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

The dog, the cat and the rat

Strategic Planning...essential for success in your veterinary practice

From a blog by Sue Crampton and published on the VetAnswers.com website

Do you have the skills and knowledge to develop the necessary strategic plan for your veterinary business?

As our industry grows and diversifies, it is becoming more and more apparent that we need to be innovative in our business practices. Besides our veterinary duties we are also business people, customer service managers, human resource coordinators and counsellors to our clients. Often we are time poor by the very nature of our business.

Identifying your Critical Success Factors goes a long way to determining the non- negotiables for practice success. If you are looking to make more money your Critical Success Factor (CSF) may centre around profit margins, cash flow or a decrease in expenses. CSF’s are intrinsically linked to the practice vision, mission and values. These are often determined by a strategic plan.

Critical Success Factors...determined by a strategic plan

Strategic planning is the process of determining where the practice is going, how you are going to get there and how you will know if you got there or not..

Whilst there are a multitude of models and approaches to creating a strategic plan, the overall emphasis is on goal-based planning and clear KPI management strategies. Strategic plans are commonly created for a three year period although they can range from 1-10 years.

Whilst it is often the case that practice owners and partners know where they are going, strategic planning is a meaningful developmental tool for communicating goals and strategies to other members of the team. It ensures all staff are on the same page and ‘buy in’ to the practice plans for success.

Benefits of strategic planning

Additional benefits come from clearly defining the purpose of the practice, stakeholders involved, goals and objectives and ensuring the most effective use of resources available. Moreover, strategic plans foster a sense of ownership and pride in the practice and forms the foundation for establishing mechanisms to measure success. Attempting a strategic plan is a daunting task, especially when practices are caught in the cycle of ‘fire fighting’ (meaning they are constantly reacting to problems). It is always difficult to find the time to stop and analyse what needs to be accomplished to make real, measured progress.

The importance of budgets

Creating a budget can also be a challenge but the benefits outweigh the initial work. Being cognisant with your budget also empowers you to evaluate your current bills, identify unnecessary expenses and remove those areas which stop you from achieving your KPIs. Budgeting and sound financial controls also allow practices to feel confident in determining client fees accurately and purchasing additional equipment or hiring new staff. It also gives you the power to determine ‘If I purchase this endoscope I know I need to increase my consults per day to X’.

Before you can make sound business decisions.....

So in a nutshell, before practices can truly make sound business decisions, careful planning and thought must be given to the ‘Now, Where, How’ philosophy. Where am I now financially? Where do I want to go financially? How am I going to get there?

  • Know where you stand NOW. Utilise practice programs such as VisionVPM to extract your data and do a ‘year in review’.
  • Prioritise time to do a budget. There are plenty of templates, programs and workshops which can assist you with this.
  • Know where you want to go - set a WHERE target. Liaise with your Associates and staff to do a SWOT analysis on your ideas and figures. Your staff will be the key to driving your goals
  • Spend quality time devising your HOW plan. This process involves creating the steps required to walk towards success, who is responsible and timeframes for tasks..

If you wish to increase your average income per consult, you need to plan how it will be implemented, who will drive it and how the veterinarians will be trained to make it happen. It is the same principle for staffing – if you need another nurse, consider how you are going to afford this additional salary.

A good financial plan will determine which area of the business must step up.

Being clear with the team in these areas also offers solutions whilst giving them their own key performance indicators.

You can click here to visit the VetAnswers.com website

3 Myths That Are Holding You Back From A Successful Practice!

From a blog by Alan Robinson and published on the VetDynamics website

I can't keep track of the number of "yeah, buts" I've heard when I challenge clients to begin raising their fees to where they need to be to allow them to deliver the full value that their clients and patients deserve, and finally have a practice they love.Here are three things that come up over and over and I want to dispel these myths right here and now.

Myth #1: You need “MORE…”

Clients. Footfall, footfall, footfall! No, No, NO! Absolutely NOT! When you hear that the money is in the numbers coming through the door. There is some truth to that but only if you own the Pound Shop selling £1 ‘stuff’, then certainly size does matter. But if you're a professional, why do you need a list of thousands before you begin charging what you deserve and making an incredible business for yourself? In fact, most of you need FEWER, BETTER clients coming through the door.Wishing on “more, more, more" is simply an excuse from getting out there and allowing people who really need and appreciate you to come to you. I do believe in continually building a list of quality clients, but you need to make it a habit to always up-serve your current clients regardless of how big or small it is. You need the time to exceed their expectations.

