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Clayton vet manager makes 100th acquisition, sees 'enormous' potential for more

"What we're able to do is help these doctors excel at being veterinarians and give them the time and support they need to be great"
Credit: SLBJ
CareVet CEO Greg Siwak said the Clayton company, which has already acquired 100 veterinary practices since its founding in 2018, sees room for more growth.

CLAYTON, Mo. — Clayton veterinary practice manager CareVet said it recently made its 100th acquisition since its founding in 2018, as it reaches annual revenue of more than $150 million and 1,600 employees.

And the firm, led by CEO Greg Siwak, said it sees "enormous" potential for more growth, as it operates in a sector that still counts huge numbers of independent vet operators.

Siwak, a former private equity executive, founded CareVet with Kent Thornberry, a doctor of veterinary medicine. They had backing from Compass Group Equity Partners, a St. Louis private equity firm led by Managing Partner John Huhn. CareVet first acquired two hospitals in Kansas City, and worked to build out corporate infrastructure while operating the facilities.

"For the first year we were working out of the Compass office, St. Louis Bread Co., out of my basement," Siwak said.

The idea then, as now, is that veterinarians often find themselves owning and operating their own hospitals, and may feel burdened by administrative tasks.

"What we're able to do is help these doctors excel at being veterinarians and give them the time and support they need to be great," Siwak said, adding that its services include human resources, legal, marketing, hiring, training and accounting.

The strategy 

CareVet acquires the practices — 15 in the first year, 35 in the second and 55 planned this year — but keeps their front-line teams and names in place. While the first acquisitions were in the Midwest, it now focuses on opportunities "nationwide," with clinics in 30 states.

Then, it invests in the facilities, sometimes with new equipment, locations or renovations. Upgrades, not including acquisition costs, can run several hundred thousand dollars to $1 million or more, Siwak said, adding that the company plans to invest $75 million in its facilities in the next five years. The company declined to say how much units can cost to acquire.

Siwak said CareVet in April moved all clinic employees to pay of at least $15 an hour, plus a "revenue bonus plan." It is also offering doctors signing bonuses, student loan support, child and dependent care of up to $5,000 a year, and $100,000 minimum base salaries, among other benefits.

The company reasons that "if you have the best wages, best trained teams and nicest facilities, you'll be best positioned to serve that community," Siwak said.

CareVet isn't alone in the vet operating space.

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