Practice Management News and Views from around the World – February 2016

Snowboarding in New York

Just Google 'teachable moment'

From an article by Julie Scheidegger published in Veterinary Economics

We know clients use the Internet when it comes to pet health. In fact, according to the American Animal Hospital Association’s 2015 State of the Industry Report, 60 percent of pet owners research their pet’s health either before of after their veterinary visit. Recently, the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association surveyed members to find out what practice managers think clients primarily use the Internet for when it comes to their pets. Answers ranged from expected to well, kind of horrifying.

What do you think veterinary clients do on the Internet?

Here’s how veterinary practice managers answered

Regardless of how pet owners are using the Internet for their pets, the veterinary team’s role is to educate and point clients to good, trusted content online. The good news is, most veterinary managers (65 percent) say they are already doing that, usually during exam room conversation. Handouts, social media and electronic communication are also favored ways to reach clients with that information—especially if those clients haven’t been to the clinic in a while.

Teaching moments:

Just 6 percent of veterinary managers said they discover clients are giving their pets a supplement or have changed their pets’ diets or treatments based on online information. Further, 37 percent of respondents say clients expressed regret about using the Internet as a substitute for veterinary care.

Although disappointing, this is an opportunity to:


Provide education: In the exam room, with  handouts and links to more information on your website and links to other “approved” sites

Assure clients they can always call your clinic with questions and concerns

You can click here to visit the website

Everything You wanted to know about Motivation….(but were afraid to ask)

From a blog by Alan Robinson and published in his VetDynamics website blog

Motivating the team seems to be the most common and most difficult job of a practice manager. If it was easy we’d all be doing it but there are so many de-motivated and un-inspired people in practices it begs the question is motivation possible – can you motivate other people or is it actually an inside– out job. If so, what can the manager do to create an environment that at least allows internal motivation to shine through? The new science of motivation sheds some light on this strange phenomena.

Scientists have long known that two main drives power human behaviour – the biological drive including hunger, thirst and sex and the more scientific reward-punishment motivation theory.

When work consisted largely of simple, uninteresting (industrial) tasks, in order to get as much productivity out of your workers as possible, you must reward the behaviour you seek, and punish the behaviour you discourage – otherwise known as the carrot-and-stick approach.

The carrot-and-stick approach worked well for typical tasks of the early 20th century – routine, unchallenging and highly controlled. For these tasks, where the process is straightforward and lateral thinking is not required, rewards can provide a small motivational boost without any harmful side effects.

But jobs in the 21st century have changed dramatically. They have become more complex, more interesting and more self-directed, and this is where the carrot-and-stick approach has become unstuck.

This traditional approach can result in:

  • Diminished intrinsic motivation (the third drive);
  • Lower performance;
  • Less creativity;
  • “Crowding out” of good behaviour;
  • Unethical behaviour;
  • Addictions; and
  • Short-term thinking.

This led to the discovery of a possible third drive for human behaviour.

The Third Drive argues for intrinsic motivation – the joy of the task itself - that human beings have an “inherent tendency to seek out novelty and challenges, to extend and exercise their capabilities, to explore, and to learn.”

This New Theory of Motivation proposes that businesses should adopt a revised approach to motivation which fits more closely with modern jobs and businesses, one based on self-determination theory (SDT).

SDT proposes that human beings have an innate drive to be autonomous, self-determined and connected to one another, and that when that drive is liberated, people achieve more and live richer lives.

Practices should focus on these drives when managing their teams by creating settings which focus on our innate need to direct our own lives (autonomy), to learn and create new things (mastery), and to do better by ourselves and our world (purpose).


– provide employees with autonomy over some (or all) of the four main aspects of work:

  • When they do it (time)
  • How they do it (technique)
  • Whom they do it with (team)
  • What they do (task)

– allow employees to become better at something that matters to them:

  • Provide “Goldilocks tasks” - those tasks which are neither overly difficult nor overly simple
  • Create an environment where mastery is possible

– take steps to fulfill employees’ natural desire to contribute to a cause greater and more enduring than themselves:

  • Communicate the purpose
  • Place equal emphasis on purpose maximisation as you do on profit maximisation
  • Use purpose orientated words such as 'us' and 'we'
  • The notion of increasing employee satisfaction through the intrinsic motivational methods of autonomy, master and purpose has obvious implications for remuneration models and incentive schemes traditionally used by practices.

    Simple, but no-one said it was easy.....

You can click here to visit the VetDynamics website

Why Can’t People Just Do Their Jobs?

From a blog by Rebecca Tudor and published on her Catalyst Vets website

Is this something you have ever said or at least thought? I am embarrassed to say that I have. One of my favorite communicators once said “Systems create behaviors,” and he believes that up to 80% of the problems we see in our businesses have more to do with the systems (or lack of systems) in place than the people.

