2011, another year of conflict for veterinarians

2011, another year of conflict for veterinarians

Even in these difficult times, you can grow your practice by focusing on productivity
May 01, 2011

With $4 a gallon gasoline on the horizon and a 20 percent increase in food costs already in place, the challenges of 2011 will be great. However, it's not the best of times and neither is it the worst of times, no matter how bad it may feel to those who practice in cities north of a line drawn from San Francisco to Charlotte, N.C.

We are at war. It is a world economic war with all countries involved. Fortunately, the threat of war mobilizes the best thinkers to think better. Scientists are more creative with a perceived threat. Manufacturers become more innovative and productive. Many of mankind's greatest achievements have been derived from war—we learned to split the atom and fly into space. Yes, necessity is the mother of invention.

All of the United States' major cyclical depressions have come after wars, never during them. They followed the War of 1812, the Civil War and the Spanish-American War. The Great Depression followed World War I (when we disbanded most of our military), and only World War II brought America out of it.

Unfortunately, the War on Terror annoys Americans more than it unifies us. Now, our threat is massive unemployment, and if you think that is a bubble that will go away soon, I'm afraid you will be sorely disappointed. Today, tomorrow and for at least five years, unemployment will be the common enemy.

Veterinary medicine has been immune to the worst of the problems, but we all probably feel the effect of clients with less discretionary income. Many practices have seen a 5 to 15 percent drop in revenue. However, even in this economy, some practices have seen growth. The difference is management.

Now is the time for us to turn the unsteady economy into an opportunity. Veterinary Productivity is more than just the name of my management newsletter. It is the key to getting you through these difficult times. Productivity is achieving the most in net earnings from the lowest investment in overhead.

Hire or develop staff

Now is a good time to hire because there are a lot of qualified candidates who are unemployed or under-employed. And because of the economy, you can hire good employees for less than you would have a couple of years ago.

Don't hire the first warm body to show up. Taking the time to conduct an effective interview process today will keep you from suffering migraines later. And don't waste your valuable money on newspaper advertising. Just invest in a cloth banner that says, "Now Hiring," in yellow letters on a red background. Put it on your lawn for fast results, and then just roll it up to save for the next time you need it.

Opportunities to upgrade your staff's attitude and skills are rampant right now. So if you aren't in a position to hire, focus on educating your employees to make them the best they can be. There is nothing like the perception of being one staff member short to encourage staff members to shoulder new responsibilities.