Mind Over Miller: There's more to life-and private practice-than money


I always assumed that the success of my practice was due to diligence, integrity, and dedication to service.

I always assumed that the success of my practice was due to diligence, integrity, and dedication to service. Over 30 years, my mixed-animal country practice—limited to house calls for the first few years and in a valley that had never before had a private veterinary practitioner—grew into a 12-doctor state-of-the-art group.

I've been asked many times to speak at veterinary conferences to explain how the four equal partners managed to get along without conflict for three decades and how we were able to keep our employees so long, with several retiring after 25 years of employment. The answer isn't money. We never earned as much as many of our California colleagues, and the high-caliber people we employed could unquestionably have made a lot more money in some other calling.

Well, I just finished reading a book that explained our success to me. As I read Why Pride Matters More Than Money: The Power of the World's Greatest Motivational Force by Jon R. Katzenbach, I understood for the first time why our practice was such a happy one and why we had such esprit de corps. I recommend this book to every practice owner, regardless of your practice's size.

In our practice, we never paid anyone on the basis of how much income he or she was generating. Each partner got the same salary—whether a large-animal or small-animal veterinarian and whether a surgeon or a general practitioner—and we all shared emergency duty. After all, who contributes more to a practice, the doctor who diagnoses a tumor or the surgeon who removes it? It's a team effort.

The success of a group practice largely depends on the creation of a team spirit. Individual egos must be subordinate to pride in the team. This philosophy must start at the top, with the person who originates the practice. When I hired Dr. Bob Kind, he was an associate, but nobody knew that. My staff and clients assumed he was an equal partner because that was how I treated him. Eventually, he became a partner, and when we hired a third veterinarian, we used the same approach and so it went.

Reading this book put it all in perspective for me. I did it right mostly, and it worked. I have seen so many practices in which jealousy reigns, conflict brews within the staff, and staff members grumble because they think someone else is getting more money than he or she deserves. If we aren't happy in our daily practice, it isn't worth it. Life is short, and we only live once. We've all been told that money isn't the source of happiness. This book explains what is: It's pride!

Robert M. Miller, DVM, is an author and a cartoonist, speaker, and Veterinary Medicine Practitioner Advisory Board member from Thousand Oaks, Calif. His thoughts in "Mind Over Miller" are drawn from 32 years as a mixed-animal practitioner. Visit his Web site atwww.robertmmiller.com.

Robert M. Miller

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