Don't let veterinary team member raises raise your blood pressure

Don't let veterinary team member raises raise your blood pressure

Be smart about the costs of employing team members and make sure you can pay for what you promise
Feb 01, 2012

Dr. Florence Flowers sat down at her desk. She looked at the stack of bills and mail and grimaced. She had owned Waynesville Pet Hospital for two years, and it was growing despite the recession.

She had noticed a few less clients this year, but she had continued to hire staff members to help her and her new associate. She loved her staff and they affectionately called her "Flo-Flo" when clients were not around. She didn't mind. Her new associate, Dr. Ann Beasley, was hard-working and worked well with staff and clients. Life was good.

Just then, Marilyn Johnson peeked into the office: "Dr. Flowers, can I talk to you for a minute?" She waved Marilyn in.

"Thanks." Marilyn lowered her eyes a bit and began talking.

"I need to give you some warning, Dr. Flowers. I really have enjoyed working for you, but I need to make more money."

Marilyn coughed and went on, " ... I have an opportunity to work at the local community college. I interview tomorrow and my friend who works there heard they really need people and that I was likely to get the job. "

Dr. Flowers tried not to show her shock. Marilyn was only a "fair to middling" worker, and Dr. Flowers mostly overlooked her slow and often haphazard approach to reception duties.

Dr. Flowers wanted everyone to love her, and she very seldom pushed her staff. The staff was either self-trained or took direction from others. Dr. Flowers just hoped that everything would work out if "we all got along."

She took a moment then replied: "We'd like to retain you if we can. How much of a raise would you need?"

Marilyn thought about it a moment.

"The college is offering about $4 more per hour, and they have a gazillion benefits."

Dr. Flowers knitted her brow. She had little training in staffing issues from vet school, and the practice where she had previously worked gave her inadequate training in this area. She had found out that it was much harder than she had imagined.

Dr. Flowers hated the prospect of hiring a new receptionist—especially because Marilyn had agreed to work most Saturdays.

"I can give you $3 per hour more."

Marilyn thought to herself, "That was easy."

Marilyn thought for a moment but did not hesitate: "OK, Flo-Flo, I think I would like to stay too—can I work one less Saturday per month?"

Dr. Flowers squirmed in her chair—she could feel her back starting to hurt.

"All right, if you can get Jenny and Claire to work in your place occasionally."

"Thanks, Flo-Flo. You won't regret it."

As Marilyn left, Dr. Flowers turned back to her desk and the painful process of opening bills. Mixed in with the pile of drug bills was a statement from her insurance company. It seemed she owed more to the company because of the increase in her staff payroll.

The letter also explained that someone from the company was coming to do an internal audit in the next 30 days.

I wonder what that means," she thought.

The costs of having staff seemed to be increasing faster than her client base and her bottom line. And for the first time Dr. Flowers had to forgo her own paycheck for a week to keep up with expenses.

She scratched her head.

"I wonder what it really costs me to hire an employee," she said.