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

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Are Your Employees Engaged?

by the Exceptional Veterinary Team

In many workplaces, true empowerment is all too rare. Yet when you give more freedom to your employees, you enable them to think for themselves–and to be more creative, more enthusiastic, and more productive. Empowered and engaged employees stay on the job longer. They are safer, more productive, and more profitable.

Engage your employees with these 3 steps:

  • Hire and promote employees into roles that fit their talents. Many companies waste time and money trying to develop employees through training. But training is only a valuable business investment if it is offered to employees who have the potential and the desire to excel in that role in the first place! Why put someone at the front desk that doesn’t enjoy interacting with clients? It doesn’t make much sense and no amount of training is going to change that.
  • Instead, ask your staff members what tasks they love and why, then make sure that part of their day is spent working on those tasks. You may have an associate with great strategic abilities who would be an asset in helping to plan long-term goals or a vet tech with exceptional empathy skills who would make an ideal liaison for following-up with clients–but if you don’t assess these strengths you’ll never know.
  • Create a supportive work environment. Did you know that an employee’s immediate supervisor has the greatest influence on his/her engagement level? People need the trust and security created by a close employee-manager relationship before they’ll invest in performing their jobs at the highest level possible. If you want staff to deliver outstanding results, make sure that the climate at your practice is a positive one.
  • Free teams and individuals to develop their own workflows. Managers need to trust their teams to find the best way to produce excellent results. Teams that determine their own workflows are far more likely to take responsibility for their work and its outcome. The people involved in doing the actual work almost always have a better sense of how to get their job done well and efficiently, so allow them the autonomy to develop procedures that make sense.

In short, the fundamental ideas of performance management are simple: Get great people and develop them; create a supportive work environment; focus employees on the right targets, and then free them to create their best ways to achieve them.

You can click here to visit the Exceptional Veterinary Team website

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Practitioners and practice managers offered chance to discover more about employment law

Practitioners and practice managers offered chance to discover more about employment law

A one-day event offering practices the opportunity to take part in an interactive workshop focusing on disciplinary and grievance issues is being held this month by the Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons (SPVS) in association with Rickerbys LLP.

The Employment Day will be of interest to anyone thinking about taking on additional staff, anyone with employees, anyone responsible for human resource management or those
simply wanting to find out more about employment law. It will also provide delegates with vital information about recent developments in employment legislation and case law,
particularly in light of changes to the ACAS Code of Practice, which took place in April.

The Employment Day will also look at alternative business structures, documents within the business, insurance issues and successful succession planning.

The event, which takes place on 20th November at Hatherley Manor in Gloucester, promises to be an invaluable event for practices during the recession.

Organiser Jacqui Molyneux explained: “This event will be invaluable to anyone with employees or anyone thinking about taking on additional staff, particularly in this
difficult economic climate. It will aid sound financial planning and decision-making within practices. It promises to be popular so delegates are urged to book as soon as possible.”

Speakers include Edward Davies, Partner & Head of the ‘Vets Team’ at Rickerbys LLP, Matthew Clayton, Partner, Rickerbys LLP and Mark Beaney LLP Partner at Hazelwoods LLP.

The cost per delegate is £199 plus vat with a 10% discount for SPVS members.

You can click here for further information and to book your place

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“Congratulations, you’ve finally earned your veterinary degree. Here’s a bill for $130,000.”

Veterinary school graduates are entering the profession today with educational debt that resembles an average mortgage in the United States. What a graduation gift.

With average educational debt approaching the estimated $136,000 average of a U.S. home mortgage, veterinarians new to the field face significant financial challenges. But this
isn’t only about veterinarians. It’s about animal and public health, as well as food safety.

The sobering debt levels of veterinary graduates are forcing many beginning practitioners to make some tough decisions about where to live and what type of veterinary medicine to practice. Many of them are going where the salaries are higher, and unfortunately, this often means bypassing rural areas of great veterinary need – particularly in food animal veterinary medicine.

A recent survey of graduating veterinary students conducted by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) indicates that debt levels continue to climb each year. And the salaries many of these veterinarians rely on to help pay that debt are only slightly higher than your average sales rep and lower than your average real estate broker.

“Many veterinary students want to pursue a career in which they work in rural areas or with food animals, but two of the biggest obstacles standing in their way are their level
of educational debt and their starting salaries,” said Dr. Larry R. Corry, president of the AVMA. “They see a college loan repayment that can average more than $1,300 a month, on
top of their normal living expenses, and they see a starting salary of around $63,000. They wonder if they can provide a good quality of life for themselves and their family.”

The AVMA is heavily involved in trying to help alleviate this debt, and association leaders are continuing to call on the federal government to help bolster the numbers of
veterinarians who perform critical duties in ensuring both animal and human health. Whether they’re seeking appropriations or working to help pass legislation, AVMA leaders are focused on improving veterinary services and increasing veterinary availability around the country.

You can click here to visit the AVMA website

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“Vets are like Donkeys- They’ll work all day for a carrot”

by Diederik Gelderman DVM MBA

That’s what my bank manager said to me 14 years ago when he refused an extension to my overdraft.

I was working tragically hard, yet had no profits to show for all that dedication and hard work. I resolved to do something about it and reverse what I now call the “passionate-tragic” syndrome.

What We Weren’t Told At University

You see, conventional wisdom suggests that when you combine above-average ‘brain-power’ with dedication, passion and long hours of toil, then the rewards should be commensurately superior.

