The strongest practice teams work on their business, not just in it. Use this approach to give structure to your conversations about what paths to pursue.
Consultant Shawn McVey recommends that veterinary practices perform a SWOT analysis every six months to identify their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. “Use this time as a reality check, and describe your business the way it really is today,” McVey says.
Ideally, McVey says you'd include any member of your team who has supervisory duties and all the veterinarians in your practice. “You need to create a non-threatening environment where everyone feels comfortable voicing his or her views. That means everyone needs to listen with an open mind,” he says. “You'll all start with opinion. Then you'll try to quantify the statements that you make in each of these four areas.”
These are advantages that you have over most practice teams. As you list them, decide how you can demonstrate that you're really achieving what you say you are. For example, if you say you offer a pleasant working environment, can you demonstrate lower than average turnover? Strengths might include financial resources, capacity for production, people, or your facility.
Your weaknesses limit your practice's performance, holding you back somehow. For each weakness you list, you must decide what to do about it. Will you tolerate the weakness? Manage it with some kind of work around? Or is this something you're going to change?
Opportunities are situations outside of your practice that you may be able to exploit to create positive results. After your team makes a list of possible opportunities, you'll prioritize them to decide what to pursue first. Which idea offers the greatest potential reward for the least risk? That should be at the top of your list. Ideally, you want to take advantage of your opportunities and develop them into new strengths.
Some problems are outside your direct influence, and yet they still could hurt your business. This is where you'd list a soft economic environment, for example. You can't control these problems, or you would. But you should talk about how best to respond to each risk.
Editors' note: Shawn McVey, CEO of Innovative Veterinary Management Solutions, shared this information during the Veterinary Economics Managers' Retreat, held in conjunction with CVC East in Baltimore, April 2008. Click here for information on future programs.