Practice Management News and Views from around the World – December 2019

Zack KIng Magic

Why Your Clients Will Pay More Than You Think

From an article by Diederik Gelderman and published on his Turbocharge Your Practice website

Veterinarians are in a very competitive market, and they’re feeling the pressure to drop prices.

Now their receptionist(s) tells them regularly about the consults, dentals and (routine) surgeries they lose because a competitor offered a better price so the client went with them.

When you have a string of clients who negotiate with you, you start believing that's your reality. But not so fast.

Every Veterinary surgery practice gets their share of price shoppers. It’s inevitable when the mass market uses the Internet.

Now, you would think that prospective patients are so educated they would take into consideration a lot more than just price, but some don’t.

However, on the flip side, there are still plenty of clients who would be only too happy to pay more for your services even though those services seem identical on the surface. It’s the details that make all the difference.

These strategies create reasons why some clients (are happy to) pay more.

You’re easy to do business with.

Clients pay extra for ease, convenience and time savings. When you simplify your processes to get your clients and their pets in and out with no hassle, a majority of them will pay more for that added value.

Examples include no waiting (you run to time), express checkout with their credit card on file, and post-op ‘recovery kit’ of supplies they’ll need after surgery (recovery collar, bitterant spray). Your clients don’t have to go all over town collecting these themselves and that’s convenient.

You could email the surgical admit form the day before surgery so that on admission your clients can just drop off the pet and the (already completed) form and ‘run’.

Also, you offer unique ‘must-have’ features. Make a big deal out of something you include in your package that your competitors don’t, or they don’t make a big deal out of it.

For example; you use sub-cuticular sutures so there is no need for them to come back to have sutures removed.

Or – you can do your 3-day wound check via their phone – they sms you an image of the surgical site or they video the dog walking on the leg 3-days after the cruciate repair and you assess the video.

There are a whole host of ways in which you can create more convenience for your client by starting to use simple tele-medicine strategies.

Be creative and make it a package so they can’t price shop it.

Your customer service is friendlier.

Meeting client expectations can be quite profitable and exceeding them can be game changing.

Practices underestimate the anger or even hatred that clients feel when they experience horrible customer service. By contrast, clients will pay more when they’re treated respectfully. They love you when their problems are handled quickly and cheerfully. Quality customer service counts and it’s in the details.

For example, simply remembering the client’s and patient’s name and that she goes by the name Kay, rather than her legal name Margaret and that the pet is called Moo.

Create opportunities to make an impression.

Anytime you can go above and beyond what the client anticipated; you stand out as extraordinary, otherwise extraordinary.

That’s what gets the client to say yes. They’re excited about bragging about you to their friends and they write five-star reviews online about you. You do that by putting yourself in their shoes and you listen to them closely and you watch their body language to be sure they’re comfortable throughout the entire process.

The client likes you personally.

Clients are humans and humans prefer doing business with people they like. That’s one good reason that developing rapport is so crucial in customer relationships. It provides a buffer that keeps the competition at bay. So, form a genuine relationship with your clients so they see your practice and only your practice as their pet care provider.

Here’s the bottom line, your “preferred” clients are buying value over brand and experience over price. It would behove you to dissect every step of your patients experience with you to make it as user-friendly and extraordinary as possible.

You can click here to visit Diederik Geldermans website

13 things I wish I had known about veterinary practice ownership

From an article by Karen Bolten and published on her The Business Vet website

1. It’s harder than you expect.

The first couple of years were generally fun – I was still in that new car phase. I was a practice owner! I can do whatever I want! Now I’ve had a thorough dose of reality. Practice ownership is not rainbows and ponies (okay, there are ponies sometimes). But, don’t let that dissuade you: you can handle it, you’ll learn a lot, and you’ll most likely be glad you did.

2. It’s lonely.

Your employees are not your friends – they are your subordinates in the scheme of the business structure, no matter how small it is. Treating them like friends leads to fuzzy boundaries and poor attainment of business goals. (This doesn’t mean be a jerk though.)

3. You suck at communications.

I don’t care how good you think you are going into this. Most of your practice problems, both with employees and clients, are going to stem from communications problems. But you do not have to learn this purely from experience. Read a communications or team building book

This subject area seems subjective and touchy-feely, but it’s as grounded in science as our own. There are proven methods to communication and ‘getting along’ that you can apply to your own practice.

4. SOPs, employee handbooks, and mission statements – oh my!

I should have had all of these. I ended my practice ownership with an employee handbook (completed). SOPs (prioritized as next job), Mission statement (nope)

What I would now advise is to prioritize:

Mission Statement: your whole practice should revolve around this so it’s pretty important.

Employee Handbook: Set them up for success from day one.

