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15 ideas to sow seeds for economic rebound

Article

Ah, it is yet another New Year that brings joy to those who are preparing for the end of the current economic slowdown. (Yes, we can believe that the economy will rebound.)

Ah, it is yet another New Year that brings joy to those who are preparingfor the end of the current economic slowdown. (Yes, we can believe thatthe economy will rebound.)

We might be worried about the current softness of the economy. But thebest solution when worry sets in is action-and we can take action to preparefor the looming business rebound.

Labor

When we see a slowing of sales, patient visits and some consumer resistanceto preventive health care we tend to wonder and plan cutting costs, andwe start with the largest expense, labor.

Yet, the key to veterinary productivity and quality patient care is thewell-trained employee, thus the thought of jettisoning some of our staffis a worry.

There is another great solution during this "transient" businessslowdown: Keep the staff busy with long-term projects after a heart to hearttalk with the staff to make sure all are on the same page about the realityof this current economic slowdown.

Some staff members might be considering the move on to other jobs, locationsand career tracks; this is a good time to invite them to move on.

For those who desire to stay on board, explain that revenues are soft,and thus the clinic mentality during this time will be to improve service,expand educational programs for staff and clients and to tidy up the facility.

This will accomplish at least two things: long-term projects will receiveattention and better service will be provided to clients - increasing theirbond to your business - and when the economy rebounds the clinic will berewarded for the extra effort.

Educational issue

Central to future successful practices is the educational issue. Moreeducation for the staff leads to a better-trained staff and better-informedconsumers. And for the practice that likes better-informed clients, thefoundation is set for a brighter business future - so this slow winter isa great time to spend some clinic time with in-house training and education.

Here are 15 specific steps to consider to prepare for the coming economicrebound:

1. Change the clinic face. Consider a new tree, a sealer on theparking surface, new stripes, paint the window trim, clean the windows,change the signage, trim the shrubs, change to some grass or put in xerioscape.

2. Read. When times are slow a pattern known as "work expandsto fill the time" ensures a decline in productivity. Today is slow?Take the time to read a chapter in Current Veterinary Therapy XIII.

3. Improve the medical record. Take a look at the medical records,visit with some colleagues, exchange records and see what new ideas andaccountability might make for better medical records. It is clear from in-depthstudies that better medical records mean better patient care, and bettermedical records lead to appropriate fees for services rendered.

To see how one's medical records are being processed, try to functionwithout talk; use only the written medical record to attend to today's duties.

4. Visit with two groups of folks, colleagues and key clients. Certainlythe recession is going to affect many practices but some just keep rollingalong. Go see what they are doing. With key clients take an extra interestin their lives and activities. Maybe they are involved in a community serviceproject or are taking MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) like they are giving totheir dog. In other words, visit with others to achieve two missions, addideas to the practice inventory of ideas and improve the bond with yourbest clients.

5. Check hours of service. The current hours have serviced thepractice nicely for some years, but consider that maybe the community needshave shifted-perhaps open earlier, or stay later or eliminate evening hoursif they are no longer needed.

6. Set up a Web site. Web sites are easy to maintain when onehooks up with a commercial provider. These Web sites can be edited daily,weekly, monthly and can be used as a method to communicate with our evermore mobile clients.

7. Use e-mail. Give clients the clinic e-mail address. Encourageclients to check in daily, weekly, monthly with worries or concerns thatthey might have brewing. Be sure that most contacts will be for information,but the general goal is closer contact with clients.

8. Sit down. In the eyes of clients slow down by sitting moreand more with each patient visit. Have chairs and stools to enable the clinicianto sit during a table exam and a small chair to sit when examining big dogs.Sitting provides the impression to the client that extreme attention waspaid to their needs and questions.

9. Don't fire staff. Give them special duties of cleaning, reading,studying, reorganizing, OSHA, prepare for an "extra" in-houseAAHA inspection, get the staff on the telephone more often to contact clientsabout medical progress or follow-up.

10. Get magnets for your professional cards. Among all the sillydoodads and pens and trinkets these days, clients, in general appreciatea magnet that holds your card.

11. Do a SPIA. A Staff Problem Identification Analysis is a confidentialassessment of identifying problems that might not seem too big but are looming.I remember one time when the question was posed, "What is happeningin the clinic that the administration needs to know about?" and wow,did the honesty flow. And new ideas flowed to make the practice better.

12. Hang on a "tie". If you have not been, wear a tie.Try one for a month. See the positive effect on your self-image and thosearound you. Like it or not, the public holds folks with a tie in high esteem,and it becomes easier to charge appropriately for one's services when theimage of success is greater. In the same vein, provide new smocks and brightercolors for the support staff. The goal is a more professional image. Women'sclothing generally doesn't provide for a tie, so the issue is not the tie,it is professionalism-make the effort to appear more professional.

13. Provide individualized home care instructions. I rememberin decades gone by the groans, and sometimes indignant looks, when mentioningsending home written home care instructions with every client. The truthis clients appreciate, and outright need written guidance.

14. Educate the staff. Set up a science meeting once a week todiscuss one or two interesting cases that have come into the clinic.

15. Bulk mail a card or a letter. With the bulk mailing of a postcard or a single issue letter, one can put oneself in front of the consumermind-advise them of the new hours, upcoming seasonal information or thatsomething neat that is happening at the clinic. For more substantive changesin the business plan, send a nice, one-page letter explaining new staff,new equipment, new policies and how these will positively affect their pet'shealth care. (And put one of those card magnets inside.)

Do these things when times are slow, and the seed you sow will help cashto flow.

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