Building an effective team


Finding suitable employees plus fostering a happy, healthy team inspires members and promotes a prospering practice

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A key element of running a successful, well-loved clinic includes having a top-performing team of doctors, technicians, assistants, and office personnel. It is essential that our clients and patients feel our teams are caring, knowledgeable, and enjoying their jobs. Having an effective team also means that the clinic is not struggling to get the job done and carrying a heavy payroll. Below are tips on how to be successful with an appropriate team.

Guidelines for the team

A solid team consists of having the most capable people on a shift. This is accomplished by training and nurturing each team member and remembering your team is a team, not “staff.” The general shift ratio rule is 3.5 people per doctor. Is that ideal for your practice? What it boils down to is can the doctor trust in the lead technician's abilities? Is the assistant effective in their abilities? Is the customer service representative (CSR) able to help drive the day effectively?

Allow your team to thrive

Ask yourself: what does my team need? Learning about each employee’s goals, interests, and expectations while caring about them will make each member a positive contributor to the clinic.

Group meetings with games and one-on-one meetings offer you the opportunity to discover what drives each team member personally. These games and team challenges are also great for team building and increasing morale. Icebreakers inspire discussion and reveal more about each personality. Take notes and follow up with each person to learn what will bring them satisfaction within their role, which will ultimately advance the company.

Ensure everyone has all the necessary tools to complete their jobs. Listen to their ideas and provide them opportunities to improve their knowledge and skills in the areas that most interest them. Empower them to speak to clients about those topics they are passionate about.

Financial downside/upside

Payroll costs are a vital component of building an effective team. The typical goal for personnel costs is between 15-20% of the monthly revenue (this would not include the doctors' pay). The payroll category of a Profit and Loss statement accounts for most of the expenses. It is critical to keep tabs on these numbers to achieve financial success.

If the clinic does not generate enough revenue to support a team of 4, do not schedule or even employ that many. With a budgeting spreadsheet you can view each team member's pay rate and hours to obtain their weekly cost to calculate the payroll percentage and determine if new people can be hired or if raises can be given and how much.

Figure 1.

Figure 1.

Here’s how to create a budgeting spreadsheet (See figure 1):

  • List your team members/positions in Column A/B;
  • their corresponding pay rates in Column C;
  • hours worked in Column D;
  • a “SUM” (C*D) will be calculated into Column E for weekly pay
  • add columns for overtime pay if required. The goal, however, will be to not obtain overtime;
  • add columns for the clinic revenue. When projecting the schedule, base revenue on data from previous weeks. If necessary, average the past 2 to 4 weeks to arrive at your projected revenue. Averaging is useful when there have been volatile weeks and not a steady income;
  • the last 2 data points will be the ‘goal’ and ‘actual’ percentage of payroll. The goal number will be the maximum percentage desired for the total payroll. The actual will be the SUM: total from Column E/revenue.

Then, determine what the payroll percentage has been historically and build the schedule with the intent to reduce payroll by 0.5%.

What is over scheduling?

The simplest definition is scheduling too many people for the work available, but it is more than that. Is each team member being utilized to their full potential and best abilities?

Boredom arises from not being challenged and not having a job to do. An excessive amount of people leads to chaos, boredom, poor work flow, less productivity, negativity, and gossip. Currently, being bored is not a concern in the veterinary industry, however boredom is not always for the lack of things to do but the lack of being challenged and utilized to one's true abilities. In fact, according to Forbes, 43% to 53% of workers are bored and 80% of workers would be more engaged if they were taught more or had more opportunities for growth.1

What is under scheduling?

This is expecting too much from the people available. This leads to burnout and the inability to complete necessary tasks. In the long run, patients and clients suffer. Preventing under scheduling is simple, have an appropriately trained team throughout the day. Finding the right people might be difficult, but it’s important to be picky and not to settle for a body. An inexperienced, eager, and driven person may be just as valuable in the practice as your most experienced technician. Just as mentioned above regarding over scheduling, challenge the team to be better and they will be better. A team that once could not produce or meet goals will suddenly exceed your wildest expectations.

Who are the team players?

