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Dr. Matthew Salois worked in private industry, government and academia before joining the AVMA in 2018 as director of veterinary economics. From 2016 to 2018, he served as director of global scientific affairs and policy at Elanco Animal Health, supervising a team of scientists in veterinary medicine, human medicine, animal welfare, economics and sustainability. Before joining Elanco, Dr. Salois was chief economist with the Florida Department of Citrus, where he led economic and market research activities to drive industry growth and profitability for citrus growers. He previously served as an assistant professor at the University of Reading in the U.K., and also has held positions with the University of Florida and University of Central Florida. Dr. Salois earned his PhD in Food and Resource Economics from the University of Florida, and holds an MA in Applied Economics and a BS in Health Services Administration from the University of Central Florida.
Goals in veterinary practice management are great, but they dont mean much if we dont execute a plan to achieve them.
In my last columns, I discussed Franklin Covey's Four Disciplines of Execution (4DX) as well as the importance of narrowing your focus to a “wildly important goal” (WIG) that's most important to your business's needs. This step is only the beginning. Next, you must identify the critical tasks that will help you reach your goal-and make your team accountable for progress.
A step beyond scores ...
Go beyond scoreboarding with open-book management. Learn more about this visionary practice approach
The right yardstick
After setting a goal, it's time to identify the specific activities that will measure progress. Covey calls these activities “lead measures” because they're the activities that lead to the needed results. Lead measures track new behaviors that success depends on. The goal itself lags behind, so that's called a “lag measure.”
Good measurements-both lead and lag measures-have a three-part formula: “From X to Y by Z.” For example: “Increase revenue from new clients from 15 to 20 percent by the end of the year.” In setting up a measurement, ask yourself, “Where am I today, where do I want to get to, and by when?”
A good lead measure has the following three characteristics:
1. It's predictive. It has a direct impact on your goals and will clearly show when you're making progress or falling behind.
2. It's influenceable. You must be able to make an impact on it through decisions or actions.
3. It's achievable. Who does what, by when? You'll need to assign specific tasks to specific people and set deadlines for them to reach targets-and they'll need to be able to realistically achieve those goals.
For example, a veterinary practice looking to build repeat visits and loyalty might pick a lag measure-the goal-to increase the monthly percentage of first-time clients coming back for a second visit. A lead measure-which the practice will track to monitor progress-would be the monthly percentage of first-time clients who leave with their next appointment scheduled. If experience shows that new clients are more likely to return when they get a follow-up call from the practice within a couple weeks, then a second lead measure would be the percentage of first-time clients who receive that call.
(Click on image to open full-size PDF) Building repeat visits and loyalty: This sample chart represents a scoreboard up on the wall for veterinary practice members to see, focusing on building repeat visits and loyalty. The chief goal or "lag measure"? Increasing the monthly percentage of first-time clients coming back for a second visit. Two metrics to get you there ("lead measures") are the number of first-time clients who leave with their next appointment scheduled and the number of first-time clients who receive a call-back in the first two weeks.Engage the team
For anyone who doesn't work alone, achieving goals requires teamwork. You need to make each team member aware of your goals and their roles in driving success-and you need to track the team's progress.
This is the third step in Franklin Covey's 4DX: keeping a compelling scoreboard. A good scoreboard is simple and highly visible. It shows both lag and lead measures. And it quickly shows if you're winning or losing.
Figure 1 above (click here for pop-up PDF) provides a sample scoreboard for our hypothetical repeat-visit-chasing clinic described above. The chart shows how the team is progressing toward its goal-and why.
The lesson here is that people play differently when they keep score. This is a subtle but important distinction. You, as the boss, are not keeping score-the team should measure and play against itself. Give your team the sense that they're out to win rather than using scorekeeping as a “carrot-and-stick” tool that the boss requires.
Tools to help your team achieve goals
Ready to get started? AVMA members have free access to a broad range of tools to build and motivate your team and define and meet your business goals, including:
> CPR to revive your veterinary team: avma.org/TeamCPR
> Lead & Learn Webinars: avma.org/CE
> Client Materials: avma.org/ClientMaterials
> Social Media Tools: avma.org/SocialMedia
> Tools for forward-booking, client communications, inactive client engagement and more at Partners for Healthy Pets: partnersforhealthypets.org
The scoreboard supports a final discipline: creating a cadence of accountability. Here are two ways to that:
Hold team meetings at a frequency that works for your team. Ask team members to make commitments with a clear impact on your lead measures. High-quality commitments are specific, measurable, aligned to the goal and timely. For instance, to increase repeat visits and loyalty, each veterinarian in the practice might commit to make one of those follow-up calls to every first-time client within two weeks. The technicians might commit to explaining to each new client why it's beneficial to schedule the next exam before leaving the hospital, while the practice manager or receptionist commits to asking the client to schedule that visit at checkout.
Have a specific agenda at these meetings. Report on successes, and ask team members to update the scoreboard and assess whether the previous commitments were effective. Then, together, make new commitments for the coming period.
As your team watches progress and works to improve the lead measures, you'll see progress toward your veterinary hospital's ultimate goal.
Dr. Matthew Salois is chief economist and Veterinary Economics Division director at the AVMA. He has worked in private industry, government and academia, most recently serving as director of global scientific affairs and policy at Elanco Animal Health. Before that he was chief economist with the Florida Department of Citrus. Dr. Salois earned his PhD in food and resource economics from the University of Florida.