Practice Management News and Views from around the World – July 2018

Summer Dogs

5 ways to avoid hiring the wrong employee for your veterinary clinic

From an article by Bob Levoy published in the DVM360.com website

Remember: A 'no hire' is better than a 'bad hire.'

Hiring a new employee is a daunting process. The thought of running an ad, scheduling interviews, and making that final decision on a candidate can leave even the most laid-back employer feeling stressed out. Your employees are the face of your practice and, as such, you want the best candidate representing you.
Unfortunately, it's easy to make mistakes—ones that are not only costly but ultimately disruptive to your practice team. In fact, according to a recent survey from online payroll provider SurePayroll, three out of four business owners surveyed admitted to hiring at least one employee they later regretted. Here are five ways to avoid this problem and navigate the hiring process with ease.

1. Take Your Time.

Don't hire in haste. After you've interviewed numerous job applicants, a good question to ask before finally hiring someone is: "Would I have hired this person when I first started this process, or am I hiring this person just to fill the position and end the search?"

2. Make it a Team Effort

Allow your team to interview job applicants and narrow the list down to a few from whom you'll make the final selection—they may even refer your top picks. Or let your team have the final approval of someone you've tentatively decided to hire. Among the benefits: This will help your team realize their ideas and opinions are important and may even alert you to traits you've overlooked or underestimated. Once they've given their approval, your team will function better as a whole in the long run.

3. Do Your Homework

Ask thoughtful questions that shed light on important information about a candidate's work history. "If I had just one area to probe in an interview," says Jack Welch, former chairman and CEO of General Electric, "it would be why a candidate left his or her previous job—and the one before that. Was it the environment? Was it the boss? Was it the team? What exactly made him or her leave? There's so much information in those answers. Keep digging and dig deep. Why a person has left a job tells you more about the person than almost any other piece of data."

Don't underestimate the value of reference checks with past employers either. Résumé falsifications are rampant nowadays, and past employers can be a critical tool in verifying work history and performance. Use an employment application that contains an authorization for reference checks. A person who refuses to sign it should immediately raise a red flag—this might not be the best person to hire. Also, conduct background checks on driving, criminal, and credit records when appropriate. If you don't feel qualified to do this, you can always hire an outside agency to do it for you.

4. Tap into Resources at Hand

If you need someone right away, consider working with employees you already know can do the job well. Pay overtime to current team members or contact a former valued employee who may be available to fill in until a permanent replacement can be found. Temporary agencies may also be a source for qualified candidates when you're in a time crunch.

5. Learn From Your Mistakes

Inevitably, you'll make a mistake—it's all part of the process. However, you don't need to repeat history. Examine your hiring process and make corrections where necessary to avoid repeating the same mistake again. By investing the time and effort from the get-go, you can avoid most hiring pitfalls and successfully build the best team for your practice.

You can click here to visit the DVM360.com website

Strategies For Reducing Client Attrition

From an article by Jerry Crick and published in his online blog

Retaining Clients

The idea for this article came straight from a Moveable Ink advert which was focused on increasing revenue per hotel bednight. The concept was about sending more accurate email offers to the hotel’s client base.

Whilst veterinary practice is unlikely to change its prices like hotels do, a corollary is the attrition rate of clients. Here are three ideas that mightb help you reduce that attrition.

Training

Apologies if this comes over as a bit morbid, or even negative, but one issue we all see is the mortality and serious illness of our patients. The first represents a direct, immediate and heart-breaking loss to the family concerned. But it also means an instant reduction in practice revenue!

The second can have the same effect on a practice in that serious illnesses are often referred to specialists.

In our experience a focus on ensuring vets and nurses get appropriate training can reduce both of the above. I don’t just mean training as demanded by RCVS. We need to do much more than 35 hours per year. In fact, our average training rate was about 5 days per member of staff – vets got more than receptionists, of course. Which means they were often getting in excess of 10 days per year.

The training needs to focus not only on specific medical skills, but also on learning from the experience of others in the practice. Nurses can play an important role here as they will often be more experienced than your newer vets.

