Clinic Owner: Leave Your Practice Behind While You Travel Worry-Free

Planning is key in order to enjoy your time off

 

There’s an old quotethatsays, “Plan for the worstandhope for the best”. This quote is basically telling us to do as much planning and preparation prior to leaving things in someone else’s hands. Just the thought of leaving your business in someone else’s hands can lead to many sleepless nights, and rightfully so! You’ve given your all into building a successful business, and know that any problems could affect your income, the bottom-line of the business, and your reputation for providing excellent customer service.

 

So, what could these problems include and what will you need to do to ensure success?  Planning ahead might include troubleshooting, delegating duties in your absence, or giving authority to a trusted employee. Any of these can cause stress and possibly prevent you from taking a well-deserved break from your work. Don’t let the fear of leaving your practice for a well-deserved vacation prevent you from enjoying life!  Start the planning process by identifying the specific source(s) of your stress.

Identify Your Source of Stress

According to a recent survey, only 57% of small business owners plan to take a vacation in the next twelve months and only 9% plan to travel for two full weeks[1]. What is it that causes you stress when you think about taking a vacation? In order to alleviate this stress, you must first identify it. Common causes of stress include:

– Human Resources Management

– Unforeseen Emergencies (fire, water damage, electrical outage)

– Client Complaints

– Your Replacement

Are you the business owner that is constantly checking emails or “just touching base” with your employees and clients while you are supposed to be relaxing awayfrom work? Individuals that are not clinic owners, may think that this is crazy. All they want to do is leave everything about work behind and forget about it until they have to return.

Are you and your business ready to take a break? There are key things that need to be in place in order for you to have peace of mind and know that things will be just fine while you are not in the office. Let’s take a look at a few key categories that with proper planning can make a difference.

 

Human Resources Management

HR issues are often some of the most difficult and time-consuming things to address in a practice; they can be even more difficult to resolve from a distance. This is why you will need to have several things complete and in place before you travel.

 

Job Descriptions

Job descriptions for each position (including the clinic owner/vet) within your clinic need to be complete and on file. All employees need to be provided a copy of their own job description.[2]This will insure that they are aware of their expected duties and responsibilities. In addition, there should be general HR policies and proceduresin writing that include sick time, vacation requests, no show, annual reviews, salary increases, etc. It is also common practice to provide a copy of this to each employee and have them sign a copy of this document for their personnel file[3]. With these in place, there should be no questions about clinic policies and what is expected when you are on vacation or out of the office.

 

Payroll

If you do not use an outside company to handle you payroll, you will need to designate someone within your business to oversee payroll while you travel. If your employees are salaried, this is very simple. However, if you have employees that are hourly or part-time, their pay will need to be calculated prior to disbursement of a check or direct deposit.

If payroll will need to be calculated, it is best that the person you are designating for this roll, has an opportunity to learn and practice this task prior to your vacation. This will alleviate any stress that you and this designee may have about this being done correctly.

 

Delegating

It can be a difficult for the clinic owner to delegateduties and responsibilities[4]. You need to be comfortable with the employee you choose and that you are assured of they capabilities. Fortunately, there are several things that you can do to ease your mind, including:

– Assigning one person as your point-of-contact while you are traveling.

– Giving authority to a trustworthy member of you staff to make decision in case an exceptional event or emergency occurs.

– Authorizing a trusted person to handle payroll (this may require authorization to sign checks or a stamp with your signature).

– Providing authorization and access to accounts payable, checkbook, and petty cash.

– Hiring a competent locum veterinarian to take over your caseload while you are gone.

 

Team Meetings

Weekly meetingswith all of your staff will allow you to clearly explain your intention to take a vacation, how long you will be gone and what you expect of them while you are gone[5]. This is also a good time to let everyone know that you will be hiring a locum in your absence and provide key information about this person. Meeting as a group allow staff to ask any questions they may have and assures you that everyonehas heard to same information at the same time; eliminating uncertainty, stress, and confusion in the process.

