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


Best Wishes for a Wonderful Christmas

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I’m tired of hearing about impossible challenges

by Ernest Ward DVM

The proof: Roger Bannister, the man who broke the four-minute mile in May 1954. Physiologists and medical experts agreed that the human heart would burst if pushed to complete a mile in less than four minutes. The world’s top track coaches discouraged their athletes from attempting the feat out of fear for their safety. It couldn’t, shouldn’t, and wouldn’t be done. But it was.

Bannister trained with no coach and was never told his heart was in jeopardy. He accomplished what many sports experts call the greatest athletic event of the century, because no one told him he couldn’t, shouldn’t, or wouldn’t. He just did.

And once he did, psychological barriers fell. Just 46 days later, John Landy broke his record. And almost 1,000 runners have followed, including several high schoolers and a 41-year-old Irishman.

In veterinary practice, I believe we often erect arbitrary psychological barriers that limit our professional and personal potential. For example, we believe that extending vaccine protocols will negatively impact our incomes, that our clients won’t pay for our expertise, and that our employees can’t perform complex tasks or properly educate clients. We believe we don’t have time to exercise, de-stress, train our teams, pursue our own continuing education, and still maintain a healthy home life. But it’s just not true. We can overcome these barriers if we open the door to the possibility of success.

We live in an exciting time. Technological advances coupled with swelling public appreciation of the importance of pets allow us to perform “miracles” compared with the care veterinarians could offer clients and patients 50 years ago. True, change isn’t always comfortable, but unless we each take that first step to address the challenges our profession faces, we’ll find ourselves mired in a self-imposed state of limitation. And our patients, clients, and staff will ultimately suffer.

The good news: When you take action, your energy and behavior cause a tiny ripple throughout your entire practice–and possibly the whole profession. So, for example, if I change my vaccine protocols, that decision will resonate in everything my team does and with everyone we come in contact with. The change will remind us that one size doesn’t fit all and that we need to personalize our recommendations based on the who and the why, not just the when.

Every day energized and passionate veterinary hospital teams across North America and Western Europe are breaking barriers and replacing them with speedways of progress. Are you on the fast track, too? Or are you blocked by a wall of shouldn’t, couldn’t, or wouldn’t when you face a change?

Change isn’t optional; just ask the next brachiosaurus you meet. Responding to change effectively is our professional responsibility. And the changes we face may, in fact, represent our greatest opportunities. Now go have a great run.

Dr. Ernest E Ward owns Seaside Animal Care in Calabash, N.C. and is a member of the Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board

You can click here to visit the website

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A problem shared….

New challenges require fresh thinking. This was the platform for a forward-looking Think Tank event held recently, which presented delegates with new ideas, a proven strategy or “SCRIPT” for growth and the opportunity to work with one another in finding solutions to today’s veterinary challenges.

Economic gloom and doom is contagious: The new reality for many UK vet practices around the country, is that they are now faced not only with a more competitive market but one with cash flow problems… and a number of practices are now competing with one another for a fair slice of a shrinking veterinary cake.

Hosting their second successful Think Tank event, was Ashley Gray, Managing Director of Total Vet Solutions (TVS). “Our business is based on the principle of “shared value”” say Ashley, “…so underpinning the day was considerable focus on how practices can create their own “shared value”, by working more closely with one another, suppliers, insurers and animal advocates in the local community, in order to grow the size of the cake in which everyone has a share”.

“I have long been an advocate of this approach” says Caroline Johnson, Director of Vetpol Ltd and Think Tank delegate. “It is encouraging to see so many forward-thinking practices, working together and finding solutions to current challenges. Their active participation, coupled with support from TVS and Novartis (who sponsored the event), speak volumes for the concept of “shared value”….at this event, you could actually see it at work!”

Following two successful Think Tanks events this year, TVS plans to hold further events during 2012.

You can click here to visit Total Vet Insurance website and register your interest in TVS events

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Attract Your Ideal Clients and Charge What You’re Worth

by Lisa Cherney

Every entrepreneur starts her business wanting to make lots of money doing something she loves. We dream about it. We plan out what our life will look like, and where we will take vacations. But then something happens.

We start getting nervous about not making money fast enough, and think maybe we’re charging too much. We spread a wide net and take on clients that are more of a drain on resources than a boon to our cash flow.

