To Board or Not To Board...

This is a great question that does not have one definitive answer. I recently fielded a question asking about boarding numbers when one considers wage vs. boarding revenue. I look at boarding from many aspects and often times wish some practices would do away with it. Trouble is, even a small amount of boarding can add nice profit to the bottom line and this often holds sway over the many levels of inconvenience boarding can bring to practice operations. There are published articles on both sides of the aisle. I'll explain my approach and I'm sure others will weigh in with different ideas and perspectives. I am speaking to boarding profit only, without the consideration of ancillary services. What I like to see is that that boarding revenue can be quantified in some way that would be difficult for another revenue stream to replace. I consider the services the practice is offering and work through forecasting to see if there is reasonable potential to replace lost boarding revenue with medical or other types of revenue. If a practice has a boarding net profit of $1000 a month, could the team recommend or offer laser therapy, more diagnostics, campaign for more cat exams or semi-annual exams, etc. to clear $1000 a month thus removing boarding from the practice menu? Conversely, could the practice find an expense that would save them $1000 a month so there is a wash if they discontinue boarding? I think the answer to this level of profit is probably yes as far as revenue generation - the practice could find an alternate revenue stream and abolish boarding. However, as the boarding profit number climbs, so does the difficulty factor to replace that revenue if you want to discontinue boarding. A kennel providing $5000 or $10,000 a month is a formidable revenue stream and more difficult to replace. At the end of the day, the headaches that come along with boarding can trump the revenue stream and some owners may simply decide to work on replacing the boarding revenue over time as opposed to an immediate push to replace those dollars. So, I don't personally look for a bench number or any particular percentage. I use this "revenue replacement" theory to assess boarding and then consider all of the other ways boarding affects the practice, both negatively and positively to help decide if the service is a good fit.

Just as we've seen our veterinarians trend to specialists, I see veterinary hospitals leaving boarding behind and referring to the big, fancy, decked out boarding only facilities or in home pet sitters. Many owners do not want to invest in the boarding updates required to compete, or they simply do not have the space/layout required to do so easily. When done well, the revenue stream and the good it does for the practice as a whole is undeniable. When managed well, the swell to the bottom line is worth the occasional headache.

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