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

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What’s happening in small animal practice in the UK

Selected data from the MAI consolidated report to April 2012



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What keeps veterinary practice owners and employees up at night?

from an article in the website

New data shows where practice owners, managers, associates, and team members feel the pinch of working in a practice.

The Veterinary Hospital Managers Association (VHMA) recently conducted a survey to find out what keeps you awake at night — yes, you. The results provide insights into the industry topics that will require attention over the coming months and years. To find out what is keeping you up at night, an electronic survey was administered to attendees at three conferences: the 2012 North American Veterinary Conference, the 2012 Ontario Veterinary Medical Associate Conference, and the 2012 Western Veterinary Conference. The
question — what keeps you awake at night? — prompted respondents to rank their top professional concerns.

Respondents identified their position by job title and selected from a list of 22 issues. The three that were the most perplexing or stressful or interfered with their ability to perform their jobs. The issues on the list were: profit margin, cash flow, budget management, gross income, staff training, staff recruiting/hiring, staff scheduling, staff relations, associate contracts, wages and benefits, associate behavior, maintaining policies and procedures, inventory management and controls, employee theft/shrinkage, marketing, efforts, client retention, legal and regulatory compliance, strategic planning, exit strategy, IT, medical records, burnout, and other.

Among all respondents, the top concerns in order of importance were:

  • Staff training (31 percent)
  • Staff scheduling (28 percent)
  • Staff relations (27 percent)
  • Profit margin (26 percent)
  • Burnout (22 percent)
  • Client retention (22 percent)

Specifically among practice managers and office managers, the key issues were: staff training (42 percent), profit margin (24 percent), cash flow (13 percent), and staff relations (12 percent). The concerns of this group are reflective of their job responsibilities: achieving financial health while maintaining employee satisfaction.

Among associate veterinarians, client retention was the chief concern, with 30 percent of respondents selecting this issue. In today’s economic climate, determining how to attract and retain clients is a priority for any business. Other key issues among associates included: staff relations (27 percent), staff training (24 percent), and wages and benefits (20 percent).

The issues identified by hospital administrators reflect their broad responsibilities and their focus on both personnel and financial oversight. Concern about staff relations (36 percent)–a priority among this group–is followed by issues related to profit margin (24 percent), and staff training (15 percent).

For veterinary practice owners, profit margin, which was selected by 47 percent of respondents, was the chief concern, followed by cash flow (28 percent), and client retention (27 percent), all issues related to a strong bottom line.

This snapshot of the concerns among veterinary management professionals highlights the “pinch points” within the profession. According to Christine Shupe, VHMA’s executive director, the association’s goal was to provide a good baseline analysis of where the profession currently is and what changes are needed. The results indicate that for any practice to function effectively, the needs and issues of a diverse group of stakeholders, those holding various positions within the practice must be addressed.

You can click here to visit the DVM360 website

You can click here to visit the VHMA website

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The three business lessons you won’t be taught!

by Caroline Johnson

Having worked in the pharmaceutical industry for years in a variety of sales, marketing and business development roles you can probably imagine how many business courses I’ve attended…ranging from some truly excellent sessions to the somewhat mediocre and even diabolical! Regardless of the quality, what most tell you is that the business world is built on some fairly simple, universal principles that can be applied in every market.

So applying tried-and-tested business principles means working within a clearly defined structure which takes your attention from looking at the wider world, understanding what is going on out there, how that affects you and your customers, through to setting objectives, choosing a strategy, implementation and eventually committingto timeframes and budgets. That’s how things were run in the organisations I’ve worked for — all successful companies– despite being somewhat rigid, reactive and internally-focused, at times.

Life is about continual learning, and the more you do, the more you learn. So in addition to the classroom sessions, management books and the mentoring I’ve had over the years,it is whilst “doing the job”, especially in running my own company, that I’ve discovered some additional things they simply don’t teach you in business school or industry – or at the very least, they pay scant attention to! And since some of those lessons have been of such immense value, I invite you to let me share my three top tips with you: This is my personal list of the most important business lessons you’ll never be taught!

Flexibility helps you succeed.

I can honestly say that I have never before worked in such a fast-moving, haphazard, disjointed sort of a way….or at least that is how it probably appears to anyone on the outside looking in. At Vetpol HQ, decisions are made, new things are tried, and different directions are taken…all in a matter of days and sometimes even hours. It’s fast and it’s furious and can feel like a squash ball in the middle of a competitive game, bouncing from one place to another at speed, depending on the angle of the last barrier we hit. The one area that remains constant however – indeed cast in stone – is the overall aim, objective, vision; whatever you want to call it. It is “the how” that’s fluid and it needs to be: We are in a fast-moving world and having a flexible mind-set and quick reactions, enables you to capitalise on changes and opportunities as they occur. This also results in massive, continual learning (at speed) which makes working lifemore interesting and fun!

