Practice Management News and Views from around the World – April 2012

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What’s happening in small animal practice in the UK

Selected data from the MAI consolidated report to January 2012



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Undertaking a SWOT Analysis for your practice

from an article by Mark Gorman published on the Vets2 websiste – a sister company of VetsNow

You wot? Wot’s a swot analysis?

It’s one of the oldest marketing analysis tools in the book, and it can be as effective for Pedigree Petfoods as it can be for your local Veterinary Practice.

It’s a fantastic tool to really focus the mind on how you should be running the overall marketing of your practice, and it is perfect to help you work out what are the best messages to put onto your website, your blog, local newspaper ads and posters on the notice board; anything really.

It’s an acronym that stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, and it’s a tool for auditing an organisation and its competitive environment. It should be the first stage of your marketing plan, and it will help you focus on key issues facing your practice.

It’s as simple as this…Just ask yourself (in fact don’t ask yourself – get a representative team from the practice round the table and ask everyone to reach consensus on these questions – because SWOTs can be very subjective).


  • What are your advantages?
  • What do you do well?
  • What do you do best in your competitive territory?
  • Don’t be modest, be realistic.
  • Why do your customers keep coming back to you?
  • What do you specialise in?
  • Think about it from an internal point of view and from that of your clients


  • What could be improved?
  • What do you do badly?
  • What do your competitors do better than you?
  • Think not just about your marketing but about clinical skills, service, hospitality and approach.
  • Think about the working environment and the customer facing environment.
  • Again think about it from an internal point of view and from that of your clients


  • Where are the big (or small) potential gains?
  • How can you exploit competitors weaknesses?
  • What new services can you introduce?
  • What aspect of your staffing is being underutilised?
  • Where are you simply missing a trick?
  • What’s new?
  • What’s trending that you could latch onto?
  • Think about clinical advances, ways to exploit technology, ways to communicate better
  • Is your local environment changing. New housing estates, a local practice closed or closing?
  • Are there big local events on the horizon that you could take a stand at?
  • Have you won awards or recognition?
  • Has anyone amongst your staff done something amazing?


  • What obstacles do you face?
  • What is your competition up to that wories you?
  • Are there any new regulations looming that you need to prepare for?
  • Might key people leave? Do they have itchy feet?
  • Is the working environment as good as it used to be, or could it be better?
  • Is cash an issue?
  • Is technology a worry?


So, try it for yourself. It’s an easy process. It will give you real focus and out of this you will be able to decide what tools, processes and communications you need to put your practice, ultimately, in a more competitive place.

Go on. Be a SWOT!

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VPMA throws open its doors…!


Pauline Graham, President VPMA

As with other groups, one of the main advantages of being a member of the Veterinary Practice Managers Association (VPMA) is the opportunity to network with like-minded individuals. And the VPMA recognises the importance of this activity so takes things one step further…

In addition to a bustling Annual Congress and various regional CPD events, the VPMA has an active online forum where members can contact one another at any time to share ideas, problems and resources; this has been a great success in recent years. So much so, that the Association has now made the big decision to throw open the doors of its once-private forum and invite other members of the veterinary community to join in on the discussions.

“Practice management is becoming an increasingly challenging role” says Pauline Graham, VPMA President. “As a consequence, our members are getting real value from the opportunity to discuss issues, ask advice, seek recommendations and read about the problems faced by others in similar situations. A problem shared is a problem halved; we feel that by inviting the rest of the vet community to participate in our forum, we can give even greater value to our existing members and also offer this fantastic facility to others outside our Association”.

So, if you too are facing the challenges of practice management and would like to stay in touch with others who can support and help you in your role, then please log onto and go to the VPMA forum, where you can ask questions, share your views or simply observe.

You can click here to visit the VPMA website

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It’s better to be safe than sorry

by Bob Proctor

When you were growing up, how often did you hear the words, “It’s better to be safe than sorry”? Probably too often, especially when you became aware that most people who played it safe ended up sorry. It is the risk takers who generally end up winners!

How many people do you know who have passed up a magnificent opportunity because they might have had to mortgage their house or quit the job they had held for a number of years. Rather than step out boldly, they stepped back into safety.

Abraham Maslow said you will either step forward into growth or step back into safety. He also advised us if you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life.

I am not suggesting that you become irresponsible, which is quite different from taking risks, although I will agree it is a fine line that separates the two.

The opposite of taking a risk is, of course, playing it safe. The latter would probably be a reasonable way of life for seventy or eighty years if you had a contract to live for a thousand years. Playing it safe is a pretty dull way to live and you end up looking back on your life wondering what would have happened if you had done this or tried that.

