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

Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life

Know your staff – know their category

From an article by Erika Hultquist published on her NewVetBoss website

Employees that know their job and do it well

These are your ideal employees! But just because they do their job well doesn’t mean they don’t deserve some of your attention.

These employees really need to know you appreciate them and to provide support for any concerns or requests they may have. Want to go to CE? Sign them up! Need another scrub top? Give it to them! This group of employees needs your support and then get out of their way so they can do their jobs!

Employees that don't know their job but want to be doing it.

These could be new employees or existing ones that are moving into new roles or taking on new responsibilities in the practice.

This group needs training. Lots of training! We often forget how tough it can be to be a new employee in a new job.

As a manager, you must make time on a regular basis to check in with these employees.

Set up a regular meeting time, often weekly to meet with them and see how they are doing. Checklists are helpful to ensure that these employees are trained in all areas of their job. Make sure employees know they can come to you for additional help. This category of employee can easily move into the first category with the additional training they need.

Employees that know their job but aren't doing it.

I think most of our “problem” employees fall into this category. These are the frustrating ones. Employees in this category may have been one of your best employees at one point. Over time, for various reasons they have stopped performing in their position. It is easy to be angry at these employees. They know their job so why don’t they just do it ?!?

You might find yourself thinking that these employees should leave the practice, they need to leave the practice. We may be looking for reasons or incidents that would lead to their termination. Good riddance- right?

Not so fast, because these employees know their jobs there is great opportunity to turn these employees around. There could be lots of reasons why they aren’t performing.

Lack of job satisfaction and burnout occur frequently in veterinary medicine. The key to managing this category of employee is relationship.

Yes, relationship. Relationship is defined as “the way two or more people are connected”. Like it or not you are connected to your employees. You have a shared goal to be productive and contribute to the success of the practice. This doesn’t mean that you become this employee’s “friend” or lunch buddy.

This means that you have some honest conversations with this employee and their performance issues. You are also connected to them by the shared goal of improving their performance.

These employees need to know that you value them but that they need to be doing their job. The expectations for improving their performance need to be shared with them and a performance improvement plan setup. This should be an interactive process that the employee participates in.

Meet with them and ask them to come up with solutions. Create timelines to achieve solutions and then hold them accountable to those timelines. Let them know from the beginning they will be accountable for both the solutions and meeting the timelines.

Once the plan is in place, you need to support them. Meet with them regularly to discuss the progress being made to improve performance. The goal is to move these employees into the first category when they know their jobs and are doing it.

Employees that don't know their job and don't want to do it.

Two words. Bye-bye. Do you have employees in this category in your practice? These employees are demotivating to all your other employees.

Why should your other employees work when this person doesn’t and no one is doing anything about it? In my experience these are not usually your long term employees.

Employees in this category are usually recent hires and they never really make it. It could be lack of training, however most people that want to do their job will learn even in the absence of formalized training.

Employees in this category need to leave and leave quickly- before their bad attitude rubs off on the other team members.

I think staff development and improving staff performance is a huge part of practice success. I’m a firm believer that if you take care of your employees they take care of the business.

You can click here to visit the NewVetBoss website 

Transparency builds trust in your veterinary practice

From an article by Judy Gillespie published on her VetAnswers website

Every time I see a negative comment from a pet owner about their veterinarian, my heart drops.

I know that almost everyone who works in a veterinary practice is there for the right reasons. Whether it’s for the pure love for animals, to be an advocate for animals or to improve the life of animals – it’s rarely to earn lots of money. And yet the negative comments continue. Why?

I think it’s all about communication.  “My vet always seems to be pushing expensive food on me.”

Do you really?  Why do you suggest a client use a certain food for their pet? Is it because you stock that food and the extra dollars you make per bag is always a help? Or is it because in your professional opinion, the food you suggest is the best one to meet the needs of your patient? Or maybe it’s a bit of both – you do run a business after all.

But why do you do what you do?

Did you join the veterinary industry because of a genuine interest in the care and well-being of animals? Do your clients know that? How?

You can’t assume everyone is aware of your lifelong love for animals and their wellbeing. If you haven’t told them and it’s not obvious in every part of your business and every piece of your marketing, then they probably don’t know.

Charity, rescues and community support

Does your veterinary practice support a charity? Do you support local animal rescue groups or those overseas? Do your clients know this? How? Did you mention it once in a Facebook post or in a newsletter? Or do you have information on your website, in your practice and on your social media pages?

