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

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What’s happening in small animal practice in the UK

Selected data from the MAI consolidated report to July 2010



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Vets Honour Pets

By Gary Tharp

Leigh Emmen, DVM, a small animal veterinarian from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, sent one of her clients a new kind of digital gift yesterday, an online pet memorial! The client, a single woman in her middle years, had left the clinic the day before with an empty collar and un-needed leash, as her aging Springer Spaniel, ‘Spanky’, had been mercifully euthanised.

Tomorrow or the next day, the Clinic will send a sympathy card, together with a small ceramic paw print, their usual gift to the bereaved owner. But today the email will deliver to the woman an experiential, participative way to speed the healing process and remind her of the good life Spanky lived, in the privacy of her home, at her own keyboard.

A number of internet sites, including those of many veterinary practices, have pages devoted to the remembrance of departed pets. For the last half decade, one of the best of those have given its subscribers a chance to build their own memorial online, share it with family and friends, and return again and again to visit their departed four-legged loved ones, a place called Rainbow Bridge for

Anyone can go to, create a memorial to a beloved departed pet, and share it with others at a modest cost. What Dr. Emmen (and many other vets) are beginning to do is to routinely endow online memorials at the Rainbow site to help their clients through the difficult time, in a way that helps them (and often the whole family) to do something positive and uplifting

Creation of the RainbowPet/Vet alliance was the inspiration of a veterinarian in Palm Beach County, Florida, named Ken Simmons, whose customer relations skills are locally famous, and Carole Stein, founder and president of Online Pet, Inc., and a Simmons fan.

“We owe our clients more than a card” at this stressful time, says Ken Simmons, “and this helps them stop feeling lonely and puny and gets ’em into action.” Ken Simmons and other vets say that the program has received good reviews from owners, seems to help retention, and is popular with Clinic staff members, who often feel the loss of a pet nearly as much as an owner. Each time a pet is lost, the family receives an email from their vet announcing the gift, giving instructions for personalizing and sharing it, along with a
link to the new memorial page carrying the name of the pet – but otherwise completely reshape-able by the owner. Each also is what Carole Stein calls, “private labeled”, meaning that the name of the clinic is displayed in such a way that the owner may often think that the it is a part of their Vet’s own website.

Carole Stein and her husband/business partner travel the country these days promoting their company to Veterinarians and Practice Managers at conventions, and calling on larger clinics, introducing the innovative program. Carole says it’s a memorial, obituary and closure. It’s as a way to continue a compassioned image of the practice, engender good will, and bolster retention and continuity. “We want their new puppy”, says Ken Simmons.

Promoted as an “eternal memorial”, pledges to keep its memorials — each one a unique web page for a single animal — on the web for twenty-five years. “We bought the name registration for 25 years,” says Carole Stein, “and are endowing the servers for the same amount of time. Every January 1st we push it out one more year!”

Now available in the UK for only £5 per memorial. This is similar to the discounted rate being offered to veterinarians who visit the company booth at trade exhibitions in the US. That is almost 75% off the website price and 50% off the regular veterinarian rate.

For more information about registering your practice click here to send an e.mail to Carole Klein

You can click here to visit the Rainbow Bridge for Pets website

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Dr. Carin Smith

Dr. Carin Smith was honored with the 2010 Distinguished Service Award from the Association for Women Veterinarians Foundation. This award recognizes special effort and contributions of that individual to advance and improve the status of women in veterinary medicine (

The National Academies of Practice has recently admitted Dr. Carin Smith as a member. The NAP ( is an organization of distinguished practitioners representing 10 different healthcare professions which works to advise governmental bodies on our health care system. It is the only interdisciplinary group of health care practitioners dedicated to these issues.

Dr. Carin Smith, President of Smith Veterinary Consulting, works to help veterinarians and their teams create successful lives and careers. She is a speaker, trainer, and author who worked as a veterinarian in both large and small animal practice before devoting her time to consulting.

You can click here to visit Carin Smiths website

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10 hard work quotes to inspire your inner entrepreneur

by Lyndsay Swinton

My dad knows about hard work. The quote of his post retirement days is “I’ve got a lot of weekends and holidays to catch up on!” as he plans another vacation. As a small scale dairy farmer, he worked 7 days a week for over 40 years, at work by 5am and in at 7pm. His work ethic rubbed off on me and here are 10 hard work quotes to inspire your inner entrepreneur;

  • “I’m a great believer in luck and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.” Thomas Jefferson, 3rd president of the United States.

  • “The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.” Vidal Sassoon, entrepreneur

  • “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Thomas Edison, inventor and scientist

  • “Every worthwhile accomplishment, big or little, has its stages of drudgery and triumph; a beginning, a struggle and a victory.” Mahatma Gandhi, political and spiritual leader

  • “The critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something. It’s as simple as that. A lot of people have ideas, but there are few who decide to do something about them now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. But today. The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer.” Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari and Chuck E. Cheese’s

  • “An overnight success can take 10 years.” Unknown

  • “Showing up every day isn’t enough. There are a lot of guys who show up every day who shouldn’t have showed up at all.” James Caan, UK Dragon and entrepreneur

  • “Genius is 1% inspiration, and 99% perspiration.”Thomas Edison, inventor and scientist

  • “If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito.” Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop

  • “Believe in yourself, never give up and go about your business with passion, drive and enthusiasm.”Peter Jones, UK Dragon and entrepreneur

I put these hard work quotes together for my husband who is a business coach for our local high school in the Young Enterprise Scotland scheme. These quotes shun the pervasive overnight celebrity culture, where being some-one’s “best friend forever” is prized over honest graft to reach your goals. Before my inner grumpy old lady takes over, I’ll let you get off and get your hands dirty with some hard work!