 

Unforeseen Emergencies

Sometimes, no matter how much you plan and prepare something can go wrong (Murphy’s Law). In the event that something does happen, make sure the following items are in place and accessible to your staff in the event of an emergency (be it big or small):

 

Contact List

Make sure that your staff has a list of all necessary contacts. This list should include names and telephone numbers for:

– Your contact information including cell phone and at least one other number (Hotel, resort, etc.)

– Building owner if property is leased

– Repair experts (electrician, plumber, HVAC, etc.)

– Emergency contacts for all staff

 

Paperwork

Make sure that your designated staff have access to all necessary paperwork; this includes:

– Contracts for service or rented equipment (online or paper)

– Warrantees

– Personnel files

– Checkbook or other forms of payment

– Access to online accounts (User name and password)

– Client files (Login assignment for locum

Client Complaints

It is extremely important to address client complaints as soon as possible; they cannot wait until you return from vacation. You will need to assign at least one other staff member to manage any complaints, whether they are in person or online. Complaints submitted onlinecan be devastating to your personal and business reputation[6]. Because of this, you will need to allow access to your platforms (business website, Facebook, etc.) to address any concerns.

If you have associate veterinarians, make sure that they are involved in any complaint management. It’s always best that clients hear from the person(s) “in charge” or someone that they feel is in a position of authority. Being proactive is even better. If you have a complex or ongoing case make all attempts to chart the necessary information about prior medical history and leave detailed notes in the medical file; this can prevent the client from having to repeat past information, thus reducing their stress and concern in your absence.

Hiring Your Locum

A locum veterinarian can alleviate several issues that cause you stress about taking a vacation, including:-

– Covering your caseload so that clients can continue to be seen.

– Assuring clients that urgent care, should it be required, will be provided by a qualified, competent professional.

– Ensuring your clinic remains open and continues to generate income while you travel.

For this process to go as smoothly as possible, plan your vacationsas far in advance as possible – giving you the time to find a qualified replacement. If you can, try to take your vacationsat the same time each year.This can helpyou toestablish a replacement pattern with a suitable candidate.

Oxilia can help you with your locum selection. We have the resources and experience to match your needs with skilled veterinarians and through our online recruitment platform.  Oxilia provides you with access to animal health professionals across Canada and are able to place these individuals in any setting throughout all ten provinces.

When the time comes for your to travel, be sure to brief your locum withof the major aspects of your practice. This can reduce the learning curveand familiarize this person with you clinicas quickly as possible (vaccination protocol, heartworm &lyme disease testing, etc.)and reduce you stress about their transition.

Upon return from your vacation, take time to meet and debrief with your staff. Find out how things went in your absence and discuss changes that should take place before you travel again. It is also a good idea to speak with the locum to see how the process went for them. Feedback at this point can help you plan and prepare for you next holiday. You may even find that continued delegation of certain tasks will free up time for you to grow your business, balance your home and work schedule, or even pursue other interests.

 

Let Oxilia help you get started today.

 

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[1]“On Deck- Vacation Survey.” 2018, https://www.ondeck.com/vacation-study

 

[2]“Better Team- Job Description Template.” 18 Nov 2018, https://www.betterteam.com/job-description-template

 

[3]“The Balance Careers- Sample Human Resources Policies and Procedures.” 24 Jan 2019, https://www.thebalancecareers.com/sample-human-resources-policies-and-procedures-1918876

 

[4]“Huffington Post- Delegating Responsibilities As A Small Business Owner: 5 Tasks To Take Off Your Plate Right Now. “ 25 June 2013, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/25/delegating-responsibility-small-business-owners_n_3472115.html

 

[5]“Tracy Dowdy- The Why (and How!) Behind Weekly Veterinary Team Meetings.” https://tracydowdy.com/the-why-and-how-behind-weekly-veterinary-team-meetings/

 

[6]“Forbes- 4 Embarrassing Online Reputation Mistakes Businesses Are Still Making.” 18 Dec 2018, https://www.forbes.com/sites/ryanerskine/2018/12/18/4-embarrassing-online-reputation-mistakes-businesses-are-still-making/#5b354728fc10