Improving skills, knowledge and expertise

You probably spend countless hours improving your skills, knowledge and expertise by reading and attending CPD events. Do your clients know about this? Do you talk about your new knowledge or skill and explain how it can benefit them and their pets? Do you promote and share with your clients the CPD events the rest of your team attend?

Sharing your knowledge and expertise

Do you regularly write and share blog posts on relevant, educational and interesting information with your clients? Do your blog posts answer commonly asked questions about animals within your community? Is your website the first place your clients go to when they have a question about their pets?

So many questions....

Lots of questions I know. But if your clients were aware of even half of these things I think they would have a very different perspective of you and your team.

If they were aware of how much time you spend improving and developing your skills and knew exactly why you do what you do, then they might view your recommendations for a particular food or treatment in a different light.

Rather than assume you’re only ‘in it for the money’, your clients might realise it's really all about what’s best for their pet and not begrudge you making a living at the same time. In fact, they may even be happy to pay for your expertise and advice when they can clearly see that it really is all about improving the life of their ‘fur baby’.

You can click here to visit the VetAnswers website

The importance of an elephant and a rider in your veterinary practice

From an article by Mike Paul published on the website

My wife and I just returned from our most recent adventure that took us literally halfway around the world and home again as we travelled to Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Singapore. The trip involved seemingly unending flights, layovers and delays, and cancellations. So while in Yogyakarta airport with a little time on my hands, I headed over to an airport bookstore for some light reading. I should have watched in-flight movies …

Without taking sides, I’ve been struggling with the increasing divisions in our society, and a book practically jumped off the shelf at me:

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. Now let me be clear. I am not an erudite or abstract person. But I do read a lot of what my wife refers to as “weird stuff,” and I recognized the name of the author, Jonathan Haidt.

He wrote a very influential, though no less challenging, read called The Happiness Hypothesis that I had struggled through a few years ago. In that book, Haidt, a professor of social and moral psychology at New York University, originated a model of the rider and the elephant—essentially about how we get in and stay out of our own way in life.

The main premise of the model is that the human brain has two sides always engaged. The rider represents the rational, analytical, detail-focused side of our thinking. He is a small fellow perched on the back of an elephant that is nonanalytical, impossible to control, and driven by emotion and instinct.

Since the rider cannot possibly force the elephant in a particular direction, he must rely on influencing the elephant to go in a direction or perform a task by knowing what the elephant wants and providing it.

When we travel, particularly to far-off places, my wife and I have specific roles. She is the detail team who makes all the reservations and arrangements. Thus, she is the elephant rider. She keeps me on track, determines a clear path forward and removes any obstacles.

That makes me the elephant here. Besides carrying our bags, I believe in preparation before travel and try to have a passing knowledge of what we want to see and do—Buddhist temples and monuments, some as old as Christianity; wildlife, from Asian elephants to leopards; diving among bizarre and colorful marine life; watching men balanced above the surf on poles fishing for fish just a few inches long; and eating a traditional Singapore meal of chicken and rice in a tiny café in Singapore’s Chinatown. Lots to see, lots to do and lots of hours to fill in the air.

Now, I think both of these books are real eye openers—if you can stay awake to read them. (Maybe they will come out with Cliffs Notes versions.) Both will test your resolve. There’s a nutshell take-home message for each that makes it all worth reading—but I’m not going to encourage you too much. There are several presentations on YouTube that give the gist.

Psychologists Dan and Chip Heath have written a number of popular books that elaborate on Haidt’s elephant-and-rider model. In their books, the rider is the planner who can accomplish little without the strength of the elephant. The rider must focus on consistency and clarity. Be clear in your expectations, the authors advise; help to remove obstructions, prevent distractions and provide rewards to the elephant. Here are some quotes from chapter one of Switch by the Heath brothers:

Changes often fail because the Rider simply can’t keep the Elephant on the road long enough to reach the destination.

To make progress toward a goal … requires the energy and drive of the Elephant.

The Rider’s great weakness: spinning his wheels.

A reluctant Elephant and a wheel-spinning Rider can ensure nothing changes. But when Elephants and Riders move together, change can come easily.

So if you find your elephant is like ours and easily distracted by shiny objects and straying off track or you feel yourself stuck in the rut of too much emphasis on detail, ask, “How can I get the elephant and the rider moving together?”

