Your new veterinary facility is done! Now what?

December 7, 2017
Sarah Mouton Dowdy
Sarah Mouton Dowdy

Sarah Mouton Dowdy, a former associate content specialist for dvm360.com, is a freelance writer and editor in Kansas City, Missouri.

OKyou can remove the hard hat now, but dont get too relaxed. More change may be ahead.

Shutterstock.comIf you're just settling into a brand-new veterinary hospital or one that is newly remodeled or renovated, you're probably scrambling for novel ways to spend more money and institute more change. (Do I hear nervous laughing … or maybe crying?)

Don't forget why you faced all of this construction in the first place.

While a new or updated facility is a part of your branding, it isn't why you exist, Conrad says. And he speaks from experience. After his hospital won the Veterinary Economics Hospital of the Year award in 2001, Conrad made the mistake of spending the next few years with an advertising focus on the shiny new building instead of the compassionate and expert care taking place within its walls.

“We were so proud of that building and our awards that we wanted the world to know,” Conrad admits. “Luckily, we rediscovered ourselves in 2004.”

In all seriousness, now that your building is taken care of, your product offerings, staff and processes may need some tweaks as your business grows, says Veterinary Economics Hospital Design Conference speaker Brian Conrad, CVPM. He's a hospital manager and current president of the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association, who has moved to a new space and lived to tell the tale (mistakes and all). By responsibly and thoughtfully responding to needs that arise in this new environment, Conrad says you can avoid mismanaging finances and people.

With more space can come more products.  

Does your new space allow you to provide more products? This can be great, says Conrad, but it can get out of hand quickly.

“Your old facility may have been small enough to use the shake-and-order inventory system (i.e. shake the medicine bottle and reorder when low),” Conrad says. “But you are now going to have to redefine your turns, redefine the lines you wish to carry, and implement new and tighter controls regarding the misuse of supplies and shrinkage (loss or theft of product).”

If you want to expand your product offerings, Conrad says your new facility may qualify for introductory offers with several manufacturing and distribution companies.

“Some of these deals can be very lucrative,” says Conrad. “Others are a waste of time and money. For example, something tells me you don't need a year's worth of cast material, but maybe I don't know your practice well enough. Know which products and supplies have the greatest turn rate in your hospital and use that as a guideline. Evaluate all of the offers and take advantage of the ones that will have the highest return on your investment.”

Whenever doing bulk buys of any kind, Conrad stresses the importance of ensuring you first have controls in place to manage the large quantities arriving, as only a couple of misplaced units can wipe out your savings.

Is it a staffing issue or a process problem? Maybe both.

Conrad went from a 1,700-square-foot facility to one that was nearly 7,000 square feet during his hospital's move, so it's not surprising that he ended up hiring more staff. You may find yourself in a similar position.

“This is normal,” says Conrad, “but make sure that a need is truly a need and not just a want. When we moved, we did have a need for more staff, but we also had staff wanting more staff. Our payroll escalated to an embarrassing percent of gross, and yet doctors and team members kept requesting more staff, saying that they were overworked and shorthanded. Our payroll skyrocketed because we just kept hiring in order to put a staff Band-Aid on the problems, but we weren't addressing the main problem: our processes.”

Don't assume that what worked in your old facility will work in the new one, Conrad says. You may need to find a new “normal.”

“Take your outpatient wellness exam and vaccine visit for instance,” Conrad says. “Have you taken the time to write down how the process works in your new space? Who does what? Who is responsible for what? How long does each part of the visit take? The time you spend evaluating processes and training staff will have a direct bearing on your client experience. Without a positive and returnable client experience, your new and fashionable building won't do you any good.”

All of these changes will require homework and thorough staff communication to determine your new facility's needs and how to best meet them. This is no small task, but it is a critical one if you want to make the most of your investment.