Keeping your support team happy means treating them with respect, including seeking their opinions on patients. It means paying them well and creating a productive work environment. It means supporting their professional development with continuing education. And sometimes, it means cupcakes.
In my 36 years of working in and owning veterinary practices, I’ve developed a hearty respect for the simple act of sharing food with team members to help strengthen a great working relationship.
Now, before I walk in the door at North Idaho Animal Hospital (NIAH), where I currently practice, I always find time to stop someplace wonderful and purchase delicacies sure to earn me a warm greeting from the staff. The smiles on their faces and the hustle in their steps help all of us better handle a typical busy practice day with aplomb. It certain makes me smile to see that day’s offerings dwindle steadily when I pass their place of honor on the pharmacy counter.
I live an hour away from NIAH and add 20 minutes to my commute just to keep this tradition alive and fresh. One of my favorite go-to stops is the Bread Basket Bakery (run by a Mennonite family that can bake—oh, can they bake!) to get sticky buns, cream cheese-frosted cinnamon rolls, maple bars, bear claws, donuts, cookies, or a mixture of all of them. I work hard to not get the same thing twice in a row.
I also keep my eye—or, more accurately, my taste buds—out for new tasty tidbits on my travels, mostly things they almost certainly would have never had the opportunity to try. I’m talking pralines from New Orleans, cheesecake from NYC, deep-dish Chicago pizza, salt water taffy from Salt Lake City and BBQ from Memphis. I’ll order Godiva chocolates or other candy online that they might not have seen since they were little kids. Sometimes I give team members the money to buy their choice of tasty treats or the ingredients to make something from scratch.
About once a month I ask for a volunteer to go around the veterinary practice and see who wants to order a specialty coffee.
I think my budget for coffee and tasty treats four times a month runs about $125—an amount that can be tripled when a rejuvenated team member helps a client understand the value of a single necessary dental.
A typical practice day is hectic and stressful, with waves of grief and not enough relief. It’s great to grab a bite of something tasty or sweet as you pass by, or do a barrel roll off of your hamster wheel, albeit momentarily, and stop with another team member or two to catch your breath over a steaming mocha latte.
It’s been said the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. The same is true for our pets, and it’s also true for the veterinary team—veterinarians included. Because while professional respect and great working conditions is the cake of a great veterinary team, sometimes the icing on it really is a cupcake.
Originally published in the April 2016 issue of Veterinary Practice News. Did you enjoy this article? Then subscribe today!