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

Rottweiler on a Trampoline

Veterinary Business Groups Join Forces

The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) is pleased to announce that its practice management special interest group, AVAPM, will be joining forces with the Australian Veterinary Business Association (AVBA) from 1 January 2017.

The amalgamation will create a new group, the Veterinary Business Group, which will become part of the AVA. The Veterinary Business Group will provide veterinary practice managers and owners with the support, skills and tools they need to build successful businesses in a rapidly changing business landscape.

“This move is an exciting opportunity to innovate, to develop leadership skills in veterinary businesses, and to foster a strong, successful veterinary services industry well into the future,” said AVAPM President, Dr James Ramsden.“The combined group will be able to support veterinary businesses at a whole new level.”“Both groups have been offering similar services such as conferences, workshops, webinars and online resources that are designed to help create successful veterinary businesses and successful veterinary leaders.

Dr Ramsden said.“By joining forces, we’ll be able to reduce the duplication of activities, offer better value for money for members and sponsors, and speak with a stronger and more influential voice through a larger, single membership base.

Members of both organisations will become members of the Veterinary Business Group as of 1 January 2017. Membership will be open to veterinarians and non-veterinarians working within veterinary businesses.

You can click here to visit the Australian Veterinary Association website for further details

A Utopian Future for Veterinary Medicine: How tech will get us there

From an article by Jessica Vogelsang and Adrienne Wagner published in the dvm360.com website

Adam Little, DVM, says you can offer better service and veterinary care while requiring less money and time from the pet owner.

Skeptics, are you rolling your eyes yet?

OK, so Dr. Little, the Director of Veterinary Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Texas A&M University, agrees that hasn't always been the case. But the means to that end lies right in the palm of your hand—literally, your phone—and it's the key to the future of veterinary practice.

Cutting-edge technology is not normally synonymous with lowered costs, particularly in the medical field, and accomplishing this feat requires rethinking large portions of how veterinarians interact with clients.

The technology that will make this happen doesn’t come in the form of state-of-the-art MRIs or lightning-fast blood gas analyzers, but in tools that allow practices to run at maximum efficiency while providing care both in the clinic and at home.

Symbiosis with tech

The first element of this technology is in the running of the practice itself, according to Little.“There are practices today that are incredibly successful, because they intuitively know what every other member of the practice is doing at any given time,” he says.

For practices lacking such innate personnel symbiosis, technology can help.“We’re getting to a point where software can help replicate the manual processes,” he says, which keeps practices running at maximum efficiency, coordinating the flow of the day to reduce stress and increase productivity.

Karen Felsted, DVM, CVPM, MS, CPA, agrees. She argues that if you could reduce the number of things the pet owner finds most time-consuming (read: annoying) about the veterinary visit, the more likely they are to focus on the super-valuable conversation with the veterinarian."The more tech-oriented the practice, the more you value the most efficient use of the pet owner's time, the more you’ll see the perceived value of your services increase," she says.

Sounds great, right?

Merging Tech + Vetmed

The second element Dr. Little envisions is perhaps a little more avant-garde. He’s worked at the intersection of emerging technology and veterinary medicine for the entirety of his career, giving him unique insight into the possibilities for tomorrow’s veterinary practices.

“We’re looking to build out a new primary care model,” he says, “with a digital suite of services and an in-house suite of services, with more affordable options for finance.”

He predicts a future where many sample collections take place in the home instead of the clinic. By using advanced collection techniques and apps to assist in acquiring and interpreting data, veterinarians free up time to focus on what matters—building a relationship with the client with one-on-one time.

Tech models are competitive with veterinary clinics. That's gotta change.

Here’s an example of that efficiency from Felsted: If your practice could do diagnostics in advance or use technology to allow pet owners to get data at home, when pet owners come into the practice, they could focus entirely on the treatment plan. Value is added."You're not marginalizing the veterinarian and you're not compromising the value of the veterinarian's service," she says. "You're adding to it."

Right now, tech models are competitive with veterinary clinics, which is a key point to remember, Dr. Little says. He thinks that could change."I think we need to figure out which tools these models provide that will support and enable the practices that we do have—because they're often very complementary," Little told an audience at the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons this past July in the UK.

