Don't let 'Chinese torture' kill your practice


In ancient China, a favorite form of slow execution was called "the death of a thousand cuts."

In ancient China, a favorite form of slow execution was called "the death of a thousand cuts."

The victim was sliced repeatedly with a knife. Each individual woundwas superficial and relatively harmless, but the accumulation of hundredsupon hundreds of minor cuts over many days proved fatal and caused infinitelymore pain and suffering than one sure stroke of the axe.

Not so different

For too many in our profession, the daily onslaught of difficult procedures,rejected treatment recommendations, staff members who just don't get it,the tenth-of-the-month cash-flow crunch and other office crises can leadto a fate analogous to the victims of the Chinese torture.

Henry David Thoreau said, "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation."In veterinary medicine, there is a higher proportion of practitioners sufferingsuch existences than one would expect from "such a wonderful professionthat helps so many less fortunate creatures."

Tough business

The business of veterinary medicine is hard! It can devour whatever isremaining of your soul!

Most of us love the clinical side of our profession. But, all the problemsthat confront us-social, financial and physical-during the normal day-to-dayroutine can be overwhelming.

What many do not realize is that the Pareto Rule applies here: 80 percentof anything comes from 20 percent of the source. Yes, 80 percent of yourprofit comes from 20 percent of your clients. Actually, 75-80 percent ofyour profit comes from your top 25 percent (most frequent) clients and 95-100percent comes from the top 55 percent of your clients.

What about the bottom 45 percent? Oh yes! They are the suppliers of 95percent of your client aggravation.

Decisions, decisions

What should I do? What should I do? What a conundrum this places me in!

Is it a good idea to spend all of my time with my great clients, my "frequentfliers," my loyal and supportive pet owners and almost no time withmy losers? What do you think?

Who are these 45 percent non-contributors anyway? They are rabies shotsonly! They are hagglers over everything! They will let you talk endlesslyabout taking care of the masses of pus dripping from periodontal horrorscenes and do absolutely nothing at all.

It is not an economic issue here; they just are non-responsive. Writethese clients a letter wherein you explain that your model of humane petownership appears to vary with theirs. Tell them that you will provide emergencyservice only for the next 30 days; that should give them ample opportunityto find another veterinarian.

Surprise ending

There is, very often, a surprise ending to this maneuver, as they callback and say that they just didn't realize that it was that important andthey want to make an appointment for the dentistry.

Any time you save from unloading the unresponsive should be added tothe time spent with your loyal 55 percent. Increase examination times fiveto 10 minutes. You will reap even more pleasure and profits from these pet-lovingowners. Get to know them as people. You will retain more great clients fromfive minutes of learning about their needs than by five hours talking aboutyourself and the practice.

Build your practice

Build your practice so that it makes you so happy that you love comingto work and achieve it by creating reliable, consistent business systemsin the areas of your practice that cause you the most pain.

Success is a personal matter. You don't necessarily have to follow myor anyone else's techniques or strategies, as long as you build your philosophywith a strong foundation in a way that suits you.

To many, this may sound like a recipe for disaster! However, you maylike breaking the rules and make your own way of sharing time with clientsto build strong relationships, which, in turn, will help to nurture referrals.

Yesterday, the only way to attract patients was to put up your signsand wait for people to walk in. But if you want to control how many andwhat kind of patients came to your practice, you need to develop systemsto actually generate quality referrals on a consistent basis and only attractpeople who really want the type of medicine you want to deliver.

With the great changes that have overwhelmed our profession in the pasttwo decades, the old model of thinking doesn't work well enough to promotea sane and happy practice.

We must change the way we think.

Trust and fear

The greatest influences on clients' health choices for their pets istrust and fear. We must develop systems to build trust and address the commonfears of our clients. To create a successful practice, we need more thanjust technical skill. It takes an understanding of yourself, your market,your staff, and the creation of systems that give you the freedom to practicein the manner you so choose.


Dr. Snyder, a well-known consultant, publishes the Snyder Advisory Letter,a newsletter for practice productivity and is available for in-practiceconsultation. He can be reached at 2895 SW Bear Paw Trail, Palm City, FL34990; (800) 292-7995;; FAX (772) 220-4355.

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