Practice Management News and Views from around the World – November 2008

Vets in Business – from RCVS Vet Careers “Veterinary Science for
all walks of life”

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Know your Costs and Price for Profit – Manage your clinic better

Lesley Hullman says that talk of fees within the veterinary industry provides much discussion with very different theories and methodology.

Some say clinics should base their fees on benchmarks, median fees or national averages based on demographics. Others claim you should just increase fees across the board and hope the customersdo not complain or worse yet, raise them until they do complain.

Today veterinarians face such complexity and ever increasing costs within their clinics that they need precise, trustworthy information instead of guesswork in determining their fee structure. Outside of their clinics there is growing competition and a slowing economy to deal with.

It is also a changing industry that has shifted a lot of the traditional profit away from inventory because of internet and big discount stores.

Typically the clinic owners must await their month end results to find out if they covered their costs and ideally made a profit.

Profit Solver is a software tool that gives the clinic owner precise information so they know their costs and can price for profit. It calculates fees for every service based on actual costs and shows how to charge out billable labor in order to achieve a desired profit. It determines whatprofit they currently run at and maps their fees at their chosen profit level.

Each service fee is composed of labor, inventory and equipment and makes each component an individual profit center. Profit Solver calculates appropriate mark-ups for all profit centers.

With Profit Solver the owner or manager knows which services are profitable and what to do for the ones that are not. By knowing the exact profit or loss in each fee charged, the clinic owner can see how each service, based on the number of times performed, contributes to their profit.

By having better control of their fees and profit, it allows the owners to manage their clinics better in a variety of different ways.

Because they know how to cover all their costs — they can fairly allocate their fees upon client usage. This can include buying new equipment, paying increases in payroll and overhead withou the increase coming directly out of the owner’s pocket.

Profit Solver allocates overhead evenly so the clinic charges out their employees correctly. They know what breakeven is and how to make a profit on equipment and how to cover all inventory costs. They can see exactly what they make or lose on labor, inventory and equipment.

Profit Solver enables the clinic to be very competitive. It highlights which services are competitively priced that the owners know they cannot increase. It also highlights the services that offset the price-sensitive ones. With this software clinics can be very competitive on theirinventory. As labor is charged out to cover all costs, the markup on inventory falls directly tothe bottom line. It enables them to compete with their inventory costs against the internet or other businesses.

It is fair to everyone. It is no longer necessary to make overall increases that hurt the client because the owner knows specifically where they need to adjust. The clinics’ employees have understanding of clinic pricing when they see that their time and salary is directly related to what is charged. The owners are able to afford more flexibility within their payroll and overhead expenses, afford new equipment and make improvements for their clinics. More importantly by increasing the profitability, they ensure the clinic’s value when it is time to sell.

Profit Solver is easy to use and works alongside the clinic’s current software. The software is preloaded with a couple of hundred services for the small animal clinic; a specialist veterinary dental module is also available which includes dentistry and small animal clinic data.

What is interesting about this software is that it is not about just raising prices to improve the bottom line. It is more about precisely understanding the relationship between pricing and costs so that positive, rational decisions can be made. That is, the road to a profitable sustainable practice may not be to increase prices across the board but simply to manage a few big-volume losers.

You can click here to visit the Profit Solver website

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New marketing company will help “vets and the animal industry gain the competitive edge”

Marie Carter reports that her company has been set up to help veterinary practices – as well as businesses and organisations in the ‘animal industry’ – raise their profiles without breaking the bank., which launched its website last month, has been established in response to a growing demand, particularly from vets, for specialist marketing support – including public relations, design, advertising and e-marketing. A division of the successful Durham based consultancy MC Communications, which already counts a number of practices as well as the Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons (SPVS) among its clients, is headed by former journalist Marie Carter and supported by veterinary consultants, one of whom is a practising vet.

Marie explained: “During the credit crunch, practices in particular are recognising that they have to stand out from the crowd to gain or maintain a steady stream of business. Having run MC Communications for the past three years, and gained something of a specialism in the veterinary sector, I decided that it was the right time to set up a specialist marketing company to run alongside MC Communications that would utilise this experience more effectively. The aim is to deliver a devoted and cost-effective service to vets and the animal industry.”

Jacqui Molyneux, principal vet at the Prince Bishop Veterinary Hospital, based near Consett in County Durham, said: “There really is a growing demand among vets to step up their marketing campaigns in these challenging times. A marketing budget is now an essential driver in creating a flourishing business, and many vets are realising that they can no longer just rely on occasional advertising but need to invest in promoting themselves. Businesses and organisations in the animal industry will also benefit from the expertise that a company like can offer.”

