Practice Management News and Views from around the World – March 2014

A message from Veterinary Practice Magazine

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Leadership – Lessons we can learn from Geese

From a blog by Ian Dickson and published in the blog


Fact: As each goose flaps its wings it creates an “uplift” for the birds that follow. By flying in a V-formation, the whole flock adds 72% greater flying range than if each bird flew alone.

Lesson: People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are traveling on the thrust of another.

Fact: When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone. It quickly moves back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front of it.

Lesson: If we have as much sense as a goose we stay in formation with those headed where we want to go. We are willing to accept their help and give out help to others.

Fact: When the lead goose tires, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies to the point position.

Lesson: It pays to take turns going the hard tasks and sharing leadership. As with geese, people are interdependent on each other’s skills, capabilities, and unique arrangements of gifts, talents, and resources.

Fact: The geese flying formation honk to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.

Lesson: We need to make sure our honking is encouraging. In groups where there is encouragement, the production is greater. The power of encouragement (to stand by one’s heart or core values and encourage the heart and core of others) is the quality of honking we seek.

Fact: When a goose gets sick, wounded, or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay with it until it dies or is able to fly again. Then, they launch out with another formation or catch up with the flock.

Lesson: If we had as much sense as geese, we will stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we are strong.

Fact: Geese fly south for the winter in the Northern Hemisphere.

Lesson: It is a reminder to take a break from the cold of winter and take a vacation to some place warm & sunny to rejuvenate ourselves.

You can click here to visit Ian Dickson’s website

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VPMA and SPVS get a new look

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The Veterinary Practice Management Association (VPMA) and the Society for Practising Veterinary Surgeons (SPVS) each launched their new branding at the SPVS-VPMA Congress at the end of January. The leading business and management associations wanted their new visual identities to reflect the modern and engaged groups that they are.

The VPMA’s re-brand includes a new logo with fresh colours which has been carried through to its website. The website has been made easier to navigate and will host a member library of resources for managers to share best practice. Speaking as she embarked on a second year of office, President Helen Sanderson, commented, “The VPMA is continuing to grow and offers support to practice managers throughout the UK and Europe. We felt that it was time to update our logo and colours to reflect the dynamism of the association. Our new strapline ‘Managing Veterinary Excellence’ says it all really. Behind every great veterinary practice is usually a forward-thinking and proactive practice manager. We want to continue to support these hard-working individuals and together make practices even better. The new branding will raise our profile and help us reach even more people.”

Outgoing SPVS President Adi Nell, who revealed the new SPVS logo at the congress opening ceremony, was equally enthusiastic, “We really wanted to achieve a clear and succinct explanation of who we are and what we do. The ‘Supporting Vets, Developing Practice’ strapline reinforces our focus on the vet working in practice. Along with promoting high standards in business management, client care, animal welfare and ethics, we aim to support quality of life, both personally and professionally. Our new-look website, launched at the end of last year, runs alongside a very active online forum where we discuss all matter of topics affecting practice life.”

The associations have also launched their brand new programme of CPD for 2014. Starting this February and supported by Zoetis for the third year running, the topics include conflict management, making the most of your nurses and the ever-popular Colourful Consultation seminar with Brian Faulkner.

You can click here to visit the Associations’ joint event website

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Give Your Practice a Physical Exam

From an article by Mark Opperman CVPM, published in the website

You give pets physical exams every day, but now it’s time to get up close and personal with your practice. What’s the pulse of your income? Are there abnormalities in your client numbers? Let’s look at some specific indicators and get an idea of how truly healthy or unhealthy your practice is

  • Bonding rate One key indicator of your practice’s health is how deeply your clients are bonded to your practice. A good way to benchmark this is the percentage of clients who’ve returned in the past 18 months. Most veterinary software programs have a criteria search-and-sort function that can provide you with this information. The average bonding rate for veterinary hospitals is 60 percent, which means you see six out of 10 clients return within 18 months.

  • New clients How many new clients per full-time-equivalent (FTE) doctor do you have coming in a month? Benchmarks 2013: A Study of Well-Managed Practices, from Veterinary Economics and Wutchiett Tumblin and Associates, found an average of 18.5 new clients per month per FTE veterinarian. In addition to benchmarking your practice against high-functioing peers, compare your practice to how well you did 12 months ago. Are your new-client numbers up or down?

  • Customer service and client satisfaction If you want to know how well you’re serving clients, consider using a mystery shopper. You can arrange with another practice for one of their employees to visit your clinic as a client and report back to you. Another option is a survey. I’ve seen success at veterinary practices with a free survey app for iPads called QuickTapSurvey. You create a series of client questions then hand off the iPad to clients at the end of their visits to complete.

  • Your transactions Hospitals in Benchmarks 2013 reported generating 450 invoices per month, or 5,405 per year, per FTE veterinarian. That included invoices for food and refill prescriptions. Don’t forget to check whether your total number of invoices are up or down from last year.

  • Revenue sources Where is your practice revenue coming from, and how has that changed over the year? Some practices are increasingly dependent on ancillary services such as boarding and grooming. Other practices have seen a significant decrease in their flea, tick and heartworm preventive income.

  • Net revenue You may be generating less income but bringing home more. You may be generating more income and taking home less. You won’t know until you check. How much revenue do you receive out of your practice in dollars and benefits?

