Let’s Take a Second Look at Ownership
By Dale Lonsford, DVM
Published in Texas Veterinarian, August 2016
You’re living the dream. You’ve accomplished a lot. You’ve made it into and completed veterinary college. You like your career and it is going quite well. It is stressful at times but it is a joy when you make a difference in a family’s life. The challenge of making the diagnosis and returning the family’s pet to health is fun and you get paid for it. You are making more money than ever before. You are comfortable. But do not let comfort and contentment lull you to think your mission is completed. Is owning your own veterinary practice your next dream? If not, maybe you should take another look.
You may have thought briefly about owning you own practice. But you dismissed the thought while focusing on graduating or on starting your family. You may lack business knowledge and experience. You still have the debt that your previous dream accumulated. Or perhaps you just did not think it was worth the effort. You may fear owning a practice would diminish the balance between your career and your personal life. These are all worthy concerns but now let’s consider the values and opportunities of ownership.
Do you realize why many national and regional corporations are buying veterinary practices? They see ownership of veterinary practices as a great opportunity for profits and here is why.
Veterinary practice is typically a cash base business –many businesses get paid 30-60 days later. Veterinary medicine is not paid by a third party. Ask physicians how well third party- pay is working for them.
Veterinary medicine is relatively recession proof. The US pet care/pet product industry topped 60 billion dollars in 2015. Of that $60 billion, veterinary care was $15 billion, second only to pet foods which was $23 billion. Predictions are that the pet care/pet products industry in the US will reach $91 billion in 2019.
As a health profession, veterinary medicine has less legal risk and definitely lower mal-practice insurance costs.
There is an abundance of retiring veterinarians hoping to sell their practices. You can see why the MBA’s and the venture capitalists see the advantages in owning veterinary practices.
Do you hear the knocking on the door? That is opportunity knocking! – especially for veterinarians that own the practice and are willing to ensure their practice competes and delivers excellent health care that is consumer driven.
If you are frustrated by your efforts to institute ideas and changes in your practice because the owner is not listening, you are probably starting to wonder how the practice would do under your ownership. If you are developing a sense of “should I go or should I stay” you may be starting to dream of ownership. If you know successful veterinary practice owners who are happy and have been able to have a balanced work and family life, and you know if they could do it you can do it too – be careful because you are beginning to believe in your dream of ownership. If you appreciate the opportunity that the veterinary profession offers you as a business – then you have taken the second look at ownership. Your new dream of owning a veterinary practice is becoming a BHAG –“big audacious hairy goal” as described by James Collins in his book, “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies”
Your second look at practice ownership should include:
- The number of associate veterinarians are increasing while associate pay has been rather stagnate.
- Ownership does not have to be a lonely trek and partnering with a like-minded veterinarian or veterinarians is called “shared risk, shared success.”
- Running a business is a challenge well worth the risk – owners have higher incomes and are the last ones to get fired.
- You get to pick the people you want to work with and leadership skills can be learned.
- There are professionals eager to help – practice managers, veterinary owners willing to mentor, Certified Public Accountants, business coaches, veterinary study groups and veterinary purchasing groups, as well as veterinary pharmaceutical, pet product and veterinary distribution companies. These professionals and business associates can provide the business skills and support needed to keep your practice profitable.
- There are multiple avenues to ownership such as a) establishing a new practice, b) buying into or c) buying out an established practice, d) leasing an established practice with a predetermined buy out, and e) shared ownership.
- Bankers, Veterinary Practice Purchasing Consultants and Small Business Administration loans are readily available.
- The Baby-Boomer generation veterinarians needs buyers that will succeed and they have a vested interest in the buyers’ success.
- Ownership of a veterinary practice by the veterinarian is the key attribute that provides the quality, trust and accountability that the public values and loves about our veterinary profession. If you are going to work hard – why not build a legacy?
New Employee On-Boarding
By Michael Joyner, DVM
Published in Texas Veterinarian, October 2016
Your staff reminds you with regularity that you are short-staffed. You sift through the job applications. After the telephone interview, a formal interview and a working interview, you finally pick the candidate that meets your practice requirements. Previous employer references check out, and with due diligence you discover your new employee is eligible for rehire at his/her previous employers. You're now confident that you have found the right person!
After the long process of carefully weeding out candidates, you wonder how long will this new person stay? We've heard of incidents when the new employee decides not to return to work after lunch. You may have had hired someone in the past that did a no call/no show number on you after the first day. What do you do to develop a long term employment relationship?
