People do not work for a company, they work for a boss. Are you the kind of boss that people want to work for? If you own a veterinary practice, then it is essential for you to hire and maintain a great team of people; people who will want to work for you now and in the future. Here are 10 ways to become a great practice owner:
- Share your Passion, Hopes and Dreams for the Practice: This could be a written mission or vision statement, or it could simply be the verbal message that you consistently share with the team. Regardless, your team needs to know why you became a veterinarian, and what you hope to accomplish by owning a practice. What were your dreams when you opened the practice, and have they changed? What do you hope for the future of the practice and your part in the profession? The only way your team can share your dream is if they know what it is … so share that dream.
- Be the Moral Compass: You may have a code of ethics or values written up, or you may simply live the type of professional life that you feel is appropriate. Regardless, realize that team members will go where you go, and NOT where you point. In other words, if you tout the importance of honesty, integrity and humility, you had better demonstrate these qualities as well.
- Apply Rules Consistently: It is vital that your team feels you are fair and equitable. This means you must treat all of your team members the same consistently, especially when faced with similar situations. If your ‘best technician’ is late for work, you need to give them a warning just like you gave that other ‘not-best technician’ when they sauntered in late. Being fair is extremely important, and realize that one way or the other, team members will know how you have treated the others.
- Recognize Displays of Compassion: You likely believe that this profession is based on a foundation of compassion, and you want your team to feel the same. After all, we are here to provide care for people and their pets, in a compassionate manner. So realize and notice when your team is displaying compassion, and reward them for it. Extra time with a grieving client deserves a pat on the back, not a verbal attack because the next appointment is now late.
- Know the Importance of Fun: Laughter IS the best medicine in our profession too! Humor is so important to the morale of your team, they have even studied this connection in ‘human’ medicine! Recognize that laughter is a form of stress relief, and does not indicate that the team member is ‘riding the clock’ or not working hard enough. Humor will help them, and you, through some awfully difficult situations, so honor and encourage its part in your practice.
- Share Certain Parts of the Finances: While you are intimately aware of the numbers, your team may have literally no idea of how profitable or successful the practice is on a day-to-day basis. Share percentages, not real numbers, and let them know how this year is comparing to last year. Share successes, and discuss periods when the practice is not as successful. The team may even have ideas to share to help increase revenue and profits.
- The Bottom Line: Also in regards to finances, as practice owner, you are likely pretty focused on the bottom line, the net profits of the practice. Yet when it comes to motivating the team to be more successful, you have to appeal to what is important to them. They entered veterinary medicine to care for animals, as did you, but you also made the decision to purchase a practice … they did not. So when you want to push heartworm testing to increase the bottom line, acknowledge that your team’s motivation would be to help more pets live a longer life without parasites. Focus on the “why” that they feel is important.
- Back Up Your Team: Is it true that “the customer is always right?” Well, that depends. Sometimes no one is wrong, and both parties are right to some degree. It is important to realize this and back-up your team members. For example, if you are fielding a client complaint about a lack of compassion displayed by the front office staff, acknowledge the client’s concerns, but also add that you personally know they care very much, as you see them back loving on the patients in the mornings and on lunch breaks. Yes, they should be displaying that compassion to every client as well, but do not lead the client to believe they are right, that your team members are not compassionate people.
- Don’t Allow Jumping: When a practice is large enough to have several layers of management, the practice owner must enforce those layers and distinctions. So if an employee, who is supposed to approach their supervisor with an issue or problem, corners you in surgery and asks a special request, send them right back down the organizational chart and let them know they need to first approach their supervisor. This way the supervisor does not lose credibility or authority in the eyes of that team member, and you are not faced with solving everyone’s problems, which is likely why you HAVE middle management in the first place!
- Admit When You Are Wrong: We all make mistakes, and it will help your team to admit their mistakes, if you admit yours. Some mistakes involve the life and death of these animals, your patients, and you need the team to feel comfortable enough to speak up when they have made a mistake. You will also get carried away at times and not treat your team as nicely as you would like. Just apologize. An apology will go so far toward creating a team that can demonstrate integrity and move past mistakes together.
Being a practice owner was your choice, so there are expectations involved when it comes to the team. The best practices are not only those which clients want to come to, but are practices where people want to be hired!