Think about your business. Does your income reflect the value of your services? If what you do is worth more than what you’re making, this is a sign that you are selling yourself short. You need to take yourself out of the equation and get an honest assessment of your business strategy.

There’s no slick cookie-cutter formula to use for every business, but here are some points that helped me create a successful business model:

  • The main reason you’re not charging enough for your product or service could be that you don’t believe in yourself. Ouch! But it’s true. When was the last time you raised your rates? Don’t be afraid to ask for what you’re worth. The clients who get what you do, and appreciate what you can do for them, will pay it.
  • You need the right words to describe what you do: on your website, blogs, advertising copy – anything that your ideal client might read. An unintended wrong message could be what’s standing in your way. Write as though you are having a conversation with the person you are presenting to. Don’t worry about the economy, and what you think people can and cannot afford. Just put the right message out there, and let them decide.
  • Invest in your Number 1 asset – yourself! This is where a mentor and/or mastermind group is key, to give you the support to command the level that you are worth. Friends and family, though well-meaning, don’t always get what you do. And seminars are worthless if you just put another notebook on your shelf. The Mastermind group I joined in 2009 was the next big step for me. At the time, I didn’t know how I was going to pay for it; I just knew I had to do it for myself. Have that faith in yourself and let it take you to the next level. I had my best year ever the year after I made that investment.
  • Last but not least, take time for yourself as well. Acknowledge what you need to do to maintain the mindset, energy level and positive space to live a life you love. As an entrepreneur, you get to do that! And it looks different for everyone. It’s all about what’s important to you. Create time for yourself to not work. To rejuvenate. What can you do today because of the freedom that you have, no matter how small? Like taking a walk or going to work-out, or to a movie. What little thing can you do to create that space now? Start a practice that keeps you grounded and centered at the beginning of each day. Maybe get up earlier to lengthen the time you have to prepare mentally and spiritually
    for what lies ahead.

You can click here to visit Lisa Cherneys Conscious Marketing website

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Six Reasons why Twitter beats Facebook for vets

from an article by Dave Nicol

In the world of social media, things (and trends) are moving fast. Luckily for us relatively slow adopters (aka vets), the majority of users are still largely dealing with the big two, Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook has by far the bigger market share with over 700 million registered users, but don’t be too quick to discount Twitter as a useful resource for your vet clinic.

Here are a few reasons why, if you aren’t doing so already, you should include Twitter in your social media mix. (PS — I’m assuming you know what Facebook and Twitter are

  • Simplicity. With every upgrade, Facebook is becoming increasingly more functional and potentially useful, but also much more complex. This might be an attempt to stave off competition from Google+, but so far what they seem to be achieving is mass irritation and confusion. I suspect they’re in danger of losing the crowd. People like things simple and Twitter does one thing and one thing only, short simple status updates.
  • Conversation. One of the best things about Facebook is the ability to stay in touch, without actually having to interact. For example, if a friend sends me an email then, to a certain degree (unless I want to offend), I’m obliged to reply. That’s never been the cases with Facebook. I can watch from a distance and avoid interacting when I don’t want to. Twitter on the other hand is so conversational that it’s hard not to be drawn in. For me, business is all about relationships, conversations and adding value. So Twitter in my opinion seems to be a more natural choice for interaction.To put it another way, people on Facebook are shouting, they are on ‘broadcast’ mode. Whereas Twitter users seem to engage and talk to each other more often. Facebook may well be more pervasive, but is it really more meaningfully interactive? I’m not so sure. Don’t forget, broadcast is so much easier to ignore.
  • Search. Twitter search and #hashtags — finding the conversations that matter to your business then getting involved is one of the most powerful and least used functionalities of Twitter. People are discussing all kinds of stuff there, What pet foods are best? Should I feed my dog raw meaty bones? Are vaccines worthwhile? How do I toilet train my puppy? These are questions you can and should be answering online to build rapport, gain credibility and build referrals.
  • Proximity. Facebook allows you to close your circle. In fact, because most people tend to post a lot of personal or sensitive content there, it’s probably a good idea to keep it that way. Twitter, on the other hand, doesn’t shield your content. It all gets posted into a massive, public timeline. So you have little choice but to be more open, just remember that your posts and photos will be searchable for a long time to come!
  • Time Banditry. Facebook is undeniaby a time-eating monster for most people. It is too easy to get sucked into what your friends are doing and then … an hour of productive work time has been killed. I find Twitter is less distracting in this regard.
  • Results. I can name several clients who use me because of Twitter both in my veterinary hospital and in my consultancy business. I can only name one pet owner who does so because of Facebook. So quite simply, the Return On Investment (ROI) from Twitter is much better.

