Another client came to me not long ago because he was preparing to give notice to his employer and wanted to be sure he had
received all the pay and benefits he was entitled to over the last five years under his automatically renewing contract. The
agreement called for a base salary and a percentage bonus for individual production in excess of a certain amount. I asked
him if he had been receiving production bonuses and he told me that he had every year. "Are you satisfied with the calculation
of the bonus amounts as they relate to your personal production?" I asked. The client wasn't sure what I was talking about.
He just got a check somewhere between three and six months after New Year's Day each year. His employer never supplied him
with any details about his production, so it was impossible to tell whether all of the contractually obligatory bonus money
had been paid.
These situations never happen at my house. Every September, my wife comes home from the first day of school with an armload
of information from her school district detailing the ins and outs of her (our) health insurance coverage. The union demands
it. Also, she recently had a question about pension credit for a few days of substitute teaching she did 20 years ago. The
district researched it and provided the information right away. The state government requires that.
So my thought is: what's fair for public employees should be fair for private ones as well. And it's really in the best interests
of veterinary hospital owners to be forthcoming with information that associate doctors—and minority partners or shareholders—are
entitled to. It demonstrates goodwill when a practice supplies important work-related documentation without being asked, then
nagged, and then eventually sued. Associate veterinarian candidates can urge and cajole future employers into being forthcoming
about key information before they take the job. They can do this by politely insisting that certain transparency terms be
included in the employment contract. Here are some of the important items to request be included in the language of a proposed
1 Provide monthly or quarterly personal productivity figures
If an employer bases an associate's compensation partly or solely on individually generated revenue, then an implicit agreement
exists between the employed veterinarian and the practice. The employed veterinarian will work hard to generate income for
the practice, and the practice will let the veterinarian know how much revenue was used to calculate his pay.
All production-based veterinary employment contracts should mandate that employers supply production numbers to associates.
In fact, employers who pay based on production are legally obligated to provide production figures. But many do not. When
the contract specifically calls for the information to be provided, it makes it far less uncomfortable for the associate to
request the numbers. If the contract does not state such a requirement, the boss still has to come up with the figures at
some point: a claim against him under the labor law would be a slam-dunk. Yet what's the point of straining the work relationship
with a lawsuit—or the threat of one? Get it in the contract.
2 Offer up case-by-case client transaction information
There's more to using a productivity-based compensation system than simply telling an associate to work harder next quarter
and to get a larger bonus. It's difficult or impossible for an employed veterinarian to know why his productivity isn't what
he and management would like it to be. If the doctor only knows that his quarterly numbers are low, he doesn't have enough
information to determine what he needs to do to improve.
Transparency includes complete revenue production information, including the number of client visits, revenue that's generated
through surgical procedures, medication revenue and so on. Absent this information, it's fairly meaningless for a boss to
say, "Unless your production rises, we can't afford to keep you on." Does the associate need see more patients? Operate faster?
Socialize less in the exam room? Come in earlier? Without detailed transaction data, it's nearly impossible to know.