Practice Management News and Views from around the World – April 2011

red line

UK flag

SPVS and VPMA announce a series of joint training courses for the practice team

How do you keep existing clients and win new ones?

In a tough economic climate, it pays to have your marketing, business management and staff communication in top shape. Send your head nurse on a communications course, your junior partner on a leadership training day, or your practice manager on a marketing workshop and watch the impact on your bottom line!

With this in mind, SPVS and VPMA have come together to launch a programme of training courses for vets, managers, nurses and receptionists. The programme has been designed so that each event stands alone but, taken together, they offer complementary tools to improve overall practice performance. Each day will have a professional facilitator and will include a mix of lectures, case studies, interactive workshops and panel Q&A sessions.

Each day will run from 10:00 — 16:00 and delegates will receive course notes, a CPD certificate, lunch and light refreshments. Successful management involves the whole practice team. To help with this, we are offering substantial discounts for multiple bookings from the same practice

Practice Health Check – 4th May, Birmingham

Making a profit but short of cash? Veterinary accountants, Hazlewoods’ new, interactive workshop will demonstrate how getting the right data, and using it to forecast cash flow, can help you plan a successful future. Plus tips on making tax efficiency simple. Onswitch will look at how to gather and interpret information about your clients: who they are, how much they spend and what they think. With contributions from relevant case studies.

Smart Talking – 26th May, Birmingham

A fun, informative, communications day for nurses and receptionists including actors role-playing different scenarios. This training course, run by the Veterinary Defence Society, covers attentive listening, questioning styles, appropriate language, empathy and support, as well as the skills required to handle difficult situations including anger, grief, fee issues and complaints

Letting it Happen – 8th June, Milton Keynes

How to implement the change required to realise practice goals and take your whole team with you. Pfizer’s consultancy division, VetSupport+, will facilitate this interactive day for people managers and future line managers. Topics include identifying roles and responsibilities, achieving team effectiveness, and managing performance over the year

Making Your Voice Heard – 5th July, Milton Keynes

Practical tips on how to stand out in an increasingly crowded market. Facilitated by Onswitch with contributions from related professions, this session will include writing a marketing plan, training reception staff, implementing a marketing makeover, and exploiting Google and Facebook

Safe & Sound – 16th & 17th June, Birmingham

Attend just one day or sign up for both. Day 1: Is your team safe? Is it operating within the law? A practical update or introduction to current H&S requirements including radiation, anaesthetics, waste regulation, COSHH & Risk Assessments, staff safety etc Day 2: Best practice or more red tape? Current medicine legislation and predicted changes to the law covering internet pharmacies, the cascade, herbals, nosodes and nutritional therapies, and why compliance matters. The Practice Standards Scheme and clinical governance: what you need to know. Employment law in relation to staff safety, maternity issues, new retirement legislation, working time directives, CRB checks etc

You can click here to visit the SPVS website for more details and to register

You can click here to visit the VPMA website and to register

red line

Is Your Vet Practice a Jazz Club or an Orchestra?

by Dave Nicol

For a practice to run smoothly all the bits have to work together — starting from the top in the form of a vision from the leader, which is transmitted outwards and downwards
using clear communication, objectives for all the team and regular feedback and review. The result is a well-oiled machine. I compare this to the beautiful music produced by
an orchestra. The analogy works.

An orchestra plays music composed by someone inspired with an ‘auditory vision’ (cringing apologies for the oxymoron of the century). The sheet music is like the job
description and written objectives. There is a conductor who manages the production of music and, of course, the musicians who perform the technical task of making noise.

Then there’s another kind of music, one of a rather more disharmonious nature. Jazz.

It is often said that jazz music is five musicians on the same stage each playing a completely different tune. The analogy for describing business continues, as many small
businesses are run more like the jazz band than the orchestra.

There is no clear direction to a jazz tune; the entire thing is more freewheeling and fluid than other forms of music. The musicians express themselves openly and, at times, the
result (to my ears anyway) is chaotic. Hardly the impression you’d want your healthcare business to make.


The problem is often leadership. All small businesses (like vet clinics) have owners, but how many have leaders? And how exactly do you define a leader?

I heard a pretty good working definition a few days ago, which was that leaders have followers. They inspire people to get behind a clear vision. Managers push people, leaders
pull people.

Jazz Management

So what type of practice is yours? A well-run orchestra or a jazz band? Jazz management is what happens when there is no single, clear vision. Into the vacuum created by a lack of owner vision the ideas and vision of others will be sucked and mixed up.

The result? A group of people working to individual agendas, all pulling in different directions. Or as I like to called it — Jazz Management.

