(but really how could you miss them? We've been talking about this stuff for decades...)
If you haven't been paying attention, we're going to break down what we've been saying to you in the printed pages of Veterinary Economics for more than 50 years. The fact is, no matter how things change in the profession, there are a few things that remain constant-things that make you better veterinarians and better at business, tried-and- true veterinary business advice vetted by VetEc.
No. 1: If you want to own, do it right
That's right, associates, when it comes to owning, there's a ton to think about, but let's boil it down to three things: location, design and clients.
Location matters. What makes a good location? According to the 2002 Hospital Design Supplement, it's “a locale that meets your quality of life needs, a high concentration of your ideal clients, good visibility, and easy client access.” That sounds easy enough, but we all know the devil's in the details. Go to dvm360.com/greatlocation to learn shape, zoning, soil and utilities from Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Wayne Usiak, AIA.
Design matters. If you're going to build, or even remodel, find an architect who understands your business and your vision. “It doesn't have to be complicated; it doesn't have to be costly. It has to be prioritizing your needs and meeting them,” architect Mark Hafen, AIA, says. “You don't have to have the Taj Majal-you have to have a place that makes sense for you.”
And clients matter. “Studies have shown that a satisfed customer is more likely to become a loyal customer, which is important for two bottom-line reasons,” say Drs. Andrew Roark and W. Dane Foxwell in the article “Sell veterinary clients on your service.”
“First, the cost of attracting a new client can be as much as 10 times the cost of retaining an existing one. Second, satisfed and loyal customers are more willing to pay higher prices than neutral or dissatisfed clients, they write. Not surprisingly, the cost of dissatisfed customers is high. While the average satisfed customer tells eight people about their experience, the average dissatisfed customer tells 22.”
2. Keep track of your money
We get it. You went to veterinary school to practice medicine, not to be an accountant, but you should know enough about the ins and outs of your busi- ness to be dangerous. And if you're an associate, ”danger” better be your middle name when it comes to negotiating contracts, and you never know, you may want to buy into a practice some day. Reality is, you can't practice medicine without being in the business of veterinary medicine.
Christopher J. Allen, DVM, JD, veterinary legal consultant says, “It is a uniformly bad idea to delegate tasks to others of which you have no knowledge or ex- perience in doing yourself. Just when you least expect it, your ‘people who handle that' may abandon you or-worse-take advantage of your ignorance.”
3. Pay off your loans-ASAP!
Here are four tips to pay off debt faster, courtesy of Dr. Christopher Allen:
1. Realize that debt is not evil. It just needs to be respected, monitored and actively managed.
2. Learn the Rule of 72. You can roughly cal- culate the amount of time it will take for a debt (or an investment) to double by dividing the compound interest rate into 72. Te result is the number of years it will take the amount to double.
3. Understand long-term loans. With a long- dated debt obligation, you have very little equity in your purchase until near the end of the loan period. If you buy a house or a clinic building with a 30-year mortgage, you owe nearly as much 10 years into the mortgage as you did at the beginning of the loan. Tat may not seem all that important, but it will be when you go to apply for a second mortgage to finance a kitchen remodel or construction of a new kennel area.
4. Leverage debt to win. You may want to look carefully at “recategorizing” your debt and interest pay- ments. Tese strategies let you 1) take some of the steam out of the Rule of 72 and 2) get the federal and/or state government to lighten your burden of debt repayment.
4. Hire well
Let's put it in ridiculous terms. If you were hanging from a clif and your newest hire reached down to save you, how confident would you be you're going to make it? Dave Nicol, BVMS, Cert. Mgmt. MRCVS, gives fve tips to achieve a great hire.
1. Plan ahead. Develop specifcations that defne the attributes and skills your new hire must possess to do the job well.
2. Write the right ad. Your job advertisement should reflect the personality and culture of your practice-who you are, what your practice is really like and what the job will entail.
3. Use online tests. Recreate tasks your employees will have to undertake. Dr. Nicol sends out tests for technicians on anesthesia and other everyday responsibilities. This alone objectively rules out about 80 percent of job candidates.
4. Profile prospects. This helps determine if a candidate is a good ft for the job and your team. Language and Behavior (LAB) and DISC profles are two reliable tools.
5. Be there. Make sure new hires know what's required to perform the job well. Set regular meetings to provide feedback. And most important, if your new hire turns out to be a dud, quickly move on and start over.
5. Live well
You're a great veteri- narian, but you don't have to run yourself into the ground to sustain your career-plus, you get cranky when you don't eat. Take time to refect on what you need to stay happy and healthy, and be a great veterinarian-these things are not mutually exclusive.
Take a vacation. Believe it or not, there are ways to do this without the sky falling: Go online to dvm360.com/ vacation.
Practice self-care. Make time for meals (and, no, potato chips aren't a vegetable), drink water, get regular sleep and ex- ercise-even if it's a walk around the practice between appoint- ments ranting to a coworker about the insanity of your day.
If you need help, ask for it. When stress or compassion fatigue creep in and become too much to handle, talk to someone.
Make work-life balance a priority. Find a way to make that soccer game or meet a friend for a movie-or meet someone at a soccer game you'd like to take to a movie.
6. Practice well
Never lose your awe for veterinary medicine. Some days that's easier than others, so take these tips to heart-it's better than screaming into a pillow.
> Acquire new skills and add to your knowledge base. Go to thecvc.com-there's plenty of time before CVC Virginia Beach.
> Use every second in the exam room to communicate with clients-and if it's not enough, follow up with a phone call or email.
> It's OK not to know-look it up.
> Treat others like they know more than you (they might).
> Stay goal-oriented.
> Solicit and listen to feedback.
> Remember you love what you do.