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Bah, humbug! Is your veterinary practice owner a Scrooge?


Money creates tension in veterinary hospitals between associates and owners. Dissolving that tension is no small feat, but CVC educators Denise Tumblin, CPA, and Ernie Ward, DVM, try in these two videos.

Like the Ghost of Christmas Past, it's there, getting in between practice owners and associates, rattling its chains and moaning: that big ol' “S” with two vertical lines through it. Who we decide fits the role of Ebenezer Scrooge, the classic old miser obsessed with money, in our practices, however, differs.

On one side, associates may think practice owners are in the business only to make money and churn through as many patients as possible without enough attention for wellness. On the other side, practice owners may see associates as lazy, overly idealistic and uninterested in keeping their businesses afloat.

According to CVC educator and former practice owner Ernie Ward, DVM, the truth of those accusations lies somewhere in between the two.

“The reality is that businesses are enterprises,” Ward says. “We must make money and profit if we're going to survive.”

However important the money may be, though, Denise Tumblin, CPA, president and owner of the veterinary-focused firm WTA Consulting in Columbus, Ohio, says that despite what it may seem, practice owners aren't all about the money.

“Like the associates, they really first and foremost are about the patients,” Tumblin says. “It's just that the owners have a responsibility to the practice, associates, patients and clients to generate enough income to be able to continue to provide the level of care that the patients need and the clients demand.”

So how can this haunting tension finally be laid to rest?

Practice owners can make sure they're not only conveying the importance of money when working with associates and clients. Ward recommends focusing always on the quality and importance of care with associates.

“Practice owners should try and target certain procedures,” he says. “Instead of telling an associate, ‘You only generated $25,000 last month. What's wrong there?' the practice owner should focus on procedures.” Look at what specific products, services and procedures there were more of and less of and discuss that with your associates.

Associates should then take the lead in these discussions to try to figure out why particular services went up or down, why compliance might have increased or decreased. Getting to the bottom of that still takes money into account without making it all about the monetary value.

For both practice owners and associates, Tumblin says if the focus is always on the patient, the dollar sign will follow.

“If we focus on the patient, the patient will drive the medicine, the medicine will drive the income, and money will flow,” says Tumblin. Putting the patient first is good for the patient, client and your own compensation.

Ward agrees: “We're a team. We have to get beyond the [fight over] money because if we don't, we're not going to survive as a practice. Both sides are right. We need money, but it's not all about the money.

 “Are we doing our best?” Ward asks. “Are we giving our all to each patient each day? Focus on that.” 

You can watch Denise Tumblin talk more about this sensitive issue here

Watch Ernie Ward talk more about it here: 

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