Practice Management News and Views from around the World – March 2010

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VetPartners Annual Meeting to feature Gerry Faust and Jack Canfield

After a tough year for every small business owner, VetPartners’ annual meeting this March will feature two well-known speakers who are sure to energize and refocus attendees on making 2010 their best year ever.

In choosing the speakers, Dr. Bill Kearley, program committee chair for VetPartners states, “This past recession shook many businesses to the core. Consultants and their veterinary clients are eager to find out what steps they can now take to realign their business plans and set their goals for the future into action.”

Dr. Gerry Faust kicks off the meeting on March 16, 2010 in Long Beach, CA, with a dynamic and entertaining program on the specific roles that management must play to be successful both in the short and long term. Jack Canfield, originator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series and America’s #1 Success Coach, will present a specially tailored interactive workshop on his best-selling book, The Success Principles: How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be.

VetPartners President Dr. Peter Weinstein is excited about the opportunity to bring Jack Canfield’s lessons to the veterinary profession, “I was sold since the first time I picked up Jack’s book! The positive energy from this meeting is sure to create a ripple effect in the veterinary profession.”

About VetPartners

A non-profit group of professionals, VetPartners serves and advances the veterinary profession with innovative, relevant, valuable, and ethical practice development solutions. Our members view integrity as their highest priority, strive to be responsible leaders, and dedicate themselves to continued personal and professional growth so they can better serve the profession. Our commitment to delivering results through close interaction and partnership is a core value for our members.

You can click here to visit the VetPartners website

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New practice management consultancy

Denmark-based consulting firm praQtice has launched a subsidiary in the UK to offer veterinary practice management consultancy services.

The company says it concentrates on six business areas: strategy and business development, marketing, employee and manager development, finance, research and analysis, and training.

praQtice says it has worked with a wide range of practices, from the small local practice to the large hospital, helping them bring together their mission and vision. The company also has the benefit of having an in-house marketing and communication department which it says has had considerable success – not only in Scandinavia, but in the UK when last year praQtice won a Veterinary Marketing Association award.

The launch in the UK will primarily be driven by three praQtice consultants – founder and business developer Christian Kolthoff, Marketing Consultant Mario Riewerts and Business Developer Helen Kington.

Helen said: “This will be great for UK vets, largely it has been the same group of consultants working with the same thoughts and ideas for the last 10 years. We need to look beyond our borders in order to evolve. In Scandinavia you can only put a mark up of 5% on your drugs, which does not make you a profit. Thus they have learnt to be much better in delivering and pricing for their professional service, I am sure we can learn a lot from them. What we also see all over Europe is that practices are getting bigger and bigger. But as the practices grow, so does the number of problems and the partner’s income rarely follows. praQtice is about quality of life and allowing yourself to dream, we then give you the tools along with helping you through the implementation to make those dreams and ambitions come true.

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How Are Your Casting Skills?

by Jason Canapp

No, I’m not referring to your fishing ability or proficiency at healing broken bones. Rather, I’m referring to your ability to efficiently and effectively screen for and hire staff.

Most people will agree that getting the right people on board is one of the most important (if not THE most important) things a manager does. However, it is one of those recognizably important things that tend to get very little attention or resources. Some hospitals dedicate more resources to crafting a job posting and advertising the position than to the process related to hiring the right person.

According to the Harvard Business Review, 80 percent of staff turnover is caused by bad hiring decisions. Think that’s bad? It gets worse: some of the things managers do to avoid making bad hiring decisions are actually hurting them! Are you doing lots of in-person interviews? Nope, that’s not going to help you; a study at the University of Michigan found that a typical job interview increased the likelihood of choosing the best candidate by less than two percent. Seriously!

Moreover, the traditional job interview decision is very subjective. Interviewer bias is unavoidable and will affect perceptions of a candidate. We all tend to like people who are similar to ourselves. To combat this, managers will often assemble interviewing teams to assess a candidate. This doesn’t help either; it simply multiplies the bias and reinforces the cultural disposition of the current team. While that may help to create teams that get along reasonable well, it may also create a team that lacks the mix of skills needed to excel in your particular hospital.

So, what is a hiring manager to do? Here are some suggestions:

  • Use a Pre-Screening Document. While not meant to improve your hiring decisions, it will help you save time on the entire process. How often do we invite in a candidate to interview because they look good on paper only to find that they have purple hair or visible tattoos? If this look is ok for your hospital, then great! But it isn’t for most. If you have appearance standards in place, make sure candidates know about them before they interview. Don’t waste your time or theirs.
  • Focus on Attitude and Aptitude. Ask difficult and uncomfortable questions. Create scenarios and ask the candidate how they would react or handle the situation. Ask them what additional information they would need to make a good decision. Quiz them on what resources they turn to when making decisions or working on projects. Make sure you have them give you some examples of when they have done this in the past. When did it work? When didn’t it?
  • Assess Relevant Skills. This may be the most important thing you can do to improve your hiring decisions for your hospital. Create a quiz and ask questions that are relevant to measures of success in this particular position. If possible, have them demonstrate skills in mock or real situations. If they don’t know the answer or have the particular skill, ask them what they would do in an on-the-job situation. Sound uncomfortable? It can be — but it will ensure that you and the candidate know what they are getting into.
  • Let Them Interview You. More than a working interview, make sure you allow time for them to ask their potential colleagues some questions. They should want to know about the management style, reward mechanisms, how the staff is made to feel relevant, etc. This can be done one-on-one or in small groups. If the candidate doesn’t have an interest in doing this or doesn’t ask many questions, that can be an indication of a potentially unengaged employee.

