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The 5 (easy) steps to achieving a successful veterinary practice

Posted in Operations @ Jul 17th 2016 - By Dr Diederik Gelderman, Turbo Charge Your Veterinary Practice
Success 1

Having your own ‘successful’ Veterinary practice is relatively easy

– all you need to do is to follow the right tried, true and tested formula, a simple formula which works.

What's 'success' to you?

But before we go there – let’s discuss what ‘success’ means.

For every person ‘success’ is something different. But within reason, most will agree that ‘success’ means ‘freedom’.

People feel successful when they have the freedom in their lives to do what they want;

  • To send their children to the school of their choice
  • To work as little or as much as they want and the hours they want
  • To work in a job/career that still excites, enthuses and challenges them daily
  • To not have to count every penny every day
  • To be sure that there is enough put away for a comfortable retirement

Look – I could list a lot more here, but that short list covers most of what I hear regularly.

Success in your veterinary practice is all in the formula

So let’s share a tried, true, simple and successful formula to build a SUCCESSFUL Veterinary practice.

There are FIVE (5) components that you need to get right and you need to get them right in the correct order.

Step 1 – Leader(ship)

‘The fish rots from the head down’ – you’ve heard that phrase and it’s 100% spot on the mark.

Most of the not-so-successful practices that I see are excellent at their clinical work, they have great employees but because they have poor leadership, the employees never form an effective team. Considering that as clients can’t judge us on our clinical work, they use all the ancillary ‘stuff’ to decide how good (or not so good we are) and so judge us poorly.

In 99% of cases the difference between a ‘successful’ practice and one that is not successful has NOTHING to do with clinical work or case outcomes. It's a big shame isn’t it – but it is what it is and we need to work with these facts.

Any successful business starts with effective leadership. It's not something that we were taught at University and not the starting point to a successful practice that most people would have thought of.

Sure good leaders can be ‘born’, but many more are ‘made’ – these skills can be (and should be) learned.

Leading is very different from managing. In summary, leaders look outwards. They look outward to find ways to serve the clients and patients more effectively, they innovate and are constantly looking to improve.

Concurrently, they engage the team, the clients and anyone else involved with the practice (suppliers, etc.) in the vision for the future that they are passionate about.

They engage their team to such a degree that these people too are passionate about coming to work and helping their clients and their pets – think ‘Apple’.

I could give you a lot more detail here, but I think that you’ve got the gist of this. To learn more just read; From Good to Great by Jim Collins.

BTW – managers look inward to dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s and ensuring that the systems and process are adhered to.

Step 2 – Team

Once you have the right leader at the front leading and engaging EVERYONE, then you need to have the right Team in place to service the clients and their pets.

This means the right person in the right seat on the practice ‘bus’. And all these people should be ‘A’ players.

The analogy I like is that of a sports team. Every position on the field is filled with ‘A’ players who know exactly what the game is that they are playing. They also know how to score as well as what a winning outcome is.

These team members are constantly being coached and trained so that they are constantly improving and being more. Being more for themselves, for the team and most importantly, being more for the clients and the pets.

When you get the right team-members and you lead and manage them correctly and train them, then you’ll soon have a High-Performing Team.

Step 3 – Clients

Now that you have your Awesome Team, then you can focus on your client…..

Who is your IDEAL client? Because realistically – that’s the only person you should be servicing!

Let’s be honest here. Which is the better scenario….

  • Dragging yourself out of bed in the morning, having to come to work and dreading to see Mrs A or Mr XY – they’re ok but you find it challenging to get them to look after their pets in the way that you’d like
  • Bouncing out of bed, looking forward to the day because you’ve got a great team to support you and getting to see your fabulous clients who accept the majority of your recommendations…

Once you know WHO your ideal clients are (easily accomplished if you sit down with your Team and develop your client ‘Avatar’), then you’ll know what they want, where they live, how to contact them, what they are after and most importantly HOW to get them in through your practice doors.

As I say to many practice owners; “Don’t try to be everything to everyone, because you’ll become nothing to no-one. Rather, focus on your ideal client, the one who loves you like you love them. Become everything to a very select group of clients.”

When you narrow your focus and target a small, select niche of clients and service them extraordinarily well, then your practice life will dramatically change for you.

With all the modern technology today, acquiring those ‘ideal’ clients is a simple and inexpensive process.

