Veterinary medicine is my business. And business is good.
Most of us went into veterinary medicine because we're empathetic and caring, but sometimes we help in ways that hurt ourselves: we discount services or do whatever is necessary to assist the pet, but it hurts the business. Over time I've learned that a solid business foundation is the key to a successful practice.
Reach beyond your comfort zone
My first job was at a large private practice in Cincinnati, Ohio. A first job is so instrumental in shaping and forming your career. The decision to work there set me off on the correct path. After about a year, and with no business experience, I decided to start my own practice. I worked to build that hospital and make it successful, practicing there for 20 years. About eight years ago I left it, possibly at its pinnacle, to pursue a career in academia at Mississippi State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, It was a leap of faith not only for me, but also for Dean Kent Hoblet. I haven't looked back.
Help yourself to help others
In another life:
If I hadn't become a veterinarian I'd be …
Still be in the biomedical field, or engineering.
Something no one knows about me is …
In high school and college I worked as a radio station DJ. It was something I really enjoyed, but not a lifelong career for me.
One of the things I stress to students is how it is important to be able to make a good living and have a successful business. It paves the way to be able to help the local animal shelter, or a favorite charity, without hurting the practice. To boil it down further, remember to be fair to everyone. Most of the time when you're talking about the business aspect of veterinary medicine you're talking about fees and costs, and the person you're not fair to is yourself-and your staff. So think about how you're impacting your practice.
Find mentors in unexpected places
One of my mentors is a businessman from Cincinnati named Bob Houston. Bob owned a historic restoration construction company. I met him while I was in private practice. He's the one who really inspired me. He showed me great examples of fair pricing that enabled his company to appropriately compensate staff, improve the quality of work performed by all, and, ultimately, attain exceptional customer satisfaction. Bob has been there to bounce ideas off of throughout the years and continues to offer wise counsel.
Dr. Burt and his wife.Make time for “me time”
It's extremely important to set aside time for your personal life. For me spending time with my family around water activities is how I keep things manageable. Whether it's as simple as taking a walk on the beach, or something more active like boating, spending that time with my family is important.
Dr. Joey Burt is an Associate Clinical Professor and Director of the Animal Health Center in the Department of Clinical Sciences at the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine.