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

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Don’t just give me what I want, give me what I need!

by Winston Marsh

The other day I took Millie the Groodle to the Vet as she had been doing despicable things from both ends about which I need not give you minute detail.

The veterinary clinic had a great reception area and there were lots of shelves stocked with all sorts of things for domestic pets. I thought that this was obviously the place that I could buy products that would be good for my two dogs and one cat so I browsed the shelves.

I even commented to the woman behind the counter that I should do something about Millie’s diet hoping that it would prompt a response that might assist me to make a purchase.

And what did I get? – Nothing!

So I saw the vet who gave me the potions and lotions needed to restore Millie to good health but he didn’t make any recommendation about what I should purchase from their large stock either. So in the end I purchased nothing.

I wonder now if the stock they had on display was purely there to let me know the sort of thing pet owners could buy from somewhere else like a supermarket or pet store and that they really didn’t want me to purchase anything.

That’s a shame really because if they had guided me through a purchase… if they’d explained what I needed for my dogs and cat I would have accepted their recommendations and no doubt become a regular and repeat buyer. As it was I just didn’t see anything I wanted so I left empty handed.

When my dog and I walked out the door so did the chances of an easy add on sell.

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What’s happening in small animal practice in the UK

Selected data from the MAI consolidated report to October 2010



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Canada and the United States: Economic Similarities and Differences

Extracts from an article by Elizabeth Bellavance DVM, MBA, CMA published in the AAHA and VetPartners Economic Bulletin

I recall attending a VetPartners’ meeting in the United States a few years ago when a rare minute of silence filled a room full of consultants and advisors during an open forum. A veterinary consultant had just stated that his clients with emergency and referral practices were suffering as a result of the economy. The silence after the statement was eerie. The implications were significant. Veterinarians were not 100% recession proof.

This was news to most of the people in the room and especially to me…recession? What recession? The Canadian economy lagged behind the United States in this regard; however, Canada entered the recession shortly thereafter. The recession affected each country somewhat differently. The following reviews some of the main economic indicators & trends for our two countries. The issues identified at the national level affected veterinarians at the local level. Data surveys of veterinarians from north and south of the border identify similar trends although direct comparisons with the data results are not possible due to the different survey designs, delivery, etc.

Here are some general comments and comparisons about Economic Strength, Banking and Exports, labour and disposable income

Overall, emergency and referral practices appeared to feel the effects of the recession earlier and deeper than general practices in the both the United States and Canada.

Both countries have geographic regions that appeared immune to the downward turn of economic events over the past few years while other geographic regions bore the brunt of the economic climate head on. Regions most affected continue to struggle from the slow recovery.

The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) surveyed companion animal veterinarians across Canada. According to the survey, between 2008 and 2009 revenue for companion animal hospitals decreased by 7%, expenses decreased 3% while profit decreased 15%. During this same period of time, fees increased 6%. These statistics beg the question. Did the increase in fees cause the profit loss? Darren Osborne, an economic researcher responsible for collecting and analyzing the data in the CVMA’s surveys responded to this question. “If fees had not increased, the profit loss would have been greater.”

Data from the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues (NCVEI) suggests a similar pattern of decreased revenue in the United States for the same period. Average transaction charges in both countries increased between 2008 and 2009. According to NCVEI data, the ATC for companion animal practices increased 2%. In Canada, the ATC increased 4%. Differences in survey design, survey administration, and survey responses between Canada and the United States require the above comparisons to be
interpreted with caution.

Early data from NCVEI paint a brighter picture for practices with over 50% of practices demonstrating revenue growth in the first and second quarter of 2010; however, there are still 33%-35% of practices struggling with declining revenue according to Karen Felsted, CEO of NCVEI.

There are communities that are more sensitive to price due to the recession and there are communities where price sensitivity has not changed. Regardless of the community, the veterinarian’s role has not changed — to be an advocate for the pet. Veterinarians must clearly communicate the benefits and the risks associated with the different levels of care offered; however, after the options have been clearly communicated, the veterinarian must let the owner decide a course of action.

Dr. Duane Landals, Registrar for the Alberta Medical Association and a practice owner summarized it well: “The level of care an animal receives should be decided by the owner. It should not be the level of care desired by the veterinarian.”

This statement will bode well for veterinarians both north and south of the border, regardless of the state of the local economy.

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Just One Thing

by Exceptional Veterinary Team<

Being successful in one’s practice involves plenty of effort from the whole team. The best changes or additions are often simple and easy to implement. Just one small change in a practice can make clients and staff members feel more energized, satisfied, and special. This includes anything that makes your clients keep coming back and your staff happier in their work environment.

A Picture Is Worth a 1000 Words

Mountain View Veterinary Hospital in Lacey, Washington, found that photography was a great improvement to the practice–photography for clients, that is. A simple photo, capturing the results from a procedure, changed the perspective of many clients.

“We show our clients pictures of their pets’ mouths both before and after dental cleaning procedures. Clients are shocked because they don’t realize that their pets’ teeth were in such bad shape,” says Dana Malone, hospital administrator. Ms. Malone noted that seeing before and after shots allowed many clients to appreciate the importance of their pets’ dental health.

This practice allows the hospital to promote dental care for pets on a regular basis. In the past, clients worried about the price of dental care, without realizing the benefits. They only sought dental care when the hospital offered discounts. Now that clients can see the difference that proper dental care makes the hospital has more dental cleaning procedures scheduled throughout the year.

