Practice Management News and Views from around the World – August 2010

red line

USA flag

Death of veterinary management expert, Roger Cummings, CVPM


Roger Franklin Cummings, CVPM, a former editorial advisory board member for Veterinary Economics and Firstline magazines, has died of natural causes. He lived in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

Roger was a long time supporter of the veterinary profession, serving as a consultant with the Brakke Practice Management Group in Dallas and as a former president of the VetPartners consultant organization. He was also a frequent speaker at veterinary conferences before retiring from consulting several years ago.

“Roger was one of the earliest veterinary practice management consultants; he recognized the need before most people did,” says Dr. Karen Felsted, CPA, MS, CVPM, a fellow former Veterinary Economics and Firstline advisory board member and Brakke consultant who’s now CEO of the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues. “I’ve never heard a bad word said about him. In addition to being a great consultant, he was just a really nice guy. Always willing to help people, act as a mentor, answer questions–whatever. He
will be missed.”

Among his numerous professional accomplishments, Roger Cummings was awarded:

  • the 2010 VetPartners Pioneer Professional Award (past recipients include Donald Dooley, CVPM, and Dr. Ross Clark)
  • the 2006 Veterinary Hospital Managers Association’s Ralph Duke Award
  • the 1992 Veterinary Hospital Managers Association’s Practice Manager of the Year.

red line

USA flag

What is Veterinary Productivity

From the VHMA Group on the LinkedIn discussion group

post by Carin Smith

What is productivity? In veterinary medicine the word is often used to describe the financial ‘production’ (gross income) billed by each doctor. Is there a general definition for workplace productivity that applies to any professional? Is productivity always a dollar figure? How do you measure ‘productivity’ of other team members who are only indirectly responsible (support) for those who are doing the billable-hours work? Do any of your hospitals have a ‘working definition’ of productivity?

post by Linda White

Productivity, in a generic sense, measures the quantity and quality of outputs related to the cost of inputs. It is important, when considering productivity, that we analyze what we do and how we do it. If an activity does not in some sense have a positive impact on the quality of the overall client experience, the quality of the employee experience or make a financial contribution to the practice it can be abandoned since it is not adding value.

When we consider how we perform our activities we are considering the processes that we use to do our jobs. Most organizations, and veterinary practices as specific to this discussion, have redundancy in their processes and this has a negative impact on productivity. For example, a practice may see 100 new puppies a month. The same general information about how to care for a new puppy is, therefore, repeated to individual clients with new puppies 100 times each month consuming, for the purposes of this example, a total of 25 hours per week. One consideration may be offering basic orientation meetings for groups of clients and presenting the information in 1 hour meetings three times a week at staggered times that accommodate clients’ various schedules. These 1 hour orientation meetings may be of higher quality than those offered today, with clients getting the information in an uninterrupted setting with the added benefit of being able to interact with other new puppy parents. Three orientation meetings each week may consume 12 hours per month, saving 13 hours for other activities that will meaningfully support the goals of the practice.

Productivity is not always a dollar figure. Increased productivity does contribute in a meaningful way to the quantity of clients seen and the quality of the client and employee experience. These ultimately will have a positive impact on the profitability of the practice

post by John Sheridan

It seems to me that there can many definitions of productivity in a veterinary practice and the term must be related to a specific measure or a specific task for a specific individual or group of team members. One measure which I have often used for veterinarians, is to use a simple tool to compare the number of hours they are generating revenue for the practice as a percentage of the hours they are employed. On this basis and in my experience in the UK, veterinarians are only ‘productive’ for 65% to 80% of the time
they are employed. I suspect that accountants and lawyers employed by large professional firms have to achieve their ‘billable’ hours at much closer to 100%. I’m sure that in most veterinary practices, poor productivity is not the fault of the clinician, but results from ineffective management of the available business resources. It’s also not difficult to measure the ‘productivity’ of other resources in veterinary practice such as the ‘occupancy’ of the the available consulting slots or in-patient kennel

post by David Tabrett

I agree with John Sheridan’s comment regarding the definition of productivity as it relates to different sectors or resources within the hospital workplace.