The rise of the virtual partner

For travel booking, fitness tracking and fighting parking tickets, “chat apps” today use a combination of human and artificial intelligence to guide people through conversations and their problems. The funny thing is that veterinarians enjoy living in this world, and many regularly take advantage of apps like these, says Little. But when clients use it? Whoa, no good.

Case in point: An email from a Vettedreader criticizing our coverage of Petnostics, an in-home urine monitoring kit for pet owners. (We regularly cover products, highlighting innovative, technological advances in products promoting animal health and wellbeing.) The letter read, in part:"

Let's recognize the product for what it is: another end-run around a consultation with the veterinarian. This product isn’t marketed to veterinarians; it’s marketed directly to the consumer. The product's website even says that it’s 'the same urine test veterinarians perform at their clinics ... at a fraction of the cost of a vet visit.' By the way, it's not the same test, as there is no correct urine-specific gravity and there is no sediment examination, both being vital pieces of information to make a correct diagnosis and formulate the appropriate treatment plan. This product is more likely to spark a conversation with Dr. Google than it is with the veterinarian."

Coincidentally, Little addressed the Petnostics conundrum at RCVS: "I think [Petnostics] is a really great example of the friction, and at the same time, a lack of a pathway for these types of innovations.

”Petnostics was first featured on the product development TV show Shark Tank. In his lecture at RCVS, Little played an excerpt of the TV show judges reacting to the product. It boiled down to: "The problem is, my vet wants me to bring my animal in as much as I possibly can. So why is my vet gonna give me this really convenient thing so he doesn't have to charge me anymore?

"Little doesn't disagree with the Shark Tank judges' assessment—but he also doesn't believe that veterinarians can just avoid the whole thing.

"People know veterinarians have value in these equations," he says, "but they are also grappling with the fact that today, discussing technology and evolving the veterinary business model is a very difficult conversation to have. And yet the information that's being generated is going to transform the way we think about animal health—so we need to form partnerships."

Who wants change? ME!

Who wants to change? NOT ME!

The problem with new technology is that one must first accept it and then learn to use it.

You already know why this is hard, Felsted says: "If veterinarians don't see an immediate positive impact on their practice, they tend to get scared, which conflicts with change and innovation. Much of the pushback on technologies that empower the pet owner comes from a place of fear. Change is hard. We're not well-wired for change."

Little has some ideas to flip that mentality. Here are few:

  • Think like an entrepreneur. Next-gen veterinarians need to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset. Today, we rely on the vet school curricula to provide training for our students, but we those schools don’t always update the models to reflect new technologies. Students need the freedom to fail
  • Find the early adopters. Create a network of veterinary hospitals to lower the initial investment in new ideas for everyone. How can we enable earlier collaboration with practices, so companies are designing solutions that work?
  • Get help everywhere. Frame industry challenges as targeted problems whose solutions can be crowdsourced. We’re smarter when everyone brainstorms.

“I think we’ll look back in 15 years and say, why did we practice like this? There was so much missed potential,” Little says. But relationships, not technology, remain at the heart of his vision.

Tech that reinforces your role as the trusted partner? Imagine that.

You can click here to visit the dvm360.com website

7 Easy Ways to Help Streamline Business Meetings

From an article by Anita Campbell published in the SmallBizTrends website

These easy hacks may streamline business meetings so they're shorter and more engaging.

The days of long, drawn-out conference room meetings are over—or they should be. Today’s leaders often recognize the power of smaller and briefer meetings.

Shorter meetings are often easier to schedule and fit in to everyone’s calendars. When meetings are disciplined and streamlined, they may also seem less intimidating. People may be less likely to duck them. Shorter meetings often tend not to get bogged down in too much detail or sidetracked by tangents. More gets done.

1.Communicate a clear objective in advance.

Require every meeting to have a clearly stated objective.While the reason may be clear in the mind of the person organizing the meeting, to others it may not be nearly as clear. Instead of a cryptic description, meeting invitations might state the objective in terms of the result expected, such as, “The objective of this meeting is to redesign our company newsletter.”

2. Add an agenda to the calendar invitation.

Outline a brief agenda and include it in the emailed meeting invitation. Train your team to review agendas in advance and show up prepared. They can think about the agenda topics, look up facts and figures in advance, and come in with suggestions. To access the agenda, people just pull up the meeting invitation—no hunting around for a separate document.

