Even if your practice is doing relatively well, you still can stoke the fire by following some or all of the following 11
1. UPGRADE SOMETHING. Look over the facility. Get out the paint brush. Consider an upgrade to American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) accreditation.
Even if you decide not to go through the formal accreditation process, examine the 900 standards and see what you can add.
Or, better yet, upgrade yourself; look into getting boarded.
2. MAINTAIN STAFF MORALE WITH A WISH PARTY. Turn off the telephone. Cater lunch. Sit down at a fun-filled, in-house luncheon. Ask what they want for themselves and for
the clinic. Then give it to them. (Be brave; their requests are realistic.)
3. MAKE SURE FRED IS COOKING. Earmark at least 1 percent of the budget for animals and owners in need. FRED, which stands for Fund for Reclamation, Education
and Development, is an opportunity to tell staff and clients that we care, and we are doing our part to help the community.
(Actions speak loudly.)
4. HAVE A GOOD-MORNING SMILE FOR ALL. Practice leaders should go to each staff member each morning and spread morning cheer. Each member has hidden home issues
that might take a smile away: a layoff, a cut in pay, a sick child, troubles with health. Make the practice a sanctuary.
5. IMPROVE STAFF EDUCATION. Each day take a little extra time to explain how things work. Why the saline flush with cancer treatment? Why do we take
two films? They want to know. Break the day up with spontaneous, five-minute seminars. Draw them out. (Staff education is
the best marketing technique.)
6. IMPROVE CLIENT EDUCATION. Make sure your better educated staff has time to chat with clients, to share their newly acquired information. Bathe all
"going homes" at no charge, and make sure clients know of this complimentary service. Give clients your e-mail address and
encourage them to ask questions of you and your staff.
7. "N FOR ALL." N stands for what each client gets after each visit. N means next appointment. Even if they come in for a toenail trim, a simple reminder is in order: "We will see you in six months for the
8. LEARN A NEW SKILL. There are many ways to do so without spending a lot of money. Go to the human sector: Visit a dentist, a radiology unit,
an intensive-care nursing station. Visit a respected veterinary colleague. The goal is to find a useful new skill to learn.
9. AUDIT THE MEDICAL RECORDS. Start auditing records with a simple "10 per day" list. Review the entries, the differentials, the plan of action, the diagnostics
and compare entries in the record with the invoices. Put these lessons to work to improve staff and client compliance. Your
new touchstone should be, "If it is not written in the record, it did not happen." Expect some surprises.
10. BONUS. Plan a significant vacation six to 12 months down the road. One year my father's company had a really bad year, which meant
no vacation for him or mother. But his philosophy was, during difficult times it is more important than ever to take a vacation.
Which they did.
11. REAFFIRM THE PAYROLL, BENEFITS AND RETIREMENT PLAN. Hard times are always an especially good time to do this. Cuts in pay, benefits and vacation time are morale killers, so
do everything reasonable to keep things as they are, even if it means that the veterinarian owners take home less. As much
as possible, keep your support staff intact. (If it comes down to it, cut veterinarian time first because income is linear
with support staff, not veterinarians.)
The next article will discuss how to return to the basic issues of budget and expenses, including why it's OK to forego short-term
profit in a long-term business plan.
Dr. Riegger, dipl. ABVP, is the chief medical officer at Northwest Animal Clinic Hospital and Specialty Practice in Albuquerque,
N.M. Contact him by telephone or fax (505) 898-0407,
. Find him on AVMA's NOAH as the practice management moderator. Order his books "Management for Results" and "More Management
for Results" by calling (505) 898-1491.