5 ways to stay on top of the competition in veterinary practice


It takes more than a passion for veterinary medicine to be a successful practice owner-you've got to be business savvy, too.

If you’re a veterinary practice owner or hope to own your own practice someday, it can be difficult at times to keep from second guessing your every move as you plan and run your practice. The truth is, many things can go wrong when you’re running a business—poor planning, lack of income, ineffective leadership and more.

But there are steps you can take to avoid the mistakes and pitfalls that trip up so many others and tilt the odds of running a successful practice in your favor. Here are a few, adapted from the article “Seven facts that will breathe life into your business” by writer Bill McBean:

1. If you don’t lead, no one will follow. Good leadership begins with defining the destination and direction of your practice and deciding how it should look and operate. But it doesn’t stop there. It also involves developing and continuously improving on a set of skills in order to move your practice from where it is today to where you want it to be tomorrow.

What’s important to understand is, without effective leadership your managers or employees have no idea what is important to you, what to manage or what success and failure look like. Another important aspect of being a good leader is developing a practice culture that is expectations-based and rewards those who meet and exceed those expectations.

2. If you don’t control it, you don’t own it. Control is the owner’s reality. If you don’t control your practice by defining key tasks and dictating how they must be handled, then you don’t truly own the practice—you are a spectator watching others play with your money and your business.

Don’t just point out what should be done and how—clearly state and emphasize that there will be consequences when standard operating procedures and processes aren’t followed. If you don’t do this, you’ll be “leading” a group of individuals who follow their own rules and judgment, rather than creating a cohesive team with a common goal.

3. Planning is about preparing for the future, not predicting it. Nobody knows what tomorrow, next week or next year will bring for your practice. But you can make educated guesses based on the most current, accurate information available—as well as past experiences—and this should be an ongoing process for any practice owner. Effective planning is a mix of science (gathering pertinent information) and art (taking that information and turning it into a plan that will move your business from here to there over a specific time period).

4. If you don’t market your business, you won’t have one. Marketing and advertising may not be your cup of tea. If so, too bad—you’re going to have to do it anyway. The bottom line is, if people don’t know about your practice and the service you offer, you won’t be successful.

New practice owners are especially nervous about marketing because money is already so tight at this stage. But again, if marketing isn’t done, very little good will happen. You have to make the necessary effort to connect pet owners to your practice. When you do, you’ll begin to see marketing as the investment it actually is, rather than the expense that less successful practices think it is.

5. You don’t just have to know the business you’re in—you have to know business. Yes, of course you need to know the inner workings and nuances of veterinary medicine if you want to be successful. But you also need to understand the various aspects of business—accounting, finance, business law, personnel issues and more—and how all of these impact each other and the decisions you make.

Having tunnel or limited vision as far as business knowledge is concerned is akin to dropping out of high school. In doing so, you limit your possibilities for success and how great your success could be. But at the end of the day, what is most important is not how much you know, but what you know and what you do with that knowledge. For example, it’s important to know what’s going on in the veterinary market, but it is just as important to know what to do with that information and how you can translate it into a profitable practice—something that can’t be done with limited business knowledge.

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