Proven Process: Embodying the KISS Principle

By: Rachel Teichberg, CVPM, CVBL

I’m sure we’ve all heard the saying “keep it simple, stupid” or The KISS Principle, as coined by the US Navy in 1960. You may have also seen it as “keep it short and simple”, or “keep it short and sweet”. Use whatever words you want, but ultimately the idea is that systems or operations function best when they’re simplified. Unfortunately, what I’ve found in practice is that we have this tendency to overcomplicate things, making it incredibly challenging for our teams to succeed in a stressful environment. If you had any doubt that simple is better, just remind yourself that this term was coined by the Navy, a military operation known for precision and efficiency.

In Pathway Planning, the embodiment of the KISS Principle is through proven processes. Proven processes are essentially a simplified version of your standard operating procedures (SOPs). If you look through your big dusty binder of SOPs, you may have documents that resemble the image on the left in the visual below. It’s too much, it’s too long, and your team can’t remember it. That SOP is making the process unnecessarily complex. Proven processes are created by turning that long SOP into a 3-5 step process. That’s it! You can see on the right how we can easily simplify it into 5 steps.

There are two very important rules when it comes to proven processes: They must be followed by all and if you can’t do the process, you can’t do the job. These two rules will become even more game-changing than writing the processes themselves. First, it eliminates hypocrisy. This is not going to be a do as I say, not as I do situation. All members of the team will be held accountable for the same written process. If someone is unable to perform all steps after training, then they will not be able to do the task until they have proven they can.

The Importance of Health and Wellbeing for Ourselves & Our Veterinary Teams

By: Julia Behr, CVPM, CVBL, CCFP

Veterinary care providers are known for our love and passion for pets and animals. This passion, coupled with positive and negative outcomes of the work we do, puts us in a position to face compassion fatigue in our lives. Many of us turned to animals as a form of comfort, love, and support. Veterinary professionals enter the veterinary field with the hope of returning the compassion in the same manner. A common factor is the desire to help animals that cannot help themselves. Team members will give their blood, sweat, and tears to their patients, their jobs, and the work, putting the cause ahead of themselves. It is this exact dedication that can subject them to the onset of burnout and compassion fatigue.

I wanted to take some time to discuss the importance of health and wellbeing for ourselves and our veterinary teams in an effort to combat burnout and compassion fatigue.

In the book, Well Being: The 5 Essential Elements by Tom Rath & Jim Harter, they identify 5 essential elements that lead to wellbeing including Career Wellbeing, Social Wellbeing, Financial Wellbeing, Physical Wellbeing, and Community Wellbeing with Career Wellbeing being the foundation of the best possible life. With each of these elements, you are either thriving, struggling, or suffering.

Here is what each is defined as:

  • Career Wellbeing = You like what you do every day.
  • Social Wellbeing = You have meaningful friendships in your life.
  • Financial Wellbeing = You manage your money well.
  • Physical Wellbeing = You have energy to get things done.
  • Community Wellbeing = You like where you live.

Many employers already have physical wellness programs, but Gallup has found that wellbeing is about more than just physical health. When people are thriving in all five areas, they have better health outcomes than when thriving in just physical wellbeing.

Standards of Care and Process in Your Veterinary Hospital

By: Leather Brice

In most conversations I’ve had with practice owners in the past year I’ve heard their biggest concern is staffing. We need people! We need associates and kennel techs and registered techs…every hospital is hiring and every hospital is experiencing the stress and frustrations from being short staffed. How can we take this negative and make it a positive? Are we looking at what might set new hires up for success and increase the longevity of veterinary professionals in our practices while on the search for these illusive creatures? Start with what we CAN control and that is the here and now in our hospitals.

Creating, Implementing and Training Standards of Care and Process can not only set your new hires up with expectations and provide amazing care for your client’s pets but also align your current team. Three key benefits of implementing Standards of Care in your Veterinary hospital are consistency, improved efficiency, and training.

Start by reviewing wellness and illness topics. Hold a meeting with the doctors. Divide up the top 20% wellness and illness topics. Assign each doctor 2-4 diagnosis for which you want to bring industry standards into your practice. Set a due date for when research needs to be completed.

Next, schedule an offsite meeting. During this meeting, each doctor will share their findings. Discussion about these findings will ensue, and a consensus should be reached regarding standard of care. A protocol for the practice will be created and then finalized.

How to Reinvigorate Our Career Passion with Wabi Sabi

By: Julia Behr, CVPM, CVBL, CCFP

Brene Brown said, “Imperfections are not inadequacies, they are reminders that we are all in this together.”

About 6 years ago, I read the book, “Wabi Sabi Love,” by Arielle Ford. The book describes how to use the Wabi Sabi philosophy to transform your personal relationships. Instead of allowing things to irritate you that your partner does, you find beauty in the imperfection. That book really resonated with me and impacted my personal relationships, and it still does.

