Practice Management News and Views from around the World – June 2009

A video created by the National Office for Animal Health (NOAH) to raise awareness of its Pet Health Information website among animal lovers in the UK

You can click here for further information

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Lunch-Break Webinar – June 4th 1300 GMT

I am delighted to let you know that the Lunch-Break Webinar to be held at 1pm (1300 BST) on Thursday June 4th will be freely open and available to everyone — subscribers to the free newsletter, full members and visitors to the Veterinary Business Briefing website.

My guest expert on this occasion will be Peter Gripper of Anval Ltd who will present a short workshop session entitled; ‘Top Tips for Building your Top Line’

In this 30 minute workshop, Peter will provide a short background for the discussion and then encourage delegates to share their own experiences.

Who can participate?

Anyone with a PC, a broadband connection to the internet and a telephone. Participation is free apart from the cost of your own telephone call (standard access number quoted by the conference call service at 5p per minute). Attending a webinar is like attending any seminar apart from the place where the event takes place. Instead of meeting in a conference room we meet in a virtual conference room on the web.

Joining instructions – links no longer valid

Join us online at 1300 GMT on Thursday June 4th for our 30 minute Lunch-Break Webinar – you will be glad that you did

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Doing Well in a Tough Economy

by John W. Albers, DVM

Many in our profession and industry recognize that these are tough economic times, and that things may actually get worse before they get better. Moreover, the long-held
belief that companion animal veterinary medicine is “recession resistant” or even “recession proof” is being tested. Indeed, while the bulk of the data available shows
that practice revenues are generally still increasing, there is no doubt that growth is slowing (and declining in some cases) and that client visits have decreased.

So what should you do? There are two basic options. One, you can hunker down, stop spending on anything that is non-critical, cut staff and hours, find ways to offer less costly treatment options to your clients, demand discounts from suppliers, and cancel that planned trip to next year’s veterinary conference. Alternatively, you can take proactive steps to ensure that your practice remains successful and is well-positioned to resume strong growth as the economy improves.

Do more than survive: How to do well in the recession

Here are five recommendations, gleaned from the literature citing the learning from a wide variety of industries in previous recessions.

Focus on Your Strengths

The key is to focus all of your resources on your areas of greatest strength, whether that is quality care, exceptional client service, technology, or something else. Now is not the time to diversify. If you don’t already board or groom, or provide other ancillary services, don’t start now. If exceptional client service is a strength in your practice, ramp up the attention you pay to the clients who do come in. If high quality care is your highest objective, keep offering the best care to every client;
don’t assume that they are impacted by the economy to the point that they won’t accept your recommendations.

Rein in Costs — But Prudently

Cutting all costs across the board can be a big mistake. While it may result in short-term gain, it can negatively impact long-term strategy and results. Focus on rooting out inefficiencies, but maintain the resources to sustain your core strengths.

Staff Costs. The most common short-term strategy is to cut staff. However, consider the impact on the morale of remaining staff: in most cases of layoffs, productivity and service levels actually decline. Further, this economic malaise will not last foreve and at some point practices that cut staff will have to hire to meet increasing demand. Think about the costs of severance, the loss of knowledge and skills, and the cost of recruiting and training new employees.

You should be open with your staff about the realities of the economic situation. Invite them to be participants in the solutions. Remember that they may be experiencing significant personal hardships, particularly if they are facing mortgage problems or have a spouse whose job is in jeopardy. Look for ways to reduce their stress and you can improve trust and productivity.

Further, I would suggest that this is not the time to cut back on staff training and continuing education. Both involve using resources to focus on your core strengths; both motivate staff and lead to better results. In fact, a slowing of client activity can be a great time to enhance team skills and collaboration — both of which will pay huge dividends when the economy improves.

Drug and Supply Costs. Subjecting your suppliers to a squeeze on their margins can be a short term “win” but a long term loss. Remember that they, too, face economic stress, and if you squeeze them now they are likely to remember that when the economy improves. Rather, work with them; ask them to help you with inventory control; ask them if there are ways that you can reduce their costs of serving you, and whether there is a way that you can share in the savings. Taking these steps, rather than demanding discounts, will ensure your suppliers’ loyalty and in the long term that will be far more valuable than the percent or two you might be able to squeeze out of them now.

Should you Discount Your Services?

Experts suggest the answer is no. Price can be an important determinant of perceived value and discounts just to boost sales can cause clients to question the value of the service. Some authors have referenced the reaction of Starbucks to their earnings decline, which was to begin offering lower priced options, like a $1 cup of coffee. They point out that when times improve, Starbucks may have difficulty convincing customers to once again pay $4 for a latte.

