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Why You Need to Resolve to Do Better in 2017

It's time for veterinary practice owners to reflect on 2016 and decide what changes will benefit their business in 2017.


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With 2016 coming to a close, it’s time for practice owners to reflect on their hospital’s performance over the past 12 months and outline ways to improve in 2017.

Similar to personal resolutions, business resolutions are professional goals that serve to guide your business decisions through the year.

These resolutions should be scaled to the size of the practice and, more importantly, they should be achievable.

If you’re a one-doctor practice, adding five full-time doctors to meet the demands of the new clients you hope to bring in may be a stretch. If your resolutions are too far out of reach, you’re starting the new year on a note of discouragement.

Searching for inspiration? Consider these seven areas on which to set your resolutions:

1. Attract New Clients 

Review the number of pet owners who became clients in 2016 and then aim to repeat that success or go a bit higher. 

In order to achieve this, review your current marketing tactics and identify what was most successful. Did you mail a first-time patient postcard to new homeowners around your clinic? Did you sponsor a community event that attracted new clients?

Whichever marketing tactic provided the most return on investment, plan on implementing it again in 2017.

2. Identify New Strategies 

Similar to reviewing successful marketing tactics of 2016, explore new techniques that may yield similar results.

If your practice is new to social media, set aside a budget dedicated to Facebook advertising. If your website is dated, plan a facelift and add blogging.

Whatever techniques you choose, ensure that they’re achievable and easily maintainable by you and the staff throughout the year.

Nothing is worse than starting off the year on the right foot, only to lose focus and stop by March.

3. Improve Productivity 

Is your practice still making appointments using pencil and paper? Upgrade to technology that will improve productivity throughout the clinic. You will be investing in your business, and the returns will be felt throughout. 

Many programs are available to simplify doctor-client communications. You also can upgrade your recordkeeping and bookkeeping to be fully digital.

Pick a few areas of improvement, and then dedicate yourself and your team to carrying through to the finish line in 2017.

4. Delegate 

You have talented team members, so utilize them. Dedicate yourself to learning to delegate, and then watch the team thrive. 

Rather than spending your time doing blood draws and labs, delegate the responsibility to veterinary technicians. That gives you extra time to make diagnoses and administer treatment plans for other clients.

This resolution goes hand-in-hand with improving your practice’s productivity.

5. Forgo “Making Do” 

If something no longer works, has to be repaired monthly or creates agony with your team, get rid of it. 

When you’re in the business of saving lives, there’s no time to “make do.” Update that piece of equipment, hire that new employee or do away with a process that kills productivity.

Remove obstacles that interfere with your practice’s success. You and your team will be thankful you did.

6. Keep an Eye on Your Business 

Given frequent news reports of practice managers, accountants and other once-trusted staff embezzling from veterinary practices, it’s critical to keep an eye on your business.

Regularly inspect your books, check your cash flow and make sure everything adds up. If you’re shaky on accounting skills, enroll in a class through a local business association or community college.

You invest in continuing education credits to stay sharp on your veterinary skills; do the same for your business skills.

7. Take Time for You, and Allow Your Team to Do the Same 

Compassion fatigue is hard to deal with. You spend your days caring for patients and their owners, but not enough time caring for yourself.

If the weight of your work is starting to take a toll on you physically, mentally and emotionally, it’s time to take a break. Go off and recharge your batteries, whether it’s a week away or a weekend unplugged.

Encourage your team to do the same.


Stephanie Duncan is the communications coordinator at the Veterinary Hospitals Association, a cooperative based in South St. Paul, Minn. 

Originally published in the December 2016 issue of Veterinary Practice News. Did you enjoy this article? Then subscribe today! 

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