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Your reputation precedes you


Your practice's reputation is crucial. Make sure clients are hearing good things.

It's not easy to maintain a sterling reputation. Clients expect mistake-free service, and the Internet gives them a convenient place to sound off when something goes wrong. Here are a few suggestions for how you can keep your practice's good name intact.

Start at the top. No matter what the core values of the practice are—a commitment to excellence, kindness, courtesy, ethics, or punctuality—you, the doctor, must lead by example and exhibit these values. "You must decide what you stand for and then align every one of your systems to reinforce it," says John Young, retired human resources executive of the Four Seasons hotel chain.

Hire the best people and keep them happy. When a practice becomes known for being the best, the best people want to work there. What's more, they want to stay on the job. The better your practice's reputation, the better the candidates you'll see for open positions.

Upgrade your image. The old adage says you can't judge a book by its cover, but clients and referring veterinarians will do just that. If they see a rundown hospital and out-of-date equipment, they may question your commitment to excellence.

Exceed clients' expectations. When asked about their experience, clients whose expectations for high-quality care and personal service have been exceeded talk in glowing terms about the practice and the people in it. Needless to say, this requires a complete team effort.

Investor Warren Buffett once said, "It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently." In other words, it's a constant battle to maintain a stellar reputation, so make sure your team never lets up in providing outstanding service to both patients and clients.

Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Bob Levoy is the author of 222 Secrets of Hiring, Managing, and Retaining Great Employees in Healthcare Practices (Jones and Bartlett, 2007).

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