Total quality in a veterinary practice rests on a foundation of good business practices. You can’t sustain and grow your business if you don’t generate, grow and protect your resources – capital, personnel and brand reputation.
It’s easy to overlook this center of excellence because much of our business training came on the job. Many of the systems that are required to run a business these days are skill positions. Just like in medicine, nobody is expected to be an expert on everything, but you have to have access to those essential skills. A careful assessment of your needs, assembling your team (on site or off) and appropriate delegation of responsibilities is the key.
You don’t have to earn an MBA (although a solid understanding of business principals helps) because it’s surprising how much can be outsourced today. Off-the-shelf solutions abound in the veterinary industry; some are surprisingly good, others perfectly mediocre. Any vendor can direct you to happy customers, so check with people you know and trust and be sure that your chosen vendor can really deliver before signing a contract.
Here are the business skills you need:
- Human resources: HR is far more demanding these days. There are more rules that must be complied with – from advertising a position to termination – and you or your practice can face significant penalties for mistakes. Be sure you have a well-written employee manual, regularly updated and reviewed by a lawyer familiar with employment law.
- Payroll: The people who work for the practice need to be paid on time and the right amount. Payroll should be easy, right? Not always. All of the major vendors will, at times, have problems, and those can be frustrating to deal with for you and your staff. Not matter how you handle it, the system needs to be reliable, responsive and safe.
- Marketing: Every practice needs an effective online presence. From a high quality website to your social media activity, effective online advertising to reputation management, each is critically important to your business success. Marketing falls into this category, too, as the simple days of phone book ads are long gone. You need to set a budget for your online marketing and then manage to it. Unless you’re prepared to take these activities in-house, you’ll need to find a reputable vendor to handle them for you. Here again, you’ll want to monitor their performance to be sure you’re getting value.
- Practice Management Software: High quality means a high performing PMS environment. IT support, including choice of hardware and software, installation, training and maintenance, allows the rest of the team to focus on clients and patients without adding frustration or friction to their work.
- Practice Managers: Many practices will promote their head technician into this role when the daily burdens start to overwhelm the owner. It’s a role for which they may – or may not – be well suited. Be sure to budget for advanced training, or be content with frustrations and underperformance. Plan for a management structure that can evolve as the business grows and the needs change. Quality comes from a manager who can generate their own ideas to help grow the business – and implement them.
Good managers make for good practices; great management allows a practices to become great.