Practice Management News and Views from around the World – July 2013

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5 ways to avoid hiring the wrong employee for your veterinary clinic

From an article by Bob Levoy published in the website

Remember: A ‘no hire’ is better than a ‘bad hire.’

Hiring a new employee is a daunting process. The thought of running an ad, scheduling interviews, and making that final decision on a candidate can leave
even the most laid-back employer feeling stressed out. Your employees are the face of your practice and, as such, you want the best candidate representing

Unfortunately, it’s easy to make mistakes–ones that are not only costly but ultimately disruptive to your practice team. In fact, according to a recent
survey from online payroll provider SurePayroll, three out of four business owners surveyed admitted to hiring at least one employee they later regretted. Here are five ways to avoid this problem and navigate the hiring process with ease.

Take Your Time Don’t hire in haste. After you’ve interviewed numerous job applicants, a good question to ask before finally hiring someone is: “Would
I have hired this person when I first started this process, or am I hiring this person just to fill the position and end the search?”

Make it a Team Effort Allow your team to interview job applicants and narrow the list down to a few from whom you’ll make the final selection–they
may even refer your top picks. Or let your team have the final approval of someone you’ve tentatively decided to hire. Among the benefits: This will help your team realize their ideas and opinions are important and may even alert you to traits you’ve overlooked or underestimated. Once they’ve given their approval, your team will function better as a whole in the long run.

Do Your Homework Ask thoughtful questions that shed light on important information about a candidate’s work history. “If I had just one area to probe in an interview,” says Jack Welch, former chairman and CEO of General Electric, “it would be why a candidate left his or her previous job–and the one before that. Was it the environment? Was it the boss? Was it the team? What exactly made him or her leave? There’s so much information in those answers. Keep digging and dig deep. Why a person has left a job tells you more about the person than almost any other piece of data.”

Don’t underestimate the value of reference checks with past employers either. Résumé falsifications are rampant nowadays, and past employers can be a
critical tool in verifying work history and performance. Use an employment application that contains an authorization for reference checks. A person who
refuses to sign it should immediately raise a red flag–this might not be the best person to hire. Also, conduct background checks on driving, criminal, and
credit records when appropriate. If you don’t feel qualified to do this, you can always hire an outside agency to do it for you.

Tap into Resources If you need someone right away, consider working with employees you already know can do the job well. Pay overtime to current team members or contact a former valued employee who may be available to fill in until a permanent replacement can be found. Temporary agencies may also be a
source for qualified candidates when you’re in a time crunch.

Learn From Your Mistakes Inevitably, you’ll make a mistake–it’s all part of the process. However, you don’t need to repeat history. Examine your
hiring process and make corrections where necessary to avoid repeating the same mistake again. By investing the time and effort from the get-go, you can
avoid most hiring pitfalls and successfully build the best team for your practice.

You can click here to visit the website

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Your role in the business of veterinary practice

by John Sheridan

How to balance your role as investor, business director, leader, manager and clinician to achieve your personal, professional and commercial objectives in veterinary practice.

If you own a veterinary practice or are planning to invest in practice ownership at some stage in the future, can I ask ‘why did you choose (or are you
planning to choose) to be your own boss?’

Was it one of these reasons?

  • ‘I have been in practice for some years — I can see so much wrong in the practice(s) where I’ve worked and I have this vision of a better way for clients, patients and staff and what it will be like when I own my own practice’
  • ‘I’m a good clinician — I enjoy my career but I want to have more clinical independence, some choice over the cases I see and the direction my professional
    career will take’
  • ‘I’m an experienced clinician but I’m becoming more interested in the business of practice and see veterinary practice potentially as a great investment

They are all good reasons and suggest that you are an experienced veterinary clinician, you are a mix of clinician, manager and entrepreneur, you do have
the necessary skills and expertise and so you believe that you are eminently qualified to run a business that provides veterinary services.

