The potential consequences
Sometimes poor delegation in a veterinary practice goes on indefinitely with no apparent impact. But in the case of excessive
delegation, consequences are not spotted for many years, and suddenly a crisis ensues. Here are a couple of examples of what
can happen when staff members have too much autonomy.
Massive credit card fraud. In one instance, the business owner put authority for financial matters into the hands of a longtime employee, Sharon, who
had always proven trustworthy in the past. Everything was fine until Sharon quietly started dating one of the other employees,
John. At about that time profits began to drop. The practice owner blamed the recession for declining income.
It wasn't until he was involved in a serious traffic accident and his wife took over his financial affairs during his convalescence
that she determined the real reason for declining profit. The actual problem was that John was running up charges on his corporate
credit card, and Sharon simply paid the bills knowing they contained a small fortune in inappropriate personal expenses. If
the trusting practice owner had merely scanned the credit card bills periodically, he would've noticed the thousands of dollars
in unrecoverable theft.
Unemployment fraud. This is one of those rare instances where the government came to a veterinary practice's rescue and helped save the owners
from their own overdelegation. Again, a true story: An employee was fired from Practice A and the same day applied for and
was approved for unemployment benefits. Later the same day, the employee found a new job at nearby competing Practice B. This
employee continued to receive and cash unemployment checks charged against Practice A's account. This went on for nearly two
years until the state department of labor matched the social security number on the employee's W-2 to the one on his unemployment
Practice A knew the employee had taken a new job with a nearby animal hospital—team members had called him and spoken with
him about various client records. Yet the bookkeeper at Practice A never bothered to look at the weekly unemployment statements
from the state labor department. If he had, he would have realized that a former employee who was not qualified for benefits
was illegally plundering the practice's unemployment insurance account.
Who knows if Practice A will ever receive much credit in its unemployment insurance account. And innocent Practice B? The
bookkeeper will probably be required to testify in court against the employee, because unemployment insurance fraud is a felony.
And then he will have to arrange to garnish the employee's wages after a judge establishes the amount to be withheld and remitted
to the state.
Don't let these horror stories scare you—delegation is a good thing. It can help you run your business more effectively and
it can empower employees and maximize their strengths. In that situation, everyone wins. Just make sure that the buck ultimately
stops with you.
Dr. Christopher Allen is president of Associates in Veterinary Law PC, which provides legal and consulting services to veterinarians.
Call (607) 754-1510 or e-mail email@example.com