Meet Ken – Ken owns a veterinary practice
What’s happening in small animal practice in the UK
The 3 Qualities of Likable People
Business leaders and entrepreneurs with superb people skills have a competitive edge over others. These skills often take more time to learn than technical abilities, but the results are well worth the investment.
Everyone wants to work with people they enjoy being around. If you’re extremely likable, you’ll be able to attract new clients and retain long-standing relationships with minimal effort.
Clients evaluate who they want to hire and continue to work with based on what I call the BLT factor: believability, likability, and trustworthiness. They ask themselves, “Does Pamela know what she’s doing and is she enjoyable to work with?” If you’re disliked, it may not matter how competent you are, people simply won’t want to work with you.
Likability is the culmination of three traits: empathy, reliability and integrity. Here’s why each characteristic is important and what you can do to cultivate it.
Empathy. Empathy is your ability to relate to and understand someone else’s situation and perspective. Strong, enduring relationships are almost always built on empathy. It’s a life skill that requires self-awareness, practice and experience. The ups and downs of your personal and professional life will influence how you empathasize, and with whom.
Common experience connects people through an instant bond and a shared level of trust. For example, I can easily empathize with others who have lost a job, started a business, had cancer, struggled with finances, or written a book because I too, have experienced those circumstances.
Just be aware, empathy does not mean you have to agree with others’ opinions or try to please everybody. Instead, consider the feelings of your employees, partners and colleagues when you make decisions. To cultivate this skill, react less, listen more and try to put yourself in the other person’s position.
Next time a client or employee is struggling, take a few moments to listen and, if you can relate, share a personal story.
Reliability. Customers reasonably expect businesses to be reliable, responsible and dependable. When someone needs help, he calls whomever he knows he can count on. It’s more than delivering a service; it’s doing your job well while keeping the project on time and on budget.
Some of the most successful companies in the world have a reputation for consistency. If you catch a flight from New York to San Francisco and stop by a Starbucks on the way to the airport, you know that coffee will taste the same as the coffee you plan to buy once you land. It doesn’t matter where you are; every Starbucks delivers the same quality coffee, every time.
When I was in Shanghai last October, I craved something sweet. I spotted a Häagen-Dazs ice cream parlor and went inside for dessert. Even though I was on the other side of the planet, this ice cream made me feel like I was back home.
Customers are attracted to the sense of security that comes from being able to count on someone or something. Certainty provides peace of mind and most people are willing to pay more for reliable service.
Cultivate your reputation for reliability. Whenever you or your employees make a promise, deliver. If you can’t fulfill part of your responsibilities, let the client know as soon as possible. An unavoidable hiccup is forgivable; blatant misjudgment or deception is not.
Integrity. Lack of integrity has permeated our culture. It can be seen in politics, sports, business and entertainment. Integrity is the highest level of professionalism and behavior. It’s doing what you know is right, even if no one is looking; it’s standing up for what you believe in and having the courage to speak up, even if your opinion is unpopular.
Investor Warren Buffett said, “In looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence and energy. And if they don’t have the first, the other two will kill you.”
Many people are smart and capable, but very few take the time to cultivate integrity. Those who do make a personal investment of time, energy and self-enhancement are paid back in big dividends.
Whether professional or personal, relationships demand integrity and honesty. On some days, it may be difficult to always behave at your highest level, but it’s well worth the effort.
Consistently apply your best judgment with your staff, colleagues, friends and family.
You can click here to visit the Entrepreneur website
Have you met Mr Wright?
In the course of doing what I do I sometimes come across a particular type of vet that tells me that money, marketing, medicine, profit and vets are words that don’t sit comfortably together.
In fact, he will contend that the pursuit of profit is morally wrong, preventative health schemes that we advocate so strongly are just a ‘rip-off’ to sell more stuff to clients that don’t really want it and that raising prices and poor veterinary standards are the main reason for falling footfall and the decline of the profession.
Let’s call him Mr Wright! And he is entitled to his opinion. I often say to people that tell me they didn’t ‘do veterinary medicine to make money’ is “Well done – you’ve succeeded!”
That aside, I think he raises some important points about the Vet Dynamics approach that I would like to address.
I wouldn’t, for a second, disagree with Mr Wright about the importance of fair pricing in practice, although whether it is ‘the most important reason’ for falling clientele is certainly a more debatable point. Research suggests otherwise.
