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It's all a matter of perspective
Back to basics: Support yourself by providing a valuable service to clients
Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson went on a camping trip. After a good meal and a bottle of wine, they lay down for the night, and went to sleep.
Some hours later, Holmes awoke and nudged his faithful friend. "Watson,look up at the sky and tell me what you see."
Watson replied, "I see millions and millions of stars."
"What does that tell you?" said Holmes.
Watson pondered for a minute. "Astronomically, it tells me thatthere are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically,I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Theologically, I can see that God is allpowerful and that we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, I suspectthat we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What does it tell you?"
Holmes was silent for a minute, then spoke. "Watson, you fool. Somebodyhas stolen our tent."
The humor here is lost completely when we realize that we, as a professionare in exactly the same position. We have become so involved in our day-to-dayfascination with our chosen career, that we have lost our profession's truegoal. That is to support us and our families, while, at the same time, renderour clients and patients a valuable service.
I would bet that 99 percent of our professional colleagues, inheriting$5 million dollars, would not change their profession. We love our work.It absorbs us completely. Where was there ever a veterinarian who on awakening,ever said, I hate going to the hospital to work.
Our profession is fascinating. Too much so! We work through lunch. Westay after the day is done. We think nothing of going into our hospitalson the weekends. Many often neglect their spouses and children with theexcuse that they are needed at the hospital. We call attending a four-dayconference, sitting in meeting rooms from "Oh dark thirty in the morning"until the last session of the day a vacation.
We take our families to these meetings in Orlando et al, and leave themto see Mickey without Mom or Dad and we call this a family vacation. Whenwe can be persuaded, shamed or coerced into going on a non-meeting vacation,we bring stacks of journals to catch up on and call our hospitals regularlyto "check in!"
We are a sick profession! Someone has kidnapped our family life! Andwe do this for what? Money? I think not!
We are satisfied with whatever is left over at the end of each month.Does our practice have three month's funds in a reserve or contingency accountto get us through that bad month or recession, when there is little or noneto take home?
Do we have the income that our "real doctor" friends have fornew cars and big houses as expected to come along with that magic "Dr."in front of our name? Reality is simply, and truthfully, that most wealthyveterinarians either inherited their wealth or they bought real estate atjust the right time. I suppose that I should add that they stayed away fromthe temptations of the too good to believe dot-com market.
It is a very close call today as to who earns more per hour, the ownerof a veterinary hospital or a dental hygienist.
The facts are clear. In the decade between 1985 and 1995, the real incomeadjusted for inflation for dentists increased 35 percent. Physicians increasedonly 22.6 percent, thanks to managed care. The average income for veterinarians,in the same period, adjusted for inflation decreased 4.6 percent.
Where are we headed?
I stated in my first column in DVM Newsmagazine, in 1979, that the onlyproblem with the economics of our profession is that veterinarians wereinvolved.
The vast majority of veterinarians lack the fiscal ambition needed tomake their profession profitable.
There seems to be this overwhelming fear of not having average fees evenin the knowledge that average only supports mediocrity. Fifty percent ofveterinary practices are below average.
What business guide have you ever read that says that you have to havethe lowest fees in town? Doesn't quality demand a higher fee? Does the bestrestaurant in your area and McDonalds have the same prices for meals? Noway! The reason each is successful in your town is simple. They both meettheir client's expectations. The best restaurant offers a higher qualityfood with best service and décor. McDonalds is famous for meetingtheir customer's expectations for equally mediocre to poor service and infamousmystery meat in every town in the the U.S and abroad.
I am constantly amazed that consultants can go into a marginally productivepractice and within a few months, having the practice accountant askingthe owner "What happened I thought you were running your hobby nota business! Now I'm going to have to work to hide the profit!"
There is no secret to having a practice be successful, provided you arein a location that can support another practice. All you have to do is proactivelyrun your practice like a business.
In a business, there is no "take what is left over after payingthe bills" mentality. In a business, you set your salary and everypayday, you pay yourself and your staff first. If the money runs out beforethe bottom of the stack of pills, then you adjust your product mix and yourfees to have enough to pay all the bills.
In a business, you plan and budget for seasonal variations in labor andother needs.
Find out where you stand in the sea of economics at www.ncvei.com, butbe aware that the standard you are comparing yourself to is "what is,"rather than "what could be."
If you are looking for the thief who stole your tent and your retirementfunds, get a good mirror.