During his keynote address, Bash Halow, LVT, CVPM, took attendees on a thought-provoking journey to reflect on how they may be negatively contributing to their practice
On the final day of the Fetch dvm360® conference in Charlotte, North Carolina, Bash Halow, LVT, CVPM, a veterinary practice manager and owner of Halow Consulting, delivered an avant-garde keynote address entitled “5 Terrible Things You’re Afraid to Admit About Your Practice.”1 Through this gripping lecture, he encouraged attendees to take accountability and challenged the norms of practice management by complementing his arguments with personal anecdotes, statistics, and audience engagement.
“Today’s lecture about the 5 terrible things that are wrong with your practice is an invitation. Whether you’re an employee or whether you’re a manager or owner, or a spouse or parent, eventually you [mess] up enough that you start to ask yourself, ‘Maybe all these things that are happening to me aren’t circumstance outside me, but actually have to do with me,’” Halow said.
“Maybe that’s why you’re here today at this lecture or why you’re here at [this] Fetch [dvm360® conference] in general…because once you start looking on the inside…and find the real root of that stuff that you have been doing to [mess] you up….[and] take that journey, I can promise you…you will walk more content steps on this planet earth,” he continued.
1. Don’t ask me
The first issue in the veterinary practice Halow highlighted is that your employees are likely dishonest with you and there is lack of trust. This is because when employees are honest—especially when they confess to making a mistake—it typically involves another protocol instilled or lecture given that is unproductive to their work.
“Your team members work as hard as they can to serve clients and patients…and I believe that many of the protocols we put in place hinder that, don’t help that,” he expressed. “That reluctance to be honest with the owner is causing a decrease in productivity, is decreasing probably retention, and is decreasing the joy in the business.”
Thus, Halow noted it’s important for the owner and team members to engage in habits that build trust with one another. Some solutions to this include listening and caring for employees, following through with promises, apologizing, and not lying as this can foster an environment where others are inspired to do the same.
2. I’ll take a copy of that!
According to Halow, this point is based on the idea that the veterinary business is built on faulty human resources (HR) practices involving annual reviews, coaching, and training systems.
Halow argued that though practice managers often enter the review process with the right intentions, annual reviews are ineffective. He cited research that 80% of managers believe annual reviews are great; however, 80% of employees think they are biased and unhelpful.1 He added that annual reviews don’t come with clear measurable goals, widen the gap between the management and team member, don’t improve long-term performance, and more.
Coaching can be beneficial when it is designed to build a stronger relationship with the employee, serve as a short-term check in to learn about them, or to set boundaries and underline red lines. However, Halow stated when coaching is done in a way to change behavior, that is where he feels it is ineffective and not a worthwhile investment of time.
Training systems in practice
Training systems in practice consist of what is being done to shape behavior and include positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, positive punishment, and negative punishment. What do hospitals lean on most? According to Halow, it’s positive punishment. Though this can be successful for the short-term, it may change the individual’s feelings towards their job and make them less motivated and invested.
3. You’re this close
Practices don’t realize how great they are and how close they are to success, said Halow. Oftentimes, though the manager may have an excellent vision of patient care and customer service, they are simply lacking a more organized approach or systematic way to deliver on what they aim to achieve.
One method that managers can use to get closer to what they are striving for is by dedicating time to reflect and ensure they are aware of the company’s identity. Halow offered the example of having “pocket-size mission statements,” that are straightforward, and employees have instilled in them. Therefore, regardless of what employees are faced with, they are always mindful of the mission and can make informed decisions.
“You’re this close. All you have to do as a group is to sit down and talk about how to take it just 1 inch further to the next step,” said Halow.
4. You’re not broken enough
Halow also described it can be problematic when there are systems in place that are faulty, but not broken enough. Oftentimes, managers don’t fix these issues because there are so many other “wildfires” at the practice that they don’t have time to address and solve what is broken. This puts them at a disadvantage within the industry.
“It is important for us as leaders and practice groups to not just come together to put out the wildfires but to address the stuff that is sort of broken. We are living in an age that is changing so quickly, if you don’t fix this stuff, I think that you’ll find that your completely left in the wake of your competitors soon enough,” Halow stated.
5. Aw you missed it
He concluded the lecture by emphasizing the power of self-reflection and taking accountability so you can run a more successful practice and become a better overall person in life. If you fail to look inwards and make change, you may miss that you are in fact negatively contributing to the practice, your life, or both, and it’s in your control to take positive action.
“Today’s journey has been a lesson about looking at the 5 terrible things that are wrong about your practice. But I would encourage you that to look past all the handwringing and all the flames and think whether or not there is an opportunity for you to change something inside of you so that you’re not contributing to these 5 terrible things,” Halow said.
Halow B. 5 terrible things you're afraid to admit about your practice. Presented at Fetch dvm360® conference; Charlotte, North Carolina. April 22-24, 2022.