I am not naturally a systems person. I am actually one that revolts from systems, as they feel too confining for my entrepreneurial self. My entire working life, I have always thought of things like systems as confining and something only big corporations do to keep employees in their place.

Systems actually enable us to be more consistent. Also, removing ambiguity can free our minds to be the creative people we should all be in our jobs.

Last year, we experienced a great example of a lack of systems in our business that involved our pre-anesthetic checklists. The short version was our checklists were not being entirely filled out which was a serious issue of safety and liability.

When I started reviewing our incomplete pre-anesthetic checklists, one thing that completely jumped out at me was EVERYONE had dropped the ball.

If it had been one person who never completed the checklist, then it would be a people problem, but when it was everyone I knew this was truly a systems problem. I used to assume they were complete, but now I have someone who is checking them weekly which means my team knows any incomplete records will be brought to their attention.

If you have the same mistakes happening over and over again with different people, odds are you don’t have a people problem but instead have a systems problem.

Are there issues in your hospital that could be a lack of good systems rather than a lack of good people?

You can click here to visit the CatalystVets website

Bad Mistakes That Make Good Employees Leave

From an article by Travis Bradberry and published in the LinkedIn Pulse website

It’s tough to hold on to good employees, but it shouldn’t be. Most of the mistakes that companies make are easily avoided. When you do make mistakes, your best employees are the first to go, because they have the most options.

If you can’t keep your best employees engaged, you can’t keep your best employees. While this should be common sense, it isn’t common enough. A survey by the Corporate Executive Board found that one-third of star employees feel disengaged from their employer and are already looking for a new job.

When you lose good employees, they don’t disengage all at once. Instead, their interest in their jobs slowly dissipates. Michael Kibler, who has spent much of his career studying this phenomenon, refers to it as brownout. Like dying stars, star employees slowly lose their fire for their jobs.

“Brownout is different from burnout because workers afflicted by it are not in obvious crisis,”Kibler said. “They seem to be performing fine: putting in massive hours, grinding out work while contributing to teams, and saying all the right things in meetings. However, they are operating in a silent state of continual overwhelm, and the predictable consequence is disengagement.”

In order to prevent brownout and to retain top talent, companies and managers must understand what they’re doing that contributes to this slow fade. The following practices are the worst offenders, and they must be abolished if you’re going to hang on to good employees.

They Make a Lot of Stupid Rules

Companies need to have rules—that’s a given—but they don’t have to be shortsighted and lazy attempts at creating order. Whether it’s an overzealous attendance policy or taking employees’ frequent flier miles, even a couple of unnecessary rules can drive people crazy. When good employees feel like big brother is watching, they’ll find someplace else to work

They Treat Everyone Equally

While this tactic works with school children, the workplace ought to function differently. Treating everyone equally shows your top performers that no matter how high they perform (and, typically, top performers are work horses), they will be treated the same as the bozo who does nothing more than punch the clock.

They Tolerate Poor Performance

It’s said that in jazz bands, the band is only as good as the worst player; no matter how great some members may be, everyone hears the worst player. The same goes for a company. When you permit weak links to exist without consequence, they drag everyone else down, especially your top performers.

They Don't Recognise Accomplishments

It’s easy to underestimate the power of a pat on the back, especially with top performers who are intrinsically motivated. Everyone likes kudos, none more so than those who work hard and give their all. Rewarding individual accomplishments shows that you’re paying attention. Managers need to communicate with their people to find out what makes them feel good (for some, it’s a raise; for others, it’s public recognition) and then to reward them for a job well done. With top performers, this will happen often if you’re doing it right.

They Don't Care about People

More than half the people who leave their jobs do so because of their relationship with their boss. Smart companies make certain that their managers know how to balance being professional with being human. These are the bosses who celebrate their employees’ successes, empathize with those going through hard times, and challenge them, even when it hurts. Bosses who fail to really care will always have high turnover rates. It’s impossible to work for someone for eight-plus hours a day when they aren’t personally involved and don’t care about anything other than your output.

They Dont Show People the Big Picture

It may seem efficient to simply send employees assignments and move on, but leaving out the big picture is a deal breaker for star performers. Star performers shoulder heavier loads because they genuinely care about their work, so their work must have a purpose. When they don’t know what that is, they feel alienated and aimless. When they aren’t given a purpose, they find one elsewhere.

They Don't Let People Pursue their Passions

Google mandates that employees spend at least 20% of their time doing “what they believe will benefit Google most.” While these passion projects make major contributions to marquis Google products, such as Gmail and AdSense, their biggest impact is in creating highly engaged Googlers. Talented employees are passionate. Providing opportunities for them to pursue their passions improves their productivity and job satisfaction, but many managers want people to work within a little box. These managers fear that productivity will decline if they let people expand their focus and pursue their passions. This fear is unfounded. Studies have shown that people who are able to pursue their passions at work experience flow, a euphoric state of mind that is five times more productive than the norm.