You can click here to visit the Vet-PR website

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Team Satisfaction Pays – Organizational Development for Practice Success

I was delighted to receive a review copy of Dr Carin Smiths new book direct from the author who I met as a fellow member of Vet Partners (formerly known as the Association of Veterinary Practice Management Consultants and Advisors) a couple of years ago.

This is an essentially practical book about the structure and process of teamwork in practice. It ties together tasks and relationships and the focus is on the development of your practice and your practice team. The nine detailed sections comprising more than 350 pages will show you how to create business structure, define and achieve ‘good attitude’, conduct global reviews, create a plan for diversity management, involve team members in growing your practice, give effective feedback through coaching, create your vision, mission, and core values and address ethical issues with your team.

You will also learn how to develop leadership, recruit and retain the ‘best and brightest’ doctors and team members, improve teamwork & efficiency, hold people accountable, facilitate productive meetings, provide flexible work (and still cover needed hours), help veterinarians and team members talk with clients about money issues, address issues of family, friends and work and use facilitative, evidence-based management

This is an excellent, well researched and comprehensive publication based on Dr Smiths’ extensive experience as a veterinary clinician, consultant, speaker, trainer and author. It is packed full of action lists and team exercises which you can use to enable your practice team to develop your practice vision, mission and core values, develop leadership skills, improve teamwork and individual attitude, increase staff motivation and improve performance.

The book includes a CD containing all the team exercises in .doc and .pdf format and is an invaluable resource comprising a systematic approach for veterinary practice owners and managers to build motivated teams essential for the delivery of high quality professional veterinary services in a demanding market.

You can click here to visit Carin Smiths website, for further details and to order your copy of Team Satisfaction Pays

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Business is down – a glimpse at one of the topics in the practice managers discussion group on VSPN

“I am a practice manager of a pretty successful practice. It is a small animal, 7 year old progressive clinic, that is before the economy started to go on the decline. We had so many appointments that we couldn’t keep up, We would be double and triple booked with three hospitalized patients a day. We experienced growth every month, sometimes exponentially. But since about February/March-ish we have been slower and slower, and the bottom line is going down and down.”

“We have had more factors than the economy that is playing a part in this. Our owner had bought another practice and started practicing there full time in March, We had one doctor here since October of last year but it turned out the clients and staff didn’t like him so we let him go around June. In March we had another DVM come on board, he has been the main and full time vet since. Our practice manager resigned in January, so I took over the position, with management change we also had a turn over in staff. Now things are more stable, but we did bring on 2 part time vets as the owner has been practicing between the two clinics and is being spread too thin”.

“With new doctors and management policies and procedures have changed…to practice more quality medicine, but the changes have scared clients. So needless to say we are now slow, making almost half of what we did last year, and I need some advice on how to turn things around!!!”


“Just curious…how’s the other practice doing?”

“Have you tried contacting your local shelters and offering a discounted or free first exam for each adopted pet? That might get people in the door so you can turn them into lifelong clients

Our local animal shelter always gave vouchers for spays and neuters (not for the full amount, but part), and what we decided to do was match their voucher. So, if the animal shelter put $28 towards the surgery, we put $28 towards it as well. The client ends up saving $56 a spay, and have been pretty good at coming back to us later on.”

“My paycheck bounced last week – Ya, hard times.”

“Ouch — sorry to hear that…hope things get better soon.”

“We noticed a significant drop when the stock market went nuts. We’ve had some busy days but over all October is down about $500 a day compared to last October. Last week looked pretty7 good until Friday and Saturday which were slow.

We have not in the past sent people home when it was slow as long as they stayed productive, but we’ve been fortunate that people have volunteered to cut hours on slow days because it was coming to that. I’ve got two employees (one receptionist, one assistant) that are getting ready to go on maternity leave. I no longer intend to replace the assistant and will likely just increase a part-time receptionists’ hours slightly and fill in as needed up front myself for the time being.”

“I think it’s important to be proactive at this time but not to panic. Fear and panic is what causes the stock market to crater the way it has lately…hopefully in the end cooler heads will prevail.”

“Before you can react, you need to know what you are reacting to. We know the economy is bad, in some locations more than others. We know you have had significant turnover, with one longtime DVM leaving, and another alienating some clients. We know you have had some policy changes, which have also alienated some clients. Have prices changed significantly as well? How is the net doing?”

