How to Negotiate a Veterinary Associate Contract
How should you negotiate a veterinary associate contract? There are lots of things to consider when you want to negotiate your contract or what we call an employment agreement. The first thing you want to understand is how much leverage do you have and what I mean leverage, I mean, are you just out of your schooling? Do you have any experience? Are you specialized? If you’re specialized and there are very few of you in the veterinary industry, then you have more leverage. But if you’re just out of school for general veterinary practice, you might have a little less leverage. And then also, if you’ve been practicing and you have a substantial client base and you have lots of years of experience, then you may have more leverage in relation to that.
Once you understand how much leverage you have, then you need to understand what you should be asking for. The first thing I always see our clients want to negotiate is their base salary. Base salary or base compensation is just the flat, you’re going to get every month upon continuing your employment. The problem with this is normally how veterinarians are compensated is not only just through their base compensation. You’re also normally compensated through collections. That’s the typical sort of layout of compensation for really any type of veterinarian. Even if you’re specialized, it’s normally base compensation, and then there’s a part of collections. So yes, the base compensation is important, but there are so many other aspects to an employment agreement. Your percentage of collections can be huge. You want to fight probably for a larger percentage of collections over just a base salary because the base salary will never change unless you renegotiate in the future. But if you have a substantial client base and you know that you’re going to be bringing those clients in, you will want a higher percentage of your collections which you can make well over your base salary. It’s something to consider. I know base salary is the big number on an employment agreement, but you also want to think about collection percentage as well, because you can make a lot more money with a higher collection percentage if you know that you are going to be bringing in those clients.
Now, if you are right out of school and you do not have an established client base, and maybe you’re not replacing someone at a veterinary practice or clinic, they’re just expanding. It’s going to take you a while to build up that client base. Then you, in that situation, might want to fight for a higher base compensation or salary for a year or two, so that you can establish, as I said, that nice client base. Other things that can be more detrimental to you than even the compensation are those restrictive covenants. And what I mean by restrictive covenants are non-compete clauses, and non-solicitation clauses, but specifically the non-compete. Right now, the veterinary industry is booming and practices that are bringing on and employing veterinarians are protecting their interests.
And so, sometimes these non-competes can be unreasonable and can attach to many locations or just many miles from one practice. So, you really want to consider that because if you are establishing a client base, you’re working hard, you’re bringing in clients and then you decide to leave the practice or they decide to terminate their employment with you, you could have a serious problem. You might not be able to practice in the area. You could even have to up and move your family. Non-compete clauses are extremely important that you want to negotiate in your initial employment agreement. And a lot of times, it’s overlooked because it’s something way in the future. And you’re excited about this prospective future employer or you’re right out of school and you really want to start earning money.
And so, that’s what you’re really focused on, but non-competes are those sneaky clauses in employment agreements that can really hurt you in the future. I would say more than anything, a non-compete agreement is something that you should always negotiate. Now, they’re normally a mileage from specific locations that you can negotiate. And then also, for a specific period, they can be anywhere from six months to three years. And I would always try to negotiate that amount of time down and then always the miles down. When you’re negotiating how many miles, you also need to consider, can you find work outside of that restricted area without having to up and move? And then you also want to know what’s restricted. Sometimes the non-compete clauses specifically for veterinarians may just say that the practice of veterinary medicine, which is very general, and if you’re specialized, I would negotiate that it’s only within your specialty.
So, non-compete clauses want to negotiate those, most important. Non-solicitation clauses just mean you can’t solicit clients or employees coming with you. And sometimes that period can be negotiated down to six months or a year before you can reach out directly to those clients or to those employees. Then you have your sort of ancillary benefits. Your continuing education, typically you’re given an allowance every year, which is anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000 typically within a veterinary practice. You can negotiate that money because if you don’t, then you must pay for your continuing education to keep your license. So, that’s something I would negotiate as well. And then also any sort of dues, fees, licensing, all those costs really add up.
And we don’t think about that when we’re just looking at the base salary and how much money you’re going to make, but these sorts of costs can be negotiated at the beginning. And then it’s really going to save you a lot of money in the end, and a lot of headaches as well.
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