotional comfort of pets, while also being a marketing tool for the practice owner. Advertising these suites can leave the impression with potential clients that your facility is a step above the competition, and provides top-quality care for their loved ones.
  • Glass runs over bars – using glass run gates rather than bars will portray a higher-end atmosphere rather than a "doggy jail" in even standard boarding areas, and won't cost practice owners much more. Colorful panels can even be added to brighten things up and utilizing these types of runs over site-built walls can save space and leave room for more boarding accommodations.
  • Play yards – indoor and outdoor play spaces give pets a place to work out their energy while also providing clients peace of mind knowing their beloved pet isn't going to spend their entire stay at your practice in a kennel.

Boarding can be a great addition to a veterinary practice, but as with all business ventures it is best to consider your options carefully before proceeding. Analyzing your market, assessing your practice tolerance, and evaluating the incurred cost versus return should be key to integrating boarding services into your practice. Just understand that there are ways to provide this service without breaking the bank, and that there may be potential revenue streams for your veterinary practice that are not overly apparent. By adding boarding to your hospital, you can provide a new service to your clients, and new clients to your business.

For more about boarding in the veterinary practice take a look at the dvm360 article "Stepping up your boarding game".