They Don't Make Things Fun

If people aren’t having fun at work, then you’re doing it wrong. People don’t give their all if they aren’t having fun, and fun is a major protector against brownout. The best companies to work for know the importance of letting employees loosen up a little. Google, for example, does just about everything it can to make work fun—free meals, bowling allies, and fitness classes, to name a few. The idea is simple: if work is fun, you’ll not only perform better, but you’ll stick around for longer hours and an even longer career.

Bringing It All Together

Managers tend to blame their turnover problems on everything under the sun while ignoring the crux of the matter: people don’t leave jobs; they leave managers.

You can click here to visit the LinkedIn/Pulse website

What contributes to success in our veterinary practice?

From a blog by Lesley Sherry, Business Manager, Champion Lake Vet Centre and published in the website

Success in a veterinary clinic can depend on many factors and they often have to all occur at the same time to be truly valuable

Our clinic is no different to most others around Australia I suspect in that we struggled in the early days to build a good client base. We put in many hours for very little pay - just one of the perks of owning your own clinic!! Steadily through the years we watched our monthly income figures rise and some months we watched them fall also. The GFC didn't seem to hit our clinic until a year or two after the event. When it did hit, we plateaud out but didn't have to put any staff off, as we heard a number of clinics around Australia had to do. Since then we have bounced back nicely and are still continuing to grow steadily.

The two main factors that have contributed to this success I believe are our team and the marvels of modern technology

The importance of our team

Three years ago we lost our Head Nurse who had to resign in order to look after her sick husband. This gave me the opportunity, being one of the owners, a Director and also the Business Manager, to take a good long look at where we were at and where we wanted to go and plotting out how to get there.

I realised that we were doing certain things the way we were merely because we had always done them that way. I sat down and wrote a list of all of the time consuming administration tasks that my team were doing and looked at systematising some of these tasks for efficiency, greater accountability and reporting ability. In this process I realised that we did not have to replace our Head Nurse. My nursing team all asked if we could try it without having one as they wanted to share the responsibility of the day to day nursing themselves.

In order to do this I had to set up rosters of duties and responsibilities and whilst it was a lot of work initially, it has thus worked very well and the team are happier not having a middle layer of admin to go through as they now all liaise directly with me. This model won't work for everyone of course, but it works for us because I am the bottom line who makes the financial and business decisions and so I can give an answer straight away to any requests or suggestions and saves us a lot of time in asking questions and getting responses.

I am finding that the more freedom to make suggestions and requests that my team have, the more responsibility they are all taking for their daily work. They all know that everything still has to be run past me and approved first but this process is now very streamlined and efficient. When the answer is "no" from me, this is received with a much greater awareness of why on their part and so we all try to problem solve and become solution-focussed rather than problem-saturated and despondent as a result.

The importance of systems & better use of our PMS

The other major factor that has helped our clinic to grow and improve I believe is systematising as much as I can. We now use our software (Provet Vision VPM) to a much greater level than ever before. Our stock is ordered electronically saving us hours and hours a week by not having to manually generate orders and not having to manually change our stock levels when our supplies come in. We now have very little stock wastage and far less redundant stock sitting on our shelves which is a huge saving.

Reminders are done electronically through our software as are text communications and marketing with clients and we are soon to upgrade to the next stage in our software which will allow clients to make certain appointments electronically themselves. The automated reminder system has also saved me hours and hours of nursing time and I do that task myself now as it is so easy and no fuss.

Of course there's also Facebook...

Of course you can't go past good old Facebook for contributing to the steady growth of our practice. It is difficult to quantify but I am convinced that it has had a large positive impact because when you can reach 4500 people with one posting of a photo of a baby Hairy Nosed Wombat, at no cost for advertising, that can't be a bad thing surely!! I do the Facebook postings myself so it doesn't cost any nursing time but I don't post daily and sometimes I don't post weekly either and sometimes I post 2 or 3 in a week. I prefer to post when I have something that I think our fans would appreciate and I know all of the companies that charge to do this service for you say that daily or at least posting 3 times per week keeps you in people's minds, but I am prepared to buck that trend.

So, in conclusion, what contributes to making a successful practice?

I believe it is having a very cohesive yet self-responsible team who are able to extend themselves professionally whilst also knowing that they have a solid foundation of support in the management and owners to back them up.

It is also utilising technology to its fullest to achieve the efficiency of systems that save staff time (and thus save wages) and allow for expansion of the business. Veterinary clinics are businesses the same as every other business in that they need to be financially sound in order to survive and grow.

You can click here to visit the VetAnswers website