The busy Vet

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Aug 01, 2007

Janet definitely is a busy veterinarian – busy doing everything at once.

If you have been reading this and are not a veterinarian, you may find the story full of hyperbole. The rest of us animal doctors are sorry to disappoint you with reality. We know that elements of Janet's story are all too true.

Busy is good – right?

The truth is, busy does not necessarily mean efficient or enjoyable.

Let's look at some of the problems with Janet's busy practice including:

  • Doing too much herself.
  • Failure to hire adequate staff and to delegate properly.
  • Trying to be a friend to everyone.
  • Encouraging groupies.
  • Failure to create systems within the practice.
  • Working without a solid appointment framework.
  • Potential for poor patient care in spite of a skilled and experienced professional.
  • Trading services. It never works like it is supposed to.
  • Allowing clients to roam at will in the professional office.
  • Encouraging staff and clients to refer to the owner on a first-name basis in a professional environment.

Consultants know they often are faced with the task of reshaping an inefficient and under-performing enterprise (one that is otherwise apparently "busy") into something altogether different — often against the instincts of the owner/veterinarian.

Invariably, the problem is more than looking at the financials: It involves changing the culture and mindset of the business owner. This is a daunting task.

The first hurdle for the owner is to understand that it is not an embarrassment to make a profit beyond a "reasonable professional salary." Overcoming that mindset is vital if they expect the enterprise to have any value at the end of a long career.

The majority of young vets seem to go into practice with an apologetic and embarrassed attitude toward the business side. To them it is the distasteful byproduct of what they do. They want to be great veterinarians and believe that, if they do so, the emotional and monetary rewards will follow.

That can happen, but often does not as the career moves toward burnout — too busy, not enough cash flowing in and not enough personal time.

The truth is that you should first try to form a quality veterinary enterprise – one that serves the public's varied needs, one that is transparent and fair to staff, and one that builds a culture of trust and delegation.

If you accomplish that, you will find that a satisfying career and an equally satisfying personal life can co-exist.

Delegate, create systems and have fun. – David M. Lane

Editor's note: The names of individuals in this column are fictitious.