How we scheduled lean in a tight economy

December 1, 2017
Kyle Wendy Skultety, LVT, CVT

Worried of declining profit margins, I took decisive steps to schedule smart and keep our veterinary practice level.

Shutterstock.comSometimes numbers tell a story. Last year, I noticed that profit margins were steadily decreasing over our historically slow times:

September 2016 = 15.9%

October 2016 = 11.1%

November 2016 = 8.8%

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I started to worry. I pored over my profit and loss statements and spoke with my full team individually to figure out what challenges were holding down our revenue. Based on what I heard and saw, I decided that our technician team wasn't achieving its productivity potential.

To correct our course, I temporarily took over scheduling from my technician supervisor, Kara, and made drastic payroll cuts. I made sure that Kara knew it wasn't personal, and that I needed her help in overseeing a change in the culture at Bayview. A leaner schedule, I told her, would require us to be a leaner machine, to run a more efficient technician team and to focus more on clear communication between doctors, technicians and the front desk.

Having explained my “why,” Kara understood and was on board. I told Kara expanding our appointments-per-day and improving our income-per-visit would be a marathon battle. However, every hour we could prune from the payroll would go directly to the bottom line, and our core productivity would be essential to winning any future battle we chose to fight.

Kara and I also spoke with the team on a two-on-one basis and explained that we needed to make sacrifices to ensure our future. We assured them it was nothing personal, and if business picked up again in the summer months they would be back to their full schedules. We confirmed their value to the practice and let them know they could pick up extra hours at other VCA practices in the area that needed help.

I made the decision to periodically include myself on the technician schedule to help stop overtime and keep my finger on the pulse of how our technicians and doctors were working together.

Kara has been indispensable in helping me transition Bayview into a more earnest, higher-energy workplace that can do more with less. And the data shows our success. Our margins have almost tripled compared to the margins of the same months in the previous year. Bayview is doing much better!

Kyle Wendy Skultety is the practice manager of VCA Bayview Animal Hospital in Toms River, New Jersey.