Why your team needs a retreat-and how to get one


Escape the daily drama and improve ­vision planning and team bonding with an annual practice retreat.

As veterinary practice managers, we spend a great deal of time strategizing to hit objectives that will improve patient care, client service, and teamwork. We set up protocols to increase efficiency and schedule team meetings to deal with training and simple problem solving. These day-to-day activities keep us pretty busy and sometimes push big-picture planning and team building to the side. But making time for hospital vision planning and team bonding is a must. And the best way to secure that time is by scheduling an annual retreat that your whole team, including veterinarians, attends.

What retreats do for you

Retreats leave your team stronger, happier, and more efficient. But don't just take my word for it. I asked a few of my fellow team members at Olathe Animal Hospital in Olathe, Kan., what they liked about our annual daylong retreat. Here's what they said: “It gives me a chance to get to know and bond with the other team members that I don't usually work with on a daily basis.” “We're able to make decisions and set goals as a team.” “It makes me appreciate what I do.” “It helps me to look at the whole picture.” And of course, “It's fun!”

The value of a successful retreat is that it creates a win-win situation for everyone. The collective ideas of the team generate long-term positive effects and results. A retreat also brings the team together in a common vision for the future of the practice and a goal of offering exceptional care for clients and patients. And it reminds us all why we love what we do.

Getting the boss to say yes

To reap the rewards of a retreat, you first need to get the boss's permission to hold one. When I first approached my boss, Dr. Mark Romain, he worried that a retreat meant closing the hospital for a day, losing patient revenue for that day, and spending money to hold the retreat itself.

Erase any doubt the practice owner may harbor by reminding him or her that team members are the hospital's most valuable asset. Present a list of estimated costs, and pick an educational or inspirational theme. Point out that team building pays off-literally. Connected and rejuvenated team members work together more effectively, which ultimately provides higher quality care and increased revenues.

Once the boss is on board, you'll need to plan lots of other details, including a venue and activity. Stumped for ideas or don't know quite where to begin? Click here to see a seven-step guide to organizing a retreat as well as details on a few of my favorite past retreats that included fun and learning. Now get out of your practice and get your team in on improving it.

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