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Finding generational middle ground
What a brand-new, young associate might say to her Baby Boomer employer and vice-versa


Dear Gen-X/Gen-Y Associate:

Welcome aboard! I am thrilled to have you as part of our team.

As you may know, I have been a veterinarian for 32 years, the last 28 of them as an owner. The practice you see does not in the least resemble the small two-room house in which I started. The mixed-animal practice I purchased from a retiring doctor has been built, through hard work and healthy fiscal decisions, into the robust small-animal business you see today.

I say "business" because that is what our small-animal hospital is. We are a business. We sell a product (pet health care), and we use the profit from those sales to continue to build up the clinic, pay its employees and invest in new equipment.

From what I understand, veterinary schools are teaching students very little about the business side of veterinary medicine. It appears that for four years you were afforded the most extensive diagnostic equipment to make the most sophisticated diagnoses on pets whose owners have unlimited income. That would be a wonderful world. Unfortunately, as of today, it collides with the reality of running a small business with limited funds.

It is vital to me that you appreciate and understand the business side of our practice. Actually, your salary depends on it. I can't pay you well if my clinic does not generate a healthy income.

It is my goal to offer the most compassionate care for pets and owners. But please remember that a pet, by definition, is a luxury. We are in the business of the care and maintenance of these luxury items.

I am not an adoption agency. I am not a shelter. Nor do I provide social services. In addition, I am not a lending agency. Please do not use my business as such. Everyone has a tale of need or woe. Many people cannot afford pets yet take them on anyway. That is not your problem. Do not try to fix their life problems by using the services of my clinic.

If we operate with a business-minded approach, we will be rewarded financially. I believe your class has an average of $120,000 of student debt. You may be able to pay off those student loans in less than 30 years if you appreciate and use basic business tenets. In addition, a financially stable practice will enable us to invest in the most up-to-date equipment, allowing us to provide even greater service to our paying clients.

Never forget that outstanding customer service in the form of clear communication is one of the hallmarks of a successful veterinary practice. Use basic language that clients understand. Make eye contact with them when you enter the exam room. Talk to them with a warm smile on your face. Empathize with their concerns. Validate their feelings. Mirror what they are explaining to you.

Clients don't want to know how much you know about their pet; they want to know how much you care.

But, all of that does not translate into spending more than your allocated time in the exam room. If you find yourself behind schedule with certain clients at the expense of others, figure out graceful exits. Staying on time with an appointment schedule is important. Time is money.

Having said this, the other part of a successful career depends on your ability to charge for your services. All of them. Offer the highest level of care and never make a judgment on a client's ability to pay based on appearance, looks, speech or projecting your personal ability to pay for services offered.

Delegate all of the technical tasks. You did not go to school to become a highly paid technician. You are a doctor. Your duties are limited to making a diagnosis, prescribing treatment and performing surgery.

This is a wonderful career, and I want all of us to prosper, both emotionally and financially. You are the next generation, and I want you to be as successful and financially independent as I am. With hard work aimed at the bottom line, we can achieve that goal.

Again, welcome aboard!



Source: DVM360 MAGAZINE,
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