Regardless of the reasons for falling clientele, preventative healthcare (PHC) is categorically not just a cynical way to squeeze more money out of clients. Nor will it result in further erosion of their numbers. On the contrary, it represents a standard of clinical excellence; a standard which our counterparts in human medicine and dentistry have practised successfully for some years now; a standard which could go some way in alleviating the very ‘dinner-party-grumbling-about-vets-bills’ to which Mr Wright refers.
In fact, our contention is exactly the same as Mr. Wright’s – currently, our clients do not perceive ‘value for money’ from many vets. However, lowering prices or not offering a full preventative and clinical service to those clients only reduces veterinary income, veterinary standards and business viability – a lose/lose situation.
What we are saying as a solution is to offer PHC comprehensively, consistently and cheaply to ALL clients with the primary purpose of attracting and keeping as many clients coming through veterinary practices, as often as possible, to demonstrate our integrity and care through education and disease prevention.
Preventative Healthcare Schemes (as proposed by Vet Dynamics, at least) are NOT there to make money. They are there as a primary marketing tool to Attract, Convert and Retain the best possible clients to your practice so that you can practice the best medicine you know how. Done well, they will also make some money….
If that were the case veterinary practices may actually be able to charge realistically and profitably for their skill, expertise and training in veterinary medicine and surgery instead of subsidising it with overpriced drugs, overpriced vaccines and overpriced preventative healthcare – and isn’t that where the Competitions Commission came in??
In an ideal world, the excellence represented by the preventative approach would be standard across all practices and adopted by all clients. Of course, it is not. So at this stage, regardless of whether you consider it from a financial perspective, a clinical one, or a caring one, it is surely pragmatic to begin by offering PHC to those clients that will be more receptive to it. This approach is not ‘unworthy of any self-respecting professional group.’ Rather, it is the approach that will benefit the greatest number of animals.
It is also a harsh reality that in today’s competitive world, veterinary surgeons need to ‘sell’ themselves and their services as never before. There is no doubt that the most effective professional selling is by educating the client to the ‘facts’ and providing the client with safe, effective and informed choices as to the costs, consequences, treatments and preventative options available to them. In that regard, there is nothing unprofessional about describing a (realistic) worse case scenario, or using aggressive educational techniques to encourage a client to use an effective treatment.
That may seem ‘unprofessional’ to some, but remember that the ultimate aim is to ensure that the client actions your advice, for the benefit of the animal. If that requires a ‘double-glazing’ approach, so be it. Indeed, judging by the acres of reinforced glass that lines the leafy suburbs of Surbiton, maybe the veterinary profession could learn a thing or two from those Mr Wright appears to so criticise.
I wholeheartedly and absolutely agree with both of Mr Wright’s tenets of good business practice. Avoid over-charging and over treatment. Treat the public with professional integrity. But these things alone will not bring clients flocking back. For that, be in no doubt that we need to sell the value of what we do. And to do that, we need to give clients a good cost-effective and compelling reason to come through our doors more often. “Selling” and “professional integrity” are not mutually exclusive concepts. Indeed the preventative healthcare approach offers the ideal platform from which to sell with integrity.
I’d rather get pets right, than be Mr Wright….
You can click here to visit the VetDynamics website
5 Easy Things Your Team Can Do To Improve Client Satisfaction
I recently read “Influencer: The Power To Change Anything” by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, and others. “Influencer” outlines a number of methods you need in order to create lasting change within your business, your family, yourself or even the world.
One of the case studies was a large regional medical center that had over the last 13 months received decreasing patient/customer satisfaction scores. Clinical care was not the issue but people felt that they were not being treated with care, dignity or respect. The hospital director brought the executive team together and he asked, “How do they fix this?” Two teams were formed and they went about finding the positive deviance. Find the health care professionals who routinely scored high in customer satisfaction in areas where others did poorly.
They were not looking at systems, pay, and the carpet in the employee lounge but were instead focusing on
Eventually they identified the following 5 key behaviors they believed led to high customer satisfaction scores:
- Make eye contact
- Identify yourself
- Let people know what you are doing and why
- End every interaction with “Is there anything else you need?”
They then created a strategy to influence these behaviors. The result? As all the 4000 employees started enacting the 5 vital behaviors, service quality scores improved dramatically for 12 months in a row. Within a year, this same hospital achieved best in class among it peers and is now a recognizable best in class among its peers.
Wow – all of that by making sure that everyone did these 5 things! I believe these are behaviors that would benefit your hospital as well. Probably a lot of you are intuitively doing some of them but is the rest of your team? And is everyone doing them every time? That is what will separate your hospital from the one a few miles down the road- creating predictably great experiences for your clients and their pets.