Our industry is going through so many challenges these days: practices are busier than ever, most are short staffed and unable to fill doctor and technician positions, and our teams are suffering from burnout and compassion fatigue while trying to meet the needs of sometimes demanding clients. It can also be emotionally draining to ignore our feelings just to get through the day.

Adding to that, due to the tumultuous times we find ourselves living in, it is essential for us to support each other through the good days and the bad. We need to not lose sight of our purpose and our why – particularly - why we choose veterinary medicine as our career.

What does Wabi Sabi have to do with this?

In his book, Wabi Sabi, Leonard Koren says, “Wabi Sabi is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. It is a beauty of things modest and humble. It is a beauty of things unconventional.”

The veterinary industry is an imperfect and unconventional industry! I believe what drew most of us into vet medicine is our love for animals. That is why I started in the industry, but I have remained in it because of the people – all of you! I genuinely appreciate how most of us have given our blood, sweat, and tears to care for animals and help our clients. My concern is however, many in our industry have forgotten our purpose, leading to the loss of the passion that led us to our career path.

How can Wabi Sabi lead us back to our passion?

Learning to READ numbers - Making Cents out of your Practice Finance!

By Sarina Wijts, CVPM, CVT, CVBL

The first quarter of the year has come to end. You feel like things went well and cannot wait to hear about the outcome. The accountant sends over the quarter review and alerts the owner to the fact that your net profit is down by 3%. The owner asks you to start an investigation to decipher the cause and how to rectify this deficit before the end of the second quarter. Where do you start?

You wrack your brain on what data you would like to collect and conclude that numbers speak truth, you will need to review the practices financial statements. You ask the accountant to send you some information, pull up the profit and loss statement and see a literal sea of numbers. It is so intimidating. Your first instinct was right, numbers speak truth, but how do we learn to READ numbers?

Before we begin our READ - ing session, there will be a few questions to consider. First, which accounting system are you using (Cash vs Accrual Accounting)? Second, how is the Chart of Accounts organized in your Accounting Software? And third, how will you utilize industry benchmarks?

Cash vs Accrual Accounting- Which is recommended?

Cash-based Accounting is when income is recorded when the cash is received, not when the services are performed. Expenses are recorded when the practice makes the payment, not when the expense is incurred.

Accrual-based Accounting is when income is recorded when the service is performed, not when the client ultimately pays for those services. Expenses are recorded when incurred, even if the client still owes the vendor.

Relationship Advice – For You & Your Inventory

By Rachel Teichberg, CVPM, CVBL

The relationship you have with your inventory is complicated. It plays such a major role in the practice, and often seems to have a mind of its own. Managing your inventory may often leave you frustrated, confused, and irritated. The trust between you and your inventory tends to waver as your software reporting can be questionable, and sometimes you feel like it’s simply out to get you. You’ve put many hours into improving systems and processes no to avail and feel like you just need to throw your hands up. I get it. I’ve been there. But it’s time to put your differences aside and work together to improve your relationship.

The reality is that your Cost of Goods Sold expense (COGS) is your second largest expense in the practice and can play a significant role in your overall profitability. If you’re looking to improve your bottom line, we often find unnecessary percentage points hidden in this category. The great news is that this is your lowest hanging fruit. Meaning, that controlling expenses in this area is the easiest starting point compared to your compensation or facilities/administration expenses. This is because, despite all of the complications outlined above, you have a lot of control over your inventory and can immediately implement change that can directly affect your overall profitability. Time for you and your inventory to get on the same page and start working together!

Outline Expectations
From the start, setting expectations regarding what you need from your relationship will be critical. In order to have a successful relationship, let’s first define what success looks like. Having a clear picture in your mind of what you’re looking to achieve will ensure that you’re creating a solid plan that will help you get there. Success could be measured by a combination of some of these examples:

A Veterinary Practice Manager is not a Cure for Practice Brokentitus

By Jessica Strohecker, CVBL, PCM, CDMP

If Veterinary Practice Managers were prescribed like medication the intended use label would probably sound something like this:

The intended use of a veterinary practice manager is to help support practice goals, aspirations and guide the practice, clients, patients, and team to success. Warning: Handle with care.

Veterinary practice owners typically start looking for a practice manager when things start to feel out of control in their practice. Especially when human resource issues become the priority, team turnover starts to cycle, and management tasks begin to fall behind. Thus, causing a full-blown case of “Practice Brokentitus”, making the practice owner ready to prescribe the cure - a practice manager.

However, hiring one is never a cure. It is just a treatment to improve the negative symptoms happening in a veterinary practice.