“Look at the gross- you said it has fallen by more than 50%. In what manner, and why?”

“How many records requests are you getting? Are patient visits down? Is your ATF down? Are surgeries , vaccines, preventative products down (i.e. in what areas are you hurting the most?)”

“If people are still coming in, but spending less, you need to look at why. Are they less willing to spend $? Or are the recommendations not being made? Or are the recommendations coming across poorly?”

“If you’ve mostly had a client drain- I would try and recoup some of those lost clients. Send them an “exit” survey….let them know you noticed they left, you want them back, and you’d like to know how. If things are truly bad, enclose a certificate for a free exam- ask them to please take the time to see how you’ve responded to their concerns. People love to be asked their opinions, especially if they think they have the power to actually change things. And it will be easier to regain a once-satisfied client lost over a single incident, than to truly convert an entirely new client.”

You can click here to visit the VSPN website. The Veterinary Support Personnel Network is for veterinary support staff working with, for, or in the field of veterinary medicine, under the direction of a licensed veterinarian. Membership in VSPN is free.

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Veterinary Pet Insurance Reveals Most Expensive Pet Conditions –Pets of All Ages Susceptible to Costly Accidents and Illnesses

Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI), the oldest and largest provider of pet health insurance in the USA, recently analyzed medical claims submitted in 2007 to find the most expensive insured conditions commonly suffered by dogs and cats.

VPI ranked conditions based on the average fees attached to common claims from among its more than 460,000 pets insured nationwide.

The data revealed that the costliest conditions affected pets of all ages and breeds and often required diagnostic tests and emergency surgery. Average claimed fees for the priciest conditions ranged from $500 to nearly $3,000. Following are VPI’s Top 10 most expensive common conditions for dogs and cats, with the average claimed fee amounts submitted in 2007:


From an article published on the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues website

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What Makes a Good Logo?

by Sharon Housley

What is a logo?

A logo is a design, graphical representation, image or symbol that represents a business or organization. Logos were initially used to distinguish and differentiate products, the logos assisted purchasers in finding the product they prefer or have come to trust (or not trust). When product selections were limited and items were marked with a logo which a consumer was familiar they would naturally assume a certain level of quality or value, even if they had not previously used that specific product from that vendor. Now many companies not only have a corporate logo, but they have a logo to represent each of their products or product lines.

The company or product logo typically appears on all printed media or websites that are associated with the company or product. The logo appears in all marketing material and media.

A logo is really more than just a graphic, a logo design is part of a larger marketing concept. Marketers take specific care when selecting a logo, and they give a lot of thought about what they want their customers to identify with the company or product logo.

Some logos are designed around color. Studies have been conducted about the psychology of color and how different colors evoke different emotions. Green is used to imply wealth or expense, a marketer might use a green logo to imply an increase in perceived value. Blue on the other hand has a calming and soothing effect. Multiple colors can be used to accent and highlight specific parts of the logo. Accented and highlighted colors should be contrasting and complimentary.

Regardless of what colors you select, be sure that you use standard pantone colors and websafe colors. Also make sure these colors can be easily reproduced in print mediums.

Logos should be simple, and not overly elaborate or complex. Newer businesses and technology companies should have modern logos, while long standing businesses may want to use a logo that emphasizes their business experience. That does not mean that an older business cannot freshen or enhance an older logo, they may just want to retain certain qualities so their logo is still recognizable. Rarely do business depart drastically from an established logo. For this reason businesses should select a logo that has longevity. Once you establish and build a strong corporate image, you will want to retain it.

Logos should be designed so that they scale easily and can be used in a variety of mediums: letterhead, t-shirts, and more. Always keep in mind that logos are part of a larger marketing concept. Promotional materials will require consistency to reinforce the company or product image.

Taglines incorporated into the logo help reinforce the underlying message in a logo and can be an easy addition. Countless memorable marketing campaigns over the years have associated slogans with a logo to hit a message home.

While logos sound complex, in truth it has never been easier to locate a logo. Professional graphic artists are abundant on the web, and can be contracted to create a custom logo, or business owners can scroll through thousands of logos in logo directories.

Here are some Logo Directories:

Logo Search –

Logo Maid –

LogoWorks –

Logos are the building blocks of a company or product identity. Be sure to take the time to find a logo that reflects the values that you, as a business owner, want associated with your business. Find a logo that is more than just a graphic.

You can click here to read the original article