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Benefits and pay: Making a slow upward climb


While average earnings are up from years past, 2009 isn't a banner year for team pay.

More than 57 percent of team members received pay raises in 2008, but only 49 percent have or expect to this year, according to the 2009 Firstline Team Trends Study. "I think many businesses—not just veterinary practices—put a freeze on wage increases in 2009," says Mark Opperman, CVPM, Veterinary Economics hospital management editor and owner of VMC Inc. in Evergreen, Colo.

While this news isn't great, there's a bright spot when it comes to team member earnings. Average hourly wages and salaries have increased since 2007. Benefits are on the upswing too. When we compared this year's study results to the 2007 numbers, the percentage of team members receiving the perks listed in the chart below increased for every item with the exception of retirement savings plans and health, life, and disability insurance.

To continue heading up the career ladder, focus on working together for the good of the team, Opperman says. To position your clinic for a quick economics recovery—and yourself for future raises and promotions—try these three ideas:

1. Look at your job to find ways to become more efficient or productive, then bring your ideas to management's attention, Opperman says. "I just heard about an employee who, upon an exit interview, told the manager all the things the practice could do to improve," he says. "They were great ideas. She should've shared them before she quit. The irony was that she quit because of these problems, which the practice would've been happy to correct."

2. Add value to your position by offering to take on additional responsibilities. Do them well, and, hopefully, you'll be rewarded, Opperman says.

3. Be positive, because no one likes working with negative people. And look for chances to grow. Think of it as an opportunity, not a bother, when a client calls at 5:30 p.m. to have a pet seen immediately, Opperman says.

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