People who play it safe are generally not very exciting. In fact, they would probably border on being very boring. On a scale of one to ten as a risk taker, where do you stand?

Add a little spice to your life today and take a risk. Remember, if you play it safe you may end up sorry.

You can click here to visit Bob Proctors website

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Companion Care Vets named in The Sunday Times 100 Best Companies To Work For


Companion Care Vets has been named as one of The Sunday Times 100 Best Companies To Work For and becomes the first veterinary organisation ever to be named in the
prestigious listing that showcases the best companies to work for in the UK.

The veterinary group has 90 surgeries across the UK, the majority within Pets at Home stores and launched its joint venture partner model in 2001. Companion Care Vets
receives a “first class” one-star status and is ranked at number 69 overall; a position determined by employee views, staff policies, processes and services.

Best Companies Accreditation is based around employee engagement and listed companies are noted for “excelling in every area throughout the workplace.” Particularly recognised
is an organisation’s commitment to its most important assets – its workforce.

Jane Balmain, Managing Director of Companion Care Vets says, “We value every member of our team who have all worked tirelessly over the past 11 years to help our expansion
into the market leader we are today. Without the commitment and expertise of every person within the organisation this would not have been possible and for us to receive this
recognition, and on our first try, is outstanding.”

Jane continues, “To be the first veterinary organisation to receive Best Companies Accreditation is an honour and we will strive to continue to provide an exceptional
working environment for our teams.”

As part of the survey process 79% of Companion Care Vets’ employees said their jobs are good for personal growth, 76% felt their jobs were secure and a fantastic 81% said
colleagues are committed to taking care of each other.

With 109 Joint Veterinary Partners and a further 867 employees in the group, Companion Care Vets is one of the largest veterinary employers in the UK. The company plans
to have 200 surgeries in place by 2015 which will create a host of career opportunities for vets and veterinary support teams around the UK.

You can
click here
to visit Companion Care Vets website

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The worst job in the veterinary hospital

from an article by Andrew Rollo DVM

Here’s a question for you: What is the one position in a veterinary hospital you would dread most of all?

Is it kennel attendant? I doubt it — picking up stool is as mundane as picking up a penny on the sidewalk. And I wish I had time to walk dogs in my busy day.

What about technician? They have to deal with push and pull from the doctors, but their clinical and communication skills are used more and more by doctors to connect with clients as well as the pets that brought the technicians to the profession in the first place.

For me, the one position that would send shivers down my spine if I was asked to fill in tomorrow would be receptionist.

Giving Smiles on Demand

No matter how bad the day is, receptionists must smile for every client who walks in the front door. They make sure the coffee is hot and the water is cold. They keep the floors vacuumed and make sure “presents” dropped in the waiting area are picked up almost before they hit the floor. They make sure invoices are correct and smile at the sarcastic comments clients make when they pay the bill. (If a receptionist got a dime for every time a client said, “A wing of this practice should be named after me for all the money I spend here” after paying a $68 bill, they’d have some heavy pockets.) They console grieving clients and walk them out the door. They deliver the bad news to doctors that they’re behind schedule by a half-hour and then get asked, “How did we get so behind?’

Taking Complaints for What They Didn’t Do

Last but not least, the front-desk team has to answer the phone–all day long. When several lines ring at once, receptionists might as well be jugglers at the circus. Some are easy calls, but many are complicated medical questions or angry tirades about something the receptionist had nothing to do with and doesn’t have the authority to fix. By the time the doctor takes an angry call, clients are less hostile because they’ve vented for so long. Many times a receptionist will let me know that Mrs. Smith needs to talk to me right away and to be careful because she’s upset. When I pick up, I’m greeted with a surprisingly pleasant Mrs. Smith: “Well, hello, Dr. Rollo. I really appreciate
your taking my call.”

Working Without a Hiding Place

Receptionists are on the front lines–there’s no place to hide behind the reception desk. They have to smile and take on anyone who comes in–a difficult client, a needy sales rep, a good Samaritan who found an injured squirrel, or a job applicant who just won’t leave. Theirs are the first faces clients see when they enter the hospital and the last when they leave. They take on the anger, the sorrow, and the sarcasm, and they are occasionally rewarded by the joy.

So next time you find yourself upset by a receptionist for not scheduling appropriately or for missing a mistake on an invoice, think about her day. Think about what she has to deal with. And appreciate all that she does to help make your hospital function.

You can click here to visit the DVM360 website

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