Q&A With PetSmart's First Independent Veterinary Operator

PetSmart’s first Independent veterinary operator explains why other practice owners should look into owning their own PetSmart clinic.
Kerry Lengyel
Published: August 03, 2018
PetSmart has already collaborated with Banfield Pet Hospital by offering veterinary health clinics inside various PetSmart store locations. But, according to PetSmart, this collaboration does not reach all the locations where the company is looking to provide veterinary care.

To expand its reach, PetSmart has opened its doors to independent veterinary operators (IVOs).  “An IVO will have the opportunity to connect with pet parents and help grow their client base,” said Jennifer Freeman, DVM, PetSmart’s resident veterinarian, “while PetSmart associates will be able to suggest customers discuss a certain pet concern with our IVO if it is a more detailed health concern.”

How to Become an IVO
According to PetSmart, the ideal candidate is an independent veterinarian or group who currently owns/operates less than 50 veterinary practices and wants to grow their business by operating a full-service clinic inside a PetSmart location. An IVO should have a strong sense of community, customer engagement, dynamic collaboration, skills, and focus on driving detailed veterinarian services.

To gain more insight into what becoming an IVO means, American Veterinarian® spoke with to PetSmart’s first IVO—veterinary entrepreneur and business marketing adviser Shannon Scholten—who recently opened a clinic within a PetSmart in Las Vegas, Nevada.

As a manager for Banfield Pet Hospital, Scholten grew 6 practices exponentially and was offered to charter her first practice prior to her 18th birthday. She has since owned and operated 2 Banfield Pet Hospitals, 4 independent animal hospitals, a mobile grooming company, a pet boarding resort and spa, as well as several other businesses.

Why did you decide to become a PetSmart IVO? 

Shannon Scholten: As a previous Banfield Pet Hospital manager and charter practice owner, I have worked closely with the company for nearly a decade. I have an amazing relationship with store leadership and saw such potential beyond the 4 walls of my locations. I recognized the positive influence veterinary medicine has on helping PetSmart continue to provide quality to its patrons and saw great potential beyond the basic preventive care medicine that Banfield provided.

For me, being an IVO was 100% necessary for my brand to continue to expand and provide the Las Vegas Valley and the United States with full-service and quality veterinary care. My partners and I can truly invest in the health, happiness, and healing of lives and reach the pet parent community one PetSmart at a time.

How do you schedule your time between your PetSmart location and your other practices?

SS: I own and operate 3 veterinary medical locations in the Las Vegas/Henderson area. It is important to divide my time by working smarter, not harder. I focus on team building and layer management to be successful. Also, I have been asked to be a keynote speaker at many veterinary colleges, and quality recruitment is key. I will only be as successful as my partner doctors and staff.  

How do you think becoming a PetSmart IVO will grow your business?

SS: It has allowed me to transition my “urgent care” model to a “hospital and urgent care” model. I took one of my existing practices and relocated it to my current IVO location. This has allowed me to focus on building a routine clientele instead of only emergency and urgent care–based business. Due to the quality of medicine we provide, we have received a lot of interest from our community to operate during the daytime as well as late night. This transition has allowed me to fulfill our community’s needs.

Why do you think other veterinary practice owners should become PetSmart IVOs?

SS: Being inside a PetSmart location can dramatically reduce the stressors of advertising, marketing, and development, all of which are imperative to success. By saving the time and energy on a buildout, a veterinarian can focus on the medical goals they have established for their IVO. PetSmart offers the stability, location, and foot traffic to help any practice grow beyond their dreams. 

Interested in learning more about becoming a PetSmart IVO? Reach out to ivo@petsmart.com.

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