In these situations factions, cliques and conflict can arise more readily. The disharmony causes problems with motivation and a team routine is hard to develop. Sound familiar?

Create and Articulate Your Vision

If your practice is showing signs of dischord, then ask yourself if you have a clear vision. If you don’t then it’s time to get your thinking cap on.
If you do have a vision then ask a few of your team members if they know what it is. If they don’t know what the vision is then perhaps you’re not communicating it well enough.

Regardless of your musical preference, when it comes to business, clients are more likely to favour a team approach than individualistic chaos.

So do everyone a favour and leave the Jazz to Ronnie Scott!

You can click here to visit Dave Nicols website

red line

australian flag

Switched On

Australian Veterinary Business Association launches programme for AVBA Conference, Melbourne 2011


red line

USA flag

14 Issues which your practice partnership agreement should have addressed

from an article by Charlotte Lacroix DVM JD

  • What happens when you die? Will your heirs receive a fair price, or any price for your investment in the practice? Will they remain locked into that investment forever? Will your heirs collect profits from the practice? What if the other partner (who is getting paid under his practice employment contract) has voting control and decides not to distribute profits? If your heirs are to be bought out, who sets the purchase price? How and by whom is it paid? If part of the purchase price is paid with a promissory note, is the same secured? How? What if the practice is not profitable enough to pay the note?
  • What happens when your partner dies? Your deceased partner’s heirs are now your new partners. Barring a fluke, your new partners will not be veterinarians. Does your State permit non-veterinarian practice owners? Will they want to be bought out or stay and collect profits from the practice? (Without contributing to profit generation of course.) If the deceased partner was a large shareholder, or the majority interest holder, the heirs will also inherit your deceased partner’s voting rights. Do you want to share practice
    management with, or be managed by, such persons? What if the heirs squabble among themselves, leading to management paralysis and/or litigation? Do you fancy having the practice run by a court-appointed receiver? If the heirs are to be bought out, who determines the purchase price? How and by whom is it paid? If there’s a note, is it secured? How?
  • What if you are permanently disabled? Will you receive a fair price, or any price for your investment in the practice? Will you remain locked into your investment forever? Will you collect profits from the practice? What if the remaining partner decides not to distribute profits? If you are to be bought out, who sets the purchase price? By whom and how is it paid? If there’s a note, is it secured? How?
  • What if your partner is permanently disabled? Will your disabled partner want to be bought out or stay and collect practice profits (without generating any of same)? A disabled partner’s interests will be different then yours, so if he was the managing and/or majority partner, how will he run the practice? Will he be able to run the practice? What if the disabled partner is mentally disabled? If your disabled partner is to be bought out, who determines the purchase price? How and by whom is it paid? If there’s a note, is it secured? How?
  • What if your partner goes nuts? You don’t want a mentally unstable person practicing veterinary medicine. But if such partner is the majority partner you can’t fire him, because he, not you, controls the practice entity. The same problem arises for equal partners. Sure your mentally disabled partner could voluntarily remove himself, but can you rely on that? What if the majority partner has a guardian? How will the guardian run the practice? What if the majority partner or guardian fires you?
  • What if your partner should be fired as veterinarian-employee? Suppose your partner becomes lazy or his child becomes ill and decides to work significantly less hours or stop working altogether. Suppose your partner becomes a substance abuser and consequently unfit to practice veterinary medicine. Or he steals from the practice. Or he harasses employees and/or abuses clients and/or patients. The foregoing would be grounds for terminating a veterinarian employee. But if your partner is the majority or an equal partner you can’t fire him (as explained in the preceding paragraph).
  • What if you no longer get along? Should the practice be dissolved? If not, who should leave? At what price should the departing partner be bought out? How and by whom is it paid? If there’s a note, is it secured? How?
  • In a 50/50 practice how are disagreements handled? What happens when each party has equal voting/management rights and a serious disagreement arises? How will the resulting deadlock be resolved?
  • What if your partner wants to drop out, buy a boat and sail around the world? Should your partner be permitted to withdraw? If not, how do you keep your partner from just resigning as an employee (in light of the constitutional prohibition of involuntary servitude)? What if your ex-partner discovers he’s chronically sea-sick and comes back to set up a veterinary practice next store (using the client list he kept when he left)? If a partner is permitted to withdraw, who determines the purchase price? By whom and how is it paid? If there’s a note, is it secured? How?
  • What if your partner divorces? If the divorced spouse has, or is awarded, a portion of your partner’s practice equity interest, the divorced spouse becomes a partner. Ménages à trois make great literature and film themes but always end badly.
  • What if your partner goes bankrupt? Do you fancy your partner’s creditor as your new partner? It won’t be fun to have a bank running, or having a say in running, the practice. Worse, the bank likely will want to sell your partner’s share to a competitor.
  • Who’s got the land? The small animal practice’s most valuable asset is its location, because most clients won’t travel far for pet treatment. As zoning restrictions get ever tighter, good practice locations become ever rarer (and more expensive). If, as is frequently the case, one partner owns the practice premises, what happens when he dies, is disabled, withdraws, resigns, divorces and/or goes bankrupt?
  • What if another veterinarian wants to buy your partner’s interest in the practice? Should your partner be allowed to sell without your approval? Should you have a right of first offer? A right of first refusal?
  • If your partner is not your retirement plan, then who? If you don’t have a firm agreement with your partner to sell your practice interest to him (or someone else) upon your retirement, then how are you going to retire using your investment in the practice as your nest egg? What if both partners want to retire at the same time?
  • You can click here to visit the Veterinary Business Advisors website