Not so … as a professional group we are proof positive. For the very great majority of Vets in practice, this is their reality. They are:

  • Not generating a decent commercial wage.
  • Not earning a decent commercial return on the investment in their practice.
  • Not adequately providing for their latter years AND
  • Too busy — working IN their practice to work ON their practice.

My wakeup call some 15 years ago alerted me to the fact that brilliant things happen when practice profits increase!

Everyone in the commercial world, it seems, gets enthusiastic when you can demonstrate superior profitability. That’s why for the past 15 years, I’ve embarked on a
frenetic education in business. More particularly, an education into how I can get massively more profits into my practice.

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Solving the Late Paying Customer Blues

by Caroline Jordan, MBA

Nothing can drive a business down faster than customers who don’t pay their bills as agreed. When you sell to customers on credit you are making an agreement with
them. You will provide them with goods or services in exchange for their payment within the terms you agree upon. Period.

What I’m seeing more and more of is businesses using their suppliers as banks. Taking 60-90 days or more to pay a bill is becoming more and more common. I’ve
seen some business owners shrug their shoulders and just accept that nothing can be done about it. That’s just the way it is.

Naturally, I disagree with that approach. The reason you grant credit is to increase sales. But, the sales you want more of are the sales that pay and don’t drag your
business kicking and screaming into the Cash Flow Swamp.

So, what’s a business owner to do?

Late paying customers can create a serious threat to the survival of your business. Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been in business for awhile, it’s a critical business function to develop a solid plan to get paid.

Here’s an example of a solid plan:

You decide your business will not grant credit. You decide to be paid up front before you provide services or products. You get set up to accept credit cards or use Paypal
(or both). You communicate in no uncertain terms (nicely but firmly) what your payment terms are. You explain that payment is due before (or at) the time of
service or purchase and that you accept cash, checks, money orders, credit cards and Paypal. Period.

Then, you stick to it with no exceptions. You make that a condition of doing business. Communicate it firmly and respectfully. Don’t waffle or
apologize. People who take advantage of others can sense weakness. So can people who always have a tale of hard luck and woe. It’s human nature.

Remember, late paying or nonpaying customers are endangering the survival of your business. These are not the customers you want to do business with. You’ll have
nothing to show for your work but stress and poverty. If you want to do some of your work for people in tough situations, donate your time but do it with the
understanding that the majority of your time has to be spent on work that pays.

If you’re working on a big project, set the expectations before you start so that a condition of doing the project is incremental payments. A percent before you begin,
a percent during the project at specified intervals, and the remainder due on completion. This gives you the option of stopping work if you’re not getting paid.
As with all areas of business, the best Defense is a good Offense. Set the standard for how you’ll be paid, communicate it, and stick to it.

You can click here to visit Caroline Jordan’s website

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SPVS/ Fort Dodge Snowscene 2010

Excellent CPD combined with fantastic skiing opportunities is on the agenda at the ever-popular Snowscene, which takes place from 13th — 20th March next year.

Places are filling up fast for this key event in the CPD calendar, which has been held by the Society of Practising Veterinary Surgeons (SPVS) and Fort Dodge for over twenty years.

The event is returning to the pleasant Hotel de St Martin in the village of St Martin de Belleville in the French Haut Savoie. Previous delegates will know the many splendid runs down to the village as well as the tougher skiing offered by the Trois Vallees ski area

This year’s CPD is provided by Liz Leece, head of the anaesthesia team at the Animal Health Trust, who will present on advances in treating trauma patients as well as on analgesia and pain management. Liz has published several research papers and contributed to books and is currently an examiner for both the RCVS certificate in Veterinary Anaesthesia and the European Diploma in Veterinary Anaesthesia and Analgesia.

The non-clinical CPD comes courtesy of Caroline Johnson who will give advice to help you lead and motivate your staff, communicate more effectively and effect positive change. There will also be a useful presentation on the Fort Dodge Indices.

Organiser and SPVS President Iain Richards said: “I look forward to welcoming new delegates as well as old stagers on one the highpoints of the SPVS year. I anticipate the CPD to be as challenging and exciting as the skiing!”

As a slight departure from usual, transport can be organised on Eurostar. This has the big advantage of allowing almost two additional days skiing for the holiday and creates a great party atmosphere at the start of the week.

You can click here for further information and to book your place

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U.S. Pet Market Outlook 2009-2010: Surviving and Thriving in Challenging Economic Times

U.S. Pet Market Outlook 2009-2010: Surviving and Thriving in Challenging Economic Times

During the current macroeconomic environment the much touted recession resistance of the pet industry is being put to the test like never before–and appearing to hold up as of
March 2009. Whereas total U.S. retail sales rose just 1.4% overall in 2008 according to the National Retail Federation, No. 1 pet specialty retailer PetSmart posted an
8.4% sales increase in fiscal year 2008; top five pet food marketers Del Monte and Hill’s recently reported double-digit growth, with Del Monte’s pet product net sales
up 15.1% during the third quarter of fiscal year 2009 and Hill’s revenues up 13.5% in fourth-quarter calendar 2008.

Leading veterinary hospital operator VCA Antech posted 6.7% revenues growth during fourth-quarter 2008; and online merchant PetMed Express reported a 16% increase in
net sales during the fourth-quarter 2008. Looking at the pet industry as a whole, Packaged Facts predicts overall steady performance in 2009 and 2010, although the
market growth rate will drop back slightly due to cutbacks in some of the more discretionary categories.

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