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Focus on improvement in your veterinary clinic AND get your team on board without the overwhelm

Posted in Guest Blogger @ Mar 17th 2021 - By Dr Mark Matthews, Owner Kew Vet & Cattery Group & AVA VBG Veterinary Business of the Year 2020
Focus On Improvement In Your Veterinary Clinic And Get Your Team Onboard V2

Ideas on how to improve your veterinary business & increase team engagement

I get it.

As a manager or veterinary practice owner your days are busy: the phone doesn’t stop ringing, you may be seeing patients and there is always the need for problem solving on the fly. You are also probably the IT department, the HR department, the repairs and maintenance team all rolled into one.

But I bet you still want to improve your business? I also bet your staff want to improve elements of the business (their workplace) as well. 

Maybe it’s a system or process that is frustrating everyone? Maybe you have realised your customer experience has slipped in an area? Maybe you can see some in the team just don’t have the same spring in their step.  

What should you focus on?

So how do we work out what to focus on? And how do we get our team on board to achieve this without overwhelming them?

While each clinic or business will develop their own system. This is what works for us (Usually!).  

Step 1: Ask your team what is important to them.   

It's quite likely that as a veterinary practice owner or manager, your priorities for the day may be different to those of your team. However, your people on the ground are the ones who see the issues developing, feel the frustrations but also usually have the answers and solutions!   

At the Kew Vet & Cattery Group we find out what's important to our team members through the use of regular staff surveys (you can do this anonymously via online tools such as Survey Monkey) as well as open discussions at team meetings.

We also have a three monthly ‘HAT chat’ (How are things?) with each team member. Our HAT chat is a 15 minute casual chat, usually over coffee – we are in Melbourne after all.    

Step 2: Develop a Quarterly Focus for your business

Depending on the size of your business, this Quarterly Focus could be developed with your entire team, or may only involve senior staff. 

In our business, we have a leadership team for each location consisting of the owner, manager, lead vet and lead nurse who meet quarterly for a planning session. Taking into account staff feedback from our HAT Chats as well as elements from our annual strategic plan, we then develop our Quarterly Focus.    

This is a SINGLE PAGE DOCUMENT WITH THREE BULLET POINTS and once developed, it is then discussed and communicated to the team. It hangs on the wall in the staff area, next to the iPad where people clock in so it remains a constant focus every day.

The trick for a successful Quarterly Focus is to keep it to three things as in our experience, any more than that has a diminishing return.

More about the Quarterly Focus...

1. Every Quarterly Focus includes three areas:

  1. One culture thing we want to focus on.  For example, every team member will say something they are grateful for at rounds each day
  2. One patient or customer care thing we want to focus on. For example, we are going to implement post surgery pain scoring for all patients mid afternoon
  3. One process or system thing we want to work on. For example, we are implementing a new rostering or timesheet app

2. Quarterly Focus - team discussion:

We always sit down and discuss each Quartely Focus with our teams. This gives us the opportunity to answer any questions and discuss how the necessary resources and training will be provided. 

Improve your veterinary business & team engagement with HAT Chats & Quarterly FocusOur aim is to always set up our teams to succeeed. If for some reason the team doesn't agree with the focus then we listen to their concerns to determine why they don't agree.


At this meeting the team also decides how to measure success or progress for each of the focus areas. Sometimes a simple check box on the wall to see if something happened is all that is needed.

3. Regular check-ins with the team are essential:

We then regularly check-in with the team during the quarter, listen to feedback and then review each focus at the end of the three month period.

It's also important to not be afraid to admit something didn’t work and then find out why it didn't work. For example, maybe the goalposts changed, maybe a higher priority came up or maybe it was never achievable or practical in the first place.

4. Reward for success

Finally, reward your team for success as well as being adaptive to improvement and change. What is a reward or recognition? Again, ask the team to find out what they like or want. We are just in the process of surveying our team to find out how they like to be recognised and rewarded both individually and as a team. Not everyone wants cash, not everyone wants a social event. Some may prefer time off for volunteering, or a clinic donation to a chosen charity, or a group wellness or exercise session.....  You might be surprised by some of their suggestions! I have been.

This is the part where I am honest and admit that while we kept up with our HAT chats and regular feedback, our QUARTERLY FOCUS did drop off during the long Melbourne lockdown and the team noticed and missed it.   

Never fear it is coming back in 2021 due to popular demand!

About Mark

Mark Matthews is the owner of the Kew Vet & Cattery Group which was awarded the AVA VBG Veterinary Business of the Year 2020. Starting from a small single location and a team of two ten years ago, the group now comprises three small animal practices and a large cat boarding facility in Melbourne's inner suburbs employing over 40 people.

These days Mark has stepped back from the clinical work and focuses on managing the business. Mark is passionate about innovating in our industry and is constantly asking "What can we do better or differently to improve our team's experience at work, our patient experience and our customer experience?". 


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