After five years of working as an associate, my wife and I opened a predominantly small-animal practice in Zachary, Louisiana, a town of 11,000 just north of Baton Rouge. Although…
Veterinary Practice Management
No other veterinary practice management advisors in the world have been as successful as Sterling. Our success is measured by the success of our clients—not just in their practice, but in their personal life and their community. With restored balance in their lives, our clients have the time and energy to devote to their families, recreation, travel and the pursuit of additional goals and dreams.
After working as an associate in a multi-doctor practice, I bought a practice of my own from a retiring veterinarian. I went from working in someone else’s practice to owning my own, and being its only doctor. I was completely unprepared for the workload ahead of me.
I had to perform too many duties myself. Although I had been a swim coach for 110 kids, I had trouble managing 4 staff. I worried that asking too much might result in them leaving so I did a lot of the work myself. Things just got worse.
Working seven days a week plus the “homework” of ownership caused high stress and little time for my family. As a result, I resisted seeing more patients which inhibited our growth. The basic problem was I didn’t know how to manage a practice. I was good at organizing and leadership-minded, but I was missing the overall management know-how. When I heard about a Sterling workshop, I attended with my staff. After receiving a consultation, I signed up for their program, never suspecting how much it would change my life.
Sterling taught me how to be an executive which is very different from being a veterinarian. Like veterinary medicine, being an executive has its own rules and responsibilities, and its own approach to issues in the practice such as making staff productive.
I had seen other consulting companies and coaches offer quick fixes or mini-solutions to problems on the fringes of a practice. By contrast, the Sterling program provided a solid foundation on which to manage my practice and gave me the tools to do so. Now I am in control of the practice instead of it controlling me.
Since starting with Sterling, my production and collections have increased by 600% and my profitability by 500%. Additionally, I’ve been able to build a state-of-the-art facility for my patients. Better yet, I have a life again. With a team of competent, caring staff and veterinarians, I’m able to take 6 to 8 weeks of worry-free time off every year and enjoy a more relaxed weekly schedule. If any of this hits home, contact Sterling for their management DVD. They were the solution to the overwhelm and overwork of my practice.
Jim Gill, DVM
One of the things that Sterling does is they help us find people that are motivated. They also give us a testing system, that we would like to use more, that says, OK, are these guys going to be top-notch employees?
We already want to hire a “10” employee and then just train them on the job. And so one of the things that they’ve helped us do is find that “10” employee, and if they’re not a number 10, like—pass. Management by statistics went hand-in-hand with kind of how my mind works. As business owners, we look at these numbers: are they hitting the projection that we want so that we can be successful? Are we collecting as much as we’re billing out? And by tracing those, we can look at it and take the temperature on our practice and fix before it crashes or gets sicker, and bring it back up to where we need it to be.
And our consultant with Sterling helps us and guides us through that. We’re open and we keep the statistics known so the staff is fully aware of what we’re doing, and that has made it like a game, an overall game, so everybody knows exactly where we stand, by our statistics, where they stand as an individual, and how they can help our business. Our consultant we’ve had, we met her, you know, on one of the first days that we signed up for the program. She is in touch with us, I’d say, every two weeks. We make contact—whether it takes 30 minutes, two hours, whatever the time is that we need. We address every concern.
Our success is their success. And they truly want to help you as an individual. Yes, they want to see your business grow. They want their business to grow, but on a personal level, they want to help you.
Garry Gotfredson, DVM, and Nicole Gotfredson
I have been a practicing Veterinarian since I graduated from the University of Colorado in 2011. Upon graduating, I worked for 2 years at other practices before starting my own practice in Daniels County, Montana, in May 2013.
In Feb 2015, I hired my first assistant and that was fantastic. Personality-wise we clicked, worked in great symphony together and we were able to seamlessly handle patients, set up procedures and make things happen. Then she had to move away and I was back to having no staff.
About that time, I purchased a small camper and renovated it so I could have a small facility where I could see people and do small animal appointments. All I needed was some staff so I started hiring again. That was when the problems began. I was soon to learn, in the school of hard knocks, the trials and tribulations of having and trying to manage employees.
