Dr. Natalie McLaughlin: Seller Story

The Road to Big Lick and Practice Ownership

As part of a military family, Dr. Natalie McLaughlin was used to moving and living in many different places but Virginia was always home. She finished high school in Virginia Beach, graduated from Virginia Tech in 1995, and began building her life in Roanoke. She earned her veterinary medicine degree from VA-MD Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in 2000 and after graduation, began her professional career at a rural practice in Franklin County, Va.

After having children, Natalie was able to adjust her schedule to part-time but still had a 45-minute drive between work and home. To try to close that gap, she began exploring opportunities closer to home, and after nine years, she stayed part-time but moved to Big Lick Veterinary Services, a practice owned by a friend in Roanoke.

She didn’t know it at the time, but her friend was thinking about her successor plans when bringing Natalie to Big Lick Veterinary Services. Just a year later in 2010, her friend approached her to buy the practice. Practice ownership interested her, but knew she didn’t want to do it alone so she reached out to a friend, Dr. Jon Amos.

They believed in the growth potential of the practice and decided to take the plunge together. Economic conditions at the time made it extremely difficult to secure a loan from a bank, but they figured out how to personally finance the purchase, with the help of friends and family.

Though neither Natalie nor Jon had experience in running a business and didn’t learn about practice ownership in veterinary school, they made it work. They doubled the size of the business in four years, paid off their debts, and built a sustainable practice that allowed them to practice veterinary medicine the way they had always wanted.

In Need of Support

Natalie and Jon were strong business partners, and their relationship was solid. But as Big Lick continued to grow, the operations of the practice became more complex and the administrative work grew. Natalie and Jon were both practicing veterinary medicine full-time, managing their family lives and running the business and soon work-life balance was a thing of the past. The hardships and challenges of the pandemic in 2020 only exacerbated the situation. Natalie began to notice that she and Jon were starting to have decision fatigue and were on the road to burning out, When Jon approached her and said he’d like them to have a conversation with Bronson Makeeff at VetEvolve, she was hesitant but knew getting help was something they needed to explore.

The Journey to VetEvolve

Natalie was nervous about considering a partnership with a veterinary consolidator because she was adverse to change. She knew she still had many years ahead of her in her career and didn’t want to be told how to practice veterinary medicine. But Jon assured her they would find the right partner for them.

While they ended up having conversations with all of the industry players, VetEvolve stood out for its people-first focus, especially as it took the time to get to know them and listen to their goals and concerns. VetEvolve ensured that Natalie and Jon were comfortable with the growth plans for the future and the support they would receive as part of the VetEvolve community.

As a result of the time spent building trust, there were no surprises in the due diligence process, the start of the partnership went smoothly, and everything VetEvolve promised during the discussions was followed through on post-close.

“They didn’t want to change us as doctors, or people,” Natalie said. “We could keep the small business feel and personal touches we had built while getting help.”

The Right Decision at the Right Time

“The decision to partner with VetEvolve was the right one, across the board”, Natalie said.

Assistance with business operations helped them gain peace of mind and was important to restoring balance in their lives. Financially, the decision aligned with their goals for leaving a legacy and their retirement planning. Just as importantly, the VetEvolve partnership allowed them to continue to practice medicine—without the strain of managing every aspect of the business. Natalie said her fears of micromanagement have never materialized. Most of Big Lick’s clients have no idea of the partnership—the practice is essentially still the same local business focused on its community and patients.

“I still have probably 20 more years to practice until I retire,” Natalie said. “I expect I’ll be doing that with VetEvolve until then.”

It was not an easy decision to explore a partnership with VetEvolve. But for Natalie, Jon, and Big Lick it was certainly the right one.

“It was freeing for us,” she said. “We can now go in and be the very best veterinarians we can be.

“VetEvolve took away the burden of the minutiae of running a business. It has allowed us to pay attention to our mental health, our physical health, our families, and our patients.”

Learn What VetEvolve Can Do For You

When you’re looking to sell your practice, VetEvolve is here to help. Reach out to us today to see how we can help you reach your goals.

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