Linda White touches on an important feature of these measurements that simple financial measures may miss.

“If an activity does not in some sense have a positive impact on the quality of the overall client experience, the quality of the employee experience or make a financial contribution to the practice it can be abandoned since it is not adding value. ” Crude measures such as billable hours may miss the other activities that contribute to a “productive” workplace or provider.

For example, marketing efforts may have a lag time to the payoff but are essential to the hospital’s continued productivity. If not attended to, this could be interpreted as “poor productivity” by a veterinarian as evidenced by low gross revenue production. In reality, this measure needs to be drilled down as to cause & effect (ie: not enough consults through the door).

Another example is workplace coaching & training – this can take a veterinarian out of the surgery & hence lower their production but should be essential in developing well trained staff (for better leverage & hence production) and contributing to a positive workplace culture.

There is good evidence that Employee Satisfaction (developed by Empowerment, Coaching, and, setting & maintaining High Standards) has a direct & positive influence on Financial Performance (see David Maister’s book, Practice What You Preach.)

These tasks then must be allowed for and recognised as important by the leadership within a practice. This usually reflects a Core Value – importantly, anytime this is not upheld, the employees will recognise it fast, and productivity will drop, staff turnover & absenteeism will increase.

Measures of productivity (however defined) provide an internal benchmark, that should be aligned with Vision & Mission, and management is then challenged to create the coaching & training tasks that will address the underlying issues behind the benchmark indicator under assessment.

You can click here to access a VHMA LinkedIn Discussion Group

UK flag

New Resource for Business Managers

In association with Veterinary Business Journal and TMS, a brand new Business Forum is now available on VetpolĀ®. “There are many new challenges facing veterinary business owners and managers” says Caroline Johnson, joint founder of this professional networking site. “While formulating our ideas with our forum partners, we were mindful of the fact that many heads are better than one; in bringing people together to discuss problems, share experience and brainstorm solutions, those involved with practice business can help and give practical support to one another during these challenging times”.

The Business Forum will be officially launched in the autumn, though it is live and available to use now. During the pre-launch phase a panel of business champions will be drawing on their expertise and experience to help develop the site and maximise its value, ready for launch. The panel recruited (so far) includes some well-known names: John Sheridan, Veterinary Business Briefing; Dave Nicol, Workhorse Recruitment, vet surgeon and well-known blogger; Phil Crowshaw, Digital Media Active; Julie Beacham, Practice Manager at Wendover Heights Vet Centre; Lee Martin, Toojays Training and HR Consultancy; Ali Chadwick, The Vital Consultancy.

“But we wish to hear everyone’s opinions”, adds Caroline “so we’re inviting everyone to take a look and give us your feedback”.

“We have no doubt that the forum will be the catalyst for some “blue sky thinking” which will be of value to the veterinary profession. However, there are many other people involved in the business of veterinary practice so if you are more concerned with the hands-on practicalities of running a practice, Caroline and Jeremy would like to remind readers of this article that the VPMA members-only forum on VetpolĀ® will go a long way in giving you the support and help you need”.

“And finally, with the resources also available here at Veterinary Business Briefing it seems that those interested and involved in practice management have a great deal now available at the click of a mouse!”

You can click here to visit the Vetpol Business Forum

red line

USA flag

Hot Rocks Issues

The veterinary industry is heating up with Hot Rocks issues. Veterinary industry professionals are invited to learn about the pinnacle issues in veterinary practice management at VetPartners’ 2010 Mid Year Meeting Aug. 26-27. Held in conjunction with CVC in Kansas City, special VetPartners Hot Rocks and Expanded Topic presentations feature industry authorities on veterinary business topics including practice management, finance, information technology and marketing.

Hot Rocks sessions address contemporary trends and developments in the veterinary industry. Speakers are VetPartners members with expertise on their presentation topic, ensuring attendees will be presented with the most current information. Eleven Hot Rocks sessions cover topics ranging from communication technology to practice insurance in concise 30-minute time periods.

Expanded Topic presentations are 1-hour sessions examining current practices in veterinary practice management and include audience discussion opportunities. Issues presented at the 2010 meeting are: discounting in a down-turn economy; financial and operational trends in companion animal practices; and understanding practice valuations.

