Practice Management News and Views from around the World – September 2017

How many takes to make it perfect? (with acknowledgement to Tom Catanzaro)

4 Reasons to Manage Your Veterinary Practice with Metrics

From an article by Tracy Dowdy published on her website

If you’re a veterinary practice owner, your practice is probably like your baby. You were really excited when you found out you were going to be a parent (a practice owner). As soon as your baby was born (you actually stepped into the ownership role), you quickly realized how hard having a baby (a veterinary practice) really is. You’ve trusted your gut instinct when it comes to parenting (practice management) decisions ever since.

But owning and managing a veterinary practice is quite different (the most successful in our profession might even say it’s better—shhh, don’t tell the kids) than trying to raise a child. If you’re going to be successful as a practice owner or manager, you can’t rely on your instincts. Here are four reasons why you should be managing your practice with metrics.

1. Data is objective.

Data doesn’t lie. It tells the real story behind the state of your practice.Think about it: Imagine your data revealing that one doctor is generating far less revenue than the other doctors in the practice. You can use that data to identify inconsistencies in patient care, poor time management, discounting, lack of confidence, and more.

Once the problem is identified, you can use the data to back up your decisions regarding personnel, and bias will not come into play.

2. Data gives credibility to leaders.

When leaders want to implement change, it is better to back it up with data and statistics.

Think about it: If your data shows that preventive care exam revenue has decreased by 15 percent over the past year, despite a 2 percent increase in the cost of exams, you can use that data to justify setting a standard surrounding preventive care exams in your practice.

How and when will preventive care exams be recommended? What will always be included in the exams? How will the team communicate with clients about preventive care?

3. Data is the measuring stick behind change.

When teams can see the data to support the need for change, they will be more likely to embrace new standards, protocols, and strategies.

Think about it: By surveying your clients or team, the results cannot be denied when the majority’s answers are the same. For example, if 85 percent of clients surveyed said the exam-room wait time is too long, the exam-room wait time is too long, and leadership needs to implement changes to correct the problem.

When the team sees the survey results, they’ll be more open to the proposed changes.

4. Data removes the guesswork.

By using metrics, leaders will know exactly what they need to focus on in order to improve the practice and the team, no guesswork needed.

Think about it: A veterinary practice should aim to add 25 new clients per full-time veterinarian each month. If you have a three-doctor practice, and your data shows that you’re only adding 50 new clients each month, you’ll know that you need to focus on marketing your practice in your community to bring more new clients through your doors.

You can click here to visit Tracy Dowdy’s website

Smaller can be better … a veterinary clinic in an elephant

From an article by Mark R. Hafen and published on his website

If you take the time to look at the trends facing the veterinary industry you will see:

  • Building costs are outstripping veterinarians’ ability to build big new clinics
  • Gross income for most veterinary clinics is growing weakly
  • The number of client visits per year is falling

In turn young graduating veterinarians are less interested in saddling themselves with more debt, to work long hours in an industry where revenues are beginning to be “capped” out. It’s easier for them to go corporate than have their own place.

Meanwhile Baby Boomers are selling off their practices. All the big, high end, successful veterinary practices are being snapped up by the corporate consolidators.

Very soon the veterinary industry will be dominated by three kinds of corporate clinics:

  • Large high end clinics
  • large low cost clinics, and lastly
  • Large high end specialty/referral clinics

With the efficiencies of corporate ownership there won’t be any room for large, privately held veterinary clinics.

This is the elephant in the room that nobody is talking about.

In the future the only private practice that will prosper and grow will be the distinctive and unique, well run, and well positioned small private veterinary practice. 

So, in response to the elephant in the room I have set out to design a veterinary small clinic… in an elephant.

In Atlantic City, New Jersey stands Lucy the Elephant, one of the more unique roadside attractions in the States. She was built in 1881 by James Lafferty who hoped the elephant would entice visitors to come, see, and buy property in his new ocean side resort.Standing six stories tall, weighing 90 tons, covered with 12,000 square feet of sheet tin, Lucy was more than an object of awe -- she was a functioning real estate office.

Lafferty would take potential clients up in the “howdah” (the seat on top) to show them the view and hopefully pick out the lot they would buy.She was never a veterinary clinic. That is not until I decided to imagine what it would be like to build a veterinary clinic in Lucy, the elephant.Ok, ok, work with me on this.

This may a tad over the top, but I’m trying to make a point.

A veterinary clinic in an elephant would stand out head and shoulders above your competition. It would be a readily identifiable landmark in your community.

Everybody would talk about it and know where it is, and isn’t this what you want your veterinary clinic to do?

If I can show you how you could actually fit a very workable, efficient, effective veterinary clinic inside the 90 ton behemoth, then maybe there is a lesson learned.

Namely that there are a lot of overlooked places where a veterinary clinic could fit. You just have to use look!

Let me take you into the belly of Lucy -- to see the clinic.

Getting out of your car, you walk up to Lucy. Her grey bulk looms over you. Her trunk is immersed in a giant bucket of water. It looks like any minute she may spray you.

