Tough talk is the basis of my management publication, Veterinary Productivity, and this month I share with you an excerpt that is particularly necessary as our struggling economy flops around like a
newly caught fish in the bottom of your boat:
"There is both bad news and good news for veterinarians. The bad news is that 10 percent to 15 percent of existing practices
are likely to close their doors in the next five years. The good news is that those who follow our guidelines are much less
likely to be among them. The 85 percent who survive the economic chaos will inherit the best clients from the closing practices.
"The secret is in the term 'best clients.' These make up about 55 percent of the accounts in your computer. They provide you
with 90 percent to 95 percent of your profits. You know who they are.
"However, too many practices have been wasting their time and talents trying to be all things to all clients and not spending
enough time with these valuable clients."
Your best clients are devoted to your practice and bring in 90 percent of your new referrals with their enthusiasm. They like
you because they perceive you as liking them and their pets.
We have always recommended giving these pet owners a special phone number for priority appointments. Not only does this enhance
your image, but it shows you never shove them aside in favor of the "rabies-only, minimal-service" crowd that constitute up
to 45 percent of clients you see every day.
Be brave enough to check your own practice. Pull the records from the last week and separate clients into two simple categories;
"worth the time" and "waste of time." I am not necessarily talking about dollars here, although you needed $10/minute to financially
justify seeing most of them.
Would it have made more sense to spend three to five extra minutes with those "worth the time?"
Time is money! The more time you spend with your best clients, the more bonded they become, the more referrals they make and
the more your hospital prospers.
The best way to improve your practice is to pick up the phone and ask about the health of the pet you saw yesterday.
Message to your clients
"Has he stopped limping yet? How does she like that T/D? Has the coughing diminished?"
Absolutely nothing is better than having the client imagine that you are personally interested in his or her pet's welfare.
After all, the physician or dentist has never called.
Too busy? That's probably because you were seeing some clients who you may never see again. Invest time in your best clients.
Laugh with them. You will have no better day than when you were busy seeing only favorite clients who know you and trust you.
Then, on the days you are too busy, you could have a staff member call. "Doctor X is in surgery, but he was thinking about
Fluffy and asked me to check on whether the medication has taken effect yet. How is Fluffy doing?"
Best clients, bonded clients, always find a way to pay for their pet's care. Their veterinarians will not be among those closing
their doors anytime soon.
Sometimes we lose sight of who really supports the practice. It is the better clients, those truly interested in the best
outcome for their loved ones.
On the other hand, there are all of your old buddies to whom you've been giving discounts for years.
Perhaps you never noticed those lost dollars before, but now those same dollars (from discounts) are impeding your ability
to compensate a good staff properly. In effect, you are robbing your staff to pay your friends.
You must charge all clients $2/minute for staff labor. (That is the real cost when staff constitutes 20 percent of your expenses.)
Last year's election was all about change. Like the Fed, you will have to determine whom you are going to bail out. Do your
best clients a favor by staying solvent so that you can meet their future needs.