Every veterinary team player needs a coacheven the boss

September 23, 2019
Peter Weinstein
Peter Weinstein

Peter Weinstein, DVM, MBA, is executive director of the Southern California Veterinary Medical Association, co-author of The E-Myth Veterinarian with Michael Gerber and a veterinary coach at simplesolutionsforvets.com.

A veterinary practice management consultant diagnoses your business problems, explains whats wrong and develops a business treatment plan to fix it. Coaching comes after, when you need the accountability, feedback and ongoing conversations to make sure you follow through like a compliant veterinary client.

airdone/stock.adobe.comWhen I was a veterinary practice management consultant, I frequently found myself embedding myself into a hospital, almost a member of the team, working to inspire the changes needed for long-term success. What I frequently found was that short-term change when I was actively involved did not readily convert to long-term change when I wasn't there.

I think veterinarians need consultants sometimes. But I think sometimes they might also need a coach. What's the difference? I hate to go to the dictionary … but let's go to the dictionary.

A consultant is an “experienced professional who provides expert knowledge for a fee. He or she works in an advisory capacity only and is usually not accountable for the outcome of a consulting exercise.”

Coaching, on the other hand, is “extending traditional training methods to include focus on an individual's needs and accomplishments, close observation, and impartial and nonjudgmental feedback on performance.”

Veterinarians likely need a combination of both consultants and coaches to get from where they are to where they need to be. The consultant is a lot like the veterinarian during an office visit: They come in to visit a practice, make a business diagnosis and set up a business treatment plan. After the consultant leaves, after care is mostly (or completely) dependent on the commitment of the team and the hospital's leadership. In my opinion, this is really where the fight is won or lost. Will everyone follow through?

Most veterinary practice don't have organizational charts let alone accountability charts. And most veterinary practice owners hold themselves accountable to one person and one person only-themselves. This lack of accountability throughout the veterinary practice is frequently why programs fail.

Sometimes veterinarians might need a coach-someone they'll answer to for their actions and successes or inactions and failures. Even in practices where the owner or manager do a great job coaching, motivating and leading the team, they themselves sometimes can benefit from a little support, motivation and coaching. Many veterinarians are busy being busy (working in the business, not on it) and some don't take feedback well from team members. The accountability coach's job is to check veterinarians' ego and give them good feedback when they need it and let them know when they've erred and help them figure out how to fix things.

Peter Weinstein, DVM, MBA, is executive director of the Southern California Veterinary Medical Association, co-author of The E-Myth Veterinarian with Michael Gerber and, yes, a veterinary coach at simplesolutionsforvets.com.