What is the toughest financial challenge you've ever faced in your career? (Sponsored by Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health)

Compare expenses to income often

My toughest financial challenge was last year when the entire equine industry in Australia shut down due to equine influenza. My base income came from the performance side, which didn't have shows or interstate movement for about eight months. I had a downturn of at least $50,000 in the first six weeks. Yikes!

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I started looking at all my costs—especially feed, bedding, and labor—and compared it to income. I also figured in depreciation and maintenance of vehicles and fuel. I look at my expense/income ratio quarterly now. It has been a year since the outbreak, and I bought a digital radiograph machine that is bringing in new clients. We are now getting back to normal. Stay on that ratio!

Elizabeth Herbert, DVM
Adelaide Plains Equine Clinc
Gawler, South Austrailia

Setting fees

The most difficult financial challenge that I have ever faced in equine practice is the setting of appropriate fees. If we don't update fees properly, we find ourselves working for little to nothing.

The best advice I might offer is to not be the low cost leader. Base your fees on the cost of providing each service, set an appropriate fee for the advancement of your practice, and factor in a profit margin for your lifestyle and the needs of your family. Do not base your fees on what someone else charges—their costs may be different. Remind your clients that there is a difference between cost and value and that, in the long run, they tend to get what they pay for.

Dane Frazier, DVM
Terra Veterinary Services
Lebanon, Mo.