Start your veterinary New Year's resolutions now

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Don't wait until January to decide on the ways you want your practice to shine in 2015.

It's that time of year again when the days get shorter and shorter, and for practice owners that means it's strategic planning season for hospitals-a time to look back at the year and pinpoint successes and failures as well as look ahead and set goals with corresponding plans of action.

I admit, I often get into planning for the "New Year" mode once the New Year is already here. The problem with Dec. 31 planning is that means it's as late as March or April when we'll really get working on changes. Sure, it may never be too late to get started, but when you're trying to impact goals for each quarter, it definitely puts you behind the eight ball when you get a late start. Psychologically, the New Year breeds new hope, and it's nice if you can get off to a fast start for the year versus playing catch-up. Like with most things, planning ahead helps.

Big on plans, short on outcomes

Unfortunately, some of our strategic plans wind up like most New Year's resolutions-full of good intentions, ideas and goals, but never get off the ground. Don't feel bad. We all get busy, change is hard, and the excuses go on. I'm guilty too, but this year I'm planning to do things differently. Dumb luck is a thing of the past-to succeed today practice owners need to take management seriously. Our planning stages are being completed during the last quarter of this year versus the beginning of the New Year. We want to be able to start out of the gates strong so we have time to clearly communicate our goals and objectives to the whole team.

Your key goals for 2015

Now is the time to dig deep and take into account what will make your practice thrive in the New Year. Pick key areas that will make a difference to your practice: training, new equipment or renovations. For us, a key area this time is focusing on pets with other services due. The challenge is, when making an appointment for one pet, we don't always remember to ask about other household pets that might be due for services.

Our efforts are really succeeding now that we have a protocol to gain consistency in this area. Our new protocol requires us to ask clients about their other pets at three different junctures: 1) when they make an appointment, 2) during an examination (the technician and doctor ask about other pets that are due and prompt them to get them current), and 3) during check-out. We also have a code in the practict software now to signal that we've asked about possible past-due pets.

As I move into my 50s, I realize that if I want my practices to do well and have value when it's time to retire. What are those key areas in your practice, your team or your own leadership that could really push the needle in 2015? What have you put off because you need a plan before you start? Now's the time. Make the plan. And make 2015 a great one.

Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Dr. Jeff Rothstein, MBA, is president of the Progressive Pet Animal Hospitals and Management Group in Michigan.

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