Be the business
Veterinarians, generally speaking, are not self-centered people. Focusing on others helps us to build relationships with our clients, empathize more deeply with our patients and create stronger teams with our staff. This tendency to avoid a selfish outlook does not, however, make us the best veterinarians that we can be. To grow as doctors, make ourselves maximally valuable to our patients and our employers and achieve true job satisfaction, we need to pay attention to ourselves. We need to understand what our career options are; how we want to grow; what our strengths, weaknesses and passions are; and what success looks like for us as individuals. The best method I have found for achieving this mindset is trying to view myself as my own business. (I think Andy, Inc. has a nice ring to it.)
Before you skip to the next article, let me say that I know that thinking about business is probably not your favorite thing to do. Most veterinarians would probably rank strategic business planning right up there with watching C-SPAN and getting a flu vaccine in the list of awesome things to do on your day off. Career planning is not sexy, but you know it is important. And this method is a quick and easy way to wrap your head around what you are doing and where you are going as a veterinarian.
Now, let's pretend that you are your own business and you work for no one else. Are you doing the following things well?Setting your price
For most associates, figuring out what to ask for in an employment contract is like playing basketball with small children. You worry about being humiliated and taken advantage of in a way that even your close friends will never let you live down. You also fear being perceived as an egotistical jerk who treats poor, good-hearted practice owners mercilessly for your own pleasure. But if you think of yourself as a business, you can escape that feeling by asking yourself: "Are my prices fair? Do they reflect my value to the consumer (practice owner)? Will they keep me in business?"
If the answer to any of these questions is no, then you need to negotiate. And it offers some direction on what you should ask for. Remember, asking an outrageous price for your services or nickel and diming your client (practice owner) is not how you want to run your business. However, you also can't survive if your costs to live are greater than what you are able to bring in. You need to know what your overhead expenses are (your personal living expenses including debt), and what value you can bring to the hospital (both financially and culturally). If you have these key pieces of information, you can take an educated stand on your salary and benefits.
Sometimes your potential client (practice owner) will not be willing or able to pay the price that you are asking. You have the power to try to negotiate further, to accept the arrangement your client is proposing or to find a different client. Remember that money isn't everything, and sometimes it's better to make less money and work for a client that fits your style. Just never forget that you always have to be able to pay the bills.