Compare your practice to various industry benchmarks and see how you compare to last year.

You can click here to visit the DVM360 website

You can click here to visit Mark Opperman’s website

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The Festival of All Things Dental – Purple Paper’

I was delighted recently to receive an e.mail from Judy Gillespie – owner of Vetanswers – your online veterinary business community

Judy has recently published an eBook: ‘The Festival of All Things Dental Purple Paper’. It’s a compilation of mostly guest blog posts published during the Australian ‘Dental Health Month’ in August 2013. Judy said that ‘These guest blog posts were collectively viewed over 4000 times (& counting!) and I thought the information was just too good to not share further so I’ve compiled them all into one publication’.

Veterinary dentistry is not just a clinical issue but a major contribution to practice income. Every single blog included in the The Festival of All Things Dental Purple Paper’ incudes great ideas and suggestions for managers and clinicians alike. They include:

  • How I stopped the routine ‘dentals’ and started to get excited over the funky stuff
  • Boost your Facebook posts for Dental Health Month
  • Talking Teeth with your Veterinary Clients
  • Insider tips for creating a successful veterinary dental programme
  • Regional nerve blocks for veterinary dentistry and oral surgery
  • Revvingup your dental programme
  • Pet dental health and behaviour – there is a connection
  • Are you promoting dentistry in your veterinary practice all year round?
  • How to book in more veterinary dentals – six great tips
  • So you’ve decided it’s time to get serious about dentistry in your veterinary practice

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VPMA and CAW forge partnership on leadership skills

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The Veterinary Practice Management Association and The College of Animal Welfare (CAW) have put their heads together to promote two accredited qualifications in Leadership and Management, aimed at the veterinary sector. Delivered by the new CAW Business School, the ILM Level 3 Certificate in Leadership and Management is aimed at those working in or aspiring to a leadership position within practice. The qualification is awarded by the Institute of Leadership & Management, and is set at the equivalent of ‘A’ level standard. The ILM Level 5 Diploma is delivered to Foundation Degree level.

The VPMA is boosting the benefits of each course by offering students a year’s free membership of the association. Both courses have already seen a mixture of vets and nurses enrol, with the aim of learning best practice as they take on more management responsibility. VPMA’s President Helen Sanderson was keen to stress the benefits to practice employers of encouraging further study, “We see these courses being a useful introduction for those new to management, as well as a stepping stone to our own Certificate in Veterinary Practice Management (CVPM). They will give your staff members the knowledge and confidence to tackle management-related issues, and bring out the best in other team members. This, of course, has the potential to boost your bottom line through increased staff retention as well as decreasing recruitment costs. I feel that this training is every bit as important as clinical CPD and should be actively encouraged if there is an interest there.”

Subjects are taught as a combination of online tutorials augmented by case studies, self directed research and a number of face-to-face sessions (two weekends for the Level 3, and four for Level 5 at the CAW headquarters in Huntingdon). Both courses allow for personalised, flexible study with the support of tutors and other students. The Level 3 Certificate is estimated to take about 12 months to complete, and the Level 5 Diploma, 18 months. Both are assessed through assignments and learning logs.

You can click here for more information at the College of Animal Welfare

You can click here for more information on the VPMA website

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Is Your Hospital’s Purpose Short and Sticky?

From a blog by Rebecca Tudor published in the CatalystVETS website

That seems like a weird question doesn’t it?

It really isn’t. Most animal hospital mission (purpose) statements are insanely long. In fact, they are too long for the people who created them to remember, let alone new people joining the team.

Because of the length of most mission statements, there is an immediate disconnect between what you have posted on the wall and what actually goes on between the walls in your hospital.

Coming up with a short and sticky statement is not an easy process, but it is so powerful when you do.

A few years ago, I struggled to create a mission statement that encapsulated what we were trying to do with TVSS. It took a lot of brain- storming, but finally our mission statement was crafted.

‘We exist to provide the surgical excellence and compassionate service we would want for our own pets’

At the end of the day, what mattered to us was providing surgical excellence and compassionate service. But what was most important to us, was providing to other pets what we would want for our own pets.

Every day, our team knows this is the goal. At the end of the day if we have done these two things, then we have accomplished what we set out to do. It is short, and it is sticky. It is NOT complicated and NOT hard to remember.

A short and sticky mission statement helps us make tough decisions when needed.

The other day we had a dog, already under anesthesia, who was going to have an FHO. After reviewing the radiographs of the dog, I concluded there was no way I would do an FHO on this dog if he were mine (the radiographs revealed no significant DJD.) I called the owner and explained to her that there was no way I could perform the FHO. For all I know, she went down the road and had another veterinarian perform the surgery (she really wanted this surgery for some reason) but it was not going to be me doing an unnecessary surgery.

Not only can your team actually remember what you collectively are trying to accomplish when your mission statement is short and sticky, but it will also resonate with your clients.

We recently added a video to our website and most owners have told me that the reason they selected us to do their pet’s surgery was because we treated their pet like he/she was our own- how awesome is that? So not only is it resonating with my team and me, but also clients who chose us to perform their pet’s surgery.

I challenge each of you, to take some time at your next leadership team meeting and start crafting a short and sticky mission statement-one that will actually help your team know why they are there and what you are trying to accomplish!

You can click here to visit the CatalystVETS website

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