Myth #2: You need to be “BETTER…”

There is no reason in the world for you to wait on more training, CPD or certification before you begin owning your worth and charging what you deserve. In fact, this thought process will always prevent you from delivering value at the highest level. If you're simply selling your experience and not the results, then you are missing the reason they are coming to you in the first place.I'm not saying that you stop improving yourself and your business, but there is no reason in the world that you can't help your clients and patients make incredible shifts in their health and lives right now!Besides, you already have a lifetime of incredible experiences that are invaluable to your ideal clients!

Myth #3: You need to be an "EXPERT"

As vets we are caught up in the "Trap of Expertise" - we feel we have to be RIGHT - every time and all the time! Being "The Expert" is a real burden. Clinically it can help, but in business - procrastination, procrastination and procrastination..... Listen, you're already an expert if you know more than the person standing in front of you and have the knowledge and skill that gets intended results for your patients.

And all of those mistakes and "failures" you've encountered along the way only make you MORE qualified to step up and charge what you deserve. I don't know about you, but I don't want to follow a guy into the woods who has never been lost before.

You can click here to visit the VetDynamics website

Would you like to have a happier practice?

From a newsletter article by Joel Parker DVM and published on the Veterinary Practice Solutions website

We recently exhibited at the North American Veterinary Conference in Orlando and spent a good portion of our time interviewing DVM practice owners as to what their Ideal Scene was.

What’s an Ideal Scene? Your Ideal Scene is that picture you have of your practice of what would ideal, what would be the perfect practice. This would include all the great things you want such as top notch equipment, 2 months vacation and a nice car but minus all the frustrating and annoying things that you would like to change.

So what did we find out? A whopping 68% of practice owners interviewed responded that the No. 1 thing they wanted was happy staff! For their staff to get along and work together as an organized team. Despite having the best equipment money could buy, they wanted something so intangible yet so important to daily practice life.

So here’s a couple of pointers on whipping together a happy staff:

  • Purpose means everything... Very few staff work solely for money (good thing right?) but work for a strong sense of purpose. Get the purpose of your practice defined in writing and posted on the wall as a reference point for all team members to see.
  • Define your rules of the game... A team needs clear directions and rules to follow otherwise simple daily tasks becomes laborious decision points. Define your standard way of operation with a good Standard Policy & Procedures (SOP ) manual.
  • Stack your deck... Hire upbeat positive attitude people that are willing and care for what is going on. This attitude is hard to train. Hire them like this and they’ll easily train up their technical skills without taxing your resources (and nerves!).
  • Train people “off the job” into great team players... Establish a training center off the busy production lines that actually trains using your SOP manual as the reference points. No more “on the job” verbal training. It just doesn’t work well!
  • Correct with compassion... No one ever corrected anyone with force. Have compassion and firmness and correct over a foundation of validation. People are valuable. Value them!

You can click here to visit Joel Parker’s website

5 Veterinary Practice Time Savers

From a blog by Mark Opperman published on the Veterinary Practice Management website

Are your team members always busy—or at least appear busy—yet the work isn’t getting done? Are you frustrated by team members’ frequent complaints that they don’t have time to get projects completed? The problem may lie in your inefficient systems and processes. Here are 5 ideas that will significantly improve efficiency in your veterinary practice.

1.Go paperless

The day of paper medical records is gone—that type of system is a dinosaur! It’s long past time to make this change in your practice. Is it easy? No. Is it worth it? Yes! Every veterinary software company has a protocol you can follow to make the transition. Contact your software company to find out what you need to do to make this happen for your practice. I promise it’ll be one of the smarter things you’ve ever done to improve efficiency in your practice.

2.Use templates

Once the switch from paper medical records to electronic medical records has been accomplished, your next step is patient care templates. Many software systems already have templates. All you need to do is modify them for your practice. Imagine having a discharge order form already formatted so that all you have to do is fill in the blanks and check off the boxes. You can do the same for your outpatient exams, surgery log, anesthesia log, dental medical record and medical care plans just to name a few.