Here’s the first bit of bad news. Michael Gerber* in The E Myth Revisited – reminds us why most small businesses, owned and managed by a skilled, confident
expert and professional just like you, don’t work. He suggests that they suffer from the fatal assumption that ‘if you understand the technical work of a
business, you understand a business that delivers that technical work’

Similarly ‘the technician who falls prey to that assumption, discovers that the job he knew how to do so well — becomes one job he knows how to do and a
dozen others, he doesn’t know how to do at all’

In my own career as a business consultant to veterinary practice I have frequently observed the conflict in the mind of the practice owner(s) between their roles as:

  • Entrepreneur — the visionary, the dreamer — excited and enthusiastic about the practice potential
  • Investor — with a major financial commitment which appears to be designed in most cases to ‘buy their ideal job as a vet’ rather than to
    ‘achieve a healthy return on investment’ and business growth.
  • Practice manager — who measures, monitors, identifies and resolves problems and seeks to create and maintain administrative order.
  • Clinician — faced with an endless of clinical challenges which have to dealt with now

All too often business decisions relating to their veterinary business, are made by the practice owner(s) wearing their ‘clinical’ hat rather than their
‘business’ hat

The Monday Morning Question

If you own a veterinary practice or are planning to invest in practice ownership at some stage in the future, here’s another question.

Imagine yourself five years from now. It’s a Monday morning, you’ve just woken up and contemplating the working week ahead of you. You’re not on holiday,
you’re not retired – but so excited and enthusiastic about the tasks that await you, that you can’t wait to get out of bed and get on with your day.

The Monday morning question is ‘exactly how will you be spending that working week?’

If for example, you really hope to remain a clinician but want to own the practice, invest in it and remain the boss, you could continue to make a great
success in your clinical career and develop your leadership skills as a director, whilst arranging for one or more individuals to manage the business side of the practice under your direction.

If you really want to build a highly profitable practice generating a healthy return on investment, delegate much of your clinical responsibilities to
colleagues and spend much of your time playing golf or sailing, you could concentrate on your leadership and non-executive director role and appoint an
executive general manager to run the business on your behalf — perhaps on a share of the equity basis.

If you want to retain some interest in clinical matters and retain an active involvement in the day-to-day business side of the practice, you will need to
strengthen your role as leader and managing director, ensure that all the management tasks are being carried out effectively and identify one or more
individuals to provide you with the information you will need for decision making, as and when you need it.

So the strategy for the ongoing development of your veterinary practice will depend very much on your personal answer to the Monday Morning question.

Strategic Practice Management

Management is concerned with:

    Planning Understanding what’s going on now, knowing what you want to achieve and planning a route to get there

    Organising Utilising your resources (premises, equipment, people, skills, money) in order to achieve your objectives and

    Controlling Not in the sense of restricting but in measuring and monitoring — because if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it — and what gets
    measured gets done!

The precise definitions of the different level of management will depend on the type of industry, the size and nature of the specific business within that
industry and on the experience and judgement of those offering an opinion.

My own experience in the veterinary industry suggests that the following definitions might be appropriate for a veterinary practice:

Strategy — an ongoing process which includes:

  • a review of the practice position, values and brand in the marketplace
  • an overview of business strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
  • a definition or statement identifying the purpose of the practice and the major plans and actions designed to achieve defined objectives in the medium
    term (5 years)


  • a policy is a principle or rule to guide decision making in order to achieve specific objectives.
  • a policy is activated by implementing a Standard Operating Procedure or protocol
  • policies in a veterinary practice may be defined as those clinical, administrative or managerial SOP’s or protocols necessary to achieve professional and business objectives in the short term (12 to 24 months)
  • typical business policies will relate to such matters as professional services, product sales, fees and charges, terms of business, staff discipline, dress code, duty rotas and so on

So we can’t begin to prepare a detailed business plan for the forthcoming twelve to twenty four months or review important business issues such as
efficiency, productivity, protocols or compliance until we have thought through, documented and agreed a development strategy for the practice, against which the operational policies can be measured.

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Three Things Your Best Employees Want From Their Jobs

by Rebecca Tudor and published in her CatalystVet Bog

I don’t know about you, but I only want the very best of the best working with me. It can be challenging to find those people, and when you do, what can
be done to ensure that they stay with you? First, I think we need to understand that this generation of workers is not one to stay in the same job for a number of years. So despite our best efforts, some people may decide to seek different opportunities anyway.