Here’s a look at the roles within the clinic and their daily responsibilities:

  • Technicians: Doctors rely on technicians when in need and trust them most to support their work. The technicians will manage treatments, ultimately control a doctor’s time, and be the key person to either create or block flow. The under-utilization of qualified technicians leads to their frustration and burnout. As managers and doctors, be mindful that technicians are professionals who desire to use their skills and talents and know how to manage cases pro
  • perly with minimal direction. Empower them and provide them the autonomy they worked so hard to achieve. Their productivity will contribute to a positive atmosphere and the overall well-being of the clinic. Engage your techs by asking for their input on workflow and clinic operations. Being recognized as a vital part of their workplace encourages their growth and benefits everyone.
  • Assistants: These team members are worth their weight in gold. A well-trained assistant can anticipate needs well before they are directed or asked to do anything. Do not keep these team members in the back stocking drawers and cleaning floors. Keeping them as the pick-up crew is grossly undervaluing their potential. Place them in exam rooms as they are the information gatherers. Train them to be prepared for the doctor and thorough in caring for the patient and the client. Look for assistants who are hungry for information.
  • CSRs: As VIPs of first impressions, they drive the day and know the clients better than anyone else. The first face a client sees, the CSR is essential to the success of any clinic. Hire a people person for this position. Along with interacting with clients and patients, they should be assigned other tasks that make a difference. Understanding how a clinic works is important for front end team members, so offer new hires the opportunity to shadow for a few days in the treatment area so they get a feel for what goes on. There will always be the busy work, but utilize their abilities and their interests to the fullest. And never utter the words “just a receptionist!”

Create the right team

Here are steps for achieving this critical component.

  • Recruit the right people. Be selective, include trusted team members in the selection process, and don’t rush. The clinic may be short-handed but hiring the wrong hands can be detrimental in the long run.
  • Determine the goals. Start small and define the unified purpose. Each member must have a defined role in and impact on the success of the mission. The small goals for individuals and the clinic should have the long-term goal at their core. The practice owner and management will have their purpose in mind while the central team should be invited to assist in determining the goals of the practice. Valuable insights and ideas may be uncovered and used to develop the overall vision.
  • Set expectations. Teams win only when there is a clear understanding of a play and how each player is to execute his position. Use your expertise to facilitate the proper training of all team members in their position, emphasizing the importance of each job in the overall success of the team. Allow qualified associates to assist in the education of new members as this can build a strong, trusting workforce.
  • Lead by example. Insert yourself into the equation. This is the best way to keep a pulse on what is going on in the clinic and have first-hand knowledge of what is working and what is not. Active interaction also serves to inspire the team; you are part of their team, not just the person sitting in the office.
  • Monitor and review. Regularly review the group’s performance through team meetings and one-on-one evaluation to ensure there is progress. Monitoring and reviewing progress allows one to incorporate adjustments and improvements along the way.
  • Reward and celebrate. The fun part, and the most important part of creating the right team is ensuring all members feel appreciated and valued. Make the time and effort to acknowledge, celebrate, and reward individual successes and team wins. Recognition inspires individuals to continue the hard work, offers each recipient the satisfaction that comes from knowing their work has been recognized, and strengthens self-esteem. Award gift cards, bring in lunches and potlucks for the team, and hold meetings that are not solely about work. At the end of the day, thank your team as this goes much furtherthanone realizes.

Maintaining a healthy team

If the steps to creating the right team are an integral part of practice management, a healthy team will naturally follow. The “lead by example” and “monitor and review” steps make a more informed practice manager, allowing one to know who the team wants or needs. Do not be afraid to let people go. If the individual does not add to the success of the clinic, they do not need to be there. The wrong person in a job creates more problems than not having a person at all. In all cases, if others must do the work for those who cannot or will not, it results in bitterness, burnout, and the destruction of a team.

“More isn’t always better Linus, sometimes it’s just more.” - Sabrina Fairchild, Sabrina

Is building an effective team the most challenging part of the job? Yes. Can it be done? Absolutely! Make the time to examine how your team runs. Start with determining the clinic goals. Commit to making the changes needed and every day will be gratifying and rewarding when you see your team thrive.


Steinhorst C. Why your workforce is bored out of their minds. Forbes. January 28, 2020. Accessed June 3, 2022.

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