And reception have their part to play – communicating the skill levels to your clients. They can only do this effectively if they are involved in a meaningful way. For me some of the above comes directly from practice meetings which we did weekly.

Market Analysis

How do you rate your training programme against other practices in your area?

Where do you stand in the scale of charges in your patch?

How effective is your communication compared to your competition?

What evidence do you have for your answers?

If you have no evidence you need to get some. You and your staff will know quite a lot of the answers from historic interactions with other practices. But you can get more concrete evidence by designing a set of questions to ask local practices. Once you have the questions, break them up and give them to 6 people you trust, staff, friends or loyal customers. Get the answers back, do some analysis and you have your new concrete evidence. I know, statistically it may not be perfect, but we don’t live in a perfect world.

With this new evidence you can do two important things.

Internal marketing – you can communicate the high standards you set compared to the competition. This has two key benefits: a) it may reduce the tendancy for staff to think the grass is greener elsewhere; b) your staff can communciate these high standards, with confidence, in a natural and engaging way when they meet your clients.

External communication – you can use some of this evidence to give you confidence to make statements and or claims in your client communications such as blogs, emails or facebook. Sorry, I have more or less forgotten about newspapers, magazines, radio etc as they are no longer relevant channels, IMHO.

E.mail

The list of topics you can cover in your emails or blogs is endless. My preferred general approach (currently) is to put your articles on your blog and then have these sent, automatically, to your clients once per week.

I promise, once a week is NOT too often. The pressure is then to write a new blog at least once a week, prior to the deadline of the weekly email going out. this being sent on a Thursday evening based on some research I read, but can’t remember where.

However, this email is going to contain something very relevant to a specific list of clients, a market segment if you like.

But there is little point in me telling you all this if I don’t give you an example topic and a great CTA – Call To Action

So, the example topic is a synopsis of the last training session taken by one of your vets or nurses. Perhaps a course on Cushing’s disease. You do need to tailor the content, make it client friendly, something they can comprehend and see as being useful now or in the future. Best if related to cats and/or dogs, but the Chicken Vet course maybe a good way to say we cover all species… The topic is also good evidence that your practice is forward thinking and pro-active.

The CTA – following your market research you now have the evidence to substantiate making your offer and CTA. An example might be the discovery that your practice has more extensive in house lab facilities than others. This may give you a lower cost base for some/all lab tests if you don’t have to send them out. It hopefully also means the turnaround time is quicker.

Your CTA goes something like:

- dogs that are one of xyz breeds are predisposed to cushings disease
- we are pleased to be able to offer a lab test to help identify dogs that have this disease
- why not book Poppy in for a FREE Cushing’s test and we will have the result for you in 24 hours
- the test is FREE until the end of next month

Why?

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    1.Word of mouth PR is your best advert, whether it is verbal, on Email, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram
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    2.Some patients and clients will benefit directly from your offer
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    3.Those who see the offer but don’t take it up have still seen you positive approach to helping your patients
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    4.It costs you almost NOTHING – you already have the facilities and the skills (so they cost nothing extra for the higher utilisation rate) and the test, syring, needle etc are minor
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    5.You will likely pick up sufficient new cases to increase your revenue and profit
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    6 You can use the the results of your campaign in another blog article in the future

And you can use this general approach many times over with many different species, breeds, services or products.

Go on, increase your profits, now…

You can click here to visit Jerry Cricks VetBiz blog

Why at-home veterinary visits matter

Holistic veterinary care isn’t the hippy-dippy practice you think it is. In fact, it might be the best way to diagnose what's going on in that tricky patient you’re losing sleep over.

From an article by Lisa Aumiller published in the veterinarybusiness dvm360.com website

People throw around the term “holistic” without always understanding what it means. Holistic veterinary care takes into account the pet as a whole—not just their current clinical signs. When taking a holistic approach to a companion animal, the veterinarian will examine the pet’s lifestyle, environmental factors, mental and social health, nutrition and more.

The connection to my work as a house-call veterinarian is obvious. In veterinary school, we’re taught that the best test you can do on a pet for information is the physical exam. I’ve since learned as a mobile vet how much more information I can get to help my patients by examining the pet in their own environment.