3.Embrace technology

Are there enough computer terminals in your practice, or do people often wait in line to use a terminal? Do you use writing tablets, iPads or other technology in the exam room to help you communicate with clients and improve efficiency? Might an additional credit card machine help your receptionists invoice clients faster, so that clients won’t have to wait. Today, technology needs to be updated every three years or so—some might even say sooner. A newer, faster computer or printer might be an easy way to pick up the pace in your practice.

4.Manage inventory with barcodes

Many distributors and software companies will help you set up barcode scanning throughout your practice. Barcode scanning can be a thing of beauty when used correctly. It cuts down on a lot of inventory mistakes, ensures proper pricing and reduces the time needed for inventory management.

5.Script your conversations

When a client calls to ask about heartworm, feline leukemia or West Nile virus, how do your team members respond? Some receptionists and technicians may be clear and concise in their communication, while others suffer from what I call “verbal diarrhea.” The other question is, what are team members telling clients—and are they all saying the same thing? I strongly suggest practices develop written scripts for some of their most common communication topics. People don’t need to speak exactly from the script, but scripts help team members remember to cover the important points.

These are only 5 ideas to save time and to improve efficiency and profitability in your practice. Truth be told, they were pretty easy to come up with. Sometimes it’s the little things that can have the biggest impact—not enough phone lines, clients waiting to process credit cards because a phone line is busy, running between multiple printers for client receipts because they’re too slow. Take a look at your processes and talk to your team members—they are a great source of knowledge. Together, try to identify the areas where your practice is inefficient and start taking steps to improve upon those parts. The rewards can truly be great.

You can click here to visit Mark Opperman’s website

Investing in a Business Partnership

Some tips from an article ‘How to Have a Successful Co-Founder Relationship’ by Jeff Golfman and published in the Entrepreneur.com website

Choosing who your business partner(s) will be is the single most important decision you will make in your business -- and potentially in your life. It is arguably more important than who you will marry, as you will likely spend more hours with your business partner and their actions have a massive impact on your work-life balance, work schedule, personal life, income, stress levels, happiness and your overall daily life.

With that said, here is my advice and tips on choosing a business partner.

Be picky.

Choose your business partner(s) carefully and wisely and never from a place of desperation. There are hundreds of potential partners and investors out there for you (assuming you have a good business idea and that you personally have value and skills to offer) so don’t get "married" to the first person you meet. Too many entrepreneurs jump at the first opportunity, because they do not see the other options in front of them.

Do research.

Take your time before agreeing to partner with anyone. Do your due diligence. Speak with several of the people who they have worked with in the past and in the case of an investor partner, talk with several of the founders that they have invested in before. Find out the good, the bad and the ugly in order to make an informed decision.

Determine your needs.

Your business partners should compliment your own skill sets. They should be people who bring different other areas of expertise, interests and experiences than you in the areas of: marketing, sales, operations, finance, human resources, technology, operations and fulfilment, to name a few.

Do not team up with people who have the same skills set as you or people who will be your submissive "yes" person. You need leader partners who will hold you to a higher standard and challenge you. Once you team up, you collectively raise the overall quality of the business, together you are a better team and the business is further ahead by the union.

Test it out.

In the case of a day-to-day working partner, before agreeing to being legally bound to each other do a short three to four week test project together. For example, if your new partner will become the CFO of your company, hire them to do a financial project first or in the case of a CTO, give them a back or front end development project to do so that you can see how you interact together and how you get along. You will experience their work ethic, your rapport with each other and the quality of their work before you agree to being business partners and getting legally intertwined.

Be specific.

In writing, outline very clear job descriptions, titles and areas of responsibility with your partners and agree to how many hours everyone will work in the business each week. Have the equity ownership percentage, votes and board seats contingent on the new partners ACTUALLY doing what they have agreed to do. By creating an Earn-In structure you will avoid many problems down the road when your "all-star" partner turns out to be a major dud or is MIA.

Have an exit plan.

Make sure that you build an exit strategy mechanism into your agreements that allow you to end the partnership smoothly without damaging the business or causing stress and drama. Most partnerships do not work out, so be prepared for the day when one of the partners wants to leave the business, or you want them to leave as soon as possible. The agreements between you should provide opportunities to buy and sell shares and not tether you both to each other for the entire life of the business.

You can click here to visit the Entrepreneur.com website