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Picture the savings
Want a say in how owners spend the practice's money? Try saving a little first. Use these cost-cutting steps to increase efficiency, consume consciously, and add bucks to the practice's bottom line.
Raring for a raise? Hungry for a new piece of equipment or even a cozy chair for the break room? It may well be within your grasp—if you're willing to pinch a few pennies to help your practice owners get there.
So where do you start? You can use last year's expense totals to evaluate the areas where you can cut costs this year. Then consider these tips. As you reduce expenses, keep in mind that your clinic's goal is to provide excellent client service and practice high-quality medicine. So never skimp on anything that improves client satisfaction or patient care.
Once you've developed your list of cost-cutting strategies, share your ideas with your practice's management team. Remember, the more thorough your suggestions, the more likely your ideas will be accepted. Let's get started.
1. Capture all charges.
Avoid giving discounts, and monitor the ones you give closely. Your services are valuable, and your billing statements shouldn't reflect your affinity for certain clients or pets with reduced charges. You may also suggest your managers bundle related charges to ensure clients pay for the personnel, equipment, medication, and overhead that each visit requires. Capturing just $10 more on half of your invoices could add $77,000 to your bottom line.
2. Embrace technology.
Ask for clients' permission to send reminders by e-mail or text message. Of course, you'll want to review your phone service plan for the costs associated with text messages first. But chances are, they're less than the cost of postcards and postage.
Paying bills online and cutting those postage costs also can save your practice a chunk of change over time. If your bank doesn't offer free online banking and bill payment, switch to one that does.
3. Boost your efficiency.
You may not need to add or fill a part-time position if existing team members can each assume a responsibility associated with the empty position. Or perhaps you can uncover a new tool in your practice management software and teach your team to use it. Which technician places catheters perfectly every time? Enlist her to share her technique with the team. Thoroughly train team members so they'll master your practice's procedures and protocols sooner, which equals less work and better job satisfaction for the whole team.
4. Plant a tree.
A tree on the south side of your building can provide shade in the summer and protect from snow and wind in the winter. While it may cost several hundred dollars up front to purchase and plant the tree, your practice can save up to 30 percent on cooling and 25 percent on heating costs each year.
5. Welcome new team members.
Every employee can be an asset, and when you fully incorporate each team member, you'll see the savings in productivity, overtime pay, and training costs. Remember, every time a team member leaves, it costs the practice about $22,360, according to Well-Managed Practice Study estimates. Help train and mentor new team members to build good working relationships, reduce turnover, and keep morale high. Contribute to a positive work environment and show co-workers how they make a difference in clients' and patients' lives.
6. Ask for discounts.
Many vendors and sales representatives will give early payment discounts between 1 percent and 10 percent if you ask.
7. Collect at checkout.
Your ability to garner 100 percent of clients' bills diminishes with every passing day. And after 90 days, it's safe to assume unpaid bills are uncollectible.
8. Research service plans.
Can you bundle your phone and Internet service? Or switch your cell phone service package to a plan with rollover minutes or a shared plan? And make sure you're only paying for one long-distance service. You can save up to $1,700 each year.
9. Reduce electricity use.
Install motion-sensing lights and exhaust fans in offices and rest rooms. Leaving lights on 12 hours a day can add up to $200 to your utility bill annually. And remove active screen savers. Computers must operate on full power to run an activated screen saver. Instead, set the computer to sleep or standby mode.
10. Swap water systems.
Replace your water cooler with a water filtration system and save up to $345 a year per cooler. Or substitute an Energy Star-rated model for your current water cooler. A standard hot and cold bottled water cooler can consume more energy than a standard refrigerator, while Energy Star-qualified water coolers use about half the energy of conventional models.
11. Clean with towels.
Don't use gauze pads to clean up messes—no matter how convenient. Using gauze to clean up two credit card-sized spills a day can cost your practice $430 per year.
12. Use coffee mugs.
Eliminate the cost and mess of paper cups by using extra mugs from home or thrift stores. And use the air dry feature on your practice dishwasher to minimize electricity use.
A step further
To cut costs on a grander scale, ask your utility company to perform a free energy audit on your building. Some cheap quick fixes, like adding weather stripping, may help you save big on utility bills.
Also watch inventory levels and expiration dates to help prevent outages and avoid rush delivery charges. It's also a good idea to limit the quantity of food displayed in your reception areas. This will help minimize any losses from ill-mannered pets and light-fingered clients.
With these efforts, your practice can save as much as $62,000 a year. So start cutting now and see where the savings take you.
Leslie A. Mamalis, MBA, MSIT, is a consultant with Summit Veterinary Advisors in Littleton, Colo., a firm that seeks to make veterinarians more successful, both personally and professionally. Please send comments to email@example.com