Standard Operating Procedures: These are going to take a while if you do them right, but do them! You will appreciate them for both routine usage and training new staff. And in case you're thinking your practice is too small for these, mine had 1-2 vets and 1-2 support staff at any time. Do them.

5. Everything your practice does should be built on your mission statement.

Yep, this again. I think it’s that important because an excellent mission statement means you have complete clarity about who you are as a business and who you serve. No one should ever read it and confuse you with the clinic down the street. It’s not just something you complete and set aside – put it to work! You should refer each of your prospective employees to it. If they aren’t on-board with those values, they probably aren’t the right employee for your clinic.

Additionally, you can use it when you lose your way: when situations get confusing, always defer back to your mission statement for guidance.

6. Branding is more than a logo and a website.

I wish that I would have understood real branding, and implemented it sooner. Like my lack of understanding of everything else in business, it’s been a learning process, I’ve gotten much better at it, and it’s now a favorite topic of mine.

Know that great branding can make you look more awesome than you actually are (or rather, cement your true awesomeness level in your clients’ brains – the more ethical way to do it). On the other hand, poor branding can degrade your actual professionalism level. Hopefully that’s an obvious choice.

7. Schedule time to work on the practice – and make that time sacred.

Being a practice owner is far more than saying you own a clinic. You have to both work on that clinic and plan for its future as well. That takes a lot of time, and that’s time you have to take away from practicing or other life activities. If you don’t do this, your clinic is going to struggle. It’s that important.

This was well described in “The E Myth,” which talks about the 3 different jobs you have as a business owner.

Many vet-owners tend to concentrate mainly on practicing – or the “technician” role, and maybe a little of the “manager” role. But you need to be spending almost equal time on all of these if you want your business to be sustainable.

Set clear boundaries about when you are working on the clinic versus in the clinic: a question here or there can eventually lead to no longer having time set aside.

8. As a species, vets are absolutely clueless about how to properly run a business.

We treat it like a passion project, which it is not. No amount of passion makes you understand accounting and finance, unless you – you know – actually learn accounting and finance.

The best thing I did was begin taking business classes part time. I started with accounting – and magically, I understood QuickBooks afterwards! It was amazing!

Do you need to go to business school like me? Not necessarily – but knowledge is certainly power, and the more you have the better you’ll be. Pretty obvious, right?

9. I should have been charging more.

I figured this out eventually, but it took me a while to change from rose-colored-glasses associate point of view to we’ve-got-bills-to-pay-but-no-money owner point of view. That’ll snap you to your senses quickly. This is also why I firmly believe in open lines of communication with your employees regarding finances.

Keeping people in the dark builds mistrust and misinformation, while divulging appropriate amounts of information tends to decrease overall business costs and increase employee satisfaction and productivity.

10.Form relationships with your vendors and salespeople.

They are excellent resources for knowledge way beyond the boundaries of what they are selling you. Need to hire an associate? They might know someone perfect for you. Have no clue what supplies people ‘normally use’ for this procedure? Just tell them you’re an idiot (quote: me) and ask them to give you the inside scoop. They know a lot more than you realize, and they’re usually happy to help! Over time, these relationships will also help you form new connections at new companies as your salespeople advance in their own careers.

11. Clear expectations are the key to preventing disappointment.

Hindsight is the worst, but the more you learn as during ownership, I’d strongly recommend taking your new-found knowledge and using it to attempt to prevent things in the future: client problems, employee problems, and mainly hassles for you and your company. Do you expect a test to take a while to come back? Tell the client that now. Do you want an employee to tell you when they are unhappy? Tell them that immediately when they start.

Don’t assume they understand they can come to you with that information. Don’t want your employees doing a certain thing in front of clients? Make it clear that this is not acceptable behavior (or even better, write that employee handbook!).

A lot of mistakes are going to happen, but at least learn what you can from them.

12. I came out of practice ownership as a different person than I went in

– and that’s mostly a good thing. While there was some innocence lost along the way, what I gained was an enormous sense of responsibility, maturity, and humility. To keep a business going, you have to put the needs of your employees, clients, and the business entity itself above yourself. That takes some introspection and rearrangement of priorities if you want to be successful. It’s all a balancing act: you cannot achieve enormous success without giving up a lot of other things. Or perhaps you’re happy with mild success, but a happier family life? There are choices to be made, and it’s your very personal decision.

13.I’ll probably do it again.

There were absolutely hardships during my time as an owner, but I do not regret my choice in any way. I don’t know exactly what my future holds, but I would not shy away from business ownership again. It’s lonely, stressful, and – at times – overwhelming, but the sense of accomplishment, creative fulfilment, and contribution to the world that I experienced was irreplaceable.

