A practice owner’s perspective on the founding principles for a successful practice
Content submitted by Suveto, a dvm360® Strategic Alliance Partner
Soon after starting veterinary school, I began dreaming of owning my own practice. Five years later, this dream came true when I opened a practice with my partner Suveto in 2021, and today I am managing owner of VO Vets in Fort Worth, Texas.
I envisioned what I wanted VO Vets to look like and stand for: an authentic experience where patients and pet parents felt well cared for and comforted. To accomplish this, I needed to surround myself not only with a strong, trustworthy, and innovative partner, but also with a like-minded team of professionals. Building a culture centered on individuality, growth, and effective internal communications was paramount if we were to deliver an exceptional client experience. Here are 5 keys to our success.
We know pet parents consider their companion animals to be family members. So when patients come through our doors and are stressed, pet parents generally are, too. This means that clients not only need to receive a warm welcome, they also need personalized attention from start to finish.
Upon arrival, a warm smile and eye contact go far to demonstrate caring. At VO Vets, we believe bedside manner begins in the waiting area. That lets them know they matter and that we are all here to make sure their beloved pet is well taken care of. We do our utmost to treat every pet as if it was our own by always providing the highest level of care. We work to ensure every patient has a care plan designed for their individual needs and that our number-one priority must be to exceed expectations before, during, and after every visit. While this sounds like a tall order, it’s what we believe and how we operate.
We all have strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes. When an employee makes an error, we try to learn from it to avoid repeating the same mistakes. By accepting our individual assets and liabilities, we create a happier, more productive work environment. The team at VO Vets is made up of talented individuals who come with their own skill sets. We take the time to get to know our employees and learn about their interests, goals, and aspirations not only when they join us, but also as time passes. This enables us to identify the best people for specific tasks and train team members based on their current knowledge levels.
To ensure proper efficiencies and smooth operations, we cross-train all staff. By doing this and having our people perform a variety of jobs—the work of their colleagues—it creates empathy within our team. To a great extent, everyone knows what it’s like to walk in others’ work shoes. This prevents the “us vs them” mentality and avoids such polarized attitudes as “reception vs. technicians.” Cross-training fosters mutual respect and cooperation. Whenever one team member is struggling, another can be there for support. No one person carries the load, and everyone knows they are not alone.
When it comes to building an effective team, the key ingredient is transparent internal communication. It makes everything go smoothly and keeps everyone in sync. Through strong communications we eliminate errors, affirm and reaffirm priorities, and maintain our focus.
I’ve made it a point to implement an open door/open mind policy. Employees are encouraged to share their thoughts, concerns, and ideas regarding the practice, office environment, and culture. We realize that everyone should be heard, so we try to keep an open mind and listen for opportunities to improve our team members’ work experiences while improving practice outcomes, starting with the client experience.
We value our staff’s input and encourage a sense of agency. Not long ago, we created a suggestion box so employees can anonymously write down their suggestions and thoughts about the practice. Some really great ideas have come from the team. Plus, the anonymity of this tool allows for more introverted staff members to have a voice.
Problems are opportunities for learning, growth, and trust-building. A solution-facing approach to problem-solving is what we aim for. When an issue arises, we encourage employees to come up with solutions, and we support and coach them through the creation of those solutions. Striving to face challenges from a positive vantage point and find creative solutions means practicing this myself. Leading by example is the key to universally adopting this outlook.
As a team, we regularly remind each other that obstacles are, in fact, opportunities from which we can learn and grow. With our open door/open mind belief system, we tackle problems together. This further builds agency, strengthening both internal communications and the professional relationships we maintain with one another.
One of the greatest challenges a practice faces is communicating its goals in ways that engage, inspire, and create accountability. To maintain accountability, we work to maintain a “solutions attitude,” and that starts with me. I try to remain personally accountable to the team and own up to my mistakes, which fosters an environment where people can do the same and grow from it. If I am accountable, those around me tend to mirror this. It’s a ripple effect. As a result, team members are more apt to take risks and set more aggressive goals.
We view our progress and growth as a commitment—a commitment to our people, our clients, and our community. If veterinary practices continue to strive for excellence, despite the tremendous challenges we face, we will not only survive but thrive. We’ve seen firsthand that striving for improvement and excellence produces high-level medical and business outcomes.
Each of these strategies has helped strengthen the VO Vets practice, and I’m certain they can help other practices build stronger teams and reputations. If we practice these principles, I’m confident we’ll continue to grow and broaden the impact we make.