4 essentials often forgotten in veterinary practice management
Every manager of veterinary practice will surely confirm that managing a practice is a whole lot of work! Whether it’s managing one clinic or a group of clinics, a clinic specialized in small or in large animals, a startup or a mature company, there will always be challenges to overcome. The many, many tasks required in founding and maintaining a functional and prosperous practice can be quite overwhelming, and this is why we thought it would be great to discuss it here. Veterinary practice managers, this is for you!
No 1:Your practice’s performance can be increased now
Setting monthly profit goals isn’t enough anymore; you can’t expect profits to grow every month in a consistent manner because you cannot predict customer behaviour. What managers often forget to do is to take a look at the economic cycles when creating their annual budget. Keeping an eye on GDP variations through business quarters allows you to have an idea of when the expansion and recession periods will occur.
Any business can easily access the different economic indicators on the Government of Canada Website: https://canadabusiness.ca/business-planning/market-research-and-statistics/canadian-economy/
Ups and downs in the economy should always be considered in the establishing of team goals. Predicting the different periods in the economic cycle also means preparing for the slow season, from March to June. How will you cope during this season? If you need locums to add workforce in your clinic, you can book them more than a year in advance. Hiring locums can allow your business to reach your team goals, even during the slow season..
Advance booking, a necessity!
Not all practices instinctively do this yet. If you can coordinate your veterinarians, technicians and receptionists so the future appointment fits the patient and customer’s needs and availability, do it!
Additionally, setting common team goals creates an environment that values hard work and effort. This increases teamwork within your staff. Moreover, reaching goals that are partially based on economic cycles will reveal flaws in your performance and your customer service. However, the environment you create must not become a source of major stress for your staff and your patients, because your practice’s performance can only be as successful as your customer service allows it to be.
No 2 :Rethink human resources
Think about the way you train new staff. Is it optimal? Training never ends and can always be improved. Get rid of the “I’m fully trained, I have nothing else to learn” mentality. There is always something new to learn and a new way to improve your everyday routine.
Do you usually set up group meetings or individual ones? Do you communicate the same information in one place simultaneously to all your staff members? Do not forget that your team is formed of professionals with different positions and with different daily routines. Sticking exclusivelyto group meetings is not always an optimal solution to maximize the retention of information or to increase the personal awareness and responsibility of your employees. There are specific topics that are better addressed individually or in small groups.
Opting for a more ‘human’ approach within a business is always a smart move, but it has to start from inside the business! A managerhas to create meaningful relations with his/her staff that exceed the polite “Hi, how are you?”. Be open to their questions, concerns and stress factors. Ask your staff for help, and show some gratitude for their hard work. When it’s time for performance evaluation, prioritize a non-biased and neutral system, such as the mirror evaluation (an evaluation system in which the employee reviews his own performance and compares it to his employer’s review during an individual meeting).
What about your staff’s work environment? Do you offer a quality workplace with enough resources to accomplish all tasks and to potentially exceed them? Do you have an employee manual with clear instructions that are easily accessible? The work environment and the relationship with the employer are considered first by your employees when they decide whether they want to keep working at your practice or not, not compensation.
No 3:In case you are absent, do you have a plan B?
Here is a hypothetical situation for managers who do everything on their own: you have to leave the practice for an indeterminate period. What is the next step? Are you ready for any unforeseen event? Do you know who can handle the payroll and the bills? Make sure you choose someone you trust, like a chief associate or an assistant. Is there a step-by-step document available for that person? Think about it!
Your receptionists or associates must also know how to maintain inventory and know which companies to contact for reparation requests. Make a list of things to verify, such as all the drugs needed on shelves, the quantity required, the expiry dates, etc.
Make sure you are not the only person in charge of human resources. Train someone else to manage schedules for you, lighten your load .
Are you in contact with a legal company or an attorney for your legal documents? You must have at least one great legal contact in your address book in case of a dispute or a particular situation in which you can’t make a decision on your own.
No 4 :Review your finances
Go find advice from outside the business. You need to talk with CPAs who possess a neutral point of view of your practice. You do the same when you ask a second opinion about a patient to one of your colleagues. Ask a professional about your business, the most successful veterinary practices do thisfor every one of their departments.
External advice will help you have a better understanding ofyour practice’s financial status. An accountant’s advice will allow you to reduce costs, find divergences, prevent employee mistakes and fraud and find innovative strategies to improve your operations.
And there you have it! The 4 essentials tools often forgotten in veterinary practice management. Did you identify with some of the things mentioned? Succesfully managing a practice is a tough challenge… but it can be done, with great organizational skills and a sense of priority. Think about what you can easily apply on a daily basis for your business. Share your thoughts with us!
Charles Brien, August 3th, 2018