You walk up to the giant elephant toes with foot tall elephant toenails. Stepping around behind her knee you swing open the door on the backside of the front leg and mount the spiral staircase.

Fifteen feet higher than where you started you arrive at the level of the working veterinary clinic. More stairs lead up to the waiting area stashed inside Lucy’s cranium. You can peer out her eyes, her tusks visible below.

Turning you are greeted by the receptionist.

Following along what might be described as Lucy’s alimentary canal you are ushered into the single exam room. A window looks out through the blanket on Lucy’s back giving you a view to the street far below.

Next door the lab/pharmacy and charting area is combined with the treatment room which includes a 4 foot tub table and a bank of cages. On the left side of Lucy, maybe about where her kidney would be, is the x-ray room.

Inside Lucy’s ample left rump is a fully functioning small surgery suite. In her right rump down a staircase to Lucy’s groin is a utility room with washer/dryer, a tub and two dog runs. From there you can exit her left leg by way of a spiral staircase.

Turning back to the treatment there is another staircase which leads up to the “howdah” where a combination doctors’ office and team room is located. And just like in Lafferty’s time doctor and staff can look out at the Beach beyond.

You see it can be done.

Granted it is not the most efficient veterinary clinic you’ve ever seen and there are a way too many stairs to climb up and down, but it is possible.

There is a lesson to learn from this exercise in design

If I can make an elephant into a workable veterinary clinic then you should be able to find an under-appreciated, unique, maybe even challenging lease space or property to buy that you too could make into a veterinary clinic.

If the industry is going to continue to grow and prosper, we are going to need to confront the elephant in the room.

And if it takes building a clinic in an elephant to do that, then have at it.

You can click here to visit Mark Hafens website

Clients Don’t Care About You

From an article by Natasha Wilkes and published on her website

I recently read an Inc article ‘Your clients don’t care where you went to college’.

I had to agree with it!

Clients care about your competence not your credentials!

I don’t need to see my doctor or dentist’s degree to know that they have one.

If you are employed in veterinary practice, clients already assume you have the qualifications.

What I really want to know when I first meet a professional is are they good at what they do? Clients are asking themselves the same thing.The questions they are consciously and unconsciously asking themselves are:

  • Do you know what you are doing?
  • Will you care for their pet?
  • Can I trust you?
  • Will I like you?

A common mistake I see in our industry is veterinarian’s taking more CPD and more courses, thinking that clients will listen to them and respect them.

Of course, it’s important to keep growing your knowledge and skills. However, if clients aren’t listening to you now and following your recommendations, it isn’t due to a lack of credentials. It’s a lack of respect. They don’t believe you. They may not trust you.They may not like you.

Why does this occur? It is usually due to communication skills.

You may be using too many technical terms and clients don’t understand you. A confused client will always say No. Clients may not feel listened to. They may feel judged. You may be under time pressure and appear to rush the client. You may make the client nervous so they don’t give you the full story.

Good and effective communication is an essential skill in practice.

If you have to tell clients ‘I know what I’m doing’, it sounds arrogant. The only time it’s ok to say this is if you are reassuring a very worried client and the tone you use conveys confidence and warmth.

How do you communicate to clients your competence and experience?

  • Confident communication is essential, both verbal and non-verbal. You have to believe in yourself, your knowledge and what you are discussing. If you don’t, it will show in your body language.
  • Discuss previous cases that you’ve seen and the positive outcomes you had.
  • Use the language  ‘In my experience..’ or ‘I have found in cases like this…’
  • Listen to clients and validate their concerns. A client who feels they are listened to will trust you.
  • Keep clients informed and follow up with them.

The client will feel valued.

We are in a service industry. Clients are paying for a service and a result, in my 17 years of practice, I have noticed a shift with the general public. If the title of this post offended you and you need to be liked by clients to feel appreciated in this profession, you will be disappointed.

You will encounter incredible clients who really appreciate what we do.

However, what will kill your happiness on a day is that one client who was rude and horrid!

That’s why it’s important to have a life outside of practice that brings you joy and satisfaction. It will help on those hard days!

You can click here to visit Natasha Wilkes website 

Are You Asking Good Questions?

From an article by Amanda Donnelly published on her website

I had an aha! moment recently as I reflected on two conversations

In one, the other person was seemingly complaining about a situation and I didn’t understand why. As a result, I believe my comments lacked empathy.

In the second, the person was lamenting their situation and I offered what I thought were helpful suggestions.

Upon reflection, I realized that in both instances, it would have been helpful (for me and the other person) to ask a few good questions. With a thoughtful question, I could have been a better listener and uncovered their feelings.

Sometimes people just want to be heard and know we care.The beauty of asking good questions is that it helps us build trust with clients and team members.

It helps us better understand the motivations behind people’s behavior. And it may even help us motivate them to take specific actions.

Inquisitive, caring individuals ask questions so they can gain information and enhance relationships. In veterinary medicine, teams ask many questions to gather information but sometimes are lacking in the art of asking questions as a means to engage clients and build rapport.

Examples of these types of questions include:

  • “What fun plans do you have for the summer?”
  • “What kind of toys does Gidget like?”
  • “Tell me how Bucky has been doing since his last visit.”

