So how does the practice profit?
But how is the veterinary practice owner going to show a profit for taking you off the unemployment line? He or she cannot
sell 100 percent of your time. What about the time you spend getting ready between clients, writing up records and even potty
time. Let's face it: Only 60 percent of your time is billable to the clients. Now your 74 cents per minute cost becomes $1.24
per billable minute.
Remember I said that there are rules to follow? Well, this one is incontravertible: No practice can survive if veterinary
employment costs exceed 25 percent of total practice expenses. So it follows that per-minute costs must be marked up four
times to determine client fees for your service. Now your client must be billed $4.95 for each minute you spend serving his
or her needs or the practice loses money.
Calling it simply $5 per minute, a 15-minute exam must produce at least $75 to break even. An hourlong surgery cannot be less
than $300 for an $80,000-per-year surgeon's time alone. A $100,000-per-year surgeon's time must be marketed at $6 per minute
and $360 per hour. When an associate does a free nail trim that takes just two minutes, the hospital loses at least $10. (Consult
the table "Per-minute client costs based on veterinary salaries" to put your own hospital's staff in perspective. Of course,
this data doesn't consider the fixed costs of the hospital that must be added in, but that's a different discussion for another
Per-minute client costs based on veterinary salaries
Everyone's time is money
Shall we mention the markup on staff members' time? There's a rule for this as well. Costs for paraprofessional staff—receptionists,
technicians and kennel employees—may not exceed 20 percent of practice expenses.
If we add 20 percent for benefits to paraprofessional wages and consider those employees to also be about 60 percent efficient,
a $14-per-hour full-time staff member's time must be charged out at $2.33 per minute. A receptionist invoicing a cat toy for
$2 and taking two minutes for the process is an invitation to bankruptcy, because time is money and profit is not a town in
Serbia. It nauseates me to think of a veterinarian and technician spending an extra three minutes in an exam room trimming
a pet's nails and not charging for the service.
Over the career of the average veterinarian, an amount greater than double the total cost of today's veterinary education
is given away as free services. I know of no other profession that is as generous to its staff and clients. And while generosity
is a noble trait, it's certainly not helping our debt-laden profession one bit.
Dr. Gerald Snyder publishes Veterinary Productivity, a newsletter for practice productivity. He can be reached at 217 Clinton
St., Hoboken NJ 07030; (800) 292-7995; or