Satellites need communication with the mother ship

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Communication failures between facilities lead to disconnect and tension.

When our practice opened its first satellite clinic eight years ago, some of our employees struggled with "lost in space" syndrome. Communication failures led to disconnect and tension. To remedy these problems, we implemented these six items:

1. Newsletter. We fax it to all locations and e-mail it to staff members who request it. We give a quiz about the content during our monthly team meetings.

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2. Monthly team meetings. Receptionists, technicians, care and boarding staff, the marketing team, and doctors hold individual team meetings.

3. Core management meetings. A spokesperson from each team brings their team's proposals to a monthly managers' meeting at the satellite location. Managers at that location either approve the proposals or suggest other solutions.

4. "Company-wide" management meetings. Managers from the entire "company" meet weekly to discuss issues pertaining to the budget or policies.

5. Teleconferencing. All locations call into a conference number and log into a Web site so that everyone can see and hear the monthly "company-wide" meeting.

6. Changing places. Some staff members didn't view employees elsewhere as coworkers. Because of our hours of operation, we have more than one receptionist. Instead of hiring a part-time receptionist to work only at the satellite, we send a receptionist from our main location to work the remaining shift there. We also try to give our satellite employees the chance to work at the main location, unless it's cost-prohibitive or the employee lives too far away.

The bottom line: Without good communication, it's a lonely and frustrating orbit.

Angie Hartin is the assistant practice manager at Hawthorne Animal Hospital in Glen Carbon, Ill.

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