You can click here to visit The Business Vet website

1. It’s harder than you expect.

​Nine Super Boss Powers

From an article by Mark Opperman published on his Veterinary Management Consultation website

The best bosses protect their talented team members from low morale, beat back menacing expenses, and transform their practices into headquarters for the best pet-saving heroes around. Cultivating these nine super powers can make you a hero to your healthcare team.

Super Vision

While you may not be able to see through walls, you can keep a motivating picture in your mind of what makes your practice great. Once you have your vision defined, share that inspiring image of success with your team members. Your vision can help you see what others do not and define what is possible. A mission statement can help you communicate this vision with the team. It can also be the standard you use when deciding what is right for you, your practice and your team. Help your team improve their vision by developing a culture that remains true to your mission and sets goals based on your view of what can be.

Fiery Passion

A super boss loves what they do and their passion is obvious to those around them. That passion ignites and excites the people around you to improve and grow, creating a team that strives for the best in all they do. It’s more than just words, it’s obvious in body language, a sense of pride in the work you do, and a can-do attitude.

By contrast, burn-out is obvious, too. Physical exhaustion, mental confusion, negative feelings, frustration and anger can be signs that your flame is burning low. It may be time to rekindle your passion or discover a new passion. Some practice owners have found renewed passion by developing an expertise in dentistry, orthopedics or internal medicine. Others have explored new management techniques or alternative medicine. Whatever you choose to do, let it inspire you and those around you. You can’t motivate others if you aren’t motivated yourself.

Adhering to the Hero’s Code

A super boss doesn’t just tell people to do the right thing – a super boss DOES the right thing. To earn your team members’ respect, you need to follow through on what you say and what you ask of others. You can’t demand that employees show up on time and then arrive late yourself. If you ask your associates to write complete medical records, set the standard by consistently doing so yourself. A super boss sets the standard with their own actions and they never ask team members to perform tasks they are unwilling to do themselves.

Rules of Steel

A companion power to the Hero’s Code, super bosses set high standards and refuse to compromise on them. They know what it takes to be the best and they don’t back down. Whether it’s a matter of high-quality medical standards, friendly and efficient customer services, or top-notch cleanliness. Team members may sometimes complain about high standards but they also respect them.

Medals of Honor

Super bosses must keep track of their victories and losses. How do they know if their city-wide fight against poor dental health is working or how many missed vaccinations they’ve recovered if they don’t keep track? The whole team needs to know if their super strategies are working. A super boss will set goals and let employees know how well they are doing in the fight. Set specific goals so you can know if you are meeting or exceeding them. And don’t forget to share your success with your team. Everyone wants to know that they are part of a winning team – whether it’s a financial bonus or a team meal, let them know they are part of a super team.

Awareness of Weakness

Every super hero has a weakness. Like Superman and Kryptonite, super bosses are not different. They know their limitations and accept them. Then they compensate by surrounding themselves with other super heroes who have the skills they lack. The super boss understands this and hire team members with the skill set they need to round out their practice. That might mean hiring a super manager or consultant or seeking an associate with a passion and expertise that will help elevate the practice. Understanding your weakness and hiring people who “complete” you allows you and your practice to continue to be successful.

Fearless and Friendly Communication

Super bosses know when to speak to team members about difficult subjects and what to say. But that doesn’t mean it comes easily to them. But they also know that avoiding conflict allows problems to grow. You can learn to ask tough questions and make hard decisions. And the more you cultivate this super power, the easier it becomes. A super boss also makes sure to acknowledge the good. Team members need to know when they are doing well. Providing positive reinforcement is essential. Super bosses know the importance of good communication and seek to develop those skills.

Heroic Fairness

Super bosses have some traits in common, including fairness, honesty and consistency. A super boss does not show favoritism to one employee over another, sometimes follow policy but not always, or change standards of care from one client to another. Few things frustrate a team more than favoritism and inconsistency. And a super boss is always honest. Lying to employees or asking employees to lie to clients or one another, even little white lies, will lead to distrust in the team. Once broken, it is hard to regarding and rebuild trust. Treating clients and staff with respect, fairness and honesty go a long way toward earning you respect as a super boss.

Super Business Sense

There’s no doubt that super bosses understand and value the importance of business acumen, and team members respect a well-run business. An efficient and well-organized hospital, in which everyone know what they are supposed to do and are held accountable for doing it, is a place where super team members can grow. Team members are very aware of scheduling problems, poor inventory control, or lack of marketing. A super boss understands that they are running a business and must develop appropriate skills or hire someone who has those skills to manage their business effectively. This super power can be closely related to the Awareness of Weakness power. You simply cannot succeed without the right management powers.

So how many super powers do you have? Are there some you’d like to develop? Be a hero to your team and those you serve by fully engaging the powers you have and cultivating a new one or two!