Here’s another tip: If you'd like people to refer to a backgrounder document, consider loading it onto the company’s shared cloud storage (such as Google Drive or One Drive). Then put a link to that document right in the calendar invitation. Everything participants need for the meeting can then be found in one place.

3. Cut the participant list to bare bones.

While it might seem efficient to include everyone in one giant meeting, the opposite is often true. Inviting people who aren’t essential may waste their time, and may make it harder on others who are essential. The more people, the longer a meeting tends to take. People who are bored and typing emails in the background of a conference call, or responding to instant message pings, may be a distraction to everyone else.If you need to share information resulting from the meeting with someone, consider calling or emailing the information later.

4. Stick to start and end times.

Meetings should have both start and end times. Start on time. End on time.To do that, the organizer must often manage the discussion and put limits on each agenda item. For example, if it's an hour long meeting with six agenda items, the organizer may need to bring discussion to a close on each agenda item after 10 minutes. If you haven’t finished everything for that agenda item in the time allotted, consider scheduling follow-up actions.

One technique that some companies use to keep meetings timely is to hold them standing up. Not ready to go that far? Then how about putting large clocks in your conference rooms? Or do what I do when holding Skype conferences: Use the built-in timer in Skype to stay on time.

5. Have a clear leader.

One of the quickest ways for meetings to get sidetracked is when too many people try to take control, or go off on tangents.Even if more than one person is sharing information, it typically helps to have one leader—or facilitator—who's in charge.

Being in charge doesn’t mean monopolizing the conversation. On the contrary, it means making sure everyone who has something to contribute has a say. Team members in your company should be made aware that the leader’s role is to keep the meeting moving. If communicated that way upfront, long-winded participants hopefully won’t take umbrage at being cut short. It’s nothing personal—just process

6. Take notes.

If you're using a meeting room with a whiteboard or a flip chart, you might snap a picture of the notes with a camera phone. Later, those notes can be transcribed. Or use a notes app, like Evernote. There are also drawing/handwriting tools that let you take handwritten notes and transform them into text. For instance, Microsoft One Note has a drawing function for drawing graphics and notes. And the Surface Pro 3 keyboard transforms handwritten words into typed text.

If you're holding the meeting on a conference call, consider doing what we do in my company: take notes on a shared Google Doc or Office 365 document that everyone is logged into. It may be helpful, with this process, to assign a “scribe” at the start of the meeting to capture all key points.

7. Follow up.

After your meeting, participants will hopefully feel confident about what's expected of them. To be sure you’re on the same page, a simple follow-up email may be effective. Or simply list to-do items and assign responsibilities in a shared cloud document, if that's what you used to take notes.

If a follow-up meeting is required, consider setting it before ending the first meeting, so it doesn’t fall through the cracks.

These seven meeting processes can become part of your company’s strategic meeting management plan. Get your team to understand them and buy in, and hopefully your meetings can become more productive.

You can click here to visit the SmallBizTrends website

How to Train Your Mentor

From an article by Shane Atchison published in the LinkedIn.com Pulse website

The first time I spoke overseas, it was at an event in Brazil. My company was still small, and I finally had my big chance to impress important people in my industry. Needless to say, I practised my talk for days, changed it a hundred times, and even bought a fancy suit to wear.

A few weeks after the event, a DVD of my talk arrived in the mail (yes, this story dates me a little). It was a big moment for the company, so everyone huddled into a conference room to watch. I put in the disk, and they all started laughing. It turns out I’d done the entire presentation with my new suit jacket stuffed inside the back of my pants.

The interesting part of the story is not that I looked silly (that happens)—it’s that dozens of people had seen me that day before I walked onstage. I’d hung out in the hotel lobby, milled about at the event, and shook hands with a bunch of people. Not a single person said, “Um, Shane, I don’t know how folks are wearing their suits in Seattle these days, but here in Brazil…”

That experience confirmed one of the best pieces of advice I’d ever gotten:

No one will give you advice unless you ask for it. No one will truly mentor you unless you select them as a mentor.

That day, I should have turned to someone and asked, “Do I look OK?”

