Veterinary practice owners gather to talk shop


Members of this Detroit-area management group see area practices as support-not competition

You probably have a lot of competition in your area. There's that practice down the street or on the other side of town. Are things feeling a little lonely in your corner of the world? Ever wish you had a sounding board, or could talk to another veterinary practice owner who has been there, done that? Maybe you should take another look at your friendly area competition. Chances are, they're lonely too.

A group of Detroit area practice owners has embraced their competition and formed a group 40 years in the making. They meet monthly to talk about whatever's on their minds, from practice finances and staffing issues to client relations. At the most recent meeting, members of the Macomb-Oakland Management (MOMs) group discussed the hard economic times in Michigan. As they talked, these practitioners shared their concerns freely, not worried about dishing too much information to their competitors.

They shared their successes with the group and how the results were obtained. Members also discussed "undesirable" end results and brainstormed how things might have been done differently. "The success of the group is based on the premise that we're not competitors," says Dr. David Whitten, owner of Hilldale Veterinary Hospital in Farmington Hills, Mich. "We're fellow professionals with a sense of abundance, not scarcity."

The group's history dates back through several generations of veterinary practice owners. The MOMs group formed in the 1960s with a handful of owners who went to lunch together regularly. Before emergency services were available, these doctors covered for each other's practices on the weekends and during vacations. They enjoyed each other's company and a trust developed. And the group has been meeting ever since.

A sense of informality allows members to focus on the issues at hand and not on the day-to-day dealings of managing a group. There's no written set of rules; however, there are a few understandings. There's no voting and no initiation process. There are no officers except for a treasurer. A yearly membership fee covers the group's administration costs. New members are invited at any time, but 25 members seems to be the ideal size.

During meetings, the group speaks freely on any topic. Monthly speakers bring varying topics and new ideas to the group, and whenever a member attends a seminar or CE session, he or she shares the notes. Before the Internet, the group mailed notes back and forth in a large envelope every month. Now members e-mail each other with questions, articles of interest, surveys, and so on, sometimes as often as twice a day.

The group's success and longevity stems directly from its members-some have been in the group for more than 35 years. "We enjoy and celebrate each other's ideas," Dr. Whitten says. "By sharing the best management and medicine ideas, we hope to improve our practice's quality and financial position."

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