Networks really matter.

Yes, of course we all know that networking is an important element of business but not enough emphasis is given to the magnitude of its importance, nor is sufficient time devoted to developing relationships within and outside our places of work. When networks really come into their own however, is when companies, organisations and individuals get together and collaborate for mutual benefit, thereby combining strengths, broadening the skill base and sharing resources….it’s also worth noting that some of the strongest collaborations can emerge from those who previously regarded one another as competitors!

Make time for lunatic thoughts!

Anyone with an MBA or Marketing Diploma will have had the importance of planning drummed into them: “Fail to plan and plan to fail!” All good left-brain stuff and who would argue with that?

But there is an equally compelling view that advocates the value of shifting activity to the right hemisphere of the brain sometimes; that’s the part of your grey matter where creative, “blue-sky” stuff goes on and which is often supressed to the point of torpidity in the work environment. In acknowledging the value of investing time in encouraging drifting thoughts, lateral thinking and bouncing random ideas around we can also find genius problem-solving, new-found enthusiasm for the projects we’re working on…. and sometimes utter brilliance is stumbled upon! This point also leads us rather nicely back to point 1, since you also need to make time for “lunatic thoughts” in order to
be at your most flexible.

So, how does all this apply to your business/vet practice? Well,I shall leave you to dwell on that one and in the meantime I welcome any comments, thoughts or ideas, however silly they may first appear or sound!

You can click here to visit the Vetpol website

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Consultation launched on possible merger of SPVS and VPMA


The Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons and the Veterinary Practice Management Association have launched an initial consultation amongst their members to gain feedback on the possibility of forming a new combined organisation.

The two organisations have enjoyed a close working relationship over the past years and are planning a joint Congress in January next year. SPVS and VPMA are considering the possibility of joining together to form a new organisation with a new name, reflecting the needs of all those who work in a leadership or managerial role in practice.

The views of VPMA and SPVS members are being sought and will be considered by their Councils later this summer.

click here to send an e.mail to SPVS

click here to send an e.mail to the VPMA

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Nonprofits vs. Private Practitioners

from an article by Kellie Olah on the Veterinary Business Advisors website

Just as the Hatfields and McCoys feud over an animal, so do nonprofit clinics and private practices quarrel over access to patients. Private practice owners feel threatened by nonprofit clinics, because they view them as having an unfair financial competitive advantage. With the aid of charitable contributions, nonprofit clinics can offer veterinary services at lower fees, which private practitioners believe leads to loss of clients and devaluation of veterinary services. The key to competing with nonprofits is educating
clients about the value of full service veterinary care and the importance of establishing a trusting relationship with a veterinary practice.


Can’t w e all just get along?

Whether veterinarians work for private practices or non-profits, they generally share the same vision of promoting animal welfare and maximizing access to veterinary services. This translates into coming up with affordable ways to control pet overpopulation and ensure basic wellness for as many animals as possible. One of the main objectives of nonprofit clinics is to provide low cost spay/neuters and vaccinations, in order to encourage more pet owners to partner in reducing pet overpopulation and disease. Private
practitioners and nonprofits can work together in achieving these common goals by focusing on the synergies that can be created through respect and collaboration. Below are a few suggestions:

Focus on the positive. Many private practitioners have a negative view of nonprofit clinics, because they are threatened by their competitive activities. Such negativity is perceived by clients, who then draw conclusions that money is more important to private practitioners than providing veterinary services to their pets. Instead, private practitioners should focus their message on promoting the veterinary services provided by their practices, differentiating themselves from low cost competitors, effectively, communicating and marketing their client services to the public, and expressing concern for animal welfare issues and overpopulation.

Create a limit. Most private practitioners and nonprofit clinics agree there is a need to provide basic veterinary services to those in financial need. It is generally felt among private practitioners that nonprofit clinics should serve only pet owners who are indigent and not pet owners who can afford non-discounted services. Non-profits receive, charitable contributions and tax exemptions which subsidize their operating costs. When non-profits service those who can afford non-discounted services, it becomes an unfair advantage for such nonprofits to compete against private practices. Nonprofits can remedy some of the concerns of private practices by focusing their services on pet owners who truly are in financial need.

Partner with Shelters. Private practitioners should often work with shelters and adoption agencies by providing affordable spays, neuters, and vaccines to newly adopted pets. By partnering with such organization, private practitioners have an opportunity to create a relationship with new clients to whom they would not otherwise have been introduced. Many States foster such partnering by providing funding to veterinarians who participate in low cost spay neuter programs. This allows veterinarians to work with low cost nonprofits to provide needed veterinary services to new pet owners.

You can
click here
to visit the Veterinary Business Advisors website

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