Littleton, Colo. — With a U.S. unemployment rate that continues to hover around 10 percent, a report by Summit Veterinary Advisors of Littleton,
Colo., suggests now is the time for veterinary practices to turn that negative into a positive by reassessing the people and
processes in place and making the changes necessary to strengthen their businesses.
"We are fortunate to work in a profession that has not been hit as hard as many other industries. Emergency practices and
some specialties have felt the effect of clients who have less discretionary income to spend on their animals," write report
authors Lorraine Monheiser List, CPA, CVA, and Leslie A. Mamalis, MBA, MSIT. "Some wellness practices have seen a drop in
revenue, yet others — even in the same communities — have experienced growth."
While the natural tendency during hard economic times is to circle the wagons and brace for the worst, Monheiser and Mamalis
say those who take a more positive approach can make the unsteady economic climate work for them, and not against them.
Job hunters abound
Practices looking to add employees have a strong talent pool from which to choose, with many qualified candidates in the hunt.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, for every current job opening, there are six job hunters.
"Resumes today are much more likely to reflect employers that closed their doors, positions that were eliminated and jobs
that shrunk to part-time," the report says. "The 10 percent unemployment rate also doesn't reflect workers who are under-employed
and would readily switch to a full-time job or take the opportunity to change careers. If there is someone in your practice
that is not working to his or her potential, now may be the time to find a replacement."
Employers may find a win-win scenario as they look to fill positions — not only is there an abundance of qualified candidates,
but the economy has contributed to a downward pressure on wages, which will allow businesses to hire a good candidate for
less than it would have a year ago, according to the report.
Businesses that aren't looking to add to their staff should focus on developing current employees to make sure they are contributing
to the success of the practice.
"Operating with fewer staff members can provide a great opportunity for (employee) growth and development. All employees are
in the spotlight and have a chance to prove their worth, take on new tasks and learn new skills," the report says.
In addition to developing personnel, practices can also take advantage of a tight economy to evaluate systems and processes
to ensure they are being maximized.
"For the first time in years, you may actually have some breathing room to get to those administrative projects that never
quite get to the top of your to-do list," says Monheiser List and Mamalis. "Now is a good time to write or update job descriptions,
or get the inventory features in your management software working right. (Even something like sprucing up exam rooms) can
give everyone a morale boost."
Client touch points
While pet owners may have tightened their wallets with regard to preventive care, now is the time to reach out and connect
with clients. If some are having cash-flow problems, explain your practice's payment options and offer choices such as third-party
payers and pet insurance.
"Pet owners may have been postponing recommended treatments and procedures," the report explains. "You are the animal's advocate:
It is your job to communicate the importance and long-term effects of the treatment. Give them good information on which to
base their decisions; but be sympathetic to your clients' economic situations."
As the nation awaits an economic turnaround, Monheiser List and Mamalis encourage veterinary practice owners to look on the
bright side: "For every threat, there is also an opportunity for those who can identify and capitalize on it. How you and
your practice interpret and react to economic news will impact operations, growth and profits for years into the future."