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Nine ways to survive a recession


How to thrive in the upcoming year despite a tough economy.

If you're tired of being beaten over the head by doom-and-gloom economy “experts” ranting about the recession, it's time to fight back. Follow these tips from the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association to make sure your practice will be fine in '09.

Budget. As the economy begins to recover, budgeting may be the most important precaution you take. Many managers and veterinarians are doing some form of retrospective budgeting, by comparing each month's revenue and expenses to the same period of the previous year. Use these numbers to project your revenue and expenses for the next year. You can then use the budget to make necessary adjustments to reach your financial goals.

Demonstrate value for your services. Clients worried about putting food on the table might question high veterinary bills. So show them that their money is well spent by speaking their language-avoid using medical jargon. Emphasize the importance of disease prevention and early detection, and make sure your staff does the same.

Adjust your fees. Research fees in your area and make sure yours are adequate. If you're on the low side, you can recover thousands of dollars per year by charging appropriately for your services.

Audit your invoices. Two hospitals with similar fee structures can have drastically different invoice levels, depending on what procedures each veterinarian charges clients for. Enlist the help of the technical and reception staff to make sure you're charging for all the work your doctors do. Delegate the task of invoicing, and watch your revenues increase without changing your fees.

Promote pet insurance. Clients with pet insurance can worry less about large veterinary bills. This allows veterinarians to focus their efforts on treating the patient, instead of worrying about the client's finances. Brochures on the counter are nice, but they're not enough-talk to your clients and inform them about the benefits of pet insurance.

Promote third-party payment plans. Clients don't necessarily expect discounts for expensive procedures, but often seek help with financing. When an unexpected bill presents itself, give clients an alternative to draining their bank accounts.

Ensure compliance. You probably strive for high client compliance anyway, but in tough times, it's an even more important issue. Call and e-mail your clients with reminders, and enlist the help of your staff to help follow through on recommendations. When a client gets validation along the way, they'll have more confidence in their purchase.

Evaluate new equipment purchases. Are you getting the most out of your machines? Review your records and determine how much revenue each piece of shiny new equipment generates, and whether it was a worthwile investment. Keep in mind that clients appreciate face time and communication more than a fancy machine.

Highlight your altruism. Most veterinary staff members participate in some type of animal-related volunteer work. Many veterinarians are hesitant to brag about their charity work, but it will show clients that your team is made up of givers and truly cares about pets.

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