A fool-proof way to give estimates


Remember, clients really want a forever healthy companion

There are a few hard-to-swallow lessons we must learn when we enter practicefor the first time.

Primary to that is realizing clients don't care and are reluctant topay you for how much you know. Another is that they don't want the detailsof their pet's disease progression and certainly not what happens at themitochondrial level! They assume (correctly) that veterinarians are state-of-the-artprofessionals who have the technical expertise to be dog-cat repairpersons.

Low tolerance

They, however, don't even want to be with you when their pet is ill.They hate veterinary medicine with almost the same passion they reservefor their dentist.

They want pets not dissimilar to the battery operated and computer chip-controlledEverReadyspecimen that never needs vaccination, never needs feeding or exercisingand has a very conveniently placed "off" button. Their initialinvestment for "plasticbeast" is their last, except for the possibleexception of batteries.

What do they really want?

They don't want veterinary medicine. What they really want is freedomfrom veterinary medicine and a forever-healthy companion. Whenever the petbecomes ill is always an inconvenient time when they had a very importantevent scheduled. Whatever the expense, it was money put away for a specialvacation to Bora Bora.

Perhaps "he" is bringing in "her dog;" that littlesissy thing that has to go wherever she goes and has breath that would sinka convoy. He hates being in your hospital and dreads the thought of anyof his buddies seeing him with this over-inflated white rat on acid!

Shucks, he was dead tired when he got home but she had some puerile excusewhy he had to take her love to the vet.

Perhaps "she" is bringing in his mangy smelly ol' hunting dogbecause he had an important business meeting that could not be postponed.

Just having this slavering beast in her car is too much to bear, andit is going to cost her at least $50 to have the drool removed from herseat cushions.

These people will probably never rise to the level of "Happy Camper,"where you and your hospital and all your fees added up to a preposterousamount are concerned.

So what! They came in, didn't they? If they want cheap bills for themiracles of today's veterinary medicine, they should buy you out and employyou at the $150,000 a year that you are worth and they can have all theservices they want for their pets free. Why? Because they own the place.

Purely business

But until they buy you out, you have to manage the place so that yourstaff can eat and drink enough to give them the strength to stagger in onMonday, after partying all weekend. And that means that you have to chargethe clients so that they can pay you so you can pay them what works foryou. (Ye Olde Gaelic Grammar Book, 83rd edition.)

As it happens, most veterinarians don't put enough time and effort intothe business side of their practice. Business issues make or break a practice.Certainly, getting clients to pay for their pet's medical needs is at leastan order of magnitude tougher than making a difficult clinical diagnosis.

In today's world we have two choices. We can subsidize our patients'needs or we can finance them. To subsidize is to conveniently forget toincrease fees as needed. Inflation does not exist in your world and staffnever needs or wants any increased compensation.

To subsidize is to keep your fees close to the other practitioners intown despite their never upgrading equipment and having a staff with theaverage age of either 17 or more likely 71. Both of which are themselvessubsidized by the mommy-daddy complex or by Social Security. The glass onthe front desk is conveniently adaptable to hold their lollipop or theirteeth between clients.

Perhaps you want a staff with a bit more or a bit less maturity. Well,that's going to cost you and inevitably your clients.

That's when we go from subsidization to financing of our clients.

Why not? Every ad in the paper says, "No payments until the 22ndcentury. Drive your dream car away with no down payment and no paymentsuntil we catch you."

We can do that: Almost! We accept hold checks!

Oops! I don't want to get ahead of myself. First we have to give an estimate.


Let me share with you the absolutely best way to estimate what your serviceswill cost them.

They ask: "How much will this cost me, Doc?"

You answer: "Less than $10,000."

They laugh and say: "Can you be a bit more specific?"

You answer: "Yes, after my lab tests come back. Without the tests,I can't estimate how much damage has been done. However, these cases typicallyrun between $400 and a $1,000."

The reply : "I'm not sure I can afford that."

You say nothing about a lower fee whatsoever! After a few seconds, yousay only: "What do you mean by that?"

They say: "I don't get paid until Friday."

You say: "That's O.K! We won't likely be able to send him home untilMonday."

Or they say: "I don't know, that's a lot of money for me at onetime!"

You say: We can take a deposit of $150 now and divide the balance upinto three to four payments to better suit your budget, once we find outwhat he really needs. We'll hold your checks and deposit them on a schedulefor you. We do, however, need a deposit now before we can begin those testsand treatment."

See! It's just like buying a new car and without lowering your fees!

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