Old School, New School: Dr. Greenskin makes an offer

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Old School, New School: Dr. Greenskin makes an offer

Our favorite veterinary associate finally decides she wants to buy her boss out, so she makes Dr. Codger an offer he can’t refuse … or can he?
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Oct 12, 2018

Illustration by Ryan OstranderIt's one of those rare quiet afternoons in the hospital. Thanks to a couple of no-show new clients and a few “I think my pet is dying!” appointments with simple solutions, Dr. Greenskin is having one of those days that makes her worry about her job security. Perhaps she should learn to refocus and recharge during these highly infrequent unfrenzied moments instead of picturing herself penniless on the street as soon as cases stop flowing through the door nonstop.

On a positive note, the timing of this slowdown gives Dr. Greenskin the window she needs to attend to some important business. After months of analyzing the benefits and sacrifices, poring over numbers and finalizing her business plan, she’s finally built up the nerve to plunk down her firm offer to buy the clinic from Dr. Codger.

Full of confidence, the young doctor grabs a tidy manilla envelope detailing her offer and plans for the hospital, as well as some contingencies depending on how receptive the old man seems to be, and takes off in search of Dr. Codger himself.

When she finds him, he is in an unusually chipper mood. It might be the result of his new daily flaxseed regimen, but whatever the cause, Dr. Greenskin sees her opportunity to pounce. Feeling calm and collected, she enters the lion's den—that musty, wood-paneled office littered with decades of weathered vet magazines where Dr. Codger has spent the vast majority of his life.

Dr. Codger's chair creaks as he leans back to greet his protégé.

“Pretty quiet out there today,” the old man states with knitted brows. “These slow days happen, you know. It’s best to use them to catch up on your records and maybe read a couple of journals."

Dr. Greenskin smiles and nods as she seats herself across from the old DVM. Placing her folder on the desk, she begins her well-rehearsed pitch.

"I’ve really enjoyed my time here,” she begins, “and I can't overstate how much I appreciate your guidance and all the hard work you dedicate to this hospital every single day."

Dr. Codger detects the weight of what’s coming. His chair groans again as he leans forward for the revelation.

Dr. Greenskin can’t help but grin ear to ear as she continues: "So that’s why I want to make an offer to buy this hospital and work with you toward your eventual retirement!"

With the cat out of the bag, the confident associate eyes her boss closely, hoping to get a jump on negotiations. A smile is barely visible on Dr. Codger’s otherwise solemn face. After a pause long enough to make Dr. Greenskin’s soaring heart sink, he finally responds.

"Well, Dr. Greenskin, I’m so very proud of you,” he begins with a voice as creaky as the chair holding him up. “You’re just getting started in this gig. You’re going to do great things in your career—I have no doubt about that! I’m honored that you’d be willing to step up and take the reins! But as far as this hospital is concerned, well … "

He pauses. The silence is suffocating, and Dr. Greenskin struggles to breathe in the Old-Spice-scented office.

"I’m sorry to tell you that the practice has already been sold,” he continues at last. “I signed all of the papers last week. It's a smaller corporate outfit, and they’re going to take great care of you and the entire team. They plan to add facilities as well as staffing, including two more doctors. They’re very likely to offer you a medical director position, in which case you’d be a big player in the leadership here at the clinic. You’re the only one who knows about any of this. I was planning on gathering everyone up in a couple days for the big announcement."

Stunned, Dr. Greenskin sits back, her thoughts racing. A few hot tears stream down her face. Dr. Codger tactfully gives her a box of tissues and some time to regain her composure.

"Oh, wow,” she stammers. “I just thought—we’d talked many times about me possibly taking over—and I thought you wanted the practice to stay independent. I thought we had an understanding."

Dr. Codger looks his young protégé in the eye.

"This was simply a business decision,” he says, “and I don't want you to take it personally. Both parties were ready to move, and timing is very important. The corporation has the resources to do all the things I should’ve done a long time ago but never made time for. They’re going to take this hospital to the next level. It's going to be the best decision for all of us.”

He shrugs, then gets a little more personal.

“Plus, to be honest, I really didn't think you were interested in buying me out. You weren't clear enough with me on that. If you want to own a practice, then you absolutely will. I'm afraid it just won't be this one—at least not at this point in time. You’re a great doctor, and I want you to learn from this experience. I’m sure the next time an opportunity to own arises, you’re going to be all over it."

Dr. Greenskin does her best to absorb this final lesson from her longtime mentor, but with her wounds so fresh, she can’t help but feel her relationship with Dr. Codger is crumbling before her eyes. Marking a profound moment in her professional development, the young associate realizes that even her most trusted and revered mentor is capable of letting her down. Dr. Greenskin makes a quick promise to herself that she’ll never again put a boss or mentor on the type of pedestal Dr. Codger has occupied, then stands up to leave—but not before delivering a few parting words.

"I understand, Doc,” she says with a sigh that helps ease the tension in her chest. “You had to make the right decision for all involved. I wish I would’ve been more persistent and forward. I’m sure this will be a good change. I won't say anything to anyone so you can make the announcement on your own terms."

Dr. Greenskin exits the office to find a safe, quiet place to be alone, while Dr. Codger remains seated, gazing pensively at the collection of bobblehead animals adorning his old wooden desk. He does care about Dr. Greenskin and knows she'll be just fine.

“It’s an important life lesson for her,” he mumbles to himself while picking up the phone, a slight smile appearing at the corners of his mouth. “Now, I need to get my travel agent back on the phone. Time to go wild!”

Is this the outcome you’d envisioned for our two favorite vets? Is it what you would’ve chosen for them? Or is it the inevitable conclusion in today’s veterinary business environment? What will the fallout be when Dr. Codger makes the big announcement? Find out next time in Old School, New School.

Dr. Jeremy Campfield lives near Sacramento with his family, including an aging mini Aussie and an obstreperous pitbull mix that some mistake for a chocolate Lab (to the delight of her owners). When the family is not getting their hands dirty in the garden, Dr. Campfield indulges in his love for the outdoors with hiking, kitesurfing and climbing aboard any two-wheeled contraption. Please remember: Watch for cyclists, share the road and pass them like you love them!