In your veterinary practice, major course corrections are unlikely if not impossible, so the key is for the rider to focus on the clarity of the path and the fact that we all travel it together. Rewards, acknowledgment and praise do much to keep the elephant on track and reduce distractions.

You can click here to visit the website

The Flawed Promise of Technology in Veterinary Medicine

From an article by Mike Pownall published on the Veterinary Business Matters website

It seems like the topic of technology taking over the veterinary profession is everywhere we look lately. From convention keynote speakers, to online headlines it seems like the death knell is ringing for the veterinary profession if we don’t embrace technology Right This Instant!!.

Yet, the contrarian in me asks “is this true?” and wants to push back on these prophecies.

Let’s look at three of the looming technologies that are threatening to swallow the profession and see what is really going on.


There is no doubt that our smartphones have trained us well. We read, text, watch Netflix, play games, and order anything we want online. Realistically, what we do least on our smartphones is actually phone anyone. The only person that expects to talk to me on the phone is my father, everyone else knows to text me.

Our phones are the true hubs of our lives. Pretty well everything we now do ideally involves our phones. I say, ideally, because I get annoyed when I have to use a fax, or actually call someone. I would much rather look something up, click a few boxes for what I want and carry on with my day.

It is one thing to have your practice website optimized for mobile screens, but what are you doing in your practice to make your clients experience as wonderful as everything else they do on their phones? If you hate calling someone consider how your clients feel when they have to book an appointment or look up the health information of their pet.

The same convenience we expect from everyday encounters with the Amazons, Apples and Netflix’s of the world should apply to our veterinary practices.

Compare the experience of a prospective client hoping to find information about your practice or make an appointment that has a choice between your 2010 centric interface versus your competitor that allows them to do everything they want from their phone. It’s no contest. The easier user experience wins hands down.

We can agree that having a smartphone focused client interface is essential now and in the future.


There is so much hype about the promise of tele-medicine. There seems to be a new service popping up every month in major cities. I just read about one today opening in San Francisco that is offering unlimited calls for $10/month.

There is one big thing wrong with telemedicine other than nobody can make money charging $10/month for unlimited calls. Obviously, the creators of this business have never dealt with anxious pet owners. I can see some of these vets dealing with the same people multiple times in a day. My suspicion is that this company wants to generate a huge user base and sell to someone else.

That is the business model of most Silicon Valley tech start ups; gain users and sell to someone up the food stream. It doesn’t matter if they are making money or not, create a popular service and hope someone buys it.

Not making money on telemedicine is a small challenge, compared to the biggest pitfall with telemedicine and that is, unlike people, animals can’t talk. Shocking, I know. Unless someone is well trained on the client side of the call, who is going to be able to do a physical exam, listen to the heart and lungs, palpate for pain, etc.

Telemedicine works well with people because there is usually a nurse, or a GP, with the patient acting as the eyes, ears and fingers of the specialist reviewing the case. Until we develop a new type of technician’s telemedicine is inherently flawed when it comes to veterinary medicine.


Artificial Intelligence is the up and coming technology with the most promise, and the least chance of succeeding in the next 10 years or so.

The promise of computer generated intelligence to solve the mysteries of veterinary medicine is so alluring. Who needs radiologists when IBM’s Watson can look at a radiograph, or MRI and make a diagnosis? Who needs a doctor to make a diagnosis when you can feed a computer information about the presenting complaint of a sick dog, or cat and out pops the diagnosis? They are even talking about Star Trek like Tricorders that can be used to diagnose ailments at home.

Why are they building all of these new vet schools? We won’t be needed soon. Right? Hardly.

What was the biggest shock we all encounters a few months out of vet school? Veterinary medicine is a people business, and animals are the excuse for us to interact with people. This was stomach churning news for us introverts that went into vet med because we couldn’t stand people. Surprise!!

So, when someone starts prattling on about the promise of AI in vet medicine ask them the following questions?

When a dog is spewing diarrhea everywhere would the client rather talk to a computer or a kind, empathetic person that can make a plan to deal with the situation?

When the decision is being made to euthanize a horse does the horse owner want to talk to a computer or a person?

When a person has bought a kitten at the Humane Society would they……. You get it.