The Domino Effect

This small change resulting in satisfied and smiling clients has had another very positive effect on the practice. Several of the hospital’s clients shared the photographs with family and friends to demonstrate how important it was for their pets to receive good dental care, resulting in additional clients for Mountain View.

“We didn’t realize that it would turn into such an outreach to the community ,” said Ms. Malone. Prior to this program, doctors and technicians had tried to emphasize the importance of pet dental care. They explained the dangers of broken teeth or exposed pulp and the impact dental bacteria had on the blood stream and internal organs. And yet, even comparing pet dental care to the need for humans to visit the dentist regularly didn’t relay the message, observed Ms. Malone.

It Could Work For You Too

In addition to healthy patients and satisfied clients, improving the life of pets and encouraging client compliance does something special for your whole team as well. “It always makes our team members feel fulfilled when their recommendations are accepted and followed through,” says Ms. Malone. This 1 innovation that emerged from a brainstorming session now keeps clients educated while promoting patient health. The best part about this idea? “It was really easy to implement. Anyone could do this,” concludes Ms. Malone.

You can click here to visit the Exceptional Veterinary Team website

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News Update from Total Vet Insurance Service

Total Vet Insurance Service Ltd (TVIS) reports an impressive rise in the numbers of practices promoting its products during 2010. “We have grown from just 16 practices to 114 in one year” says Ashley Gray MRCVS, Managing Director of TVIS, “…with greatest uptake coming from the Vetsure Pet Insurance range.”

Dr Gray puts their performance down to taking a different approach to pet insurance in the context of challenging economic times and rising insurance premiums. “We care not just about the pets and their owners but also about a sustainable relationship with our partner practices. All members of the practice team, vets and nurses alike, depend upon sustainable insurance to be confident that they will be able to do the best for the animals they see coming through their doors in the future. Our results suggest that this partnership approach is indeed working. We look forward to building on our success throughout 2011”.

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7 Key Leadership Traits for a successful dental practice

by Ken Runkle

Great leadership fuels great dental practices.

In well over two decades of helping surviving practices become thriving practices, one common theme has emerged. There is a proven and direct relationship between leadership and success. Better leaders produce better dental practices.

The leadership traits represented below reveal the “best practices” of what I consider to be great dental leaders. Although each doctor possesses his or her own unique personality, operational approach, and leadership style; these key leadership traits are common threads among all types of dental leaders. With that in mind, I would highly encourage you to evaluate your life and practice leadership regularly based on these seven key leadership traits.

As you consistently measure your leadership barometer, score yourself one point for every trait you possess. You may not be where you want to be right now, but the key questions and growth accelerators will help you build as a road map to improve your leadership skills.

  • Leaders Have a Dream Leaders see a clear picture of the practice they area seeking to create. This portrait can be articulated with simplicity, in one or two sentences, and includes specific goals and outcomes.
  • Leaders Possess a Passion Leaders integrate their passion for their dream into every area of their life. They think about, talk about and promote the dream and vision all the time. Your family, friends, neighbors, staff, patients, and colleagues should feel your passion for the dream.
  • Leaders Design Strategy A dream fueled by passion will never reach its destination without a clear strategy to get there. Leaders do not simply post a banner proclaiming their dream. Every announced dream is connected to a road map to get from point A to point B.
  • Leaders Measure Results As Dwight Eisenhower often said, “Never expect what you’re not willing to inspect and respect.” Measuring results provides accountability to the dream, evaluation of the strategy and responsibility among staff members. Real numbers and real results make the dream real.
  • Leaders Continually Learn Leaders commit to continually growth and learning in their personal and professional lives. Their practices are marked by the concept of the Japanese word “Kaizen” which points to long-term continual improvement. Leaders work hard to be better this year than they were last year.
  • Leaders Walk in Integrity Leaders preach what they practice and practice what they preach. Special care is taken personally and professionally to say the right thing and do the right thing as a model and example for your staff and a good representation of your practice.
  • Leaders Make Hard Decisions The movie Gettysburg recounts the amazing courage of Colonel Joshua Chamberlain. Vastly outnumbered and void of ammunition, Chamberlain is faced with the great challenge of defending the strategic position on Little Round Top. In a moment of great courage, he makes a hard decision. “Bayonets!” he commands, as his weary soldiers charge down the hill toward a massive number of Confederate soldiers. Outnumbered and outgunned, Chamberlain’s troops capture their enemies and win the day. General
    Lee would later say that this decision by Chamberlain turned the battle and the war.

Leaders carry the burden of making the tough calls. Your response to hard decisions will be reflected in your practice success.

Evaluate Yourself

If you gave yourself one point for each leadership trait you currently possess, what was your score? While even great leaders struggle in certain areas, they are always seeking grow and become better leaders. Which of these seven key leadership traits do you need to focus on today, this week, this month, this year? What is your specific plan to raise your leadership in those areas?

Developing your dream practice requires a certain level of leadership. It is possible to get there. Leaders are not born, but shaped through hard work and consistent pursuit. It has been my great privilege over the years to see leaders raise their leadership to the levels needed to create their dream practice. As you develop these seven key leadership traits, you are moving closer to the leader you need to be. Do not shrink from the challenge of becoming a better leader every day. Start now….your dream practice is waiting.

Go for it!

You can click here to visit the Dental Heroes website

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