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9 tips for using your team more effectively

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Jan 22, 2010

Employee turnover is a perennial problem for many veterinary practices. But we know that employees who are allowed to learn and use new skills are happier in their jobs and more likely to stay. Leveraging team members is critical to productivity too. Veterinarians who delegate see more clients and generate more revenue.

Here are my top 9 tips for owners to improve employee retention and build a team they’re proud to call their own.

1. Learn financial, managerial, and human resources skills. I know many of you hate to hear this, but it’s time. It used to be possible to have a successful practice without owners or managers with strong business skills. Not anymore. Clients have higher expectations of veterinary clinics when it comes to medical skill and client service, and you face increased competition.

If you’ve ignored this part of practice ownership, it’s time to change. It took training and practice to learn to perform an ovariohysterectomy, and it will take similar dedication to be a better manager. And if you’re going to hire someone to tackle the business side of things for you, make sure you give that manager the training and resources to do the job right.

2. You’re the owner—be the leader. While practice owners certainly don’t have to be involved in the day-to-day management activities of a practice, it’s critical that they provide vision and leadership. In addition, they need to set the framework for the decisions to be made, direct and approve the overall activities, and support the management personnel in their responsibilities.

You can’t delegate vision. Write your mission statement with the help of veterinary consultant Tracey O’Driscoll-Packer in this article. To draw a map for your financial future in 2010, read this article from Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Denise Tumblin.

3. Know what you want in a team member. You need a detailed understanding of the skills team members must possess to provide outstanding patient care and client service. Hire effectively: Find and keep the employees with the right skills and attitudes necessary to achieve your practice’s goals. Learn how to upscale your veterinary team in this article from Veterinary Economics Hospital Management Editor Mark Opperman, CVPM.

4. Keep the training going. Provide high-quality, effective, and ongoing training programs for new employees as well as practice veterans. Inspiring challenges improve employee retention. Revolving-door employees aren’t around long enough to be efficient or effective.

5. Get organized. Design and implement efficient policies, procedures, and systems for getting things done. Don’t hesitate to ask for input from your team members or associates.

6. Schedule smart. Slate your staff meetings, client appointments, and surgeries effectively. Denise Tumblin explains three tips for starting each day off right in this video.

7. Delegate. Tasks should be done by the lowest-level person who can do the job properly.

8. Monitor staff activities frequently. If you’re going to delegate, develop processes to see that things get done. In most practices, team members are always busy doing something — but are they doing the most important thing? Learn to delegate and double-check in this article.

9. Review staff use metrics. Compare the number of support staff to the number of veterinarians. More team members will usually result in improved client service and better use of doctors’ time. The “right” number of staff people per veterinarian will vary in financially successful practices and must be analyzed closely in conjunction with profitability. Unfortunately, it’s easy to increase the number of staff per doctor to a level that decreases stress but seriously erodes profitability.

Visit the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues for more information, including benchmarking tools for comparing your staff metrics to other practices.

Karen Felsted, CPS, DVM, CVPM, is the CEO of NCVEI.