Make the most of hard-working veterinary employees who wont stay forever


Veterinary Economics and Firstline will be publishing dozens of personal stories, in-the-trenches advice and bright practice management ideas in the coming months-all from the final nominees in the 2015 Veterinary Economics Practice Manager of the Year contest, sponsored by VPI-Nationwide. The final winner will be announced at a special reception CVC Kansas City Aug. 30.

My customer service team is filled with intelligent, fun and caring individuals who are also very diverse in their backgrounds. And at one point that made it hard for all of them to motivate each other and build the camaraderie necessary to provide an exceptional quality of care I know they are capable of.

My initial thought was to have a group gathering and discuss customer service, but after reflection I remembered that the best teams I've ever worked with are those that recognized each others' individual goals and helped each other achieve them. This meant understanding how working at this practice facilitated their dreams.

Helping team members open up and be honest

I scheduled an informal evening gathering, and we discussed where each of us wanted to be in six months, where we wanted to be in five years, and how we felt Atlantic Animal Hospital fit with those goals. Some six-month goals that team members shared were to become more financially stable, to finish school with great grades or to just find new purpose and meaning in their work at the hospital.

This open, honest, supportive conversation helped them because each had a better understanding of why each of us were working at the veterinary hospital. We all realized if we helped someone cover a shift then they could study for their test. If other folks needed money more than time, they could pick up shifts for more hours and thusly more pay.

For some of them, it was just nice to be open and honest about the fact that, while they loved working at the hospital, they didn't plan to stay here as customer service staff forever-and that was okay.

Learning how our practice fits their goals

I explained that my goal was for them to do their jobs well, to learn something while they're here and for myself to act as a mentor in their time here. The customer service members now really seem to appreciate each other's talents, work and motivations much more. They work better together as a team. And now that I'm aware of their long-term goals, I've been able to better assess how I delegate tasks so that work supports the skills my short-term but hard-working team members need to achieve their goals.

Heather Blount, CVPM, is practice manager of Atlantic Animal Hospital & Pet Care Resort in Wilmington, North Carolina. Read more about past Practice Manager of the Year nominees and winners as well as new nominees in the next few months at

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