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

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What’s happening in small animal practice in the UK

Selected data from the MAI consolidated report to October 2011



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How To Collect Email Addresses — Easily & Simply

by Diederik Gelderman

Collecting email addresses from your clients is a VERY important marketing tool.

Now is the time to develop a plan to be more organised about this function!

Are your staff forgetting to ask for email addresses from new and current clients? Are existing email addresses not being updated as they should be?

Here are some simple solutions;

  • Buy a neon coloured notepad (so people checking in at the desk will be sure to see it) and place it on the desk/table at the front desk and in the exam rooms.
  • Remind those that work at the reception desk to ask each owner to sign the colourful book.
  • Another sure way to collect email addresses is to include a place for each client’s email address on all your forms. These addresses are valuable tools to help promote your services. You can use these email addresses to send “postage-free” invitations to seminars or special events.
  • Make sure that your staff know and understand all the benefits (to the client) of the practice having the clients’ email address — and that they can articulate this message to the client.
  • Practice, rehearse and roll-play exactly what each staff member will say to the client when asking for their email address
  • Having a booth at a county fair or a chamber event? Offer a door prize – then on the entry forms include a place for people to put their email addresses.
  • Having an ‘open-day’ or other client event — same strategy as above.
  • Send clients, event participants, and enquirers an email “thank you” with a link to your website to add to their “favourites” page.
  • Have you added up how much money you spend on paper mailings? The price of stamps continues to rise. Now is the time to think about switching to digital newsletters and reminders. Going digital actually gives you more information than using a paper format. With paper you send out your mailing and see how many people respond. With a digital newsletter you can see which email address opens the newsletter, how many times, and which links they clicked on inside the newsletter. In addition, if a response is required, many people will ‘point and click’ and give you an easy and instant response via email. This data can give you valuable information to hone the products and services you are offering to your families. The newsletters can be customized to match your website and logo.

There you go … some simple strategies to ensure that you collect more email addresses — go to it.

You can click here to access the TurboCharge Your Practice website

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I’m really pleased to see how much interest my last short blog attracted and to learn that I’m not the only person passionate about this subject! So here goes with part 2
of 5:

Communicating with clients is clearly a massive subject, impacting on everything you say and do and including all the many forms that marketing takes, from signage to literature to booster reminders to Open days, radio advertising and so on, ad infinitum. So let’s start by defining the area this short article is going to cover: That is, one-to-one communication in the consulting room and how YOU can impact on successful outcomes.

“YOU” is in capitals for a reason: If you listen to people complaining about their own communication breakdowns, you may also become aware of just how much finger-pointing takes place! How often have you heard the following: “I’ve told him a million times”; “No-one ever listens around here”; “That’s not what I said!” The one thing all these comments have in common is that in each case, the other person is to blame.

Consider now the merits of pushing the rights and wrongs of miscommunication to one side and the potential benefits in taking personal responsibility when things go wrong….think now how different your world might be if you really believed that the meaning of the communication is the response you get and responded accordingly? Now there’s some food for thought….?!

If you’ve ever people-watched you will be aware that body language really is the most important element in one-to-one communication; you do not necessarily have to be in ear-shot to understand what is going on between two people! That is largely down to the unconscious process of matching and mirroring; those in rapport with one another will walk at the same pace, pause to eat or drink at the same time and generally adopt similar of identical body positions when in conversation. The reverse is also true and you’ll remember experiences where you just don’t quite believe what you’re being told but can’t quite put your finger on why; this will be down to your innate ability in detecting mismatches
between the words being spoken and what the rest of the body is actually telling you (behaviour acts like a mirror for what is going on in your head).

Why this really matters is that when the unconscious process of matching and mirroring takes place, people visibly become more physiologically alike and appear to be in rapport with one another: When you become physiologically alike you also mentally tune into what the other person is saying, blocking out the usual distractions and thereby improving both retention and understanding on both sides. So think for a moment of the potential value in being aware of this in the consult room…

Often the room layout is something you have to live with and that applies to the computer screen and the table; both barriers when it comes to communication but necessary for the job in hand. So be aware that there are potential impediments to you getting your message across and think about how you can use the room to good effect and minimise any potential drawbacks. Walk around the table when greeting a client, for example, spending a few moments face-to-face, making eye contact and smiling. Avoid lengthy spells on the computer with your back to the client, but if you have to refer to notes then show the client what you’re doing (if appropriate) and remember to keep glancing back over your shoulder to re-establish eye contact when you can. Basic stuff, I know…but you may be surprised how often the basics are forgotten!