The complete listing of speakers, topics and presentation times can be reviewed at Further information regarding VetPartners 2010 Mid Year Meeting schedule can also be found on the VetPartners website.

“VetPartners’ mid-year meeting is an excellent opportunity for VetPartners members, as well as non-member veterinarians, practice managers, veterinary technicians and industry professionals, to get on top of the hot issues,” said VetPartners Executive Director Dr. Linda Workman. “Our speakers and topics have been carefully selected to provide the timeliest veterinary business information in the industry.”

You can click here to visit the VetPartners website

red line

USA flag

Charisma and Leadership

From a review of Unlocking the Mystery of Inspiring Leadership By Jack Zenger, Joe Folkman, and Scott Edinger by Jeff Thoren DVM ACC

Despite all the research that has taken place about the nature of leadership, practitioners and scholars have long acknowledged that many aspects of leadership remain a mystery. One such aspect is the concept of charisma. Charisma has been described as a quality that enables leaders to influence others, to attract followers, and achieve remarkable outcomes.

Charisma is defined as the ability to inspire and motivate. Why is it important? It’s important for two reasons:

1. The authors research with roughly 14,500 leaders confirms that being inspiring and motivating is the single most important leadership competency.

2. It is the leadership competency on which leaders overall receive the lowest scores from their manager, peers and those who report to them.

The authors found ten behaviors and qualities that set inspiring and motivating leaders apart from all the rest. These ten fall into three areas.

Area One: Attributes. The first was a set of attributes or somewhat broad and general qualities.

  • Role Model Inspiring and motivating leaders are excellent examples of what they want otners to do.
  • Change Champion Inspiring leaders are constantly challenging the organization to change.
  • Initiative These leaders are a constant and driving force to make things happen for the better. If status quo is the goal then there is not a great deal of inspiration required.

Area Two: Behaviors. There are six discrete, actionable behaviors used by inspiring leaders.

  • Stretch Goals
  • Clear Vision and Direction
  • Communication
  • Developing People
  • Teamwork
  • Innovation

Area Three: Emotion. Being inspirational hinges on the ability of the leader to evoke a positive emotional response in others.

  • Emotion – Much research is currently showing the highly contagious nature of emotion and leaders are in a particularly powerful position to have their emotions infect those about them. Their position acts as an accelerant to any normal emotional contagion that occurs. Inspiration and motivation are the energy source for leadership. Powerful, positive emotions turn the energy on. And as you can imagine, negative emotions shut down the flow of energy

Leaders should focus on developing one of the behaviors or attributes listed above and infuse it with positive emotion. By doing so, a leader will become more inspirational and, in turn, more productive and profitable.

25 Methods for Inspiring Others

Inspiring leaders utilize a variety of ways to connect with those around them. Zenger Folkman analyzed their database to generate the following list of behaviors that make people inspiring.

The good news: you wont likely find any surprises. The ability to inspire and motivate comes down to doing a lot of the simple things well. Simple – but not easy. All too often, many of these ideas, while they may be common sense, are anything but common practice.

Read these comments about the strengths of inspiring leaders:

  • Follows through on commitments. Keeps promises.
  • Treats people fairly. Maybe not always equally, but fairly.
  • Focuses on achieving most important goals without getting distracted.
  • Displays enthusiasm and energy for what we are doing.
  • Helps us understand the whys behind big decisions.
  • Exhibits genuine concern for the people [they] work with.
  • Has high standards and holds us to them.
  • Generates excitement about major initiatives.
  • Provides clarity in all communication.
  • Considers the needs of the entire company in addition to our team.
  • Promotes our creative and strategic thinking.
  • Maintains [his/her] focus; does not multi-task. No email voice when we are on the phone.
  • Dedicated to our teams growth and development. Spends a lot of time on focused coaching.
  • Treats everyone with respect and dignity.
  • Ties our teams objectives to the overall business strategy.
  • A real team orientation. Works to dissolve the separate camps.
  • Takes time to celebrate our success and encourages us to stay on the path.
  • High energy; seems like it never ends. Positive thinker.
  • Really understands what our customers want and need and makes sure all company decisions stem from that.
  • Shares ideas and actively seeks input.
  • Challenges ideas respectfully. Encourages others to speak up.
  • Has done a great job of aligning us around a vision.
  • Anything [he/she] asks us to do, [he/she] has already done or is willing to do.
  • Pro-activeness.
  • Very candid; straight shooter. Does not sugar coat or equivocate in order to be popular or liked. As a result [he/she] is deeply trusted.