In other words, house calls allow veterinarians to truly examine a pet holistically.

During a house call, I’m able to see how the pet greets newcomers and responds to strangers. I can assess a pet’s gait by seeing how he moves in his home or around the yard. I can also examine the pet’s environment: how he lives, how the home smells, where and how he’s fed, what’s in the yard (and note if there is a yard) or litter box.

All of this helps me make important recommendations for the pet. Along with factors of physical location, I’m also able to observe other important dynamics, like how the pet interacts with other animals and how the people in the house treat him—all of these can shed light on many issues, particularly behavior.

There were a few cases that became my initial “aha!” moments as a mobile veterinarian. These were the instances where I realized how house calls improved my ability to help patients:

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    Walking into a house full of smoke and seeing the cat—already seen by three other traditional veterinarians for hairballs—have an asthma attack.
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    A backyard tour for a dog that was going “outside peeing all night” and seeing mounds of melena. The pet was on carprofen, and the owner never went into the yard with the pet.
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    Observing from litter box tours how many cats are actually constipated and how many “vomiting” cats are fed smorgasbord-style.
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    Meeting a client’s spouse who hates the animals and watching their in-home interaction while discussing house-soiling behaviors.
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    Testing blood sugars at home and discovering cats that were eating to survive their insulin overdose (due to high sugars outside of the home from stress).

The house call can give veterinarians an entirely new perspective in an evaluation as well as a diagnostic wealth of information. An in-hospital exam room setting doesn’t yield clear clues. Environmental cues of the home are gone, and stress—both from pet and pet owner—is an added factor that can change the exam. In a hospital, pets are stressed, and signs the veterinarian wants to see may completely disappear with their surge of adrenaline.

Compounding this is the excitement of the hospital—accompanying odors, sights and sounds from other animals the patient may run into or notice. The stress response changes the cooperation of the pet and requires not only a good exam, but an educated guess based on the owner’s history of the issue as well. Along with all of this, hospital visits add the risk of contagious disease transmission to and from patients.

“Holistic” veterinary care is all-encompassing and shouldn’t be viewed as an “alternative” anymore, but as a preferred method of examining patients. Veterinary home care provides a better context of pet health by showing living conditions and illustrating information that an owner may not share (or even know to mention) on an in-hospital history. Sometimes a veterinarian wouldn’t even know to ask about it.

Mobile medicine can remove some of the challenges inherent in the traditional hospital visit, where both pet and pet parent feel elevated stress. Stepping directly into the lives of pets and their parents can be a reward for everyone involved.

You can click here to visit the dvm360.com website

Five must do’s for aviation-style checklists

From an article by Phil Bayman published in the Veterinary Community website – in which he shared advice on how to use aviation-style checklists in veterinary practice at the CX Congress.

Picture the scene. A cat has escaped from its carrier and is now on the loose in your busy practice car park. How do you respond to this situation?

You could run around like a headless chicken trying to find the cat, but this could result in injury, stress and a lot of disgruntled clients. Instead, you could follow your animal escape procedure - a step-by-step guide for what to do when somebody’s pet doesn’t quite follow expectations.

Speaking in the ‘Leading’ stream at CX Congress, combat-pilot performance coach Phil Bayman shared his advice on how to use aviation-style checklists in veterinary practice. Whilst very different industries, there are many similarities between the aviation and veterinary world - most notable of which is that they both involve normal people using lists to complete an array of complicated tasks.

Checklists can help the veterinary team with complicated and uncomplicated scenarios, one-off or infrequent events, theatre preparation and top-level guidance. They can also offer a handrail in times of stress or fatigue. It is important to remember, however, that checklists are just one element of addressing the problem, stressed Phil. Do not let checklists overcome bad processes; it is important to consider the wider picture.

1) Start from the problem

Phil stressed that when creating a checklist, you need to think about what the problem is and what you’re trying to resolve. “If there isn’t a problem then potentially you don’t need to fix it,” he said. To do this, it is important to develop a culture that is robust enough for somebody to identify problems and learn from their experiences.