I didn’t, and looked silly as a result.

You might think you don’t really need a mentor or an advisor, especially if you’ve had some degree of success. This is simply not true. Even U.S. presidents ask other presidents questions, no matter what the party or personal history between them. When you’re starting out in your career, pretty much everyone benefits from a mentor. Then, after you get a little older, it’s still important to find peers who are facing the same challenges as you.

While plenty of advice exists on how to find and get the most from a mentor, my own have taught me a few secrets that will help you get the relationship right.

Don’t be afraid

The reason most people fail to get good mentors is that they’re intimidated by them. Don’t be. My first mentor was, and still is, more successful than I am. But like everyone, he likes giving advice to someone ready to listen. I don’t want to speak for him, but most of us are always secretly a little flattered to be asked for advice.

It doesn’t have to be a formal relationship

While corporate mentorship programs have their place, advice is a dish best served informally. When I want to talk to an adviser, I simply invite them to coffee. Which leads to my next secret.

It’s about coffee, not beer

You may socialise with mentors and advisors, but they shouldn’t be karaoking with you at two in the morning. A mentor is someone you meet when your head is clear, and you’re ready for advice.

They can’t have an agenda with you

A boss does not make a great mentor, nor does a partner or client. Consciously or not, those people will blend their agendas with yours, which is not what you need. One of my current advisors is a real estate developer, who lives in a completely different reality from mine—and that’s a good thing.

The success or failure of the relationship is always on you

Above all, you have to show up with questions and set the agenda for any meeting. Most people assume a mentor will simply guide you without input. It doesn’t work that way. You’re the expert on what’s bothering you.

Final point: there’s an old saying that no one can see their own backpack.In other words, you always see what everyone else is doing wrong. But it’s very hard to see your own flaws and what you need to do to succeed. So let’s roll up our sleeves (and hopefully untuck our jackets from our pants) and start thinking about who we’re going to ask some questions.We could all use some help, after all.

You can click here to visit the LInkedIn Pulse website

Writing Email to Connect and Communicate Clearly

From an article by Michael Gladkoff published in the Word Nerds website

Writing email is one of the most common activities in the business environment. Yet too many emails fail to connect and communicate the writer’s desired message.

Here are a few tips on writing email to ensure that your messages make an impact and get the results you want.

Have a clear subject and subject line

Have you ever received an email with a subject line that was not relevant to the content? The sender might have replied to an earlier email with a different subject or simply failed to think about the subject line. It’s important that the reader knows what the email is about from the beginning, especially if it’s an important subject. If the subject line does not reflect the urgency, for example, it might not be read in time or read at all. Professional email marketers know that a good subject line is critical for getting their emails opened and read. Keep this in mind when writing your email’s subject line.

Before you start writing, decide what action you want the reader to take and create your subject around this. Keep it simple. If you have more than one point to make in your email, organise them clearly – even use bullet points or numbers to separate each point.

Begin with a positive note when writing email

With all the challenges people face throughout the day, it’s always good to say something positive when writing email. For example, you can thank the person for their previous message or mention that you enjoyed speaking with them earlier in the day.

Write short paragraphs

Breaking up your text into shorter paragraphs makes your email easier to read. You probably have come across a huge paragraph in an email and stopped reading. When writing email, start a new paragraph when you begin a new idea. You might even have one-sentence paragraphs. There’s nothing wrong with this and it makes it easier for the recipient to read.

Use plain and simple language when writing email

Although, I’ve mentioned this in other blog posts, it’s worth repeating these simple tips:

  • Use the simplest words possible to convey your message
  • .Avoid long and drawn out sentences
  • .Don’t use jargon or buzzwords, especially if the reader might not be familiar with them.

End with a call to action – and something positive as well

The end of the email is where you can give a call to action to the reader. What do you want them to do? Respond with yes or no answer, provide more information, set up a meeting? Be clear about this when writing email to get the response you want. Also, the end of the email is a good place to express something else in a positive way. This could be expressing gratitude, complimenting the recipient on recent achievements, or looking forward to catching up with them in person soon.

Writing email does not have to be difficult. Follow the steps outlined in this article to write emails that enable you to communicate your message clearly and connect with recipients.

You can click here to visit the Word Nerds website