We all have the same 24 hours in a day, yet some appear (key phrase) to be doing better. The list of things to get done never seems to get shorter, and as we grow the business, there are even more tasks that require our attention.
Sometimes we choose to be busy but not work efficiently or thoughtfully. The goal of coming out of veterinary school and being a busy, productive, revenue-generating vet was enthralling. Now that you are there, it is a bit of a challenge! Here are a few truisms that we have learned over the past 15 years, installing software for tens of thousands of equine veterinarians, technicians, and business support staff across the globe.
You will be working for a long time, so why not work smarter, not harder? Challenge yourself to be aware of what issues bubble to the top of your to-do lists when you think about the way your business and team currently operate. Where does there need to be restructuring? What needs to be updated? How are you going to implement change? What tools and resources are available to automate or manage tasks?
Are you invoicing for everything? Some equine vets still do not invoice or collect up to 20% of their products and services. This has not changed in many years, and it is still a major issue for many practitioners, unfortunately. Find and use medical records and billing software that allows you to focus on medical records and automatically capture all invoicing on the back end without you having to invoice separately. Doing this could add 20% to your Net Income by doing nothing differently. This frees up cash flow and increases the value of the practice.
Which clients are making you money? If a client does not pay, why are you still working for them (and having the expense of travel, time, collections resources, inventory expense, etc.)? How are you measuring this, and how often? “Gut feel” is not enough. Put a framework in place to measure this. Firing a client that costs you money is a prudent business decision.
Are you spending more time crisscrossing your travel than you should be? Trying to accommodate your clients is one thing, but at what cost? Consider the price of fuel, veterinarian time, and other related expenses. Does it make sense to drive 30 minutes back where you were earlier in the day to treat a non-emergency? Know when to say no, in a proper way, of course. Have a well-thought-out policy on how to engage with customers and clients when the answer needs to be NO!
What is your hourly rate? Have you calculated what your time is worth on an hourly basis? As much as many of us cringe at the thought of tracking our time in 6-minute increments as lawyers do, what would your hourly rate be if you did? This would not be difficult to do anecdotally, so try it and see what the number is. If it is lower than expected, what are you spending your time on that is dragging the number down?
Are you spending your time in the correct places? As a business owner, you are accountable for everything. The goal of opening a veterinary practice was a dream at one point, remember that? It can be extremely rewarding but extremely frustrating at the same time. If you can implement a resource to aid with a task, take a good look at it. Whether it is invoicing, marketing, accounting, tax filings, or human resources, find an expert in the field so you can focus your time and expertise. Accounting and financial professionals are abundant, and the benefit of utilizing expert services far outweighs the expense. Marketing in today’s complex online world requires expertise. If you think posting once a week on social media is marketing, you need help! There are many ways that you can use social channels to grow your business, revenue, exposure, engagement, and credibility – all of which are different things. Seek help to build a strategy as opposed to building a profile that does meet any of these goals individually.
Are you leveraging social media? I still find it a bit shocking when I try and find a veterinary practice online, and they do not have a website, or the veterinarian themselves do not have a social media presence, even at a minimal level. Some will argue that they do not have the time or skills to build a website. Although it is always on the list of things to do, it always finds its way to the bottom of the list. A small investment of time and expense can get you in the game and build your brand. Even if it costs you $1,000, it will not take long to make that investment back by gaining only one client over the span of one year. Personal preference aside, having an online presence is critical in today’s marketplace, if nothing more, to build trust with prospective clients.
Are you selling professional services or pharmaceuticals/drugs? The answer should be obvious. Focus on what you are trained to do, and long-term success will come. The pharmaceuticals and supplies are critical but utilize tools and other resources to track, manage and deliver these to you. Don’t be a slave to the wrong parts of the business. These COGS are usually the first or second largest expense in veterinary practice; understand how to manage these costs instead of negatively impacting your cash flow.
The bigger picture – The landscape of the equine veterinary space has changed forever with corporate ownership and private equity cash injections. This topic is a fascinating topic for some and the bane of existence for others. Either way, it is here to stay, so understand the game of leverage. Whether you are looking to sell your practice in one year, three years, or 10+ years, it behooves you to understand what the landscape looks like with corporate engagement. It would be of great benefit to understand the metrics of what your practice is valued at to capture the largest value at sale. If you think selling is not a possibility, please excuse your own ignorance (I say this as nicely as possible). No one knows what tomorrow brings; car accident, health scare, on-the-job incident, and the list goes on. It is in your best interest to design a plan, work on a plan, measure success, and change course as times change. If you HAD to sell next month, what is your practice worth? Are you spending time on the right things to create the most value if you were forced to sell tomorrow? Don’t put this analysis off; it matters!
A final thought – It is extremely dangerous to compare yourself and your practice with someone else. Where you are and what you are dealing with are different from everyone else. Just because someone may be doing very well on the surface does not mean that everything is going well elsewhere. Be aware of false positives and chart your own path. Work with your strengths and weaknesses and don’t compare. Learn to shift your focus to the areas of your practice that you can control.
This information does not constitute legal or accounting advice, nor is any topic fully evaluated to constitute professional advice. It is meant to challenge thoughts and perceptions as you drive down the road visiting clients, and friends and treating the animals you are entrusted with the care of. What do you want your outcome to be?