Two big problem areas between the consulting vet and client are those of misunderstanding and ambiguity and they are often linked. “Anaesthesia” and “euthanasia” for example, would not constitute the usual vocabulary of the average Sun reader (the Sun is the UK’s most widely read newspaper); these words can be used sometimes with disastrous consequences. What about “putting an animal to sleep”? What exactly does that mean?

The solutions to better, clearer understanding are straightforward:

  • Be aware of your consult rooms’ limitations and work around them; keep eye contact with the client where you can and allow the natural process of matching and mirroring to take place where it can. When we become physiologically alike we also mentally tune in; this reduces the chances of misunderstanding and confusion.
  • Listen to your client’s vocabulary and match it. Avoid technical jargon. Avoid ambiguity.
  • Use visual aids wherever you can. A picture says a thousand words and will reinforce and make your explanations clearer.
  • Finally, summarise what you’ve said, confirm understanding and give your client time to ask any questions. If you know that client communication is not your forte then hand over to someone in the practice who is skilled in this area, such as a nurse to confirm that the client is happy with what they have been told.


You can click here to visit the Vetpol website and respond to Carolines blog

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Secrets of Successful Team Meetings

from an article by Winston Marsh

Yes, it’s true. Getting your team together for a regular meeting can be a pain in the butt because you run out of things to say, get sick of chairing them and the team don’t want to come anyway.

Here are some simple rules to make sure your team meetings are inspirational, educational, informational and lots of fun so that the team will want to come and, more importantly, make things happen as a result!

  • Team meetings should be held regularly on previously scheduled dates and should only be changed as a last resort.
  • Ideal length of a good team meeting is 45 to 60 minutes (up to 90 minutes where a special presenter, guest trainer or worthwhile activity is scheduled).
  • Ideally a team meeting should be held no less frequently than once per fortnight.
  • To make it easier on the manager (and to develop the skills of team members) it is worthwhile rotating the chairing of the meeting amongst
    participants. The schedule of “who chairs which meeting” should be published well in advance and a fixed agenda format should also be developed.
  • To ensure that the rotating chair concept works effectively the manager must meet with the chairperson of the next meeting about a week before the meeting to confirm that it is organised, that they have no problems and that there are no problems or potential hitches. In a nutshell, the manager should be happy with the meeting content and direction and know that there will be no surprises.
  • All meetings should start and finish on time and persistent latecomers should be actively counselled. Rewarding “on time” attendance and meeting starts is worthwhile.
  • A good meeting must inform, educate, encourage and motivate. Team members should be informed (to overcome the “nobody tells me anything” disease), be educated (so that they have the skills to deliver the results), be encouraged (through recognition and reward), and motivated (to want to do it).
  • A typical team meeting format could be:
    • Welcome (Chairperson, 2 minutes)
    • What went right for me (Each attendee, 1 minute each)
    • That was the week (or fortnight) that was– what’s happened since our last meeting including how the business is doing (Manager, up to 10 minutes)
    • What went right, what went wrong and what do we learn from it (Manager and team members, 5- 10 minutes)
    • Recognition & rewards– making the achievers feel important in front of their peers (Manager, 2-5 minutes)
    • Skills building session (could be business related like product knowledge from a supplier, role playing amongst the team members, a video, an outside presenter, etc or less frequently on personal development matters like finance, image, travel, etc 15-45 minutes)
    • Future promotion and advertising programs — details provided and what team members need to do to participate in the program.
    • Individual aims and objectives for next period (each attendee, 3 minutes)
    • Motivational close (discretion of Chairperson, 5-10 minutes)

Follow this simple formula and you’ll find that team meetings become a breeze and highly productive. It will overcome most team member’s biggest whinge– that “nobody tells me anything around here.” Communication is the breakfast food of champion teams.

You can click here to visit the Winston Marsh website

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New veterinary business qualification on the horizon


The Royal Veterinary College is currently working with the Open University to explore the potential for an innovative postgraduate qualification in veterinary business. The one-year programme would be delivered mainly by distance over a 12-month period, and supported by 5 face-to-face contextualized learning workshops hosted by the RVC. Designed to help veterinary businesses deal with the increasingly competitive veterinary business landscape, the programme will focus on managing organizations and change, managing people, marketing and finance.

Upon successful completion of the programme, candidates would be awarded a ‘Postgraduate Certificate in Veterinary Business’, equivalent to stage I of a full MBA. Once development work has been completed, the programme would be open to veterinarians, veterinary nurses, animal health professionals and those working within the broader veterinary sector who aspire to (or currently hold) a management role. Candidates will need to have an honours degree (or equivalent), along with relevant work experience.

The RVC is currently seeking expressions of interest for participation in the pilot cohort, which could potentially commence in spring 2012. If you would like to register your interest or would like to get further details, please send an e.mail to Professor Colette Henry

You can click here to visit the Royal Veterinary College website

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