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Springfield, MO

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by Kris Ann Hegle

SBJ Contributing Writer

Ned Caldwell and his wife, Denise Roche, laugh about it now. But when they decided to build their own animal hospital just one year after completing veterinary school, the project seemed like quite a gamble.

The couple met while attending veterinary school at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Following graduation in 1991, they moved to Bloomington, Ill., where they took jobs at separate veterinary practices.

It didn't take long, however, before they decided to team up, move back to Missouri, and build their own business. In 1992, with the help of their families, Caldwell and Roche started Deerfield Veterinary Hospital, located at 2850 S. Ingram Mill Road.

"At the time, it was a huge undertaking," Caldwell said. "We both had just graduated from veterinary school, and we already owed a lot of money."

To ensure their success, Caldwell and Roche developed a business plan. The plan detailed what services they would provide, how much they would charge and where their business would be located.

When Deerfield opened, it was one of the first animal treatment facilities in south Springfield, according to Caldwell. Within six months, two other animal treatment facilities opened in the area, and within a year, another animal practice opened nearby.

"I still believe we have a good location," Caldwell said. "I'd say about 30 percent of our customers come to us because it's so convenient. A lot of families drive by and drop off their pet when they're taking their kids to school at Glendale, which is just down the road."

To distinguish themselves from other practices in the area, Caldwell and Roche keep extended business hours. The hospital is open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday. This allows customers to pick up or drop off their pets before going to work.

"We're a full-service animal hospital," Caldwell said. "We can board animals, groom them, give them medical care or perform surgery. We have our own in-house pharmacy, which saves pet owners time. We also have our own in-house lab, which is nice because you can get some test results back in 15 minutes instead of having to send them out and wait a whole day."

Unlike some veterinary practices that treat large animals, such as horses and cows, Deerfield mainly treats dogs and cats. According to Caldwell, dogs and cats require much more preventative medicine than other animals.

"Preventative medicine is where it's at," Caldwell said. "Part of our job is to make owners aware of how important it is to keep up with things like heart worm pills and vaccinations."

Caldwell and Roche also work to educate pet owners, especially those who have just moved to the Ozarks, about harmful parasites unique to the area.

"The thing that really sets us apart is service," Caldwell said. "A lot of places will spend 10 to 15 minutes on the animal's annual exam. We usually spend about 40 minutes. One of our goals is to see a patient over their entire lifetime."

According to Caldwell, although the couple had a rough first year as they worked to build their client base, Deerfield has grown by 10 percent to 15 percent in each of the subsequent years. Currently, Deerfield sees approximately 700 animals each month.

To keep productivity high and give workers at the practice an incentive to increase business, Caldwell and Roche adopted an open-book management style this spring. The couple meet with the staff weekly to get feedback and discuss ways to improve service.

A large bulletin board at Deerfield shows employees how many animals have been seen each month and lists what services were performed. When quarterly goals are met, employees receive a bonus, according to Caldwell.

"Denise and I believe in open-book management," Caldwell said. "We wanted the staff to be more involved and know what it takes to run the business. By telling them the bottom line, we've empowered them."

As Deerfield continues to expand, Caldwell and Roche have discussed adding another vet to their practice, which would allow them to not only to serve more customers, but also to have more time off to spend together. Working as a husband-and-wife team, has its challenges, according to Caldwell and Roche, but it also has its benefits.

"I value his opinion, and I trust his medical judgment completely," Roche said. "Each of us knows what the other does best, and as a team, we complement each other well."

DEERFIELD VETERINARY HOSPITAL:

Management philosophy:

Open book

Year founded: 1992

Address and phone number:

2850 S. Ingram Mill Road,

Springfield, Mo. 65804

889-2727

Owners: Dr. Ned Caldwell and

Dr. Denise Roche

PHOTO CAPTION:

(right to left) Melany Hambleton (holding Snowball), Ross Mattox, Marmonnie DeMalleo, Denise Roche (holding Rudy), Candice Miller, Lisa Woodyard, Julie Hays and Ned Caldwell (holding Chickory).

PHOTO CAPTION:

From grooming and boarding to preventative care and surgery, Deerfield Veterinary Hospital offers a full range of services. Above, employee Julie Hays provides a Deerfield client with a stylish new 'do. [[In-content Ad]]

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