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Adapting to COVID-19 restrictions puts veterinary hospital back on track for expansion financing

UGA alumnus Dr. Mike Ammermon opened Pooler Veterinary Hospital in 2013 with one full-time and one part-time veterinarian and two staff members. By 2018, he had four veterinarians and 20 staff members, and needed more space.

His design for a new facility included seven exam rooms, two surgery units, a dental suite and separate treatment areas for dogs and cats.

A long-time client of the UGA Small Business Development Center, he worked with Becky Brownlee, area director of the Savannah office, to secure Small Business Administration (SBA) funding for the new hospital. Together, they developed a business plan and financial projections, which he took to the bank.

Then the coronavirus pandemic hit.

“The lender came back to us for project revisions,” Brownlee said. “They, like all lenders, were suddenly required to show the pandemic’s impact on all outstanding loan applications.”

“Our loan went on the back burner,” Ammermon said. “The larger question for us was how we’d continue to operate and keep our staff paid and intact. Fortunately, we could pivot and focus on how to take care of our clients’ pets under the new safety measures.”

Graphic to read Outreach magazine

The hospital instituted curbside service using new mobile pay readers. It saw only sick or emergency cases at first, eventually resuming normal functions. During the first two weeks, its workflow flipped from disrupted to efficient, putting its case volume and revenues back on track.

“So, we moved forward with the SBA loan, working with Becky to update our projections. That made the SBA comfortable with moving forward,” Ammermon said.”

“The lesson Mike brings to all businesses is, when something bad happens, make adjustments to your operations and continue on,” Brownlee said. “The hospital is flourishing now.”

“If a small business owner feels they’re moving into unfamiliar territory, it is very easy to contact the SBDC and get great advice,” Ammermon said. “I’ve found a good thing, so I’m sticking with it.”

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