Stay in Touch with Your Clients

As indicated above, now is the time to focus lots of time and attention on the clients that are bringing in their pets. But don’t forget about the clients that may be staying away because of economic pressures. With the possibility of extra staff time, maybe now is the time to update and enhance your website or put out an informative newsletter. Don’t forget to say thank you! You want to be sure that these clients come back when the economy improves.

This would also be a good time for staff to review patient records for compliance. Almost all practices have many clients who have received a recommendation for their pet’s care, but who have not yet followed through. Now would be a great time to contact them and schedule that appointment or refill that prescription.

Time for an Acquisition? Maybe.

In the business world, focused acquisitions have shown to actually reduce risk in tough economic times by strengthening the core. Is there a nearby practice interested in selling? Do the clients of that practice value the kind of services and quality you provide? Could you acquire the clients and decrease overall expenses? While making an acquisition during lean economic times may seem counterintuitive, many times making the right acquisition can be smart. Be careful, however, to be sure that the acquisition
will strengthen your core business and not detract from it. As mentioned earlier, this is not the time to diversify.


This is a time that will test your skills as a practice owner and manager. Don’t let “recession” become a self-fulfilling prophecy for your practice. Remember to focus your resources on your areas of strength. Remember that your employees, your clients, and your suppliers are in the same boat; work with them, take care of them and you will emerge from this recession positioned to resume strong growth and a great economic future.

You can
click here
to visit the VetPartners website

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Results of the first Veterinary Business Briefing online survey

“Results of the first Veterinary Business Briefing online survey “


Watch out for the June survey – coming very shortly – see the home page to submit your vote

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Management Research Project


The National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues along with the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association (VHMA), and VetPartners, Inc., are sponsoring a management research project designed to identify what drives a practice to make operational changes that move it from a mediocre level of financial performance to high level financial success.

In addition to understanding the motivation behind significant change, the research project also seeks to understand the tools used by the practices to implement this change.

A brief survey has been designed to identify potential practices for participation in this research project. All data submitted is restricted to essential access only
to ensure confidentiality. Data ultimately included in the research report will be in aggregate form only. If you think you’ve made this kind of change, please access the
qualification survey below and let us see your success!

You can click here to take the qualification survey

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You are more likely to receive forgiveness than permission

by Steve Kornfeld and Peter Weinstein DsVM

This quote was posted on the door to my office when I was in practice. It was a message to my staff that I trusted them and respected them enough to make decisions on their own without having to constantly seek my approval.

Practice success comes from building a staff and training a staff to such a level of trust that you can comfortably put that sign up on your door, too.

Staff longevity depends upon a lot of things, however two of the most important ones are respect and responsibility. This message echoes both.

Of course, to get there your team must be trained to make decisions in an intelligent and rationale fashion. I am a strong believer than decisions in a veterinary hospital should be made in the following order:

  • 1.In the pet’s best interest
  • 2.In the client’s best interest
  • 3.In the staff’s best interest
  • 4.In the hospital’s best interest
  • 5.In the doctor’s best interest
  • 6.In the owner’s best interest

Using these guidelines (and a pre-determined budget), your staff will stop coming to you and saying:

May I give Scruffy some pain medication, and instead will say-how much Tramadol may I give Scruffy?

What can I do for Mrs. Jones, she’s been waiting over 30 minutes, and instead will say- I just gave Mrs. Jones a Starbucks giftcard since she’s been waiting over 30 minutes

What should I do, the dryer isn’t drying anymore, and instead will say-I just called Maytag, they are coming out to give us an estimate to fix the dryer.

We are out of toilet paper, and instead will say-I am going to take $15 from petty cash to get some toilet paper.

Alice has been coming in late for the past 3 months, and instead will say-I am hiring a animal caretaker to replace Alice.

By allowing your staff to grow and by delegating and completely releasing tasks to your team, you are telling them that you trust them, that they are truly a part of your hospital family and that you need them to be successful.

Try it!! we think you’ll like it.

You can click here to visit the Veterinary Success Services website

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Pet Insurance in North America

If the future of this market depends on marketing-driven consumer demand, then the North American market for pet insurance is at a pivotal stage. Since the previous edition of this report, published in November 2005, over a half dozen new companies have come onto the playing field, each of them putting a different spin on pet insurance, from highly customizable plans to greatly simplified ones. In the pet insurance spotlight as of spring 2008 are huge consumer and pet market companies and brands–including PurinaCare, AKC, ASPCA and Kroger–as well as dedicated pet insurance underwriters such as American Pet Insurance Company and SecuriCan. This ramped-up activity is challenging established marketers across all channels–direct-to-consumer, veterinarians, company benefits, corporate alliances and shelter programs–a situation that seems sure to drive up consumer awareness and market penetration.

You can click here for further details

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