If you want to know how to run a successful veterinary practice, you could benefit from the services of a practice management consultant.
Veterinarians are dedicated to staying up to date with technology and innovations in their field so they can expertly apply them to their patients. But as practice owners, they tend to lack the know-how to run their clinic as a business. Believe it or not, how well the owner takes care of the business aspects of the practice has everything to do with the quality and level of service given to patients. However, the know-how and techniques to manage a vet clinic as a business are generally not taught as part of standard veterinary training.
Knowing the Right Time to Hire a Practice Management Consultant
You, the trained vet, should be able to provide the best level of care to your patients while your staff takes care of the administrative details of running the practice. But, if your practice has high staff turnover, declining profits, and loss of patients to other clinics, chances are your time will be taken up trying to handle the fallout from these and other practice problems.
When a problem manifests itself, the owner tends to try to handle the problem himself. But running a practice can be difficult and overwhelming when you try to do it all while also having to deal with the day-to-day operation of the practice. This is where the skills of a veterinary practice management consultant can be invaluable. But how do you know when is the right time to hire a practice management consultant?
Here are some key signs that tell you when you should engage the services of a trained consultant:
Low or Declining Profitability
Lack of profitability is a sign of a floundering clinic and this, in turn, impacts the clinic and owner in many ways. Low profitability might mean a practice can’t achieve its mission of providing cutting-edge services, all because it can’t afford to hire skilled staff, offer employee benefits or buy new equipment. In some cases, the situation can become so challenging that the practice owner is unable to pay himself or herself a salary.
So, when you experience low profitability, this definitely is a signal to bring in a practice management consultant. Good marketing strategies to acquire new patients are a must for a viable practice. The efficient running of a practice, making possible effective handling of more and more patients is a cornerstone of orderly practice expansion. A professional practice management consultant will often have good business acumen and years of experience in business matters. This know-how can be of major assistance to a practice owner in planning and executing effective marketing campaigns and streamlining the practice for greater delivery.
According to a veterinary management company president, if you have a culture in which employees are upset and tense all the time and are not paying attention to their duties, they probably aren’t performing as well as they could. As a result, they can make treatment errors or other mistakes. To continue to provide high-quality care to your patients and keep them coming back to your practice, it is vital to have staff who are trained and who know what they are doing.
This means, hiring the right staff – staff who can be trained and will be motivated to perform their best, and who will remain with the practice. Surveys of veterinarian practice owners point up the fact that most of them have no idea how to accomplish this. Stories of owners hiring “by the seat of their pants” are common. Taking on new employees, because they sounded good in the interview, only to end up letting them go after only a short while, is another often-heard experience.
These and other personnel problems lead to high staff turnover, and a clinic with high staff turnover will quickly find its performance deteriorating. Financial worries, dissatisfied pet owners and staff burnout are just some of the problems that can ensue.
High staff turnover and burnout are two key situations indicating the necessity for a practice management consultant. A skilled practice management consultant can bring expertise to bear to help you find the right staff and train them. At Sterling Practice Management, the services we provide our clients include tests that detect potential good and bad employees. Training is also given on how to handle the different personalities of staff members.
Working “in” the practice instead of working “on” the Practice
Working on the practice is just as important as working inside it. However, according to a top practice management consultant, most practice owners do not have the luxury of extra time to work on their business. Even those with a management team find they are busy working in the business and putting out fires, yet they find it hard to work on future needs.
According to “Today’s Veterinary Business”: “A lot of owners who are burned out, spend all their time working in the business, but if you don’t run the business, the business is going to run you. At a certain point, veterinarians realize, ‘I’m in trouble and I need to right the ship before the ship just sinks altogether'”.
When you find yourself “chained” to the practice, working day and night just to keep things going, this is a sign that you need the help of a trained practice management specialist.
Having a trained consultant as an “exterior viewpoint” can help you dig out of the day-to-day confusion and start to get on top of things. At Sterling Practice Management, we train practice owners in leadership skills, enabling them to take control of their practice. We also teach them how to use the all-important skill of delegating. These two skills alone have turned many formerly overwhelmed practice owners into leaders of their practice who then take it to the next level.
Professionalism and Level of Service
Usually, the veterinarian and his or her team will be technically qualified to render the highest quality of patient care. However, when pet-owners receive slow and uncaring service, when they see themselves and their needs neglected, even a technically proficient veterinarian team will not be able to prevent their exodus. Ongoing staff drama and turnover can drive away clients by making the practice an unwelcoming place. It also can diminish the quality of patient care.
So, when you find instances of customers preferring to go to other vet clinics and complaints stacking up, realize it is time to overhaul your service procedures and bring in the help of a practice management consultant. A consultant can streamline practice service lines and coach the people at the front desk on how to make the practice welcoming to customers. These two actions alone can improve customer service at any veterinary clinic. A practice management consultant can analyze the clinic’s service lines to find where they are breaking down and then help devise the solution.
A Success Story
A success story from one of Sterling’s clients comes from Jeff and Susie, both trained veterinarians who started a clinic in Colorado. They had already run a successful veterinary practice in Phoenix, Arizona before moving to Colorado and thought they could just replicate the successful actions they had used to grow their clinic in Phoenix. However, instead of re-creating their former success, they very soon found their practice bottoming-out at one-fifth the previous level they had been accustomed to. They started going bankrupt and had to cash in their IRAs just to keep the practice afloat.
That’s when they contacted Sterling Practice Management for help. The first thing we at Sterling did was to analyze their practice to find the biggest block to expansion, which turned out to be the area of personnel. The Veterinarians were then trained at Sterling’s offices in Glendale, CA on a specific training program to enable them to separate existing and potential good employees from bad ones, using Sterling’s personnel testing.
Building an Ideal Staff Team
They were further trained in proven communication and management technology so that they could build an ideal staff team, train them and motivate them. One-on-one consulting from an expert Sterling practice management consultant guided them to implement what they learned. Jeff and Susie ended up with a good team who are fully invested in the clinic. This, in turn, completely turned their practice around. They saw an immediate 30% practice growth in the first year and continued upward from there.
As Jeff says: “The main problems we had were in the area of personnel: selecting the right employees and then keeping them on track and motivated. Sterling’s training and consulting have helped tremendously in both areas. Where we used to go through ten new employees before we would find someone good, now we might hire two people for every position we finally fill. And with the training I received from Sterling in communication and management, we have a smoothly running team that keeps reaching for more.”
Susie adds: “However, it isn’t all about the money. For us, success doesn’t mean working 80 hours a week and not having time to do the things you want with your family. With the Sterling program in place, Jeff has been able to cut the hours he spends in the practice and instead spend it with our children. Even better, with less stress and better communication skills, time spent with the kids is much more enjoyable.”
Getting the Help You Need
Sterling Practice Management has been training and consulting Veterinarian practice owners and staff for over 36 years. We have helped many veterinarians like Jeff and Susie to create viable sustainable practices. If you are facing low profitability, high staff turnover, burnout, or simply want to know how to run a successful veterinary practice, Sterling can help you. Come to one of our upcoming workshops or take our free online practice analysis and consultation. We will do a by-the-numbers assessment of your practice to see how you can improve efficiency and profitability.