12 secrets to Mayo Clinic's success that may help your veterinary practice

Just like this institution, your veterinary practice can be a well-oiled machine.
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Jun 30, 2012

If you're looking to help your veterinary practice grow, expand and thrive, take a few cues from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. The Mayo Clinic is doing all three—it has upwards of 60,000 employees (including doctors), grosses more than $8 billion and sees about 1 million patients per year. Despite its size, the Mayo Clinic enjoys the best reputation in the world for human medical care and is categorized as one of the best places to work in the United States.

Compare that to an average veterinary practice that has fewer than 10 employees and fewer than three veterinarians, each of whom sees about 15 patients per day. Most veterinary clinics have cash-flow problems, staff turnover at a two-year rate, and employees who receive few (if any) benefits such as healthcare, dental, vision and retirement. Although most veterinary clinics can't compare to the size and scale of the Mayo Clinic, there are plenty of nuggets to glean from the way it operates.

1. Vision

The Mayo Clinic trustees have a clear idea of what they're doing and where they're headed, and they constantly seek data and input from others about the best ways to get there. Everything that everyone at the Mayo Clinic does revolves around the current and morphing state of healthcare. This vision incorporates bedside medicine, government activities, insurance dynamics, current and emerging patient needs and the state of evolving technology.

2. Mission

More than 100 years ago, the Mayo brothers created a simple mantra that became a mission statement: "The best interest of the patient is the only interest to be considered." Outcome tracking, a Mayo Clinic principle I was introduced to more than 40 years ago, still guides me today in my practice.

3. Employees

Take a minute to chat with Mayo Clinic employees and you'll notice that everyone, from janitors and volunteers to doctors and nurses, understands his or her contribution to the vision and mission. Veterinary practice owners most frequently ask me how to keep their staff members motivated. With the Mayo Clinic model, it's simple. Give your team a mission and vision to believe in, and then make it happen, every day.

4. Compensation

A central feature of the Mayo Clinic system is the compensation dynamic. Doctors are paid well, but on salary. Production is not an issue. Locker-room shop talk is about cases, not money. When my wife was being considered for a liver transplant, we met the head of the transplant team, Dr. David C. Mulligan. He walked in and said, "Mrs. Riegger, you do not need a liver transplant—your condition is benign." Our one-and-a-half hour appointment turned into a three-hour education session, courtesy of Dr. Mulligan. We left smiling. It's expected that new hires for the Mayo Clinic doctor team need five years to get up to speed. To help them succeed, the clinic sets up an educational training track.

5. Team

Cooperation is central to the Mayo Clinic's activities. Employees work in teams within their departments, and they work with other institutions and small practices throughout the world with one goal—help each patient, one at a time. Everything is centered on a team: medical teams, surgical teams and training teams.

6. Training

Everything at Mayo revolves around training. And on the fourth floor of the Mayo Clinic Phoenix Campus is a $20 million simulation center. When an issue or problem is identified, it's off to the simulation center to address it.