Do you have certain phrases or behaviors that ensure your team is delivering the level of customer service that you desire? Any behaviors that you have recognized in your “high performers” that make them stand out?
You can click here to visit the CatalystVets website
Register now for the Vet Charity 2014
The event will take place on Saturday 27th September at St Francis School, Pewsey, near Marlborough, Wiltshire. The day consists of teams of four walking/running, cycling and kayaking as well as some orienteering and mental and physical tasks. This will be the third year for the Challenge and so far has raised over £70,000 for animal based charities.
Gavin Mitchell from BCF commented, “The Vet Charity Challenge is a great way to improve your teamwork in practice, get a bit fitter, have fun and raise money for some very deserving charities. Now is the time to get your teams of four signed up. Come and join in the fun.”
Andrew Groom from Kruuse added, “The challenge is designed for every level of fitness. It is the team that works the best together on the day that will win, not the fittest.” Competitors from last year agree, below are just a few of the positive comments.
“Brilliant day out! Good for team building. A fun day with your friends which gives you a massive sense of achievement whilst raising money for excellent charities.” Becky Lewis, The Oak Vet Group, Haverfordwest.
“It’s great fun, you don’t need to be an elite athlete, you do need to be prepared to have a go and it’s very friendly.” Fiona Vaughan, Clent Hills Veterinary Group, Bromsgrove.
It’s great fun, good for team building and gives you a great sense of achievement as well as raising money for great charities. Heidi Wyatt, Anton Vets, Andover.
The charities being supported in 2014 are Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, SPANA and Cats Protection.
The Vet Charity Challenge is sponsored by BCF Technology, Kruuse and Vetoquinol and supported by the VMPA and Veterinary Practice magazine.
Break the Ice: 8 Networking Tips for Introverts
Success is largely determined by an ability to play to your strengths. If you happen to be shy or introverted, don’t limit your dreams or count yourself out just because you don’t fit the traditional image of an entrepreneur. There is more than one path to success.
Networking events, however, tend to be designed for a particular personality — the “work hard, play hard,” never-met-a-stranger type. Rooms filled with crowds of people — not to mention the pressure to be interesting and likeable — is enough to give most introverts sweaty palms.
While visibility is a natural part of networking, that doesn’t mean you have to be the center of attention. Rather than approaching networking like an extrovert, introverts should relax, plan ahead and let their true personalities shine through.
Here are some helpful hints.
- 1. Manage expectations. If networking events make you nervous, don’t psych yourself out with unrealistic expectations. You may not meet 20 new contacts or impress others with your best joke — and that’s okay. One quality conversation is more beneficial than 20 superficial ones.
- 2. Prepare. Plan ahead and prepare some icebreakers. Open-ended questions spur interesting conversations. Most people love to talk about themselves, their work and their hobbies. Ask questions like, “How long have you been a member of the host organization?” or “What’s your favorite part of your job?”
- 3. Set a time limit. When you decide ahead of time how long you’ll stay at an event, it makes the commitment finite and much less intimidating. At a minimum, give yourself 20 minutes to get your nametag, grab a drink and meet at least one new person. Often, all you need is a few minutes to adjust to the environment. You may be surprised at how often you’ll stay longer than planned.
- 4. Ask for an introduction. If there’s a particular person you’d like to meet, try to find a common connection and request an introduction. LinkedIn makes this very easy — and if that doesn’t work, approach the event’s host. You’ll get much further with an introduction from a common acquaintance than approaching someone out of the blue.
- 5. Practice empathetic listening. Introverts are usually fully-engaged and fantastic listeners. Because most people are better at talking than listening, you’ll stand out as someone who values others.
- 6. Share your personal stories. Challenge yourself to open up. If you ask consecutive questions without sharing information about yourself, it can start to feel like an interrogation. Participating in the conversation will help it to flow more naturally.
- 7. Practice. If you’re still extremely nervous or unsure, challenge yourself with low- or no-risk situations. Drive to a networking event in the next town over where you likely won’t know anyone. Experiment with new conversation-starters or stories. That way, even if you make a complete fool of yourself, it won’t matter.
- 8. Take small steps. With increased practice, you’ll become more comfortable in social situations and with sharing your true personality. Make it a habit to take advantage of everyday opportunities to network. At the office, take small breaks to walk around and casually socialize with your colleagues. Once a week, invite a colleague to join you for lunch or coffee.
You can click here to visit the Entrepreneur website