Begin working on employee retention from the very first day! Do something simple like bringing breakfast for the entire team to welcome the new member. It does not have to be elaborate, just a gesture that conveys everybody is celebrating that the new employee is joining the team. But no amount of celebration can replace organization. Develop a formal on boarding process for new employees. Schedule an orientation day to fill out employment documents. Go over the job description, the employee handbook and the training schedule. Take this opportunity to re-introduce the new employee to the staff. Give a tour of the entire facility, where to place personal belongings, and where employees park their vehicles. This will considerably reduce stress on the first day of work.
No matter what the level of experience, assign your best staff the role of trainer/mentor to your new hire. Showing someone how you do things at your practice will slow you down. Consider scheduling an extra staff to help during the busiest time of the day. The mentor/trainer should remain the "go to person" for your new employee for the first 90 days. Every new hire is an investment you hope to turn into an asset.
To ensure and document proper training, use a training schedule. Both trainee and trainer initial successfully completed tasks and responsibilities. The checklist tracks the training progress and builds a strong foundation. A good management practice is to reference the practice core values for your policies and base the training schedule on the job description. The following are tips for a more successful new employee on boarding process.
1. Avoid making your busiest day, the first day of work. Schedule on a day where the team will have time to extend a warm welcome to the new employee.
2. Consider a short or a half day schedule to reduce "first day overload."
3. Get all hiring documents out of the way prior to the first day.
4. Review practice policies during orientation. To avoid surprises, so go over the practice’s attendance policy and professional appearance.
5. Provide a job description.
6. Provide a training checklist.
7. Invest a few minutes to regularly check how your team members are doing.
Once your new staff is fully trained, consider the possibility of cross training. A cross trained staff offers the practice more work schedule flexibility, and makes the employee more valuable. Cross training also keeps work interesting. New skills contribute to personal growth and development which increase job satisfaction. As your new team member shows more initiative, delegate more responsibilities to keep the employee engaged. Every staff member represents a capital investment to the practice. A strong and loyal support staff makes your practice more attractive to buyers. It would behoove management to proactively cultivate longevity of your well trained staff. It all begins with on boarding a new employee.
Leadership: Our Daily Work
By Dale Lonsford, DVM, Texas Group One
Published in Texas Veterinarian, April 2017
Whether we recognize it or not, we are all leaders. Our day is full of leadership events with influential results. If we live in a household, if we have children, if we have a friend, if we clean stalls or kennels, if we are new on the job or if we own the practice – we are all leaders and influence the lives of others. The question is not, “Are we a leader?” The real question is, “Are we the best leader we can be?”
Often it is difficult for employees of a veterinary practice or any business to recognize they have a role as a leader. It is also difficult for some employees to understand the level of their personal success and the success of the company they work with is directly related to their success as a leader.
We all have a choice. We can be a good leader, a mediocre leader or a bad leader. It all begins with realizing every one of us have a leadership role in someone else’s life. The good news is leadership is a learned and experiential skill. Like most skills we have learned by practice, trial and error, and increments of success. Leadership is not a position of authority or a title bestowed on anyone. It is a skill that begins with a willingness to serve and help others. Your ability to lead adds value to the people you serve, the people that willing follow you, the people you influence.
Practice owners and managers are seeking members of their staff that want to improve their leadership skills. They are looking for employees that realized their contribution to the success of the company is not merely doing tasks. They are looking for employees that can influence other staff members, guide clients and pet owners to make wise decisions regarding their animals’ health care, and contribute to the practice culture of service and accountability.
Leadership skill is a key ingredient to career advancement just as technical skills are necessary for successful patient care and client relations. Leadership is impactful. Your leadership skills will determine your level of success in relationships, in life and in your career.
For practice owners and managers wanting to promote leadership skills in their team members, consider sharing your personal story of your travel on the path of leadership development. Convince your team members that leadership is not about being the boss; rather it is about vision, sacrifice, service and influence. Practice owners and managers should take a good look at their own leadership skill level. Remember John Maxwell’s “The Law of the Lid”. It is his first law of leadership of which he simply states as, “Leadership ability is the lid that determines a person’s effectiveness”. Even experienced leaders can improve their leadership skills especially if they are hitting the lid of their effectiveness.
For employees – veterinarians, technicians, receptionists, assistants, pet care, students and managers – realize you are a leader and you are influencing others. So choose to grow your leadership skills and lead well. Be willing to work on your skills because leadership develops with practice. A great place to start is by reading “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. Applying the teaching of his book will make you a better team member and you will quickly gain a following. Then move on to John Maxwell’s “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership”. Both are classic leadership books worthy of studying and re-reading.
Have impact, have influence, make a difference for leadership is our daily work.