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The healing environment


See how Well-Managed Practices turn their core values into financial success.

Eddie is my adorable 3-year-old cat. At home, he's full of sunshine and charm. During trips to the doctor, however, he transforms into his alternate personality, Edward Hyde—all fangs, claws, and unholy terror. My veterinarian, Dr. Tami Shearer, isn't sure exactly what sets him off—perhaps confinement in the carrier, the ride in the car, the strange smells and noises, or the people he doesn't see often—but Eddie and I both appreciate the practice's efforts to maintain a safe, calm environment. This includes keeping Dr. Shearer and her staff safe. If Mr. Hyde isn't cooperating, we go home.

In our frenetic, 24/7 society, we're on the go, tuned in, plugged in, constantly trying to do more in less time, and often just plain maxed out. The environment that surrounds us affects how well we do (or don't) handle everything we're trying to accomplish. And our pets feel the effects too. Anything in the sensory realm can upset them—strange smells, changes in routine, exposure to new things, and noise.

Author Denise Tumblin with her split-personality cat, Eddie.

In Benchmarks 2007: A Study of Well-Managed Practices conducted by Wutchiett Tumblin and Associates and Veterinary Economics, we set out to identify how top practices ensure a harmonious, healing environment for pets and people—and how those efforts translate into financial success. We found that these practices begin by defining and communicating their core values—the foundation that allows them to thrive and prosper. Key elements are respect, compassion, professionalism, integrity, and accountability. Once you commit to these foundational values, you can build a successful practice, the components of which include:

  • a high medical standard of care for your patients

  • a high financial standard of care for your business

  • a commitment to the people who help you accomplish your goals for your practice.

The bottom line

Furthermore, Well-Managed Practices view their client and patient relationships as a partnership for life—both for a high quality of life and for a lifetime. To nurture this partnership, they focus on creating a positive experience—that harmonious, healing environment again—that keeps clients coming back, visit after visit. This commitment impacts their fees, revenue, and expenses, which we've extrapolated as benchmarks for the profession (see belove for more on "Benchmarks 2007).

Your environment starts with you

Jeanine Larson is the founder and director of Still Point Centre, a business in Columbus, Ohio, that's dedicated to helping people "wake up" and intentionally create a life of choice rather than surviving as victims of circumstance—in other words, choosing to take charge of their lives.

Developing a road map for success

"A veterinary practice's environment is an outward reflection of the inner state of its leadership," Larson says. "Chaos in the environment indicates lack of leadership—inner and outer." Symptoms of this leadership vacuum can be inertia or mismanaged time and resources. Harmony, Larson says, indicates a more balanced state of consciousness.

"It's vital for veterinarians to take the lead in managing their patients' environment," Larson continues. "As authorities on animal care, they're responsible for educating pet owners and caregivers about the importance of a harmonious environment. A good place to start is to be an example of what this means."

Committing to key practice values

Larson offers some basic elements to focus on in the progression toward a well-balanced, harmonious life. These include:

1. Your vision. Maybe you've lost your focus along the path, or you were never quite clear about your direction in the first place. To establish a practice identity and reflect that identity in the practice environment, you must first be clear about what you want to project. You must begin with a vision.

2. Your plan. It's not enough just to possess a vision; you must know how to implement it. This requires contemplation, research, and, often, expert advice to lay out a systematic process for making your vision a reality. If you jump into action without thought or organization, you could experience costly consequences that lead to disharmony—both financially and in terms of your relationships with team members and clients. On the other hand, a good solid plan can have far-reaching positive effects.

3. Your action. Once a vision and plan are in place, you're ready to build your dream. Here's how the leaders at two veterinary practices followed these steps to achieve success and harmony in their own hospitals.

Every business has an aura—a distinctive but intangible quality associated with it. When clients and patients visit your practice, you want them to feel warmth, compassion, and healing emanating from within. Calm, friendly, professional assistance encourages clients to relax and respond in the same manner—no matter how they're feeling inside. Positive energy and a stress-free environment keep patients calm and clients coming back for more. That can only happen if you've committed to those qualities on a core level.

So ask yourself this question: Does your environment encourage clients to return by promoting harmony? Or is it like the chaos of rush-hour traffic? "Our pets can be the victims of our inertia or the beneficiaries of conscious action," Larson concludes. "Even small steps toward harmony in the environment are steps in the right direction.

Cover kitty relied on kindness of strangers

Denise Tumblin, CPA, is owner and president of Wutchiett Tumblin and Associates in Columbus, Ohio. She will be conducting the Veterinary Economics Progress in Practice Seminars on successful practice ownership transitions Oct. 18 and 19 at CVC West in San Diego. To learn more, visit cvcwest.com.

In Benchmarks 2007: A Study of Well-Managed Practices conducted by Wutchiett Tumblin and Associates and Veterinary Economics, you'll find the answers of 100 companion animal practice owners who completed a detailed questionnaire. There's also a detailed report of the complete study findings, including:

  • easy-to-read charts that show earnings, fees, and expense data

  • a worksheet to help you evaluate the consistency of care

  • a tool to assist you in better managing your practice's financial health.

To learn more or to order Benchmarks 2007, visit www.industrymatter.com.

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