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

With every best wish for the New Year


Singing Christmas Hedgehogs

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The top 4 drivers of increased visits to veterinary practices

Kristi Reimer, Editor Veterinary Economics Magazine

John Volk, senior consultant with veterinary market analysis firm Brakke Consulting, presented brand-new data at CVC San Diego detailing what thriving practices are doing to see more clients–at a time when most veterinary practices are experiencing fewer visits. Here are the top four drivers of increased visits to successful veterinary practices, according to Volk:

  • Individual relationships. The No. 1 driver of increased visits to veterinary clinics is clients’ seeing the same doctor at every visit. Pet owners build a stronger bond and see greater need for veterinary services when they see the same veterinarian, Volk says. These individual relationships allow doctors to realize when they haven’t seen a client or patient for a while and follow up to get an appointment scheduled.
  • Believing wellness exams are one of the most valuable services you provide. “If you believe it, so will your clients,” Volk says–and they’ll bring their pets in for these exams as a result. What many veterinarians don’t realize, according to Volk, is that their clients want to please them as much as they want to please their clients.
  • Believing strongly in marketing programs. If you believe in these programs, you’ll do them, Volk says. And consistent marketing of your services will pay off in bringing pet owners through your door.
  • Use of social media. Volk displayed a number of statistics illustrating that not only do pet owners use the Internet, they use it far more than average consumers–especially cat owners. When you have a social media presence on sites such as Facebook and Twitter, you’re giving pet owners a reason to engage with you in their preferred forum, Volk says.

One of the most common reasons Volk hears for not engaging in more behaviors that drive demand for veterinary services is lack of time. However, with 30 percent of appointment slots open at the average practice, that excuse goes up in smoke. So take a look at these drivers for demand and figure out which ones you can focus more attention on. And don’t be surprised if you see more clients as a result.

You can click here to visit the dvm360 website

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by Caroline Johnson
Having just completed five communication sessions at the 8th VetsNow ECC Congress in Harrogate recently, I’ve decided to write a series of five short articles based on some of the content of each of these sessions. The discussions this topic generated went on until the early hours of the morning (in some cases, yes!); it’s a subject of considerable interest and so it should be. This is why….

Communication 1: Setting the scene

If anyone purports to be a communications expert, my response would be to show them the door! Sure, they may know a lot about the subject and may have even devoted their lives to studying it but to don the mantle of “expert” is at best a little dangerous. Or certainly that’s what my experience has shown me, but how about you?

It feels understated to say that communication is a complex process. And it can be quite a challenge to get people to hear what you think you’ve said or for others to understand the intention and meaning in what you think you’ve just communicated; anyone in a relationship will testify to this! And it matters.

On both professional and personal levels, lack of communication / miscommunication can lead to frustration and anger at one end of the scale
with relationship breakdowns and low morale at the other. In your practice, where the norm is for all members of the team to be striving for the best in patient care and keeping clients happy, poor communication simply undermines all you set out to achieve.

Not only the team suffers, either: The Veterinary Defence Society represents vets who find themselves in court, defending themselves against aggrieved clients; according to their own figures, in around 80% of cases there has been some element of communication breakdown between the practice and those representing the practice and the client. Neglecting your communication issues can be personally painful and costly!

But is the reverse also true? Can practices boost their profits by improving communication within the team and between themselves and the clients? As yet, this has not been tested in vet practice though it has been shown to be the case in larger organisations (if interested, look at the research conducted by Susan and Peter Glaser – both with doctorates in communication — which has shown a correlation between effective communication and fiscal performance).

So communication matters, whether your focus is on the bottom line, creating a pleasurable working environment, or simply doing what is best for the animals under your care and their owners. Clearly it matters a great deal!

What then do you do if it’s just not working? The answer is simple: Do something different!

In the next article we shall be taking a peek at one-to-one communication and some of the different things you can do to make your world a better place. If you would care to comment on what you’ve just read, then please do so….will be great to hear as many different views as possible. After all, none of us are experts, are we?

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

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Veterinary Industry in the US: Rising Pet Ownership and Demand from Underserved Areas will Stimulate Demand

During the five years to 2016, IBISWorld, the nation’s largest publisher of industry research, forecasts that the Veterinary Services industry will benefit from increasing pet ownership, escalating demand for animal products and favorable legislation. These factors will contribute to revenue growing 3.8% per year on average to $35.4 billion, which includes growth of 2.9% in 2012. The growth in demand for veterinary services through 2016 will primarily be driven by demand for services for companion animals. While there will be moderate increases in the demand for veterinarians from public practice sources (veterinarians who work with the government to prevent animal-borne disease and injuries), these increases will be relatively small. The landscape will continue to change as consolidation picks up and female veterinarians increasingly enter the industry.

According to IBISWorld analyst, Sophia Snyder, the Veterinary industry in the United States is forecast to continue to expand over the five years to 2016, after remaining resilient over the five years to 2011. During the economic downturn, revenue growth slowed, mainly due to a drop in the number of client visits; however, “rising pet ownership and a greater willingness to spend on pet health and wellness helped maintain growth during these years,” says Snyder. In the five years to 2011, revenue increased at an average annual rate of 3.2% to $29.3 billion. Growth of 3.6% in 2011 is a marked improvement from 2009 and 2010, but lower than the gains of 2006 and 2007. This trend indicates the negative influence that falling per capita disposable income has had on operators, but it also demonstrates the industry’s resilience.

Veterinary service operators have consolidated in an effort to maintain sales in the face of mounting competition from superstores and online
retailers that sell pet products and medications. Major companies in the industry include VCA Antech Inc. who operates veterinary diagnostic laboratories and freestanding, full-service animal hospitals in the United States. VCA is based in Los Angeles and was founded in 1986 under the name Veterinary Centers of America. Consolidation has helped operators reduce costs to effectively compete with other providers. Wage costs have also decreased as a percentage of revenue, despite a veterinarian shortage in the United States. This factor is partly attributable to consolidation and a shift in some responsibilities from well-paid veterinarians to administrative staff.

Consolidation is projected to continue during the five years to 2016. During this period, the number of operators is expected to decline another 0.5% per year on average. The rise of larger practices will partly occur because of the mounting number of female veterinarians forecast to enter the work force. This trend will be fostered by continued growth in pet ownership, greater demand for animal products and favorable legislation that will encourage veterinarians to practice in underserved areas.

You can click here to access the original article

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Getting the team to embrace new ideas

Its important to recognise that your team members will adopt changes more readily if you can firstly answer their most important question, which is that old WIIFM one… what’s in it for me? Why should I change what I’ve been doing till now? Help me understand what it’s all about and where I fit in.

That means you must ensure that team members understand the thinking behind the new idea you want them to be part of and why/what you want them to do is important.

Once you have their buy in, there are two important rules to remember:

Firstly, what gets measured gets done (in other words you’ve got to make sure that they are doing it and ensure that they see you regularly measuring their progress), and;

Secondly, and more importantly, what gets rewarded gets repeated (if your team members already get paid for doing whatever they do now and you want them to do something extra, you’ve got to give them some reason and incentive to do it).

It’s important to understand that your team want to do the things that you want them to do but only if they can see that there is a reason and a reward for so doing. By the way, the reward doesn’t always have to be monetary. It can be both public and private recognition, it can be responsibility or authority as well as simple rewards like theatre tickets, a nice dinner, a day off, a handbag or shoes (maybe not for men!) for example.

Oh, by the way, what I’ve talked about here will work for you when you are making changes to what you are doing… measure your progress regularly and reward yourself when you achieve your targets.

You can click here to visit the Winston Marsh website

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SPVS Snowscene 2012


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“I’m a leader, not a manager!”

by Linda Hill & Kent Lineback

One of Kent’s friends — we’ll call him Roy — is a master craftsman who owns a small business that makes custom wood furniture. After making some cutbacks in 2009, his little company still employs three fine woodworkers, an office supervisor/customer service rep, and an apprentice.

What makes Roy unusual is that when he founded his firm a dozen years ago, he realized he knew nothing about business. And so he began reading serious books on the subject, as well as the Harvard Business Review and two or three business magazines.

What he’s learned in the past few years is that, as he says, “I’m a leader, not a manager. I’m really good at innovation and pointing out new directions. You know, the vision thing. But I hate everything I have to do to keep the doors open and the lights on. When business was good, I could get other people to do all that while I was out designing new pieces or installations for customers, but now I have to do more of it.”

Management vs. leadership — it’s a distinction we all hear over and over these days. It says management focuses on getting work done on time, on budget, and on target — in other words, steady execution and control — while leadership focuses on change and innovation.

Some years ago, management was the more inclusive term and included leadership — along with motivating, planning, communicating, organizing and the like — as one of many functions necessary to make groups of people productive. Then in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the perception took hold that the U.S. was in danger of falling behind innovative competitors (Japan, in particular) because traditional management as practiced by U.S. businesses didn’t promote change and innovation. The solution was leadership, which was singled out as the ability to do exactly that. Thus was born the new age of leadership in which we’ve heard even senior managers say, like Roy, “I’m a leader, not a manager!”

Most writers about leadership then and now explicitly note the continuing importance of management. Success still depends on execution, controls and boundaries, systems, processes, and continuity. Without all that, leadership only produces dreams. Nonetheless, being a leader has taken on a shiny, romantic aura these days while management has been given an undertone of grubby practicality. Leaders are superior beings who inspire the rest of us to greatness while managers are dull business functionaries obsessed with budgets, schedules, policies, and procedures. This thinking is at least partially behind the attitude of Kent’s friend. Roy considers himself an artisan, a creator of beauty in wood, and seeing himself as a leader fits easily with that self-perception. But making sure the bills go out on time, keeping the machines working, and dealing with the employee who cuts corners and doesn’t meet customer specifications aren’t nearly so romantic.

Both leadership and management are crucial, and it doesn’t help those responsible for the work of others to romanticize one and devalue the other. To survive and succeed, all groups and businesses must simultaneously change in some ways and remain the same in others. They must execute and innovate, stay the course and foster change. Yes, the guidance, group skills, and mindsets required for serious change and innovation differ from those needed for continuity and steady execution. But that only means those in charge must be able to act as both change agent and steward of continuity, manager and leader, as the situation requires. The challenge is to discern when one versus the other
is needed. To idealize leadership and demean management only makes that challenge even harder.

To avoid all the positive and negative connotations around “leadership” and “management” today, we often use the term “boss.” It’s not a perfect title — no one likes to be “bossed around.” To paraphrase Mary Parker Follett, a management writer in the early 1900s, the mark of a good boss is how little actual bossing he or she must do. Still, “boss” or its equivalent in other languages is widely used across generations and cultures to refer neutrally to the person in charge, the one responsible for the work of others, the one to whom each of us must answer at work.

If you’re a boss, think of yourself as the one responsible for the work of others, the one who must manage and lead as necessary, without favoring one over the other. Focus on whatever is required of you to make your people productive. Most of all, take care not to conceive of yourself as the glorious leader always blazing new trails while leaving the gritty, mundane details of making it all work to lesser beings. Kent’s friend may say, “I’m not a manager,” but the survival of his business probably owes as much to his management skills as it does his leadership talents.

You can click here to access the original article in the Harvard Business Review online

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