Some of the reasons why you might wish to create a checklist include grouping certain actions together, sequencing events, and enhancing performance (checklists to give you confidence - e.g did I lock the drugs cupboard?). A checklist can also help to manage risk such as customer complaints, unpaid debts and when staff leave unexpectedly.

​2) Communicate with everyone

Every culture in every organisation is different, but when creating a checklist is it important to involve everyone that it could effect. Use difficulties, errors and common struggles as hooks and include senior management, said Phil.

Once designed, it is important to hand the checklist over to somebody that doesn’t know anything about veterinary practice so they can spot errors that you might have overlooked (e.g. incorrect step numbering, grammatical errors and the flow of the checklist). Invite critique from everyone before going live!

​3) Avoid capital letters

Phil advised against using all uppercase letters unless you have a very strong point to highlight. Use a normal mix of capital and lower case letters and the checklist will be easier to read.

​4) Keep them simple

Some of the best checklists are simple, colourful and plain to read. They should be used as an aide-memoire, but they should also allow for flexibility. E.g. people should be able to deviate from them if they have (and can explain) a better solution. 

​5) Do a trial run and review

Finally, carry out a trial run of your checklist with your team and follow this up with a review as soon as possible.

You can click here to visit the Vet Community website

You can click here to visit the CX Club website

A 'blood' test for client service

From an article by Brent Dickinson published in the DVM360.com website

What makes a great veterinary team member? This isn’t complicated ... it’s back to basics, people.

As practice managers, we expect a lot from our team members: get here early, stay late … be compassionate … defuse tough situations … uphold standards of care … support your team members … do more paperwork than humanly possible … Forget about lunch—we’re busy, keep your chin up and, hey, smile, won’t you?

And sometimes our employees’ most basic traits get lost in the fray. It’s our fault, really—we overlook them or ignore them in favor of bigger picture things.

But we shouldn’t.

Chris, a mentor of mine, taught me something about first impressions that I'll always remember and have shared with others through the years. He relayed a story about one of his first interviews after college at a computer technology company. He stepped out of his car in the parking lot of their corporate campus and immediately noticed a piece of garbage blowing around on the ground. He stomped on it with his foot, picked it up and deposited it a garbage can. Then he grabbed his folders and coat from his car and headed into the building.

“We truly appreciate people like you. You’re not a blamer, you’re a doer. I can tell.”

The interviewer greeted Chris with a firm handshake and a “thank you.”

He looked puzzled at the corporate suit, who followed up with, “I saw you pick up some trash in our lot. We truly appreciate people like you. You’re not a blamer, you’re a doer. I can tell.”

Chris got the job. The hiring manager wanted people like him on their team. Sure, his resume checked out too, but it was his character that counted the most.



Is your team made up of doers, go-getters and above-and-beyonders?

It should be. If you’re not sure, here’s a test to find out. Buy a pack of fake blood capsules from your local party supply store or grab some online. Discreetly place a single drop somewhere on the floor in your facility. Now watch the “blood drop,” but don’t sit in a chair three feet away and watch it—be casual. If you have an in-house security camera system, use it. Otherwise, ask a trusted staff member to keep an eye on it for you, or do so yourself. Then wait and see who spots it and cleans it up.

Kudos to the team member who puts on gloves, cleans up the spot and whips out the “Wet Floor” sign. But honestly, kudos to the team member who actually does anything about it, even if it’s just someone who’s too busy to clean it but tells a less frantic manager or a team member about it.

Remember, it’s not just a “job thing,” it’s a pride thing. Your team members should take pride in where they work. They shouldn’t rely on your nighttime janitorial service to handle a drop of blood that could truly disappoint a customer. They should recognize that tiny drop of blood as a big problem they need to deal with right away.

First impressions are lasting, but a customer of 10 years may think your practice isn’t clean if they notice that single drop of blood today.

At your next staff meeting, praise the team member who handled the situation—or give a surprise gift card in a mug with a hilariously embarrassing photo of him or her on it (you know you have one). Their fellow team members will see this achiever as “the person I should be at work,” and you should see a lot more effort going around.

You can click here to visot the DVM360.com website