During the four years Dr. Marta Lista spent obtaining her degree from the prestigious University of Florida School of Veterinary Medicine, she learned many things. She learned about gross anatomy and embryology, studied parasitology, pharmacology and gastroenterology. She even got the pig talk, a lecture given by a professor to ensure students would pass the obscure but compulsory porcine section of the national boards.
And after graduating in 2000, her awards and achievements clearly reflected her success.
Her former dean chose her and just one other vet in the state to serve on the schools admissions committee; she was elected president of the South Florida Veterinary Medical Association; and in 2005 and again in 2006, her peers named her South Florida Veterinarian of the Year.
Yet, four years after Lista bought and took over the Trail Animal Hospital, a fixture on Southwest Eighth Street in Miami for a remarkable six decades, she found herself struggling. She was working six days a week, juggling the duties of being a solo practitioner while keeping an eye on the books, the staff, the inventory and the other demands of running her practice.
Veterinary school, it turns out, prepared her to be an awesome vet, but not such an awesome business owner.
They teach us the medicine but not the business and Im sure a lot of vets my age or older would have the same experience, she said. Thats harder than the medicine, for sure.
So Lista contacted The Miami Herald and asked for help making over her practice. The Herald, in turn, enlisted Luis M. Zuniga, a counselor with SCORE Miami-Dade, which offers a host of services to small businesses, including counseling, seminars on business practices and tutorials for programs like Intuits QuickBooks, the hugely popular accounting software for small businesses.
Zuniga, a retired executive and engineer, has more than 35 years of experience in executive sales and marketing with a wide range of expertise that includes setting up multinational corporations in Europe, Latin America and North America as well as a successful pet grooming franchise he founded with his son after retiring.
After chatting with Lista by phone, Zuniga paid a visit to Trail Animal Hospital. Part of what attracted Lista to the practice was not only its location on busy Eighth Street, but the clinic itself, a freestanding building that did not require the lease that came with other practices shed looked at in strip malls.
Id been looking for a while and there were very few for sale, she said, explaining that she knew the vet who owned Trail and thought he might be getting ready to retire. I waited five years and he finally called.
She immediately freshened up the building, giving it a new coat of bright white paint, striped awnings and a new sign. Exam rooms and a surgical suite got new stainless steel, thanks to her uncle, who owns a fabricating business. She installed boarding areas that include kennels for big animals and Plexiglas condos for smaller ones. The cat condo even includes a flat screen TV that plays a loop of a fish tank.
Zuniga found the clinic itself in great shape and only made one suggestion: a new sign, since the one Lista installed over the existing sign is small in comparison to nearby businesses and hidden by surrounding buildings.