Once you are in the habit of routinely asking questions, try to be mindful of what a “good” question is. We all know questions about a pet’s medical history and client preferences are important. But we often miss opportunities to ask questions that help us connect with clients and team members in a more meaningful way.

The type of questions I’m referencing are those that help build trust, increase understanding and stimulate thought. Here are examples of questions for clients:

  • “Tell me what’s important to you for Jakes’ diet.”
  • “What are your thoughts about how Tigger is responding to treatment?”
  • “What concerns do you have about Sophie’s treatment plan?

Here are examples of good questions to ask employees:

  • “What do you value most about your job?”
  • “Are you feeling frustrated with your co-workers?”
  • “Tell me what would help you do your job better.”

Asking good questions help to make sure people feel heard and helps us better understand feelings and thoughts that drive behavior.

How are you doing?

What questions can you ask this week to build trust with clients and your team?(notice what I just did there?)

You can click here to visit Amanda Donnelly's website     

The Next 6 Things You Must Do to Win Customers Through Social Media

From an article by Jeff Charles, published on the SmallBizTrends website

When you are thinking about ways to improve your business and meet your bottom line, you might not think about social media as the way to go at first.

However, there is nothing more important for a business in the 21st century to understand than the fact that social media is the name of the marketing game.

Without social media as part of your digital marketing strategy, there is no way that you’re going to succeed. There are thousands of potential customers on social media networks who are just waiting to hear about your business. And if you don’t get out there and engage with them on social media, then your competitors are going to be the ones who do.

That means tons of lost potential business for your company.

How to Use Social Media for Marketing

Even if you understand the importance of social media, you might be confused about how to start up your social media marketing strategy. That’s why this article down below is going to take you through the things you need to know about social media marketing and how you can gain more customers from these activities. Keep reading to learn more about how to use social media for marketing and to push your company forward.

Understand Who You’re Trying To Target

The first thing that you’ve got to understand about social media is that not everyone is going to be interested in your product. There are just going to be people who are not in your right target audience. Your marketing team needs to first understand what your target audience is and then you can go on to figure out how you’re going to reach them.

For example, if you are selling outdoor camping equipment, why would you be targeting those people who are not interested in camping or who can’t get out and camp?

Narrow down that target group and then everything else about your strategy is going to flow from there. In fact, did you know that you can specifically target your audience through advertising on social media networks like Instagram and Facebook? Through their advertising functions for businesses, you can write that you are only targeting people in a certain location or who have certain interests. Then, you will be able to show your content to thousands of people in your target audience.

Write And Promote Content That People Want To Read

One of the best ways that you’re going to be able to engage with customers on social media is to actually provide good content to them. Believe it or not, people on social media are actively looking to consume long and thoughtful articles that provide some value into their life. They don’t just want to read articles that say nothing – the articles on your blog should provide some key insight in your industry or tell them something they didn’t know before.

And if you don’t have a blog yet for your business, this is definitely something you should create before you start your social media marketing. Your blog is going to be one of the main draws for customers who want to determine your credibility before buying from you. In fact, you should definitely try to make your blog posts emotionally appealing for your clients, because advertising research has shown that one’s emotional response to an ad has more influence than one’s intent on purchasing the product

Use Email Marketing Campaigns To Your Advantage

If you don’t have email lists for your customers yet, then this is definitely something to change if you want to improve your business. Social media marketing is not just about what you do on social media networks. It’s also about engaging with customers in every digital avenue available. Start gathering emails through your website and/or your social media channels to speak with your customers directly in their inbox. You can send emails with various coupons, discounts, or just telling them that there’s a new blog post available.

Pay Attention To Feedback

When you start doing work on social media networks and generally online, you are going to naturally start getting online feedback from customers. People will start engaging with your content, speaking about your products, and letting you know about the things that could be improved or those things that you’re doing well.

Don’t just ignore these comments that people leave! This is going to tell them that you don’t care about what they have to say and that you would rather not take their opinions into account. Engage with every single person who comments on your content or who leaves a review about your business. This is going to ensure that they stick around for the long-term and you start improving the reputation of your company.

Start Off Small With Your Social Media

Many businesses might think that it’s best to get onto all of the social media networks at first and start posting everywhere. However, that’s not much of a strategy, is it? It’s best that you start with one or two networks that you can really focus on growing and developing content for. Once you have a significant following on these networks, then you can find the time to move onto other networks.

Create Multimedia Content That People Want To View

Of course, one of the main reasons that you’re getting your business onto these social media networks is to create multimedia content that’s actually going to engage your audience. Why would you have a social media account if you’re just going to put out boring content that no one wants to see?

Make sure that your marketing team knows what kind of content that your audience enjoys seeing. Then, your content creators can focus on articles, photos, or videos that will work for your particular audience.And there you have it!  

Working with social media marketing is something that every single business should be focusing on in the 21st century. There are thousands of potential customers that you’re going to be neglecting if you don’t!

You can click here to visit the SmallBizTrends website

You can click here to visit Jeff Charles website