Team building on a budget

April 3, 2019
Kim Murray

Kim Murray is practice manager at Seville Animal Hospital, Seville, Ohio.

Following the old adage an apple a day can improve mental health, too. Try this simple and inexpensive exercise to bring your team together.

Everyone who works in a veterinary practice can attest to the fact that the hospital's atmosphere has a massive impact-good or bad-on business success. Practices that have a cohesive, collaborative team fare better in terms of staff and client satisfaction, employee retention, efficiency and revenue, while practices that don't mesh have a harder time hiring and keeping employees, and they fare much worse when it comes to client loyalty and the bottom line. That's why it's so important to make every effort to build a team that works well together. Here are some of the benefits you can expect among dynamic, bonded teams:

  • Personal growth
  • A sense of ownership
  • Financial growth for your practice and your staff
  • Less stress
  • More creativity and learning
  • Trust and caring
  • Better conflict resolution skills

There are lots of big and small things practices can do to build camaraderie among team members. Here's one team-building idea that's simple, economical and effective.

“You're a good apple”

This project, also called “family tree” for the sense of kinship it generates, is very easy to implement and costs only pennies. Here's what to do:

  • Cover your staff lounge or office door with white butcher paper (or use the back side of wrapping paper from home).
  • Draw a large tree on the paper and color it with markers or paint. 
  • Provide cut-out paper apples to each staff member (shapes can be ordered online or made by hand). Each apple should be about three inches in diameter.

Give each staff member one apple per teammate and instruct them to use the individual apples to write something nice about each person on the team. Here are some suggestions to help your team get started:

  • I appreciate it when [name] …
  • [Name] is a good apple because …
  • The one thing I admire about [name] is …
  • One of the strengths [name] brings to our team is …
  • I'm glad [name] is part of our team because …
  • [Name] shines when …
  • I can tell [name] loves his/her job because …
  • What I like most about [name] is …
  • If our pets could speak, they would say [name] is …
  • [Name] is an important part of our team because …

During a team meeting, ask everyone to read their apples out loud and place them on the tree.

Maximize your efforts

Keep your tree up for a month or so as a constant reminder to team members that they are appreciated. Repeat the project annually or, if the same staff is still with you, hang the tree once a year. This project can also help bond clients to your practice when you post your family tree in your lobby or on social media.

Kim Murray is the practice manager at Seville Animal Hospital in Seville, Ohio.