A successful practice, Brock-style

May 13, 2016
Bo Brock, DVM

Bo Brock, DVM, owns Brock Veterinary Clinic in Lamesa, Texas. His latest book is Crowded in the Middle of Nowhere: Tales of Humor and Healing From Rural America.

Practice personality is in the hands of the practice owner, and Ive embraced my approach: prosperous inefficiency.

It dawned on me last week that I've been practicing this fine profession for half of my life. I'm 52 years old, and I've been practicing for 26 of those years. I've owned my clinic in Lamesa since I was 28. Sheesh … I had no idea what I was doing back then.

I've spent most of my time trying to learn how to make animals happy and very little time trying to learn how to run a business. Part of it was because I hate business and financial things. My mentor, Dr. Deyhle, came and spent a few days at my practice. His parting words as he got in his pickup to leave were, “Big Doctor (what he always called me), your prosperity has masked your inefficiency.”

I've been blessed during my years of practice to be able to visit and be a part of many veterinary clinics. It's always amazed me that each has such a different personality-and such varied ways of doing the same thing. Some run a tight ship, while others seem relaxed and spontaneous. But how that particular practice operates is a direct reflection of the person or people who own it.

Dr. Emily, a former intern who spent two years with us, went on to an internal medicine residency at a veterinary college. Her position put her in contact with many students, and one of them asked about an internship at Brock Vet Clinic in Lamesa. Dr. Emily smiled and told the student that our practice was wonderful. But what she said next made me scratch my head and ponder the result of all of my years of practice with no guidance on how to run a business.

“If you're looking for structure, that place isn't gonna work!” she said. Evidently Emily knew this student depended on an organized, structured regimen.

When I first heard this, it kinda hurt my feelings. I wondered just what she could possibly mean … no structure. It seems to me that we have fun and laugh almost all day. Animal care and happiness are our top priorities. We help each other out, and we arrive early and stay late. We try to keep owners updated on treatments and prognoses. We often see 100 animals a day, and none of the owners complain about waiting time or a lack of sincerity. We stay current on the latest procedures and do our best to educate owners and referring veterinarians on what's best for the patients.

As I thought about it, it occurred to me that we've accomplished those goals. But it also occurred to me that I'd never put forth a structured plan on how to get them done-it just seemed to happen.

When a new employee or veterinarian joins our practice, my words to them are always they same. It's brief and to the point, but they truly give no structure. I simply point up and say, “That's the direction we're going. If you want to come with us, great. But if you weigh us down or pull us down, I'll get rid of you.”

Maybe that doesn't outline exactly how a person continually strives to be better, but too many details and micromanagement from authority squelches a person's creativity. I'd rather someone assign me goal and let me figure out how to get there with occasional guidance than to be told every step of what I have to do.

It just reminds me that there's “a way” to do almost anything, and “the way” to do almost nothing. It's part of what makes being an owner of a veterinary clinic such fun.