As with all social media, the best platform isn’t the newest or most talked about, it’s the one where your customers and potential customers are found. From that perspective Facebook is clearly still an incredibly useful tool. It’s just a lot harder to get it right, and most vets

As things currently stand, not many vets have woken up to the opportunity offered by Twitter. So there is an opportunity for a few to get a head start and build up decent followings/awareness. So pop over to Twitter, sign up and drop me a tweet when you do.

You can click here to follow Dave Nicol and his musings on Twitter

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Journey begins to find brightest stars in UK practice management

The first steps have begun to find Petplan and The Veterinary Business Journal’s Practice Manager of the Year for 2012.

Nominations are now being sought for the most accomplished UK practice managers and recommendations are welcome from any member of the veterinary team.

Three finalists will be chosen and the winner announced at the annual Petplan Veterinary Awards in April 2012.

Robin Fearon, editor of the VBJ, said: “It is a distinct pleasure to launch the awards programme each year knowing that at the end of it we will be able to announce another winning practice manager.

“These awards are so important in promoting the role and highlighting the crucial part that managers play in practice strategy and success — we can’t wait to see your nominations.”

Judges will assess candidates’ applications and choose the three finalists based on their competency in areas such as staff development, financial strategy and marketing initiative.


Last year’s winner Denise Coston is practice manager at Castle Veterinary Surgeons in County Durham.

She said: “Winning this award has meant a lot to me because it makes you feel valued. I would say to anyone thinking of nominating their practice manager: ‘just do it’.

“The role of practice manager varies in each practice and can be hard to quantify with specific measures, but it means a lot to celebrate someone getting it right. It is an excellent way to promote the role of practice manager and it is great to get recognition alongside vets and nurses.”

This award is supported by the Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons and the Veterinary Practice Management Association. As well as a plaque commemorating their achievements, the winner will once more receive one year’s free membership to the VPMA.

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8 keys for calming cranky clients

by Debbie Allaben Gair CVPM and Christine Hall Johnson

Dealing with difficult clients? It’s important to remember that they’re people with needs. Determining and addressing that need is one of the most effective ways of managing difficult situations. To be successful, keep these tips in mind:

  • Stay calm. The instant you recognize a challenging situation, take your professionalism up a notch. Take a deep breath. Put a smile on your face – a genuine smile. Speak slowly and clearly, and do your best to serve this client well.
  • Speak with confidence and competence. Believe in yourself and your abilities. Put your shoulders back and make appropriate eye contact. Infuse
    your voice with a pleasantly firm tone that communicates your authority and expertise.
  • Try to understand and resolve the problem. When a client speaks, actively listen. Hold respectful eye contact, close your mouth, and be
    attentive. Ask clarifying questions when necessary. Make every effort to see and understand things from the client’s point of view–don’t
    immediately assume she’s wrong. Communicate your intent to resolve the issue.
  • Be empathetic. Don’t be afraid to say, “I can see why this is upsetting to you.” You don’t need to take blame, but it’s important for
    clients to feel you’re working to help them resolve their challenge.
  • Resist defending the practice. Arguments create a win-lose scenario. If the client is the loser, the pet and the practice will also suffer.
    Instead, work to create a win-win ending, in which the pet receives the needed service.
  • Depersonalize the situation. Minimize “we-you” talk; focus instead on the problem and its resolution. For example, don’t say, “We require
    preanesthetic testing and you need to agree to it.” Rather, try, “Preanesthetic testing ensures that Angel is healthy enough to undergo
  • Stay positive. Always believe that a resolution is possible. Detach your emotions, if necessary, and focus on finding a solution.
  • Check back to check up. Make a follow-up phone call to ensure clients are satisfied with the resolution to their problem. If they’re still experiencing troubles, this is a great time to continue partnering with them in resolution.

You can click here to visit the DVM360 website

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