And the Biggest Gainers are …


Meet three veterinary practices that beefed up their financial well-being by participating in a four-month fiscal fitness program.

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“The Biggest Gainer” program (sponsored by Idexx, Merial, Midwest Veterinary Supply, and Purina) is the financial fitness version of the popular NBC television show The Biggest Loser, in which fitness gurus give contestants the tools and motivation to fight their lifelong battle with weight loss and fitness. But in this program, the focus was on veterinary practices engaged in a fight to get—and stay—profitable.

Three veterinary hospitals participated in the program—Companion Animal Hospital of Fond du Lac, Animal Hospital of Oshkosh, and Superior Animal Hospital, all in Wis. Each practice worked with trainers, who helped the teams create goals and kept everyone on task to reach them. Here's a peek at how each hospital did:

Companion Animal Hospital and Animal Hospital of Oshkosh both showed 200 percent increases in sales of their targeted items in their clinics. There was widespread enthusiasm for the program, but the biggest challenge was getting team members to all sit down together and focus on strategic planning.

"Most practices haven’t developed the discipline of being proactive. Rather, they're reactive," says Shawn McVey, one of the trainers in the program and owner of McVey Management Solutions. But these two practices quickly adjusted to the new, proactive mentality and once they did, witnessed a dramatic upswing in their sales numbers.

Another success story comes from Superior Animal Hospital. Owners Dr. Jody Berquist and Dr. Robert McClellan were enthusiastic about the opportunity from the start. “We had already tried in-house programs where we focused on one thing and saw improvement, so we were excited to apply these principles to a brand new initiative, laser therapy,” says Dr. Berquist.

To be successful, Superior Animal Hospital adhered to the idea of involving the whole team. “From the owners to the newest employee, we all had to focus on education with the new product so we could be saying the same things to the clients. We even set goals about how many brochures we could distribute,” says Dr. Berquist. “It wasn’t a hard program to sell to the employees. They were on board with the initial idea and they helped set the goals.”

The practice set a goal to promote laser therapy, a new product, in September 2012. Their goal was to generate $8,000 in new sales by the end of 2012, and if they hit $10,000 or more, team members would get new uniforms. Thanks to everyone's hard work, they did.

Click next to meet the practices.

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The staff of Superior Animal Hospital (starting from back, left to right): Dr. Robert McClellan, Vicky Blatt, Kathy Weck, Dave Agre from Merial, Marcy Barby, Kelly Stephenson, Dr. Jody Berquist, and Kathryn Sutton.

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The staff of Superior Animal Hospital created this graphic to chart the progress of their goal.

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The owners and Practice Manager at Animal Hospital of Oshkosh with their Biggest Gainer trainer.

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The staff of Companion Animal Care with their Biggest Gainer trainer.

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Secrets of success

So why were these practices so successful in meeting their goals? Because they started with great client communication. According to Shawn McVey, one of the trainers in the Biggest Gainer program, effective client communication needs to hit these three high points when you're selling a product or service to clients:

1. Show the benefit of the product or service

2. Show a value to the client

3. Show efficacy or success rate of the product or service

Ready to get started? Here's an example script that you can adapt for use in your practice:

Combatting online pharmacies

Client: Can I get this medication cheaper online?

Clinic: Yes, sometimes you can, but sometimes it’s more expensive online. And you can’t be guaranteed of the effectiveness or quality of the product online. If you buy it here, you can.

Now, have some solid stats in the form of a handout or brochure ready to compare your prices with an online pharmacy and even a big-box retailer.

Promoting pre-anesthetic lab work

Client: Why is this surgery estimate so high? Another clinic gave me a much lower one.

Clinic: I know the cost of the surgery may seem high, but we want to be sure we’re comparing apples to apples. Another veterinary practice may not do pre-anesthetic lab work on all of their surgery cases. If that’s the case, their estimate may be $100 to $150 less expensive than ours.

At our practice, we do pre-anesthetic lab work on our patients because we have a 10 percent to 20 percent guaranteed improvement rate on the outcome, and we feel it’s the best medicine for your pet.

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