Advice Unleashed (June 2017)
Tips and insight from business, financial and practice management experts.
The Key to Your Financial Plan
Darby Affedlt, DVM, a financial advisor at Northstar Resource Group in Seattle, Washington, says the most important step in creating your financial plan is picking the right adviser. Beyond ensuring that he or she is knowledgeable and reputable, you want to find someone with whom you can build a good long-term relationship. “Ultimately, you need to like your adviser. Do you have a good rapport with that person? Does he or she educate you? Does he or she call you regularly? If you trust and have a good personal relationship with your adviser, then you can stay focused on the medicine and science you’re so passionate about and let the adviser handle the financial side of your life.”
Get the Most Out of Your Financial Statements
Leslie Mamalis, MBA, MSIT, CVA, owner of Summit Veterinary Advisors in Littleton, Colorado, talks to many veterinarians who want to get more information out of their financial statements. One of the biggest problems, she says, is when accountants don’t use a veterinary- specific chart of accounts. “The veterinary-specific chart of accounts is really the skeleton, if you will, of your financial statements. Having the correct expenses for your practice and breaking out payroll into doctors versus technicians versus the rest of your support staff really allows you to make better business decisions.” What does she tell veterinarians who want to better understand their financial statements and be able to quickly know if something is amiss? “Be sure to work with an accountant or adviser who works specifically with veterinarians so that you have someone who can advise you more on what you can do to help improve your practice."
Litigation Notice? Be Proactive
According to Debra Hamilton, JD, principal attorney at Hamilton Law and Mediation in Armonk, New York, one of the biggest mistakes veterinarians make when they are given notice of litigation is not talking to their client. You should always ask your client if you can speak confidentially, she says. “You don’t want to say something that’s going to be used against you if in fact they sue later,” she says. “Talking in mediation lets you hear what the client is upset about and what the staff member is upset about, and it gives you the opportunity to save that relationship.
This way, you’re proactive, not reactive. “You’re really getting in there and helping your client understand why you acted the way you did and understanding better why they acted the way they did,” she says. “If you feel like you’re going to be sued, don’t wait until it happens. Ask your insurance company to mediate early so that you can possibly save the relationship with your client. And if you can’t save the relationship, don’t send the client away mad. Send her away with the feeling that, ‘Well, I don’t want to ever use Dr. Smith again, but at least he listened to me.’”
Protect Your Practice Assets
There are two important strategies veterinarians can use to protect their assets, says Larry Oxenham, senior adviser at the American Society for Asset Protection. First, make sure all your legal documents are current and up-to-date, and make sure those documents do what they are designed to do. In other words, he says, veterinarians “need to understand what they’ve got.” And second, “pay really close attention to customer service. Go overboard to make your clients, your patients and everybody else happy with you. Make people think you really value their pets. If there is one thing in America that would eliminate lawsuits, it’s great customer service — people don’t sue who they like.”
“When you are communicating with your clients, it is of utmost importance that you understand and respect their point of view in the conversation,” advises Sarah Wooten, DVM, associate veterinarian at Sheep Draw Veterinary Hospital in Greely, Colorado, and a member of the American Society of Veterinary Journalists. “If you don’t know what that point of view is, ask questions to find out. One of the best questions I learned to ask my clients is, ‘What have you researched about your animal’s condition?’ Because a lot of the time they have already looked on the internet, they have an idea of what is wrong and you just need to get out of the way because they’re already sold and they want you to do something. Do anything you can to attain your client’s point of view and respect that point of view because it is as important as yours.”
Selling Your Practice: Think of the Buyer
Joseph Hruban, transition broker at Omni Practice Group, says veterinarians who are preparing to sell their practice need to look at things from the perspective of the individual who will be acquiring the practice. The buyer, he says, is going to want to see systems and a team in place.
ng when he or she steps in.” Hruban also says it can help if you stick around for a period of time during the transition, whether that’s three months or nine months or some other amount of time. “At the end of the day, the team is so important because they interface with the clients and the patients, and that is the goodwill that the individual is acquiring.”
The Benefits of Forward Scheduling
“Forward scheduling is all the rage right now,” says Amanda Landis-Hanna, DVM, senior manager of veterinary outreach at PetSmart Charities. “Forward scheduling is the concept of scheduling examinations pretty far out in advance. Essentially, we’re taking a page from what dentists and ophthalmologists have done for years. Rather than wait and call somebody a couple weeks before their annual physical exam, let’s get that appointment on the books now. That way it’s already documented and we can always follow up and adjust the time for the appointment later. Forward scheduling also gives the client a sense of a bond or an obligation to the practice that they return for that physical exam since they took the time to go ahead and schedule it.”