Practice owners will regularly relinquish management duties, like human resources, to a new practice manager, as soon as they are hired. Always with the intent that the new manager will turn the practice around and everything will be fixed immediately. Then after a few months, when things are progressing slowly, the owner becomes antsy, feeling there has been zero progress. Which triggers the owner’s internal thought loop, “I hired a practice manager to fix the practice, but the practice isn’t fixed yet, so why do I have a practice manager if they haven’t fixed the practice.” This leaves the practice owner frustrated, feeling as if they made a terrible decision, and hired the wrong person. Owners will begin to consult with peers and business colleagues, only telling the story from their own perspective – never taking into consideration how frustrated, isolated, lost and potentially overwhelmed the manager may feel.

The practice manager’s perspective

The Pulse of Your Practice

By: Michelle Jara, MBA, LSSGB

Do You Know Where Your Practice Stands?

If you are like any other Practice Owner or Manager, your day consists of an intense balancing act between pleasing your clients, supplying exceptional patient care, supporting your staff, and trying to find a break in the day from the madness. You spend your day continually putting out fires. Inevitably, your to-do list keeps growing and that production report you wanted to review gets placed on the back burner. All the practice goals and projects you wish to carry out remain unfinished quarter after quarter. Sound familiar? You are not alone.

Unfortunately, this is an all too familiar scenario for many leadership teams. It is no surprise that one of the challenges practice owners and managers face is keeping their finger on the pulse of the practice. According to Traction: Get A Grip On Your Business (Wickman, 2014)1 the five most common frustrations of running a business are a sense of lack of control, managing people, low profit, little to no growth, and the “nothing is working” feeling. Often, it can feel like it is impossible to know how your practice is doing due to the complexity and dynamics of running day-to-day operations.

Your practice is very much an entity that requires attention, care, and resources to support its sustainability and propel growth. Additionally, you must ensure your practice is readily able to adapt to changing times. You must have business skills and processes in place. The question is, how you can do this in a realistic way that will help your practice reach the next level and sustain continuous success? How can you manage your time? How can you hold your team accountable for achieving practice goals? Where do you even begin? Before answering these questions, you must start by understanding the basic components of your practice.

Understanding the Basics

Veterinarians - Be Like Hulk Hogan: What Wrestlers Can Teach Us About Branding

By: Jessica Strohecker, CVBL

There is a quiet that sets in, right before he walks into the event. A nervousness from the audience and a hush of anticipation wondering what is about to take place. As the door opens an explosion of excitement abounds. Wearing his uniform, it’s easy to identify who the man is. Almost iconic, really. He smiles as he walks in, looking down at the small fan who is jumping up and down trying to get attention from his new hero.

Funny, how a typical Tuesday new puppy appointment sounds just like a pro-wrestler entrance. Paging, Dr. Terry Bollea, paging Dr. Bollea.

I loved watching wrestling when I was a kid. Specifically, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Andre the Giant, Jake the Snake Roberts and Hulk Hogan. If you were an 80’s kid, reading those names probably brought back a few memories. Imagery of bright costumes, toys and maybe even a pro wrestler jumping off the turnbuckle, flash in your mind. It is those memories of pop culture powerhouses that inspired so much of my marketing career.

Now you may be wondering, what does Hulk Hogan have to do with veterinarians? Really Hulk Hogan?

It’s all about branding, brother.

Now, this is not going to be a post, where I feel veterinarians need to give themselves a nickname, wear a flashy costume or have a crazy gimmick. No, it is about creating a brand that stands the test of time. (However, The Vaccinator, would be an awesome nickname for a wrestling veterinarian.)

Creating a brand is not something practice owners or veterinary associates really think about when they go into practice. Many veterinarians went into veterinary medicine for the love of pets, not to become well-known public figures. The veterinarians I know are pretty camera shy and never really like being the center of attention unless they are in the safety of a closed exam room or directly in front of a client. In a day and age where social reputation can make or break you as a veterinary professional, branding is one of the most important components to your success.

Getting to Yes: The Art of Value Communication

By: Rachel Teichberg, CVPM

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that communication is a fundamental skill for each role in the practice, allowing teams to operate cohesively and efficiently. Communication is also at the core of how we work with our clients, ideally creating an environment of trust and understanding. Working with hundreds of practices over the last four years has taught me that we don’t spend enough time focused on the communication training that creates that desired trust and understanding from our clients. I get it. We’re always short on time and people, and sometimes it’s a miracle we make it through the day. This, however, is mission critical. If your goal is to provide excellent patient care, we have to start with communication.

Clients come to our practices because we’re the experts. Unfortunately, with that comes a curse of knowledge on our part. We often take for granted all the information we know, which can create a barrier when we try to communicate value of care. We simply forget how much of the things we need to communicate are not common knowledge. When we improperly explain our services or products, clients struggle to see the benefit it would provide their pet (aka it’s value).


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