You can click here to visit Jeff Thorens website

red line

USA flag

VetBlue Announces the Launch of its Web-Based Veterinary Software Solution

FirmCloud Corp, a provider of web-based software solutions, has announced the general release of VetBlue, its latest system for veterinary clinics. VetBlue is mobile, flexible and easy-to-use veterinary software and is designed for any type or size of practice. VetBlue offers veterinary practices around the world an integrated, web-hosted solution to manage and grow their businesses. The software is equally suited for both single and multi-clinic practices, as well as for small animal, equine or farm vet practices.

VetBlue claims to address many of the shortcomings of current veterinary software packages by providing a secure, reliable and customizable software suite without the need for complicated and expensive hardware. VetBlue is accessible online, is subscription-based and requires only a modern web browser to operate.

VetBlue helps manage all the key areas of a veterinary practice like clients, patients, scheduling and appointment booking, patient visits and medical records, invoicing and payments, reminders and much more.

VetBlue is built and hosted on a reliable and secure business software platform used every day by over 2 million users at 75,000 companies worldwide and in hundreds of industries. VetBlue veterinary software works on any operating system (like a Windows-based PC or a Mac) and will also work on wireless devices, including the latest smart-phones like the iPhone, iPad, Blackberry and Android-based devices. Mobility is the new frontier and allowing vets to access critical data and business information at any time or place will provide a better customer experience.

“Based on initial reactions to our veterinary software product from clinicians and business managers around the country, VetBlue is a product that’s much needed in the vet community and addresses many of the automation needs of veterinarians everywhere. From its sleek user interface to its rich feature set, VetBlue seeks to enable vets and their staff to do far more with their software” says VetBlue Product Manager, Hal Saad.

You can click here to visit the VetBlue website

red line

USA flag

5 ways to build your e.mail database

adapted from a blog for Ophthalmology Practice Management which would seem to be just as appropriate for veterinary practice owners

Using email to communicate with patients and potential patients is a powerful marketing tool, but how do you build your initial list, and how can you make it — and your practice — grow?

Start With Your Patients

Begin by using email as part of your day-to-day routine. Let patients contact you via email for non-urgent questions. Use it to schedule and confirm appointments. Many (though not all) people find email more convenient than using the telephone for this purpose, as long as communications are timely. Consider including a real-time electronic scheduling system integrated into your website that allows your patients to schedule visits any time of day or night. Patients will need to provide you with their email addresses in order to take advantage of this.


If patients love your practice, they’ll let others know about it. Make it easy by sending them educational information that they will want to forward to other people in the community -friends, families, and neighbors. People want to provide useful information to people they care about, and this is a way to facilitate that.

Your Website

Your website will showcase your practice -your experience, philosophy, and style of interacting with patients. Your website is also a good tool for building your email database. Include a simple opt-in form so that potential patients can sign up to get relevant eye health news and information from you. Sometimes just asking is all it takes.

Marketing in Tandem

Clearly, no matter how effective it is, email won’t be everything you do to market your practice. You still have brochures, yellow pages listings (whether online or on paper), business cards, and professional partnerships that bring you patients. Be sure that your website is clearly listed on all of your other promotional materials, and you have just given potential patients an easy way to find out more about you.

Ultimately, building an email database as part of your ophthalmology practice management has the same goal that all of your marketing does: building a relationship with your patients. Marketing your practice in this way becomes a public health service rather than a sales strategy -and your patients will reap the benefit.


Offer an incentive for potential patients to opt to receive your emails. Incentives can take many forms. You can offer people a newsletter or other useful information that they want to receive, for instance. For those who are interested in a specific eye condition, you can offer information on current research in that area.

red line