Here is what I think. Veterinary medicine will always be a people business because we are dealing with loved ones and when it comes to emotions we want to deal with people that are sympathetic, good listeners, confident, and thorough. AI will certainly help veterinarians by sifting through all of the data and research to give us some direction when diagnosing a mystery illness, or offering treatment options, but it can never replace the special relationships that clients and patients have with their vets.

Where does that leave us in the new frontier of technology? Smartphones are altering how we interact with businesses and each other. Our vet practices absolutely need to adapt to meet client expectations, so the more we can offer client experiences through smartphones the better.

Telemedicine will require a shift in how we use technicians before this becomes mainstream. Great for remote places, or if a DVM wants input from a specialist.

It’s potentially a niche offering. Sorry, all you can eat buffet style telemedicine companies.

Finally, Artificial Intelligence and the promise of instant diagnoses. Like any service that has at it’s core fluctuating and surprising emotions, people aren’t going anywhere. AI is great for projecting stock returns, thus the popularities of ETFs, but it can’t match the nuances and variabilities of veterinary examinations, palpations, diagnoses and client communication and management.

So next time you hear someone go on and on about the riches in technology for veterinarians ask yourself one question. “Will a pet owner prefer to deal with a kind, empathetic, competent person or a machine when their loved animal is sick?”. If the situation demands a personal touch, then technology is not the answer.

You can click here to visit the Veterinary Business Matters by Oculus website

Ten Great Rules to Live By!

From an article by Winston Marsh published on his website

I wrote this quite a few years ago and every so often I like to dig it out and reflect upon it. It’s probably by no means a complete list but it may be of benefit to you as it is for me.

Have you noticed that some people always seem to attract success like a magnet and enjoy great times and great rewards as a result? They aren’t lucky, they just do the preparation, and success happens whenever preparation meets opportunity. 

1.Do whatever you promise to do!

The sheer pace and pressure of today’s world makes it all too easy to be sidetracked from delivering what you promised when you promised it. Resist the temptation and set yourself apart from your peers by your performance.

2.Never let a day go by without laughing.

Someone once said that laughter is mental jogging yet many people go through life without ever getting this vital exercise for the brain. Laughter blows the cobwebs away, reduces stress and heightens creativity. Put some laughter into your life.

3.Your attitude is a boomerang--- give out what you want back!!

If you want to harvest great positive feelings then you have to radiate great, positive feelings. One way to do that is to use the word “fantastic” whenever you are asked how you feel… even if you’re not, you soon will be.

4.Don’t dwell on your shortcomings… improve upon them.

After miraculously surviving 2 near-fatal accidents that left him wheel chair bound with incredible disabilities, inspirational speaker, W. Mitchell, overcame frightful burns and paraplegia. He says he didn’t worry about the thousand things he couldn’t do after his ordeals but concentrated on the ten thousand things he could do.

5.Know and build on your strengths.

Do a stock take of all of your attributes and focus on the ones that are your real strengths with the aim of really using them and exploiting them to the fullest. You’ll find that as you capitalise on those strengths you grow even stronger. 

6.Set your goals and stick to them.

Aim at nothing and you’ll hit it with amazing accuracy so take time out and set yourself some SMART goals… that’s specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time bound! The secret of success is the 6 P’s--- proper planning prevents painfully poor performance. Ask yourself where you are now, where do you want to be and how you are going to get there?

7.Remember, you never get a second chance at a first impression.

Although everyone knows that it is wrong to judge a book by its cover, most people do so anyway. Make sure that if the people you meet are going to make a snap judgment about you, that you create your best first impression by looking good and being really interested in them.

8.When you look good, you feel good--- and you do great!

To market yourself effectively you must do the best possible with that amazing package called “you” which determines your self-image. Invest the resources on yourself to make you the best you can be and, when you look good and feel good, you’ll get great results.

9.Listen and show genuine interest in the other person!

Each of us have only one mouth to speak with but two ears and two eyes to take in whatever another person is telling us... both spoken and unspoken. You’ll really be on another person’s wavelength when you operate on the same ratio--- watch and listen for around 80 percent of the time and speak for 20 percent of the time. 

10.A firm handshake helps build respect, trust and confidence.

No matter who comes into your life, when you greet them look them in the eye, offer your hand, and say enthusiastically, “Mary it’s really great to meet you” if you know their name or “My name is Jane, what’s yours?” if you don’t. Use a handshake often and watch it work!

There you are, ten simple rules to live by. Use them and reap the rewards!

You can click here to visit the Winston Marsh website