I do believe there are some things though we should be doing in our practices to make sure the best people are going to stick around for as long as
possible. The inspiration for this post is Daniel Pink’s terrific book “Drive” that I highly recommend. He has found that there are essentially three things
you MUST be willing to give to employees in order for them to be their best and give their best at work and those are Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose


Having semblance of control over our lives is a basic human need. Researchers have found a link between autonomy and overall well-being. The opposite of autonomy is control and you probably know what it is like to work for a micro managing controlling boss-no fun!

Pink discusses some of the many ways you can provide autonomy for your employees-

  • seeing issues from their point of view,
  • giving meaningful feedback and information they need to know,
  • providing them with ample choice over what to do and how to do it, and
  • encouraging employees to take on new projects.

Interestingly enough, Pink cites a study from Cornell University that studied 320 small businesses- ½ of which granted workers autonomy, the other ½ relying on traditional top-down management. The businesses that provided autonomy grew at 4X the rate of the control oriented businesses and had one third of the turnover.


One can only master what they do when they are engaged in their work. According to Gallop research, more than 50% of employees are not engaged at work, and nearly 20% are actively disengaged. Compliance used to be all we needed from our teams, but that is no longer enough. With animal hospitals on every corner, we must have an engaged team if we are going to stay competitive and grow.

Training programs need be in place to help people master what is expected of them. It is not fair to them, us, and certainly not to our patients to put
people in situations where they have not been adequately trained or coached. Mastery is something that takes time. Hiring a veterinarian just out of school
and expecting them to practice like a seasoned veteran is not only unfair but can also be demoralizing to them.

Research by renowned psychologist, Dr. Anders Ericsson, shows that it takes 10,000 hours or 10 years of disciplined practice to be considered an expert in
any area. I am not saying give someone 10 years to do things well, but do remember mastery takes time and effort.


Going back to human nature, people want to be part of something bigger than them. A wise sage once said “without vision the people perish.” We cannot
expect the best people to follow us when they do not know where we are going. Your hospital’s vision acts as a guiding star for where you want to be going.
Not only is having a vision essential, your leadership team must be discussing it at least every 21 days for it to stick.

We, as a profession do meaningful work each and every day, but do you share your vision with your team? One of our customers has as their vision to be a
hospital that practices academic level medicine in a private practice setting- what a great vision to tap into and inspire their team to be part of something

Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose are really not difficult to provide to your team but they will take effort on your part. I personally think it is well worth the time and effort to do whatever you need to do to keep yourself surrounded by the best people you can.

What systems do you have in place to ensure that your best team members are receiving the most job satisfaction they can?

You can click here to visit Rebecca Tudor’s Blog

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It’s all about trust with veterinary clients

From an article by Steve Dale published in the website

Attend a practice management session and you’ll hear the common refrain: “Always greet the pet first.” I agree, but I also think that drill is greatly
overstated. My pets don’t pay the bill–I do. My pets also don’t make the next appointment.

Of course, I want to know that the veterinarian cares about my pets. And no doubt, pets probably feel more at ease when a veterinarian reaches out to pet
them before starting the exam. And when my pets feel more at ease, so do I.

Still, with all the talk about veterinary visits on the decline and concerns about menacing Dr. Google, at least one solution is a simple: Establish a
trusting relationship with clients.

Build a foundation

It may sound too simple to matter, but trust is the foundation of what owner-operated veterinary practices have been built on for decades. It’s that
trust which once held–and to a degree still does hold–veterinarians in such high esteem.

But trust isn’t built overnight. It begins by having conversations and demonstrating that you care. So, yes, ask about my pets. But if you happen to know a close family member just passed away, express condolences. If you see my arm is in a sling, ask what happened. If I look suntanned, ask about where
I’ve been. It’s very cool for veterinarians to send birthday cards to pets (hopefully via email to most clients in order to save money), but how about also
sending an email card to two-legged clients?

To build on that, how about sharing a little about who you are? You don’t need to divulge your deepest, darkest secrets, but sharing little details is how
people get to know one each other and feel like they’re friends. In other words, sharing is how to build trust. Or at least that’s the goal.

