What owners and associates see differently


When it comes to service, associates may think owners see the world through rose-colored glasses. But in general, you may all be more alike than you think.

Do you ever feel like you're speaking a foreign language? That would explain that bewildering conversation you had with your boss this morning. Or that staff meeting last week.

Before you succumb to the temptation to blame a younger generation or to donate the practice owner to the fossil section of the natural history museum, consider this: You want basically the same things. You just need to work together to achieve them.

Picking the career path

More than 50 percent of all respondents to the 2005

Veterinary Economics

Job Satisfaction and Professional Outlook Study say that if they had to pick only one reason for having chosen veterinary medicine, it'd be a desire to work with and care for animals. And down the line, students, associates, and practice owners answered similarly. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1 : Why do people choose veterinary medicine?

When asked to pick multiple reasons, though, some interesting differences pop up. For example, associates were less likely to attribute their choice to gaining honor, respect, and a good income. Students felt the draw of a stable career and a desire to help people more than associates and owners did. And more owners say they were influenced by a friend or relative in the profession than any other group.

A side note: Your staff members also picked veterinary practice because they love animals and want to care for them. And they stick around to achieve that goal, even in the face of remarkable obstacles. An April 2005 survey conducted by VetMedTeam.com, an online community and team-training center, showed that when asked if their salary was enough (without excessive spending on luxury items) to allow them to live financially stress free, 55 percent of respondents say no, but they plan to stay in the field anyway. Now that's loyalty.

Of course, that doesn't mean you shouldn't pay your employees well. In fact, you want to compensate them fairly—monetarily and otherwise—to attract and keep the best staff members. (See "Team Pay: How Do You Measure Up".)

Figure 2 : Owners and associates value different skills

What's age got to do with it?

Age may have nothing to do with work ethic and performance. Despite broadly circulated stereotypes regarding younger workers, an October 2003 Gallup Poll dispelled myths, such as they have a short attention span, demand flexibility, and aren't loyal employees.

More than four in five workers 18 to 29 years old say they have a strong sense of loyalty. And these generation Xers and Yers report being as satisfied with their supervisors as older workers. Across the board, these younger-generation workers' responses are in line with 30- to 49-year-olds and those 50 and over when it comes to hours worked and job satisfaction.

Of course, that doesn't mean that associates and owners will always see eye to eye. Associates responding to the AVMA-Pfizer Business Practices Study, conducted by Brakke Consulting Inc., score practices lower on atmosphere, wait time, and service compared to owners. (See Figure 3.)

Figure 3 : Do owners sport rose-colored glasses?

Yet, despite these differences, owners, associates, and staff members share a common goal. You're all dedicated to caring for pets and helping people, which should make those difficult communication moments easier to handle.

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