It's tempting to slash your CE budget during lean times-don't do it. In fact, consider sendng the whole team.
These days your practice revenue is being challenged on every front and you're doing all you can to control costs. You may tighten the belt when it comes to CE for staff and doctors because it saves your pocketbook without directly impacting the team's earnings. Yes—I'm guilty of using this logic too. After all, vendors offer a lot of free webinars and lunch-and-learn seminars that are great. Why pay for CE?
Well, I recently attended a seminar that wasn't free or cheap and I debated how many team members to take with me—especially because they would also be on payroll for the day. It was an important enough topic that I did take a number of employees, but as I sat there and picked up practice gems, I realized a very important lesson. Whether a seminar is for staff members or doctors, about management or medicine, not attending continuing education meetings costs more in the long run.
Here's why: Team members inevitably learn better techniques for working with clients, whether they're focusing on customer service or marketing. So if it costs me $100 or $200 per employee for the day, they'll probably make that back the first day back in the office when they treat a client better, answer the phone properly, offer a service more enthusiastically, and remember to ask the client to send referrals. We're ahead of the cost almost immediately.
When it comes to conferences, which are often more than one day and a greater investment, it's tempting to cut back and not take the whole team—I've done it. But we have to rethink this strategy. If we want more market share, we have to practice great customer care and top-notch medicine, which means team members must have the proper skills. From client communication to marketing and providing services, your teams direly need state-of-the-art training. We can keep cutting our marketing, advertising, and training budgets because it saves money up front, but this ensures that in the end our revenue will drop. If we hope to grow in today's climate then we must increase our marketing and training budgets.
Another important reality: During these challenging times when there's a lot of negativity in the profession, it's vital to keep team members enthusiastic and motivated. When my team left the seminar, we were all psyched and focused on what new ideas we needed to implement and what we needed to correct in the clinic. Just a few of those ideas were enough to cover the cost of many meetings.
Only you can determine your budget, but take some time to consider the pros and cons of continuing education. I won't be surprised if you're like me and realize, "Yes! We need more training!"
Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Dr. Jeff Rothstein, MBA, is president of Progressive Pet Animal Hospitals and Management Group in Michigan.