© 2023 MJH Life Sciences™ and dvm360 | Veterinary News, Veterinarian Insights, Medicine, Pet Care. All rights reserved.
2011, another year of conflict for veterinarians
Even in these difficult times, you can grow your practice by focusing on productivity
With $4 a gallon gasoline on the horizon and a 20 percent increase in food costs already in place, the challenges of 2011 will be great. However, it's not the best of times and neither is it the worst of times, no matter how bad it may feel to those who practice in cities north of a line drawn from San Francisco to Charlotte, N.C.
We are at war. It is a world economic war with all countries involved. Fortunately, the threat of war mobilizes the best thinkers to think better. Scientists are more creative with a perceived threat. Manufacturers become more innovative and productive. Many of mankind's greatest achievements have been derived from war—we learned to split the atom and fly into space. Yes, necessity is the mother of invention.
All of the United States' major cyclical depressions have come after wars, never during them. They followed the War of 1812, the Civil War and the Spanish-American War. The Great Depression followed World War I (when we disbanded most of our military), and only World War II brought America out of it.
Unfortunately, the War on Terror annoys Americans more than it unifies us. Now, our threat is massive unemployment, and if you think that is a bubble that will go away soon, I'm afraid you will be sorely disappointed. Today, tomorrow and for at least five years, unemployment will be the common enemy.
Veterinary medicine has been immune to the worst of the problems, but we all probably feel the effect of clients with less discretionary income. Many practices have seen a 5 to 15 percent drop in revenue. However, even in this economy, some practices have seen growth. The difference is management.
Now is the time for us to turn the unsteady economy into an opportunity. Veterinary Productivity is more than just the name of my management newsletter. It is the key to getting you through these difficult times. Productivity is achieving the most in net earnings from the lowest investment in overhead.
Hire or develop staff
Now is a good time to hire because there are a lot of qualified candidates who are unemployed or under-employed. And because of the economy, you can hire good employees for less than you would have a couple of years ago.
Don't hire the first warm body to show up. Taking the time to conduct an effective interview process today will keep you from suffering migraines later. And don't waste your valuable money on newspaper advertising. Just invest in a cloth banner that says, "Now Hiring," in yellow letters on a red background. Put it on your lawn for fast results, and then just roll it up to save for the next time you need it.
Opportunities to upgrade your staff's attitude and skills are rampant right now. So if you aren't in a position to hire, focus on educating your employees to make them the best they can be. There is nothing like the perception of being one staff member short to encourage staff members to shoulder new responsibilities.
Complete pesky administrative tasks
Fewer transactions mean time to complete those administrative projects you've been putting off, such as updating your client education sheets and setting staff goals. Now is also a great time to re-evaluate your practice's processes to make sure they are as efficient as they can be.
Offer client payment options
Yes, many pet owners have tightened their budgets, but it's still your job to provide great veterinary health care. Educate owners on preventive care. Remind them that prevention is cheaper than treating a problem, and give owners all the options when it comes to treatment. Make sure that clients with financial problems know all about your practice's payment options, third-party payers and pet insurance.
View threats as opportunities
According to Lorraine Monheiser List, CPA, CVA, and Leslie A. Mamalis, MBA, MSIT, authors of a report by Summit Veterinary Advisors of Littleton, Colo., "For every threat, there is also an opportunity for those who can identify and capitalize on it. How you and your practice interpret and react to economic news will impact your growth and profits for many years into the future."
It is very difficult to see the glitches and speed bumps in your own practice. That's why you hire consultants. We have eyeballs on pedicles that can see profits draining out of a practice that would never occur to most practitioners. If you can't hire a management consultant, ask a trusted colleague to look at your practice and make recommendations to increase productivity—and offer to return the favor.
Delays in improving productivity will destroy many practices in the next few years. Do you think that 2011 will bring about a recovery? You are very, very wrong! Mobilize your thinking. Stimulate your creativity. Don't be a war casualty.
Dr. Snyder, a well-known consultant, publishes Veterinary Productivity. He can be reached at 112 Harmon Cove Towers Secaucus, NJ 07094; (800) 292-7995; Vethelp@comcast.net; fax: (866) 908-6986.