Step 4 – Your Programs

Programs or Systems are terms that I use interchangeably to cover the ‘process’ by which you run a Veterinary practice.

These include;

  • Dental scoring or grading system to ensure that everyone in the practice grades teeth the same way
  • Pain scoring and treatment system
  • Client care system
  • System for balancing the till at end of day
  • Process for reminding clients of important events (vaccination, revisit, etc.)
  • System for answering the phone
  • System for ‘making the invisible visible’
  • Your Critical non-Essentials system
  • Senior Pet Program
  • Dental Program
  • Obesity Program
  • Feline Friendly Program
  • etc.

There are literally 100s of these systems or programs and each one runs independently of any one person in the practice.

This means that everyone – including YOU - can go on leave, have a day off, get sick, etc. and everything will still run smoothly.

This Step 4 is one of the most important steps that you can implement in your practice to ensure that you have FREEDOM.

In fact, to ensure that EVERYONE in your practice has that FREEDOM.

People ask me; “Diederik – doesn’t this turn everyone into automatons?” Far from it – it’s actually the converse.

These systems run your practice and your people run these systems. These systems are Outcome focused and not Process focused. So everyone functions within each system with their own unique style and individuality.

Step 5 – Finances

Vets HATE this…..

Typically, they’ll look at their financials once a year with their accountant and ignore them the rest of the time. And the same goes for the practice Key Performance Indicators.

Look – I’m not saying that you should spend hours and hours poring over your financial data and your KPIs – far from it.

My big wake-up call came in 1996 and 1997 when I lost $220,000 in two years and didn’t even know it! I’d hate for you to fall into that same disastrous trap.

I see more practices suffering hugely because of poor cash-flow than from lack of profitability. That’s why you need to look at your finances on a monthly or quarterly basis.

I see so many practices where tracking and measuring and then ACTING ON some simple KPIs would allow them to become immensely more profitable. For example;

  • The average annual health check/vaccination recall rate is 50% - whereas 75% is EASILY achieved
  • The average patient recall or revisit rate is 15% whereas gold-standard contemporaneous medicine would suggest that 32% is the standard
  • The drugs/supplies bill in most practices is >27% as a percentage of gross fee income, whilst 21% is an easily achievable number.

Just focusing on these THREE data sets and ‘normalising’ them, will result in an extra $100,000 profit for most 2-3 Vet practices.

Spend just THIRTY (30) mins once a month to track and analyse this data – that’s all you need – just 30 minutes.

Do that and the FREEDOM you’re looking for will be so much closer for you.

How long does this ‘Conversion’ process take?

If you focus on implementing these five steps in your practice, you can make this happen in about 12 months.

And when you do so, you should concurrently find that your NET profit (after a fair wage to the owner) will go up to about 18%. So a single owner of a two-doctor practice tuning over about $1M, should be paid approx. $100,000 for working as a full-time Vet, then he or she should ALSO get 18% - $180,000 in profit for a TOTAL take-home wage of around $280,000, perhaps even $300,000.

You can now extrapolate these numbers to a 3, 4 or even 5 Vet practice. If you’re not taking home these sorts of figures then…..

It’s time to do something about it NOW.

So there you have it.

These are the 5 keys to gaining the freedom that you are after. None of these steps are challenging or difficult.

All you have to do now is decide whether you’re happy to continue on as you are, as you have done for the last few years….

Or is it now time to make a change?

In winding up, let me ask you a quick question…..

“If you were reading this blog post 3 years from today and you were looking back over those 3 years, what has to have happened in your life both personally and professionally, for you to feel happy with your progress?”

Get pen and paper and write down the answer to that question – and then take action!!

Now's your chance to ask Diederik any questions you may have on how you can achieve a successful veterinary practice - just add them to the comments section below.

About Diederik

Dr. Gelderman is a certified NLP Master Practitioner and Trainer. He began coaching veterinary professionals with his Turbo Charge Your Veterinary Practice seminar, in 2004, to a small group of associates. In 2009, the seminars expanding internationally to Hong Kong, NZ, Europe and the US.

Dr. Gelderman has coached and consulted with more than 350 Small to Medium Enterprises in a diverse range of industries. For more information visit 'Turbo Charge Your Practice'.

Click here to visit the Turbo Charge Your Practice Page in the Vetanswers Business Directory

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