Even if your practice doesn't need to be rescued, wouldn't it be nice to have these three management angels in your corner?
To be successful in any business, you need to surround yourself with individuals who have the expertise you lack. No one's an expert in everything, you know. You've heard it before, but the true test of intelligence is whether you can admit how little you really know.
Mark Opperman, CVPM
You need at least three advisors—an accountant, a lawyer, and a management consultant. Together these people possess the skills and knowledge to help your practice succeed. True, building a business team may not be as glamorous as taking orders from a mysterious man named Charlie. But taking this step will help you reach your goals for your business.
This big step is the one most practices are least familiar with. Ask any advisor you're considering hiring about his or her:
Accountants will provide an letter that puts their services and the associated costs in writing. Never hire an accountant without this. Some advisors will provide you with an engagement letter that also states the scope of work to be provided and the associated costs. Visit vetecon.com and click on Web Exclusives to download a sample engagement letter.
You have to be reasonable about this, but you also don't want to get into a sticky situation with no help. So talk to advisors about these kinds of scenarios up front.
An attorney may suggest you try to work out a legal problem yourself or go into arbitration instead of filing a lawsuit. A consultant will not come in and hire your healthcare team, but he or she will teach you and your management team how to hire well.
More than a tax man
So, the best approach to service is the constructive service approach: Your advisors do what they do best and teach your team to do the rest. Your advisors should leverage themselves effectively, providing you with the best value for your dollar.
You can also check with other business professionals in your area who are using the services of these individuals. Request and contact references provided by your potential advisors. After all, you're going to be listening to and following their advice and you need to be able to trust them.
When you're hiring, ask how many veterinary clients the advisor has worked with and check references. There are many accountants and consultants who specialize in the veterinary profession and, although they may charge a little more, they're typically worth it. When hiring a lawyer, look for expertise in the area in which you need assistance.
If the advisor is veterinary-exclusive, ask about which meetings he or she attends. A conference can be an ideal opportunity to meet with potential advisors. With current technology, you can get excellent service from professionals located almost anywhere in the country. But it's nice to see them in person once in awhile, and the national meetings are an ideal opportunity to do so.
There are hundreds of examples of how good advisors have helped practices make remarkable turnarounds. I'll just start you off with three:
We implemented the business plan with great success and the new owners are amazed at their new practice. The practice income almost doubled in three years and they enjoy the new work environment. This is a perfect example of how a consultant can help an owner realize his or her dream.
After she was fired, she went to the state labor board and cited the practice for wrongful discharge. The practice manager, thinking she had an open and shut case, didn't seek legal counsel and attended the hearing without representation. The team member had counsel. The board found in favor of the fired employee because the practice was unable to present its case. Most of the evidence wasn't accepted into court because the practice manger didn't know the proper procedures.
A legal eagle
The practice then hired a lawyer, and six months and $6,000 later, it won a reversal. If this practice had retained representation in the first place, it probably wouldn't have had to go through all the time and expense of a reversal.
Depending on what those projections show, you may choose to purchase a new piece of equipment and take advantage of IRS code section 179, which allows for advanced depreciation. Or you might fund your retirement account or even change the type of retirement vehicle you're now using.
An expert with a business edge
The accountant may advise you to open a 529 account for your kids, put your spouse on the payroll, or prepay bills. The point is, many of these tax savings strategies can't be used once the year has ended—they need to be taken care of before December 31.
You'll benefit, too. So get these professionals in your corner right away.
Veterinary Economics Hospital Management Editor Mark Opperman, CVPM, is owner of VMC Inc., a veterinary consulting firm in Colorado. Send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org