    red line

    UK flag

    Joined up thinking…

    VetGrad is a new on-line facility for graduate vets up to 5 years qualified and membership is growing fast! The aim of VetGrad is to bring together all the best resources for new vets in one place including jobs, free CPD, weekly articles and competitions. “We are pleased to announce that VetGrad has recently joined forces with Vetpol” says Thomas Rees, Cambridge graduate and website founder. He goes onto explain” we want to provide our members with a secure forum where they can share tips, exchange experience and generally support one another without members of the public and more senior vets (such as the boss!) prying”.

    If you are a recent graduate and want to join this growing online community, you can click here for your free registeration

    red line

    australian flag

    How to make more money in your career

    Some business tips from Winston Marsh

    • Your attitude affects your altitude! When you bounce out of bed, when you meet people, when things go right, when things go wrong tell yourself that you are fantastic and guess what… your life will become fantastic. You see your brain doesn’t know the difference between real and imagined situations so if you tell your brain you’re fantastic that’s exactly what it will work to make you become! When you feel fantastic you are more productive… and the most productive people get most rewards.
    • Do what others don’t do! If you do what everybody else does you get what everybody else gets… you’ll be average! So the secret is to look for things (in both your business and personal life) that the others don’t do– and then do them! Now that doesn’t mean doing stupid things or changing for the sake of change– it means looking for ways to do things better.
    • Do something different every day! If you do the same thing day after day you’re going to get the same result. How many times can you walk down the same street and fall down the same hole before you realise you can walk down a different street! So try something different– and, if it works, adopt it! If it doesn’t work then just go back to what you were doing and then try something else. You’ve got a 50/50 chancel of getting it right… and they are great odds!
    • Tell the boss to pay you more! Yes that’s exactly what I said but remember this– money can neither be created nor destroyed– you can’t put more or less than 100 cents in the dollar– so if you want to be paid more you need to help the boss make more money. So, no matter what your role, you should find ways to help the boss achieve that. Ask yourself how can we do this easier, faster, more effectively, less expensively, with less people, and so on. You see whenever you make any part of the business more productive you add to the bottom line.
    • What gets measured gets done. If you don’t have a clearly defined objective in mind then you are less than likely to even attempt what ever you want to achieve. You’ve got to focus clearly and specifically and then regularly check progress. If you know you are measuring your progress (or your team members know that you are measuring theirs) guess what? It gets done.
    • And, of course, what gets rewarded gets repeated! Your mother probably bribed you with lollies on her knee to take the nasty medicine and thus taught you to respond to reward… and when the reward is good you want to do it again! And so do team members.
    • Financial independence is when only you go to work coz you want to. Most people go to work because they have to. So work to create that financial independence.

    Get cracking on these points and stay tuned for more tips next time.

    red line

    UK flag

    The Yellow Pages Are Dead – Marketing Your Veterinary Practice in the Digital Age


    Author, Dave Nicol draws from his experiences of being a vet, a business owner and a veteran website editor (having managed no fewer than six commercial
    websites in the last decade). In his customarily upfront, plain-spoken and highly practical way he has created an easy read that teaches you everything you need to know about operating an effective website.

    After Reading The Yellow Pages Are Dead You Will:

    • Understand why the web is useful to your practice
    • Learn how to create remarkable content for you practice website
    • Harness the power of social media and drive more visitors to your practice website
    • Convert online prospects into paying customers in your clinic.
    • Create an amazing website that is an asset to your practice not an embarrassment.

    You can order your copy here and now – just click on the PayPal link:

    red line