You can click here to visit the Veterinary Management Consultation website

10 Key Performance Indicators Every Veterinary Practice Needs to Track

From a blog by Tracy Dowdy and published on her website

“What you measure, you can improve.” —Tracy Dowdy, CVPM

Yes, I just quoted myself in my own blog post. Well, kind of… there are a number of similar quotes out there in the business world. And, these quotes are said so often because they are true. If you truly know where your business stands, you can take steps to improve where improvement is needed. If you don’t know there’s a problem, how do you even begin to address it?

To have the complete picture of where your business stands, you must monitor key performance indicators (KPI) regularly. A key performance indicator is a quantifiable measure used to evaluate success in meeting objectives for performance. But, how do you know which KPIs to track? Before you can choose the metrics you want to measure, you need to determine your practice’s goals. Do you want to increase revenue? Trim overhead expenses? Bring in new active clients? Based on your practice goals, you can choose the KPIs that are most useful for you to monitor.

That being said, there are some KPIs that every veterinary practice should track, regardless of their goals.

Top 10 KPIs every veterinary practice should monitor

  • 1.Total practice revenue
  • 2.Revenue centers as a percent of total revenue
  • 3.Expenses as a percent of total revenue
  • 4.Total practice transactions
  • 5.Practice average transaction charge
  • 6.Total active clients
  • 7.New clients
  • 8.Client and patient visitation ratios
  • 9.Doctor and staff production
  • 10.Staff/doctor ratio and operational productivity

These KPIs are like your practice’s pulse rate and blood pressure—they are tangible signals that help you make important decisions regarding fees, workflow efficiency, and the services you offer your clients.

By measuring them and comparing them to other practices similar to yours throughout the country, you’ll be able to identify ideal targets for revenue, expenses, and profit margins.

Many practice owners run and hide from data measuring because they think it’s too time consuming or complicated, or they don’t understand the various numbers.

Remember: Keep it simple. Key performance indicators should be evaluated monthly and quarterly, and you can choose the KPIs that apply to the goals you want to meet as a practice.

You can click here to visit Tracy Dowdy’s website

The Loyalty Ladder

From an article by Winston Marsh and published on his website

It’s critical that everybody in your organisation understands the loyalty ladder and how it helps to build better, more profitable business.

The first rung on the loyalty ladder is “suspects.” Suspects are people within your sphere of influence; in other words, people in reasonable proximity to your business who could possibly have a need for your product or service but most certainly don’t know about you. What you don’t know is whether they are in the market now or in the near future for what you’ve got.

So you need to push them up to the next rung of the loyalty ladder to “prospect.” Prospects are people who need or want what you have (and they are qualified prospects if they have the authority to make a purchase decision and can afford to pay for it). The way you turn suspects into prospects is through the traditional marketing approach. You can advertise for them, get them through effective promotion or attract them using public relations.

There is another way that is even more important that people often overlook and that’s word of mouth referral. If you’re smart you’ll get between 80 and 92% of your new prospects from word of mouth referrals.

Once your marketing proves effective you take your prospects to the next rung of the loyalty ladder and make them “customers.” Customers are people who purchase from you or use your services— once. Now for most businesses this is where the whole process finishes— sell them something, ignore them and never see them again. If you’re doing that you are missing out on an avalanche of profits from your business and that is to get one-time customers to come back again and again. By doing so you push them to the next rung and they become “clients.”

You see the difference between a customer and a client is that a client keeps on coming back. Your sacred mission in business, no matter what your business, what your product or your purchase cycle, is to turn one time buyers into repeat purchasers. Every member of the team should understand that really profitable business starts with getting people to come back.

If you do this well, by looking after them, staying in touch with them regularly and building the relationship they’ll become “friends” of your business. Its not unknown for friends to pop in and say “hello,” send you a Christmas card or invite you to family or business functions. People on the friends rung are great because they start to influence other people to your business. Some of them will climb to the next rung of the loyalty ladder and become “advocates.”

Advocates are people who actively refer people to your business. They are the people who generate word of mouth recommendations or third party endorsements. They are by far the most wonderful assets any business can have. (Remember, 80-92% of your business can come from this source.)

It’s then but a small climb for them to reach the top rung of the loyalty ladder and become “evangelists.” An evangelist is a person who recommends your business as the first port of call to solve any problem— whether you have the capability or not. They have the attitude that “if you don’t know the answer you’ll know somebody who does” and they believe other people should know about you too.

It’s very simple to turn suspects into raving evangelists. All it requires is a recognition that it can be done, the will to do so and the system to make it happen. Most importantly it’s a mindset— a mindset you and your team must have. Once you have that mindset and you’ve got the systems and the committed team in place to help people climb the loyalty ladder then you will soon retire to your ultimate desirable destination— those wonderful beaches of the world where life is absolutely fantastic!

You can click here to visit Winston Marsh's website