I realize your practice manager’s voice is now pounding in your ear: “But you’re spending 10 minutes talking about nothing.” I disagree; these conversations forge trust. Therefore the seemingly wasteful chitchat about a client’s vacation in the sun, sick relative, or child’s gymnastics win is an investment in the future. And it’s the best investment you can make.

What matters most?

If you care about me, I’m more likely to care about you–call that human nature. Relationships matter and of course, practicing good medicine still matters, too. In fact, establishing that trusting relationship with clients may allow you practice the kind of elite medicine you really want to.

Here’s an example that’s very personal to me. Lucy, my 15-year-old miniature Australian shepherd, was declining in health and suffered from an episode of
bloating as I was leaving for a veterinary conference. Luckily, there was no torsion, though, and Lucy was alive.

When I returned home, I picked Lucy up from Chicago Veterinary Emergency & Special Center and took her to Dr. Natalie Marks, my regular veterinarian. Although she hadn’t seen Lucy in two or three months, as we walked into her exam room at Blum Animal Hospital, her eyes welled up with tears. We hugged and still, hadn’t said a word. I knew at that instant what needed to be done to spare our beloved friend any further suffering.

Later, Dr. Marks told me that when a small dog suffers bloat at an old age, it probably means there’s an underlying disease. We even knew she was a
different dog just a few months earlier. But none of that mattered in that moment–I trusted Dr. Marks’ judgment.

Trusting my veterinarian’s judgment doesn’t mean that I don’t use Google or refer to my very long list of veterinary friends when I have questions. But when
push comes to shove, it’s Dr. Marks’s opinion that matters most.

You can click here to visit the website

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Taking part in the Vet Charity Challenge is good for practice morale


‘Taking part in the Vet Charity Challenge is an excellent way to encourage teamwork within a practice’ – so says Anne Goad from Parkvets in Sidcup, Kent, in
explaining why they have entered two teams.

“Teamwork at Parkvets is really important and events, such as the Vet Charity Challenge, really help to boost team spirit. We find that the build-up is just as important as the event, as working towards a specific goal outside of work helps with the work/life balance and provides a real sense of achievement on the day. Oh, and, of course, we are thrilled to be supporting the charities. Come on team Parkvets!” She said.

Teams are now registering for the Vet Charity Challenge 2013 that will take place on Saturday 28th September at Pershore College, Worcestershire. The event
comprises teams of four taking part in walking, running, cycling and kayaking along with some orienteering and mental and physical tasks.

This event has been designed for every level of fitness and success on the day depends very much on how well each team member works together, rather than
physical fitness.

Jason Rogers from BCF Technology and one of the VCC organisers commented, “Teams are registering every day and we are delighted with the response. But there are a few team spaces left, so I urge practices to register a team of four online now at

“The team rivalry between the three BCF teams that have entered has also already started.” He added.

The Vet Charity Challenge 2012 raised a total of £21,000, which was shared between three animal charities. The event in 2013 will raise funds for Hearing
Dogs for the Deaf, SPANA and Animals Asia.

The event is sponsored by BCF Technology, Kruuse, Vétoquinol and supported by VPMA, Mojo Consultancy and media partner Vet Practice magazine.

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To contact or not to contact

From Donna Rae’s Blog published in the online magazine

Seems like everyone now has a blog, web site, Facebook, Twitter and everything in between and I think that is GREAT. I am a fan (some may say addict of) social media and the internet. As a matter of fact when I am trying to find a new business I “Google it”. If they don’t have a web site I pass it by. I want to see what they offer, who the staff is, what the business looks like etc., etc., and I want to contact them via email (my favorite) or contact form (next best thing). Here is where the pet peeve of this story comes in and I guess my advice for any business.

Don’t put a contact form or email address on your web site if you are not going to answer it in a reasonable time frame. Nothing drives me more crazy than sending an email or filling out a contact form and never hearing back from the business.

Don’t start a social media page if you aren’t going to monitor it. I recently was looking for a personal trainer. I found a web site that said, “Check out our blog” so I did. Well the last entry to the blog was 1+ year ago! NEXT. If you post a status every 3 months then best to get rid of your Facebook.

So if you are going to take the time to do the above things then be sure you have someone to monitor it or I promise, the ne xt potential client is moving
on to a business that will.

You can click here to visit the website

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