10 steps to build up your team

dvm360dvm360 May 2022
Volume 53
Issue 5
Pages: 50

Learn how to conquer burnout by creating an environment that supports well-being and positivity

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VectorMine / stock.adobe.com

Content submitted by GeniusVets, a dvm360® Strategic Alliance Partner

To say the veterinary industry is at a crossroads is an understatement. Facing the pandemic-fueled increase in demand for veterinary services, shortages of qualified doctors and staff, along with rising fatigue and burnout, many veterinary practices across the country are struggling while others have risen to the occasion and are stronger than ever. It’s not that the struggling practices are facing different conditions from those that are prospering; it’s that they are responding to these conditions differently.

Workplace satisfaction among staff is one of the most important factors contributing to the performance of a veterinary team and the success of the practice. In the recent “Veterinary Wellbeing Study III” issued by Merck Animal Health, a key takeaway is that there are concrete things veterinarians can do to make substantial improvements in well-being and mental health.1

Here are 10 steps to increasing workplace satisfaction in a veterinary practice:

1. Having a vision and plan

Success of a business grows from the seeds of the owner’s vision and plan. It is unfortunately common for practice owners to get so caught up working in the business that they forget to work on the business. Practice owners who regularly take themselves out for coffee, meaning leaving the practice and sitting down to think and strategize, end up being more effective leaders.

2. Establishing mission, values, and culture

As the size of a veterinary practice increases, so does the complexity. Management responsibilities must flow from the owner to leaders within the various departments. This is where it becomes critical to ensure that leaders within the organization are well aligned with the mission, values, and philosophies of the owner. Management processes including the cadence of meetings; meeting agendas; departmental strength, weakness, opportunity, and threat (SWOT) analysis; and systematic methods for managing projects become critical to reducing stress and achieving goals.

3. Team activity to define culture and get buy in:

Culture has become a big buzzword in the veterinary industry over the last few years. The benefits of a great culture are well documented and easy to agree with, but few veterinary practices understand or implement the types of frameworks that allow a well planned culture to take hold and thrive. However, Dr. Michele Drake, owner of The Drake Center for Veterinary Care has created a free staff culture workshop to help veterinary practice owners accomplish this at a staff meeting.2

4. Establishing policies and procedures

Once the ownership, leadership, and team have identified and aligned themselves with the aspirational virtues of the stated mission, values, and culture, it is imperative that the policies and procedures for the practice also reflect these traits. These become the measuring stick by which so many aspects of planning and performance are judged.

5. Allowing staff to take more ownership

One of the most effective ways to get better performance out of a person is to ensure they feel ownership over their tasks. Still, far too many DVMs are doing things that their staff could handle. This comes down to leadership structure; developing standard operating procedures that reflect the agreed-upon mission, values, and culture of the practice; training; and identifying KPIs that each department can use to monitor performance.

6. Welcoming team feedback

This is often recognized as important yet is seldom implemented and encouraged in a way that consistently elicits genuine, constructive feedback. Something magic happens when a staff member brings up a good point for improvement and sees management implement it. This can let people know that their voice is heard and taken seriously and can create a powerful sense of connection to the business on top of the improvements staff may suggest.

7. Reinforcing culture and policies

The mission, values, and culture of the practice can come to fruition only if everyone knows them, can repeat them, and believes that aligning with them is a requirement for employment. These become tools that are constantly referred to in training, working through challenges, and identifying wins.

8. Letting go of toxic employees

Many practice owners feel they are being nice by keeping on an employee who is underperforming or is not a good fit. In reality, it is unfair to other team members and is destructive to the culture you are hoping to build. If an employee isn’t behaving in a way that aligns with the agreed-upon mission, values, and culture of the company, letting them go will both remove a toxic force and demonstrate to the team that the ideals of the organization are to be taken seriously.

9. Celebrating accomplishments

Everyone enjoys and needs recognition and reward on some level, but the type of recognition and reward that excites them can significantly vary. By getting to know the personal, professional, and financial goals of each team member, you can better structure rewards to incentivize optimal performance.

10. Enjoying the benefits of a highly engaged and enthusiastic team

These 10 steps are a well-proven framework for improving workplace satisfaction and achieving significant company-wide performance improvements. The bottom-line improvements enjoyed by practices that get this right are easy to point toward as reason enough to put in the work. However, seeing how much better your team works together, handles difficult situations, and feels so much happier at the end of the day will be the greatest reward of all.

To learn more about the impact of mission, values, and culture on your practice, check out the in-depth interview with David Hall below:


  1. Veterinary mental health and wellbeing and how to improve them. Merck Animal Health. January 2022. Accessed April 11, 2022. https://www.merck-animal-health-usa.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2022/02/2021-PSV-Veterinary-Wellbeing-Presentation_V2.pdf
  2. Veterinary staff culture workshop. GeniusVets. Accessed April 20, 2022. https://www.geniusvets.com/veterinary-marketing/special/staff-culture-workshop
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