Positioning your veterinary practice as a community leader

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Becoming the preferred veterinary practice in your community can be a long, but rewarding journey

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If you ask most practice managers what they would do to become the go-to clinic in their area, many will center their answer around being able to provide exceptional care to patients. While that's partly true, and exceptional care is crucial for any practice to succeed, it doesn't paint the full picture of what needs to be done behind the scenes to build a practice that is well-known and well-respected. As a practice owner for over 30 years, I've learned exactly what priorities and actions are most impactful for becoming your community's obvious choice for veterinary care.

It all starts with your mission and culture

When sharing my thoughts on practice management, the importance of a practice’s mission is always one of the topics I discuss most, and not without good reason — a strong mission is the cornerstone of any successful veterinary practice.

Every practice should have a strong mission that represents what they do in their clinic every day. When you position your mission as the central truth of your practice, you're able to make informed, strategic decisions that support your values and create alignment across your entire organization.

Within a veterinary practice, culture is how the team plays in our sandbox. Culture should be palpable when clients walk into any business and sets the tone for the behavior in the practice, from how employees interact with each other to how your team shares themselves with your clients. It defines how we hire, how we train, and sometimes how we must fire.

The right staff

At the Drake Center, we ensure that every member of our team, from the front desk staff to our surgical team, embodies the values of kindness, respect, teamwork, and fun. Hiring individuals who resonate with our mission and actively contribute to a positive work culture has created an environment where excellence and collaboration are expected. We’ve always preferred to hire people who believe in our mission and fit our culture, and then we train for the skills needed for them to thrive in their role.

Alignment and consistency

Consistency within a veterinary practice is critical. From the way receptionists respond to phone calls to the medications and treatments doctors recommend, clients should be able to expect the same level of service and quality of information they receive from every member of the team. When everyone in your practice is on the same page and working with the same clear vision, it reflects in the quality of care you provide.

Practical tips for aligning your practice

Alignment may seem like a simple concept, but it takes a lot of thoughtful and intentional action to achieve.

  • Schedule recurring monthly management meetings with key leadership figures from every team to discuss your practice's alignment. Every team should be represented at these meetings to get the most input on how to best align your entire team. For example, the owner, practice manager, associates, front lead, and a technician lead, should attend, as these individuals support the mission, embody the culture, are positive and want to serve the team, patients, and client.
  • Be mentally and physically present at these meetings by bringing issues to discuss and new ideas to facilitate better alignment.
  • Take the insights gained from these meetings and begin taking steps towards better alignment, even if that means just bringing the discussion from your monthly meetings to larger staff meetings to be addressed.

The most important takeaway from these steps is the need for a designated system to address misalignment on your team. If you don't take a systemized approach, then you will just constantly have an unaligned practice with lots of issues that go unresolved.

Making your expertise and care accessible

A crucial, yet often overlooked element of becoming the lead veterinary practice in your community is accessibility. What good are your culture, services, and expertise when clients can't access them?

Availability

Being available when your clients need you is paramount, and this is why physical availability should be a top priority for every practice. This means having flexible hours that accommodate different schedules and ensuring that your practice can handle emergencies. If your practice has grown to a size that can support it, consider being open 7 days a week. This level of availability can set you apart from other practices that might be booked weeks in advance.

Website and social media

Practice owners must understand the importance of quality websites and social media profiles for connecting with clients. These platforms serve as the first point of contact for potential clients and provide valuable information when you are unavailable. A great website should be robust, interactive, and reflective of your practice's values and services. Your social media channels can also help build meaningful client relationships.

Be a resource for your community

Becoming the go-to veterinary practice in your community doesn't happen overnight; it takes a lot of effort and commitment on the part of every staff member at a veterinary practice.

So, start reflecting on what you and your team can do to work toward becoming a well-aligned and mission-driven practice, and the rest will fall into place.

Michele Drake, DVM, CVA, is the owner of The Drake Center for Veterinary Care in Encinitas, California, a 10-doctor, 55-employee hospital that consistently outperforms competitors and industry averages because of Drake’s passion for embracing change and new technologies. She has served on committees and advisory boards for the University of California, American Animal Hospital Association, Novartis, and more. Drake completed her DVM at the University of Missouri and founded The Drake Center in 1992. She also serves as the chief veterinary officer for GeniusVets. Michele can be reached via email at michele@geniusvets.com.

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