Good employees, those with the work ethic and constructive attitude needed to make your practice prosper, must not be infected with Apartment-Car Syndrome.
The Chinese have a curse that speaks directly to our profession. It's "May you have an interesting life." The only one likely to enjoy many changes in their life is likely to be a wet baby! Well, baby ... get used to it! The only constant you can depend on these days is that tomorrow is going to screw up your just stabilized outlook on yesterday.
The next decade will be a roller coaster ride as our profession tries to decide its role in society. There will be 48 percent more practicing veterinarians by 2010 and only 10 percent more pets to heal. The other day, a puppy was presented "to be fixed." The veterinarian asked the client ... "Where is it broken?"
I really don't have to ask that question about our profession. It is breaking up, day by day! Our hallowed AVMA might not want to admit it, for as much as we have that is good about our careers, too much has changed during the last few years, and much of it is for the worse.
This, of course, is my privately held opinion and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the sponsors, this publication or any other member of the editorial staff. There may be some readers who like having to pay their staff peanuts, their newly graduated associates at a rate no self-respecting truck driver would work for. They may enjoy paying themselves so much less than a plumber would earn that it does not allow for a decent rate of return on their investment in land, building and equipment, and it makes little sense when compared to the average retirement benefits of government employees.
It should come as no surprise that the American public has spoken. It has declared that ovariohysterectomies and vaccinations are now commodities ... cheap or else.
Just when we had begun to adjust to the "I don't want to pay you for what you know, just for what you do" attitude, corporate giants are about to pounce on what used to be the economic backbone of American veterinary practice.
Very recent AAHA studies declared that our success is proportional to the number and degree of training of our staff. When did that become news?
We begin with our practice staff; how to get 'em and how to keep 'em. After 23 years of mistakes and minor miracles of hiring, firing and just plain tiring turnover, I've collected a bunch of staff goodies and shared these goodies with some 340 private consulting practices.
From time to time, they've been shared with the 3,170 subscribers to my private publication Veterinary Productivity (see http://veterinaryproductivity.com). It is now time to tell the rest of the story and offer these insights to the masochists who read this column.
Rating your present staff on a scale of one to 10 for attitude and productivity is almost a waste of time for those under 60, as you probably don't remember back to the time when a 10 was really a 10. Just as the government of this great United States of A took "prime" meat away from us and upgraded all the lower cuts by instantly changing "mediocre" to "Choice." and choice to the new "Prime", workers like your father and mother worked with are as extinct as the giant tree sloth. What was an eight is now called a 10 and so on merrily down the stream.
When dad worked half a day, he was talking about 12 hours! The last "10" retired with the nickel cup of coffee! That doesn't make it wrong, just realize that new reality is in the eyes of the contemporary beholder who also spends 6.25 hours a day at home watching cable for $40-$60/ month while complaining that they cannot afford quality veterinary services! Walk past a swimming hole in Arkansas or a swimming pool in New York City. GenX observers are disgusted with all the old has-beens using up all the good spots wearing swimming suits that went out with the vinyl record, while the retired crowd can barely stomach the wild bunch running, or is it ruining, around in bathing suits that could be substituted for dental floss.
Well, heck! Go ahead and make a list and put a number one to 10 next to everyone's name anyway. Realize than 10s are rarer than dog breeders who are good clients. The exceptions shine like solar flares. Eights and nines are what you seek and hold dearly, but not so dearly as to elicit sexual harassment charges. Others rating from one to seven are never-ever to be given additional compensation, hoping that they will voluntarily exit your hallowed halls to be replaced by much, much better.
Let's adapt Pareto's principle? Twenty percent of the workers do 80 percent of the work. We need to search out and hire only those 20 percent! Just think you could increase employee output by 400 percent! Stop trying to find time to do the job right the second time!
Employers who pay peanuts get only monkeys and elephants to work for them. Monkeys are cute. They occasionally do something really well, but more often than not, that is offset by chaos, as monkeys are seldom toilet trained. They leave organic debris all over the hospital. Elephants are big lumbering creatures who just occupy space and eat you out of payroll house and home. There might be some ivory in their bones, but they let you know that trying to harvest their ivory gets you sanctioned by every environmental impact and conservation agent in the hemisphere. Good employees, those with the work ethic and constructive attitude needed to make your practice prosper, must not be infected with Apartment-Car Syndrome. They have to simultaneously be able to afford a roof over their heads and reliable transportation to get them to work. Sharing an apartment is like playing Byelorussian Roulette. On which spin of the bullet chamber will the roommate du jour depart the scene leaving your devoted staff member with the entire rent to pay.
Isn't this exciting? Next month, we're going to discuss finding gems in the garbage. Going boldly where we should have been going before. Seeking out competent human beings to share our mission of providing mercy and compassion to the fine finned, furred and feathered fellows of this planet Urth. What? This isn't Urth? Well, back to the star charts!
Dr. Snyder, a well-known consultant, publishes Veterinary Productivity, a newsletter for practice productivity and is available for in-practice consultation. He can be reached at 2895 SW Bear Paw Trail, Palm City, FL 34990; (800) 292-7995; email@example.com; FAX (772) 220-4355.