Murphy's Law can apply when looking for a job


Opportunites abound when hunting for your first practice; expect unexpected

Some say that Murphy's Law was started by an Air Force captain when aseries of problems kept appearing in a California Air Force base missilesite.

Others say it was created to describe their life, or in some cases, theirveterinary practice. If we look at the subsequent laws which have been developedfrom the original "Murphy's Law," then we can also see the alternativesavailable to a "relocating young veterinarian."

* "Left to themselves, things tend to go from bad to worse."

This most often applies to the doctor who ignored the pending disastersigns, the employment contract was not renewed, and they find themselveswith a plan to find a new job. They have inadequate training and are providedvery little reinforcement when they go out to seek a new horizon. . . theyreally need to be geographically mobile and use a placement service to gaina quick re-employment.

* "Whenever you set out to do something, something else mustbe done first."

This frequently applies to those veterinarians who are reactionary ratherthan visionary, both as owners and as employed associates. Planning allowsthe proper thing to be done at the proper time by the proper person; knee-jerkreactions are minimized. Relocation planning allows the associate veterinarianto identify potential job opportunities that make the routine employmentproblems minimal; departure is helping the future needs of the practice.

* "Everything takes longer than it looks."

This situation arises when we haven't really assessed how long the activitiesof relocation will really require. If you have employed a veterinary-specifichuman resource brokering service (e.g., VPC Brokerage), they have the planningfunction as a support role for meeting your desires.

The actual move has many variables, and depends on your lifestyle, butwhere you are moving requires a transition plan of practice styles as wellas lifestyles, so get a guide that you trust.

* "Every solution breeds new problems."

This is the nature of a changing environment and a veterinarian who respondsto the client's demands; do not seek a lower level of performance when relocating,take the high ground and stretch. Solutions should only be stepping stonesto a new and improved tomorrow. Continuous improvement is the expectationin your professional career. There is no such thing as a perfect "10,"in people or practices, but you do not have to stay employed in a "bottomhalf" practice. Our profession has too much to offer to be measuredby yesterday's yardstick of excellence; seek new horizons at each relocation.

* "Nature always sides with the hidden flaw."

Most practices encounter this when they have not told a new associatewhat "on call" really means, what productivity pay does in February,or what under-staffing does to the practice harmony. The employment misadventureis compounded when the expected benefit package was never contractual, oris based on liquidity only. If we don't want to be surprised by Mother Natureor Father Time, you cannot go into an agreement with "your eyes wideshut"; get a professional team of veterinary-specific advisors andlisten well.

* "It always costs more than first estimated."

When a practice has only guessed at their estimate, or their fee schedule,or they always include "some things" for free (no charge), thissituation arises. This is also the situation when addressing productivitypay, benefits, and staff support; get linked-agreements, not estimates.If they won't concur, don't play in that game. As a loyal associate, youshould be ready to over-deliver for practice satisfaction, so productivity-basedpay is often jointly rewarding, if the practice pace allows reasonable caseloaddivision.

* "If you try to please everybody, somebody will be disappointed."

A veterinary practice attracts the staff and clients it deserves andthe leadership has a set of core values which has attracted both. Know whatyou stand for in medicine, surgery and health care delivery; see if thenew practice matches that set of healthcare standards. Do not compromisethe things that make you proud of being a veterinarian; you can compromiseon the other nice-to-have factors, and still smile in the mirror every morning.

* "If there is a 50 percent chance of success, that means thereis a 75 percent chance of failure."

There is no sure thing in life and even the greatest opportunities maycome before their time. Many practices want a guarantee of error-free performanceand stagnate the staff while trying to get to perfect. Only about 20 percentof the facts ever really cause great changes on the outcome, so go for personaleffectiveness factors and leave efficiency for the fine-tuning phase ofthe follow-up. But as you follow up and fine-tune, remember the next applicationof Murphy's Law:

* "If you tinker with anything long enough, it will break."

The benefit portion of the contract first comes to mind, with all those"I would like" desires; get a percentage of production dedicatedto pre-tax benefits, then determine your spending desires later! Peopleneed the freedom to make changes within their own work areas, but must concurrentlybe accountable for the consequences . . . and mistakes do happen! This abundanceof demands led to a reciprocal application of Murphy's Law:

* "By making things absolutely clear, people will become confused."

This also applies to contracts, especially when they break into "attorneytalk." In some people's minds, absolutely clear means, "Is therea clause protecting me?" while in others it may mean, "Tell memore about the potential benefits." To ensure absolute clearness, feedbackand listening are required. The good Lord gave you one mouth, two eyes andtwo ears. The ratio must have something to do with utilization rate.

Dr. Catanzaro can be reached at Veterinary Practice Consultants®,1217 Washington Ave.; Golden, CO 80401; (303) 277-9800; FAX: (303) 277-9888,e-mail:; or visit the Web site at

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