Of course, much of this means knowing what the specific role requires and what your hospital’s standards are. If these aren’t well defined, start defining them today. The extra effort will ensure a much more successful hiring process for your hospital and future employees!

You can click here to visit Jason Canapps blog

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Do you know your clients?

by Peter Weinstein, DVM, MBA and Steve Kornfeld, DVM, CPCC

You have a computer system in your practice and most likely practice management software too, but how is it really helping you? Are you mainly using it as a cash register? That’s too bad because that system can really give you an edge. Here’s an example.

How well do you know your clients, and we really mean it? This is not just about knowing them by name or their pet’s name; it is about knowing much more. OK, we don’t expect you to know a lot about all your clients, but what about the top 20% or even 10%? We bet that even if you know who belongs in this list, you don’t know much more about them and that’s a shame because knowing their profile will allow you to identify who else belongs in this group of clients who give you a big portion of your revenue. Your practice management software can help with identify these clients and really get to know them. So this is what you do:

Define who are your average clients- how much they spend a year at your practice, how many times they come in a year, what their compliance rate is, or whether they have referred new clients to you. With this information, you can now define the profile of your top 20% clients and your top 10% clients. These clients should go on a separate list and then given the royal treatment. As they come in now and then, along with everybody else and because you don’t really know who they are, there is no way for you to appreciate what their contribution to your success is.

Do you recall that some days things in the practice feel like they are on a rocket; every client who comes in says yes at anything you recommend, even to expensive procedures and it just feels like an enjoyable day? Most likely what happened is that by chance more good clients came in on that particular day than other clients and you thus noticed their impact on the bottom line of the practice.

Knowing who they are and what they want, will allow you to give them more. Doing so will make them give you more of what you want.

You can click here to visit the Veterinary Success Services website website

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Introducing Dodd Rescue

The insolvency team at Dodd & Co Chartered Accountants has a new name and new look. Dodd Rescue is headed up by Jeanette Brown who is a Licensed Insolvency Practitioner. Jeanette and the team have many years of experience in helping people through their financial difficulties whether the problem is personal, corporate or partnership based.

All businesses have their ups and downs, but many common financial problems can be resolved if the right action is taken in good time. When financial problems start to turn serious, it is often difficult to know what to do for the best. After all, what can you do about bad payers? What if cashflow problems are crippling your growth? What would voluntary liquidation entail? Often our experienced team can help you before things go from bad to worse.

It is reassuring to know that you are only a phone call away from a local UK firm who can provide you with expert advice and information on how to deal with your financial problems. We offer a free hotline – 0800 954 0520.

You can click here to find out more about the team and the services that they can provide

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What To Do About Late Payers

by Bernadette Doyle

I often hear people saying, “I’m really struggling with late payers. I’ve done the work and it’s just really frustrating. I’m just a small business and some of these large companies are taking like 90 days to pay me.” For many business owners it seems like there’s nothing you can do about this. It’s just something you have to suffer, something you have to put up with.

So the majority accept this as a ‘necessary and unavoidable evil’. But what if you didn’t have to accept that? What if you actually made it a condition of your business that people paid you in advance or they paid you a percentage in advance?

Please notice your reaction to the suggestion I just made. Because if your instant reaction is, “Oh, I couldn’t do that. That’ wouldn’t work in my industry,” I just want to push you a bit and say, “Well, why not?” What’s stopping you? Who says you can’t do it that way?

Because the fact is, if you want to produce extraordinary results in your business, you may need to take extraordinary measures.

I can tell you from experience that the instant you set a condition like that in your business and you say, “Actually I now only deal with clients who pay in advance,” you know what will happen? The ones that will grumble or the ones that might refuse to do business with you were the ones that were going to be the problem payers anyway.

Several years ago I did a very interesting exercise where I divided up my client list into ‘dream clients’ (love working them, in fact it’s not like work at all, they pay me on time and in full) and ‘problem clients’ (wish this person had never darkened my door, always asking for extras, quibbling over fees, pay late if at all etc.) As I reviewed this list I noticed a very interesting pattern. Every single one of the ‘problem’ clients had done something during the sales process to flag their ‘special needs’. They had
asked for some extras, or a discount, some bending of the rules, some pushing of my usual business terms and conditions.

At the time, because I didn’t know any better, I yielded to their requests because I thought I ‘had to’, and because I thought it was ‘good business’ to be flexible. Yet in every single one of these instances, their first request had just been the thin edge of the wedge and the start of a whole series of special requests.

So even if on the face of it it looks like you’re losing a client or two by putting a condition like payment terms in place, the fact is you’re losing the problem clients. Because the customers that were going to pay you on time, the customers that value you and aren’t going to quibble over your fees or drag their heels over paying your invoices will comply with your requests because they recognize the value of what you’re offering and they accept this as a term of doing business with you.

The bottom line is YOU get to determine the terms on which you do business. If you let your clients dictate the terms then don’t be surprised if you live to regret it. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

You can click here to visit Bernadette Doyle’s website

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