Record numbers of Irish vets are considering selling their practice according to new research conducted by independent accounting firm HLB Sheehan Quinn.
The 2018 Veterinary Practice Survey Report shows that almost half of survey respondents would consider selling their practice to an international corporate but very few have started planning for it.
Only 12pc have had their practice valued in the last two years and so do not have an up to date valuation of their practice.
The reasons for wanting to sell include exhaustion with many vets working in excess of 60 hours a week.
Better work/life balance is the top aspiration for 68pc of respondents as they struggle to attract and retain skilled staff in an increasingly competitive market.
HLB Managing Partner Mark Butler said that people who work in veterinary practice are typically passionate about what they do and love their jobs but long hours and problems attracting and retaining staff make it a particularly challenging sector for practice owners.
" In a market where increasingly, clients expect 24/7 service at competitive rates the skills shortage is a major headache. Our survey shows that against that backdrop resistance amongst practice owners to international corporates entering the Irish market appears to be weakening.
"More practices are willing to consider selling to a corporate and we are also seeing increased interest in vets incorporating their own business. Consolidation delivers economies of scale, allowing practices to grow and enhance their client services, for example through increased investment in advanced diagnostic and monitoring equipment.”
He also said that in the current market, practices are finding that they must be flexible and focus on staff benefits such as flexible working arrangements, health screening, health insurance, work/life balance initiatives, learning opportunities, mentoring and career progression.
" Rural practices are increasingly attractive where they eliminate long commutes and the offer of accommodation is also an attractive benefit in the current market.
"With Brexit potentially triggering the exit of some European vets from the UK, there may be opportunities to attract qualified veterinary personnel to Ireland.
“Few practice owners know what their practice is currently worth and most have not considered succession planning. By failing to properly plan ahead, vets are not just limiting the future value of their business, they are also jeopardising their retirement income,” Mr Butler said.