Three failures block economic success


The turbulent times following September 11 have added an increasingly oppressive burden to already economically stressed veterinary practices.

The turbulent times following September 11 have added an increasinglyoppressive burden to already economically stressed veterinary practices.

With a recession all but a fact, many of our colleagues are seeing a10-30 percent decrease in the number of transactions. There has been a 3percent net increase in the number of practicing veterinarians each yearalong with a zilch point zilch increase in the number of dogs and cats inour country since 1995.

Do the math! In the last five years alone, that's 15 percent fewer patientsfor each practicing veterinarian before the downturn in the economy.

Layoffs since 9/11 have exceeded the population of Atlanta (412,000).Mr. and Mrs. PetOwner's confidence in the security of their employment hasbeen shattered. Their wallets have all but zippered shut. They are afraidto spend their dollars on anything but essentials and that, dear reader,does not necessarily include many of the services that we provide for theirpets.

See the light?

However, there is a light at the end of our tunnel. There exists in yourpractice, a core of sensitive caring people to whom their pets form a supportgroup, getting them through the most trying times of life. These clientsrepresent 25-55 percent of our client base and to these people, the careof their pets is not discretionary but integral to their lifestyle. Thiscore of pet dedicated clients provides 95-100 percent of our profits. Yes,the numbers are correct! The other 45 percent of the clients who come in0.87 times per year, add practically nothing (5 percent) to our profit picture.They cost you more time and aggravation than they provide in income.

When the appointment book shows empty lines, it is the barely productivelowest 45 percent that bear the no-shows. Were we able to reduce our overheadby the same 45 percent we would have no deflection of the bottom line. However,most practitioners have built an infrastructure based on the totality ofproductive and non-productive clients. We are overstaffed just to deal withthose who want only the absolute minimum of services. We can talk untilour faces turn blue. This segment of our practice will never do what youknow needs to be done.

What has been considered a nationwide shortage of veterinary staff is,in fact, a usually unsuccessful attempt to spread the same number of staffneeded to care for the pets of caring clients over an almost equal numberof non-productive clients as well.

The usual outcome is psychic stress compounded by excess turnover asgood staff members realize that you are trying to do the impossible andthat is simply "trying to please everybody."

The solution today is so simple it appears to elude most practitioners-toomany of today's practitioners fail in three ways to provide for their owneconomic success.

First failure

The first most common failure is that every patient does not receivethe complete and thorough physical examination that we were trained to givewhile in our fourth year of veterinary school. Out the window has gone theophthalmoscopic exam. Few patients are ever checked for glaucoma despitenew instrumentation making it simple. Auscultation of the heart has becomea 12-second Olympic event. Dental probes are used in less than 10 percentof our practices as colleagues try to cram four examinations into each hourand consequently squeeze out the profits to be found treating lesions missedin haste.

Second failure

Our second common failure is to communicate successfully to our clientsour findings of pathology in their pets and the inevitable and consequentfuture suffering and loss of longevity to be endured for fear of negativeevaluation for being too thorough.

Third failure

The third failure is to structure our fees to be appropriate for themission. Our current fees do not provide for the proper compensation ofcompetent associates and staff. Our present fees do not provide for thecontinuous upgrade of technology required. Our present fees do not allowfor both education of our children and substantial pension funds. Our presentfees do not allow for as much vacation as a private in our military forcesreceives as his or her due.

What would you do if you suddenly discovered that syringes were no longerbeing manufactured? You would take the utmost care of your existing stock,providing meticulous inspection to make certain that you found every minordefect to keep that defect from ruining that syringe. Why should you behavedifferently with each client and patient in a world of declining transactions.

Think really hard about the three common failures above and strive tofind a way to overcome those that you feel may be reducing your own chancesof a great future in a great profession.

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