For starters, I had no idea how to evaluate if an applicant was the right person for the job. The knee-jerk reaction of hiring a person because you think you need someone didn’t work very well. So I just went with my idea of who I thought would be comfortable doing the work. The result? Well, the next person I hired had a very low aptitude and did not catch onto tasks I gave her to do. I had to tell her time and time again how to do things like prepare patients for surgery or prepare surgery packs, and she still did not get it. After six months, she handed in her notice and left.
The replacement I hired looked like a great fit. She initially came to me as a client when she brought her kittens in for treatment. She was agreeable to work part-time so I hired her along with her friend. What started well soon turned to disaster. What I didn’t know was that her friend had a lot of drama going on in her personal life and it spilled over into the workplace. Then the friends became enemies and I had to try to work around the resentment between them. As if that wasn’t enough, the front office person I also hired was not a good match at all, was making a lot of mistakes and just feeling constantly overwhelmed. We ended on good terms and she left.
I wound up hiring another office person and then another assistant. By then I had found an office in town. But I still had to deal with instances of employees not showing up to work, or I would be out in the field and expecting something to get done but the staff member concerned didn’t get it done. This often meant I would have to reschedule work and scramble to come up with a plan B. Or I would end up staying up late and coming in early to get the tasks done that others should have done. Then there was the low morale amongst the employees, making it impossible to motivate them.
I had reached a high level of frustration and began to see why many professionals say: “No, I never want to start a practice; I never want to own my own business, because we just want to do our thing. We just want to be a vet or an attorney or optometrist or chiropractor. We just don’t want to deal with the headache of managing people.”
One night, about one-and-a-half years ago, I was sitting in my office and I received a letter from another Vet whose wife I had met at a conference. His letter described the same situations that I was encountering and how he, like many other professionals, had come close to not wanting to continue his practice. He then described his experience with Sterling and how everything at his practice is now turning around since he became a Sterling client. I was very interested so I sent off for their DVD and became a Sterling client.
I went out to Sterling’s Glendale offices and received training. I then went back and implemented what I had learned. My consultant at Sterling helped me to implement testing of applicants and staff. As soon as we put it in, we had our first blow-up. The staff member I hired who had originally been a client, refused to take any of the tests and it turned out that she had been wanting to resign anyway. Shortly after, she left. Meanwhile, her friend was still burdening the practice with her issues. With the training I had received at Sterling, I was able to confront that issue head-on instead of dragging it out and waiting, hoping things would get better as I had done before. As it turned out, she had been wanting to quit as well and did so.
Almost immediately, there was a dramatic change in the morale of the practice and our operation. We were able to now see what can be accomplished. I felt like a huge burden had been lifted off my shoulders. I realized that those two employees had been the source of most of the trouble in the practice.
With their departure, that left me, my front office person and one assistant. However, I felt like we had a fantastic team and could get along great. I am in the process of moving into new, larger premises and already have local people lining up to bring in their pets.
Now I feel really in control of the situation. I can make it exactly the way that I want and thanks to Sterling, I have tools at hand to be able to build the ideal scene and not have it be a crapshoot or feel like I am playing Russian roulette—maybe this will work or maybe this employee will work out.
My training with Sterling has given me a new level of confidence in confronting adverse situations in life. It’s really neat and I’m always proud of myself when instead of sitting there and letting it fester or worry about it, I say: “No, I’m just going to go ahead and address that and move on.” It’s been very empowering.
Heather Grimm, D.V.M.
Jeff and Susie Hirsch
Susie and I met while attending veterinary school at Colorado State University, and after graduation moved to Phoenix to take over from a retiring doctor. We built an extremely successful practice; it seemed like anything we did made us money. We raised our prices, we charged a fee to become a client, and we just kept getting busier and busier. We could have kept that up forever, but the government had other plans and condemned our property in order to put in a light rail system. While they did offer us fair market value for the land itself, there was no compensation for the value of the business or the decade we had spent building it.
So we closed our practice, packed up our three young daughters and moved to Western Colorado in 2009. We thought it would be simple enough to replicate the success we had had in Phoenix. It wasn’t. Although we were delivering the best veterinary care in the area, we were going bankrupt day by day and cashing in Jeff’s IRAs just to stay afloat. Things continued to go downhill until September 2013, with our production bottoming out at one-fifth the level we were accustomed to in Phoenix.
