Owning your mistakes as a veterinary practice owner

Owning your mistakes as a veterinary practice owner

No practice will ever be perfect, but correcting missteps may get you closer to the idealistic vision you once had of practice ownership.
Jan 01, 2014

We all start out as practitioners with a universal anthem: "I'm never going to make the same mistakes that my first employer made. I'm going to manage my own staff and run my practice like a real business, make a better than decent profit, spend time with my family and retire at a reasonably young age." So what the hell happens to all of us?

Everything was all so organized at the beginning. Yes, the construction did take two months longer and required $10,000 more than planned. The 69-page business plan, so carefully crafted, so detailed, simply failed to keep with reality despite incessant labor. Staffing was well planned but few wanted anything to do with their job descriptions. The staff that cost 20 percent in the ideal practice ended up costing 55 percent of revenues in the first quarter when staff outnumbered clients almost every day. The greatest task was to find tasks for underbusy staff, relieving them of their favorite pastime of following the big hand of the clock in its revolutions.

But no fear, there is a way back. Here are my tips for correcting the mistakes we all swore we'd never make.


One of the greatest manpower-savers of all time is glass. Nothing assists our efficient manpower more than being able to find staff when they are needed. Also, staff members who are aware that you can see them tend to stay more productively occupied. Excepting the lavatory, every room in the hospital should have a window—and the larger the better. And as your practice grows, you will soon fall out of the habit of giving escorted tours to new clients, but your windows can display your hospital to every passerby—no better advertising exists!

In my own self-designed hospital, a full laboratory, radiology, surgery and treatment areas were revealed to clients just a few steps away from their assigned examination room. Referrals soared after their first visit. Never was the question "Do you do the surgery here?' asked. I was surprised that, in my 29-year tenure at this hospital, not one client seriously asked whether they could watch their pet's surgery through the four-by-eight-foot window. Just having seen the immaculate, well-equipped surgery suite was a remarkable confidence builder.