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Looking for perks that don't break the bank? Then check out these results: Cost-effective extras that both you and your practice will find beneficial.
Gloom-and-doom headlines about the economic crisis are everywhere. While your practice might be financially fit overall, there's a chance that money for bonuses, raises, and benefits may be in short supply. So start searching for cost-saving rewards that your practice can provide in lieu of extra pay.
What should you be looking for? Creative, win-win solutions. Think about what motivates you and how you can use it to benefit your practice. Sure, your ideas for nontraditional rewards might not be free. But they're probably more affordable than across-the-board pay increases. And your boss will be particularly receptive if you and your team members come up with options that are not only inexpensive, but also improve patient care, client service, or team morale. Here are a few suggestions to get you started on your idea search.
Some benefits are just for you, and that's OK. You work hard, so you deserve a few perks.
- Extra time off. Asking for another week of vacation might be over the top, but what about an extra day or two per year? This request seems especially appropriate if you're a strong-performing team member. Best yet: With careful scheduling, other team members may be able to cover the additional absences without increasing payroll costs.
- Flex time. Depending on your position in the practice, working an irregular schedule may not be realistic. But if your job includes end-of-day cleaning or maintenance, you may be able to leave and come back later when clients aren't around. Alternatively, there may be duties you could perform at home, like preparing schedules or client handouts. If you prove you can be productive at home, your boss may agree to let you work outside the practice for a few hours per week. This is free to your practice, and it may even save you money on daycare or commuting costs.
- Continuing education. Your practice may already send you to a local veterinary conference or seminars that allow you to earn the credits you need to maintain your credentials. But there are other types of training that would help you succeed in your job. For instance, taking a foreign language class would improve your communications with clients whose first language is something other than English. Or you might sign up for a seminar in Web design to help bolster your practice's marketing efforts. (For more ideas about improving professionally, see "10 Ways to Grow in Your Job".)
Your practice doesn't have to foot a major educational bill. Instead you can learn via a less expensive online course, an adult education class, a self-study DVD, or even a step-by-step book.
- Cell phone. Could you add a phone to the practice's existing plan for less than you're paying for your own cellular plan? Offer to reimburse the practice for your phone. This way, the perk costs the practice nothing, but lets you save money. And if you're a valued employee, the practice might even cover some—or all—of your phone fees.
- Input on decisions. Even when your boss completely trusts you, he probably won't allow you to single-handedly choose which digital radiography machine the practice should buy, for instance. But that's no reason to stay quiet. Share your ideas—like providing physical therapy or changing some of the retail products you offer—and then work to get them implemented. This demonstrates your commitment to the practice and will likely enhance your personal success.
- Extra responsibility. You're happiest when you're doing something you love. So if you enjoy gardening, ask to select and tend to the plants outside. Are you the creative type? Volunteer to redesign the packaging for your puppy and kitten kits or to put up a new client-education bulletin board. Technology savvy? You could build the practice's Web site or revamp the existing site. While you might not be making more money, your boss won't forget who asked for additional responsibility and followed through to get the job done.
Innovative ideas aren't reserved for individuals. Now turn your attention to the whole team.
- Mundane personal tasks. Ask a local dry cleaner to provide pickup and drop-off service. You may even be able to negotiate a lower rate for guaranteed business. At the very least, the convenience saves you and your team members a weekly errand, the dry cleaner gets regular clients, and your practice isn't out any money. Think of other tasks that you're all doing on your days off that could be combined or coordinated to save you time.
- Fitness programs. Your practice probably can't afford to provide health club memberships for the whole staff, so come up with similar, less-expensive ideas. Here are three possibilities:
1. Make tracks, Buddy! Start a fitness program where staff members buddy up and walk together during lunch or before or after work. Your practice could spring for a few pedometers (about $15 each), and you could create a chart to track the number of miles each team member walks in a month. Your practice might even elect to reward the walkers with a new pair of shoes when you all reach a specific mileage goal. After all, the healthier you and your team members are, the fewer sick days you'll take. And that saves the practice money in the long run.
2. On-site chair massage. A 10-minute massage relieves stress and boosts energy. Pick a day to bring in a professional masseuse. You could negotiate a reduced rate for every individual, or your practice might foot the entire bill.
3. Healthy snacks. Some practices provide food to satisfy team members' between-meal cravings. The standard offerings probably include chocolate, candy, and microwave popcorn. As a smart alternative, maybe your practice could step it up a notch and supply fruit, nuts, sorbet, or sandwiches from an organic deli. This small gesture is a simple way to make team members feel valued.
- Fun-filled events. Don't wait until the holidays to have a good time—and strengthen your team—with low-cost activities like these:
1. Themed after-hours events. Hold a '70s party and dance the hustle. Dress up in pirate costumes and set off on a scavenger hunt, with the end-of-the-road treasure being a gift certificate or an afternoon off of work.
2. Group outings. Plan a team-wide trip to the amusement park, a baseball game, or the arboretum. Many establishments offer discounted rates for large groups so you can attend on the cheap.
- Lunchtime CE with a twist. If you need a break from vendor talks, look to your community for expertise. Invite a local expert to talk about anything from saving for your kids' college education to designing floral arrangements for your reception area. Most will speak for free. Schedule the presentations during lunch or after work so they don't interrupt business.
When funds are short, creative benefits might be just what you need to perk up your attitude and your practice. Most veterinary team members realize that not all rewards are financial. So even during plentiful times, these ideas might be just what you're looking for in your search for ways to reenergize.
Leslie A. Mamalis, MBA, MSIT, and Lorraine Monheiser List, CPA, CVA, are consultants with Summit Veterinary Advisors in Littleton, Colo., a firm that seeks to make veterinarians more successful, both personally and professionally. Please send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.