You can click here to visit Lyndsay Swintons website

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5 Myths about business planning

by Winston Marsh

When people go through a bad patch in business, they sometimes refer to it as ‘a bit of bad luck’. We all get hit with something unforeseen from time to time but most often ‘bad luck’ is a result of bad management or bad decisions.

Here’s a double-barrelled tip:

  • Complete a business plan — in writing.
  • When it’s done, don’t put it in the bottom drawer. Keep it on top of your desk and regularly compare your actual performance to your plan to see whether you’re achieving your plans, falling behind or actually exceeding expectations.

Let’s look at 5 myths about business planning:

  • ‘You need special skills to do a business plan’. You don’t have to be a genius to plan or set your objectives. You are the person who knows the business and knows what can be achieved. Get involved and involve your accountant in the process too. They have the skills to make it simple for you.
  • ‘Planning takes too much time and costs too much.’ Your time is an investment in your future profits. It’s worth setting aside one or two days to create a business plan for your whole operation for the next 1-2 years. It’s not a cost; it’s an investment in the future of your business. You’ll find that it’s the best money you’ve ever spent on your accountant if you involve them.
  • ‘With a simple business like mine it’s easy to see what the problems are.’ Simple answer… if you know what the problems are then they shouldn’t be there. Plan to eliminate them.
  • ‘I keep my business plan in my head.’It’s too easy to forget an objective if you don’t write it down. You keep fooling yourself that you are achieving what you need to achieve. And, if anything happens to you, your family, partners or key team members need to know the plans and objectives for the business.
  • ‘In my business, I can’t plan ahead — it’s month to month.’ That’s being reactive, not proactive. If you can plan so things don’t happen to you, life becomes much easier.

In summary, plan ahead, and stay in control. Remember the 6P’s of success… Proper Planning Prevents Pretty Poor Performance!

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Organisational Charts — a Key to Successful Growth

By Lisa B. Bell

All Practices have an organizational structure in place, though most of them are informal and not documented. Having a written, formal organizational chart can play a major role in the development of your staff and the successful growth of your Practice. It can serve as a blueprint for the development of the management team, a roadmap for hiring/developing employees, a tool to improve the access/flow of information and a process framework to increase productivity/operational efficiency.

The organizational chart provides a visual method for communicating
valuable information to all employees. Initially, when the Practice is a small entity, the staff fills multiple positions. As the business expands, it is critical for the Practice owner to identify and/or hire people who will take the Practice to the next level of continued success.

An organizational chart is a navigational tool and is instrumental in guiding the Practice owner to objectively look at prioritizing the needs of the business. The Practice owner endeavoring to allocate responsibilities, activities and management authority to various employees also has to make certain that he/she coordinates the activities of those employees to avoid gaps and/or redundancies in operations and management. Filling
positions in the organizational chart with people who have the skills to lead specific areas, do jobs that are necessary for organizational performance and empowering them to own key responsibilities, enables the Practice owner to spend more time thinking creatively and strategically about the Practice — a very fluid team. The organizational chart will provide the Practice owner with a reliable indication as to whether the Practice is positioned to meet future business goals.

An organizational chart shows in a visual illustration the structure of an organization: the
reporting relationships, levels of management and divisions of work by departments/ functions and positions/jobs – and how they interact with one another. It depicts the chain of command (decision-making process), distribution of authority (who has authority within departments) and span of control (how many people a manager supervises) It can be drawn hierarchical, matrix or horizontal (cross-functional).

An organizational chart is ideal for sharing the Practice’s strategic vision, as well as defining responsibilities and dependencies in a concise manner as it is currently structured and respond to changing conditions and opportunities. The organizational charts should be linked back to spreadsheets for planning, budgeting and workforce modeling for the Practice. Workforce planning assists the Practice owner in determining the correct structure (is the organization aligned with business goals?), allocating resources
accordingly (do we have the right number of people with the right skills, experiences and competencies?) and revision (assessing is this
working and not working?).

Organisational charts are evolving to an innovative design that provides insights into theorganization’s informal groups by mapping and measuring relationships and information flows between people, groups or knowledge-processing entities which is vital in many Practice settings. The development of forming cross-functional partnerships for sharing ‘institutional’ knowledge will transform one’s Practice. It is important that as a Practice documents and relies on organizational charts, it must continually review and update the ‘snapshot’ picture of its reporting relationships, divisions of work and levels of management to reflect current business realities and be positioned for future opportunities.

You can click here to visit the Veterinary Business Advisors website

Editors note: You can click here to access a great Organisation Chart Tool

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