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What contributes to success in our veterinary practice?

Posted in Operations @ Dec 17th 2015 - By Lesley Sherry BA BSW, Business Manager Champion Lake Vet Centre
Lesley Sherry Issy At My Desk

Success in a veterinary clinic can depend on many factors and they often have to all occur at the same time to be truly valuable.

Our clinic is no different to most others around Australia I suspect in that we struggled in the early days to build a good client base.  We put in many hours for very little pay - just one of the perks of owning your own clinic!!  Steadily through the years we watched our monthly income figures rise and some months we watched them fall also.  The GFC didn't seem to hit our clinic until a year or two after the event.  When it did hit, we plateaud out but didn't have to put any staff off, as we heard a number of clinics around Australia had to do.  Since then we have bounced back nicely and are still continuing to grow steadily.  

The two main factors that have contributed to this success I believe are our team and the marvels of modern technology.  

The importance of our team

Three years ago we lost our Head Nurse who had to resign in order to look after her sick husband. This gave me the opportunity, being one of the owners, a Director and also the Business Manager, to take a good long look at where we were at and where we wanted to go and plotting out how to get there.  

I realised that we were doing certain things the way we were merely because we had always done them that way.  I sat down and wrote a list of all of the time consuming administration tasks that my team were doing and looked at systematising some of these tasks for efficiency, greater accountability and reporting ability.  In this process I realised that we did not have to replace our Head Nurse.  My nursing team all asked if we could try it without having one as they wanted to share the responsibility of the day to day nursing themselves.  

In order to do this I had to set up rosters of duties and responsibilities and whilst it was a lot of work initially, it has thus worked very well and the team are happier not having a middle layer of admin to go through as they now all liaise directly with me.  This model won't work for everyone of course, but it works for us because I am the bottom line who makes the financial and business decisions and so I can give an answer straight away to any requests or suggestions and saves us a lot of time in asking questions and getting responses.  

I am finding that the more freedom to make suggestions and requests that my team have, the more responsibility they are all taking for their daily work.  They all know that everything still has to be run past me and approved first but this process is now very streamlined and efficient. When the answer is "no" from me, this is received with a much greater awareness of why on their part and so we all try to problem solve and become solution-focussed rather than problem-saturated and despondent as a result.

The importance of systems & better use of our PMS

The other major factor that has helped our clinic to grow and improve I believe is systematising as much as I can.  We now use our software (Provet Vision VPM) to a much greater level than ever before.  Our stock is ordered electronically saving us hours and hours a week by not having to manually generate orders and not having to manually change our stock levels when our supplies come in.  We now have very little stock wastage and far less redundant stock sitting on our shelves which is a huge saving.  

Reminders are done electronically through our software as are text communications and marketing with clients and we are soon to upgrade to the next stage in our software which will allow clients to make certain appointments electronically themselves.  The automated reminder system has also saved me hours and hours of nursing time and I do that task myself now as it is so easy and no fuss.  

Of course there's also Facebook...

Of course you can't go past good old Facebook for contributing to the steady growth of our practice.  It is difficult to quantify but I am convinced that it has had a large positive impact because when you can reach 4500 people with one posting of a photo of a baby Hairy Nosed Wombat, at no cost for advertising, that can't be a bad thing surely!!  I do the Facebook postings myself so it doesn't cost any nursing time but I don't post daily and sometimes I don't post weekly either and sometimes I post 2 or 3 in a week. I prefer to post when I have something that I think our fans would appreciate and I know all of the companies that charge to do this service for you say that daily or at least posting 3 times per week keeps you in people's minds, but I am prepared to buck that trend.

So, in conclusion, what contributes to making a successful practice?  

I believe it is having a very cohesive yet self-responsible team who are able to extend themselves professionally whilst also knowing that they have a solid foundation of support in the management and owners to back them up.

It is also utilising technology to its fullest to achieve the efficiency of systems that save staff time (and thus save wages) and allow for expansion of the business. Veterinary clinics are businesses the same as every other business in that they need to be financially sound in order to survive and grow.

About Lesley

Lesley is the Clinic Practice Manager (and Co-owner) at Champion Lake Vet Centre in WA. She has had many years experience in the field of Business Administration both overseas and in Perth as well as being a University Lecturer for 11 years.



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