Old School, New School: Drexit strategy


Dr. Codger dreams and schemes about how to hand off his responsibilities at his veterinary practiceand perhaps still receive a paycheck. But will Greenskin bite?

Illustration by Ryan OstranderAfter icing down the bruises from their recent battle royale, Drs. Codger and Greenskin are back to business as usual at the veterinary hospital on a mild summer day. Despite glaring differences of opinion, the two practitioners have found a way to cooperate on routine tasks, and the rest of the staff seems oblivious to any lasting tensions. Have their disagreements really been resolved, or are the docs simply masking their emotions for the sake of the team? Is something quietly brewing in the land of nonverbal communication?

For Dr. Codger, the day-to-day slog through appointments and surgeries rarely results in any brain drain. The veteran doctor has brushed up on his exit options since his last exchange with Dr. Greenskin about transferring ownership. After all, what better time than the present to institute new policies and get the practice all shined up? Former trivialities, such as a reliable air conditioner or a leak-free anesthetic circuit, never troubled Codger when he was in the trenches. But now that it's time to secure top dollar for the clinic, that heaping pile of teeny issues has caught his attention.

Dr. Greenskin has a rare empty slot in her afternoon schedule and sifts through piles of charts in the office. Dr. Codger, seated next to her, crosses his legs and leans back in his creaky chair, poised and ready to take another run at the reluctant young veterinarian. He's just opened an ice cold bottle of buttermilk to sip during their conversation. Let's sit back and watch the dialogue unfold, shall we?

Greenskin: I just can't find my signature stamp anywhere. Have you seen it, Doc? My hand is getting cramps from all this signing.

Codger: I just got a syringe pump like you requested, so you don't have to count the drips anymore!

Greenskin: Well that's good, I guess. But it wasn't the counting that upset me. I was more worried about the poor parvo puppy that died from fluid overload.

Codger: Yes, those things sure do happen. So, listen. I've been thinking a lot about how we can get you some real skin in the game around here. There are so many great options! We just need to decide how much you want to invest and go from there.

Dr. Greenskin, still thinking about the puppy, blinks back tears. But then she does her best to refocus.

Greenskin: Well, I have about 5 percent of my paycheck left every month after living expenses and student loan payments. You know how little that is. I worry my finances (or lack thereof) will be a real barrier to entry.

Codger: Oh, don't stress. I'm willing to carry some of the financing at a very generous rate. Here's an idea: You can just buy the practice and I'll keep the real estate so the practice can keep paying me after I retire.

Greenskin: While it sounds like that would reduce the overall purchase price, I'd need to know how much the rent would be in relation to our monthly gross. And the practice could use several renovations. Will you pay for those as the property owner?

Codger senses he's making some headway and permits himself a long, tangy draw from his glass bottle.

Codger: Ahh … Well, it sure would be a good bet for you, Greenskin. And yet this corporate outfit is ready to pay top dollar for the whole thing, which would be a highly profitable and easy out for me. How'd you like to work for a candy company? If I were you, I'd be jumping at this opportunity!

Greenskin, feeling threatened, takes a deep breath and remains calm.

Greenskin: My classmates tell me the candy company offers great benefits. Better than I have now.

Codger hurriedly licks off his buttermilk mustache.

Codger: We could also keep me on as a consultant for a while. Or you could buy half the practice and decide after awhile if you liked it and wanted to buy the rest in a few years. Or here's an option you may like the most: I could just stay on as the owner while staying out of your way. You would be the medical director and could maybe hire a part-time doctor, if you wanted. Or you could just work alone, like I did, and make all the money yourself. We could pay you a generous manager's salary, and you wouldn't have huge upfront costs to worry about.

Greenskin: So you're saying I could have all the worry of owning a practice without actually owning a practice? And I could make a little more money while you still profit?

Codger: Well … err … I would only profit if the practice did well. So I would do everything I could to help you succeed. In the beginning, we'd probably need to pay me as a consultant while you get your feet wet. I wouldn't want you to get overwhelmed!

Greenskin: So you would be the owner and would keep receiving a paycheck, but you wouldn't actually do any work?

Codger grips the buttermilk bottle.

Codger: But you would earn a lot more-at least an extra $10,000 a year! 10K has a nice ring to it, right?

Greenskin digs deep to maintain her professionalism.

Greenskin: Doc, you've given me a lot to think about. I am glad you've been considering these options and that you took the time to discuss them with me. Now I need to do some homework. Leave the practice's balance sheets on my desk tonight, and I'll consider what I might be willing and able to manage.

Dr. Greenskin grabs her stethoscope and excuses herself to her next appointment, leaving Codger to drain the final drops of his buttermilk in peace.

Greenskin should feel proud for staying cool and collected. She's learning not to throw all of her cards down on every hand. Codger is satisfied with the progress they're making in negotiations too. The grizzled veterinarian makes one last round to turn off some lights and tighten up a few of the kennel door screws before heading home to an evening of watching I Love Lucy on the couch with Mrs. Codger at his side and his coonhound at his feet.

Is Codger really looking out for his young associate's best interest, or is he using old-man cunning to distract and subdue his prey? Despite his stated intentions of getting out, there are several indicators that the old fellow is going to have a hard time fully letting go. Will there be an acceptable deal for Greenskin, or only a great deal for Codger? Will there be any deal at all? Stay tuned!


Dr. Jeremy Campfield works in general practice in California's Sacramento Valley. He is an avid kiteboarder.

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