University of Wisconsin–Madison

harmonyVets

In Harmony with Pets and their Owners

harmonyVet Acupuncture and Spine Care Supports Animals Holistically

So your pet needs some extra care. Maybe she’s an athlete who works her body hard doing dog agility, or maybe she’s got arthritis and needs a little bit of pain relief. harmonyVet Acupuncture & Spine Care [http:// www.harmonyvet.com/] in Madison, run by veterinarians Lynne Dennis and Dawn Mogilevsky, is here to help.

“There are certain situations in which holistic veterinary care is very appropriate, and we get referrals from a number of veterinary clinics in the area,” explains Dr. Mogilevsky. “Our two most common types of referrals are animals with chronic arthritis pain and pets with limb weakness from spinal cord problems.”

“We also support cancer patients—we can’t cure it, but we can support their bodies and help them feel well—and pets with chronic GI illnesses,” adds Dr. Mogilevsky. “We also see allergy patients and dogs who are healthy but active athletes in agility, fly ball, and field trial—who work their bodies really hard. We help them stay healthy and recover from injuries.”

Drs. Dennis and Mogilevsky were general practice veterinarians for over ten years before each of them decided to complete additional training in acupuncture, spinal manipulation, and herbal medicine.

“There always seemed to be some animals that I wished I could do more for, especially concerning pain control,” writes Dr. Dennis in her biography on the harmonyVet website. “My goal is to provide the most appropriate and helpful holistic treatment to my patients to best improve their comfort, quality of life, and longevity.”

While still in general practice, both doctors switched focus to holistic veterinary medicine, integrating their services into other veterinarian’s practices and establishing house call practices, before deciding to go into practice as a team.

“We set up this practice to offer unique services, and we wanted to establish an environment in which animals will be comfortable, without the frenzy of regular, busy, full-service practices,” explains Dr. Dennis. “It’s a relaxed setting that feels like a home, with rugs on the floor, massage beds for cats and dogs, and blankets.” Drs. Dennis and Mogilevsky designed the space themselves, creating a flow for the space that they say uses every inch purposefully.

When the two veterinarians were looking for their office space in the spring of 2012, they turned to the Small Business Development Center at UW-Madison, working with business consultant Rena Gelman.

“We were trying to figure out how to set up the business, when I found SBDC, called and happened to get Rena,” says Dr. Mogilevsky. “She immediately started to put my life in order. Out of chaos, she created order—priorities, action items.”

Dr. Dennis had taken SBDC’s small business development course in 2003, before starting her house call practice, and isn’t sure she could have opened her own practice without it.

“When we went to veterinary school, there wasn’t a business course,” she says. “I didn’t feel qualified to run a business and hadn’t done it before. Rena was helpful beyond words.” Gelman helped Drs. Dennis and Mogilevsky create a business concept—they had two separate businesses and ended up in what Gelman tells them is a unique situation, in which they share their lease and space and maintain their own unique businesses. “She told us, if you’re going to run a business, here’s what you need to do,” says Dr. Mogilevsky. “She helped us establish a framework of guidelines and goals and figure out how to follow through, step by step.”Gelman also helped the two veterinarians choose a location that would be convenient for people locally and from out of town; helped them prepare to negotiate their lease and set priorities; referred them to the Law and Entrepreneurship clinic at the UW-Madison School of Law for legal guidance; and helped them develop their brochure. “It has been remarkably helpful to have someone besides me or Dawn look at the big picture and make sure we’re making good choices,” says Dr. Dennis. “Rena’s been an invaluable resource for us.”

The veterinary practice’s initial marketing, via its website, brochure, and elevator pitch, aimed to introduce the practice to general practice veterinarians and veterinary clinics for referrals. Now, the practice relies on veterinary referrals, word of mouth, Yelp and Facebook pages, and they run ads from time to time in the local Monona paper and neighborhood newsletters. When they have time, Drs. Dennis and Mogilevsky have given talks at veterinary continuing education meetings, the UW-School of Veterinary Medicine, veterinary clinics, and Madison College. harmonyVet has relationships with veterinarians in Madison, Sun Prairie, Waunakee, Oregon, Verona, Janesville, and Beloit, and even sees clients from out of state.

“Rena helped us figure out who our targets should be, the demographics of our clientele, and how to reach them,” says Dr. Mogilevsky. “She has continued to help us as our practice has grown.”

The three met weekly while the business was getting established, then cut back to monthly. They didn’t have much contact for a few years, save occasional email check-ins and catch-up lunches. However, in the past year, as harmonyVet has grown to the point where both veterinarians are busier than they want to be, Gelman has helped them transition, meeting with them once or twice a month. “As we’ve gotten busier and busier, she’s helped us decide whether to expand or stay where we are,” says Dr. Mogilevsky. “She’s an amazing resource. We love her.”

“We’re very busy; we really like our physical space; and we appreciate the close relationships we have with our patients and clients,” says Dr. Dennis. “Dawn and I do everything—all the calls, ordering, and client contact—and we don’t want that to change.” Gelman helped them think through how aspects of their practice might change if they chose to add staff.

“I feel like we have some pretty good respect in the veterinary community, and we want to continue to educate whoever is interested about whom our services can help,” says Dr. Dennis. “We have long appointment times and spend time in the room with our clients, getting to know the animals and people really well.” harmonyVet has been so successful that a new veterinarian is joining the practice this year. “Having a third person will help us work fewer hours, finish earlier, and not have to book clients several weeks to a month out,” says Dr. Dennis. “Our biggest challenge has been getting people in who need to be seen in a timely manner. Overall, I feel really satisfied.”

“We think everything we have achieved has been through Rena’s support,” says Dr. Mogilevsky. “I don’t think we would have gotten here without her.”