Black unemployment

The Vet Life stars serve up prescription for business success

The Vet Life stars serve up prescription for business success

For many people, the idea of being an entrepreneur can seem ideal and even glamorous. Under the best conditions, only 33-percent of all businesses survive 10 years or more, per the U.S. Labor Department. And, most businesses don’t last beyond 24 months. Drs. Diarra Blue, Michael Lavigne, III, and Aubrey Ross, II, owners of the Houston-area Cy-Fair Animal Hospital, avoided that fate by optimizing their staff and resources and investing in themselves.

“Business management is challenging because not only do you have to perform the medicine. You also have to do the administrative, clerical, and financial responsibilities as well,” informs Ross, who says entrepreneurship offers the only real employment security.

“One of the biggest advantages of being an owner is that you never have to worry about losing your job. I had a car accident and injured my hip. I was out for several months,” Ross recalls. “The guys took care of the hospital. I never heard, ‘hey you need to hurry back.’ I was able to take care of my family and not have to worry about whether I would have my job. My partners are really for me.”

Dr. Aubrey Ross, II examines an iguana.

The Tuskegee-trained veterinarians are starring in the third season of The Vet Life, an Animal Planet reality series that premieres Saturday, January 13 at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT. They say business success begins with understanding that you offer a valuable service and being comfortable with getting paid for that service.

“I tell students and other people looking to become veterinarians to charge every time. We went to school to train for our craft and we are experts. That is valuable. So you have to communicate your value to your clients,” Blue advises.

Lavigne adds, “We offer a service, but, our hospital is not a charity. We have to pay ourselves, our employees, expenses, and taxes.”

Maximizing staff morale and production is another business success requirement.

“You really have to hire people that are not only competent, but also passionate about your business. You and your employees have to see eye-to-eye,” Blue enlightens. “We cannot welcome our clients into the hospital. We cannot walk them to the waiting rooms. We cannot perform surgery and monitor our patients’ vital at the same time. So, all of our employees have to represent us and help us serve our clients well.”

Another component is judicious cash and resource management.

“Make more than you spend. Managing a business is a dynamic thing. You have to stay on top of everything. We have to manage our capital and resources. For example, we want to make sure we don’t have too much medicine in stock. Sometimes we may have to outsource that,” Blue explains. “As veterinarians, vaccinations is are a very important part of our business. But, we want to make sure that we have just the right amount in stock. Because we don’t want to get a report that says these vaccines are out of date or no longer needed.”

In addition to optimizing your staff and remaining profitable, Lavigne says entrepreneurs must always invest in their skills and expand capacity.

“It’s very important to invest in yourself. Ross has been interested in exotic animals. So, we sacrificed and paid for him to get additional training,” Lavigne offers. “Now, we can offer services to exotic animals and profit off those services. I invested in continuing education that allowed me to learn an orthopedic surgical procedure. Now, we can offer that.”

Lastly, Ross attributes their competitive advantages to family and spirituality.

“We are all family-oriented. If we have to do something with our kids, we have the flexibility to handle it,” Ross reveals. “And, any time we make a big decision, we all pray and put God first.”

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Zach Rinkins is an educator, former college administrator, and Associated Press award-winning multi-media journalist committed to transforming college students into emerging professionals. A sought after speaker, he drew from those experiences to write I Am College Material! Your Guide to Unlimited College, Career, and Life Success (Australia Publishing). You can connect with Zach on Facebook and Twitter at @ZachRinkins or

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