Then Susie got a DVD from Sterling outlining their practice management program. After watching that DVD, we spoke to one of their consultants to find out specifically what they could do to help us. The Sterling program has turned out to be the best investment we ever made.
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 Jeff received from Sterling in communication and management, and a staff incentive plan, we have a smoothly running team that keeps reaching for more. In early 2016, for example, we had planned on setting a goal of 20% growth for the year—which would have been great—but the staff wanted to go for 60% instead.
After two years with Sterling, although there is still work to be done, we have paid off all but our real estate bills and can see the light at the end of the tunnel. 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. As one of our daughters put it one day, “Can Dad go back to Sterling, because when he does he is a better Dad?” You can’t get a better endorsement than that.
Even if you’re not in as bad a shape as we were, you owe it to yourself to check out what Sterling has to offer.
Jeff Hirsch, DVM and Susie Hirsch, DVM
I became a veterinarian because I love animals and I love medicine. Three years after earning my DVM degree, I bought a practice from another doctor and went out on my own. Even though I was doing what I loved, I wasn’t completely satisfied. I worked 60 to 70 hours a week to grow the practice, but I wasn’t making the progress I expected.
I thought I was doing all the right things. I worked long hours, added services and sent the staff to seminars. But no matter what I did, I couldn’t get to the next level and didn’t know why. I did see I had staff issues. Mine is a one-doctor practice and I require a strong support staff, but I wasn’t getting the backup I needed. The staff didn’t do their jobs fully, left tasks incomplete or didn’t clean properly and called in sick when they didn’t want to work. I didn’t know what they were actually doing.
I had received advertising from Sterling about their management program. Physically and mentally exhausted, I knew I had to change something. I contacted Sterling, watched their DVD and had an introductory consultation. The consultation was an eye-opener; it floored me. I became a Sterling client and it changed my life.
I began their program by working with my consultant and taking courses. Reenergized, and trained as an executive, I was ready to make changes in the practice. Sterling had the staff take personnel tests which revealed their true colors. After reviewing the tests with my consultant, I met with each employee and told them what needed to change. In coordination with me, Sterling also reorganized the practice and trained the staff on how to work as a team and do their jobs. On my consultant’s recommendation, I also began to play staff games by setting a goal for the practice and giving the staff prizes if they make the goal. They get excited and they all talk about the latest game.
Sterling trained me how to track my practice numbers and use them to stay financially healthy. Since starting their program four years ago, my income—which used to increase by less than 1% per year—has gone up by nearly 50% and is still going up, even though I work fewer hours. Now the staff better understand that they are part of the practice, why it is here and the growth required, rather than just working for a paycheck to get by. And I’ve learned how to hire good people in the first place. We are all so much happier.
Instead of my business running me, Sterling taught me how to run my business. They gave me my life back.
Rhonda Ross, DVM
I live in a rural area, and having pets makes people feel less lonely. Helping the pets so they can enrich people’s lives is really satisfying.
However, staffing has been a complete nightmare: very high turnover rate, unreliable staff who show up late or not show up at all. Sometimes this was even how they would quit…they would just not show up!
I was doing everyone’s jobs. I was tech, receptionist, manager and owner. I had way too many irons in the fire and was not really doing a good job at anything. After the economy tanked, the business did a nose dive of about 10-15% in two years.
After 16 years of owning my own business, I found Sterling two years ago. I had a very difficult situation where I had to fire someone and I was worried she would sue me. Having my Sterling Consultant coach me through this was worth a lot to me. Having a testing process to hire the right people was really big for me as well. In addition, the courses helped me figure out what made people tick.
I have far less stress now. I have hired a manager and gone back into the role of a full-time doctor. I don’t have to train anyone or do any of those other hats. My personal income has gone up about 15% since being with Sterling. I have reserves for the first time. The staff are now stable. No more high turnover rate. Sterling also helped me get more new clients. The appointment book is full.
Sterling is amazingly accessible and has helped me with virtually anything. Any question—they can answer.
Stacey Hattan, DVM
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