Charge what you're worth

Charge what you're worth

Mar 01, 2007
By staff

BEFORE WE TALK PRICING, ANSWER these questions with a yes or no.

•To attract and keep clients, should your prices be the lowest in the area?
•Is there only one way to calculate prices for your services and products?
•If clients complain about your charges, are you charging too much?

Elise M. Lacher
You should know that the answer to all three questions is a resounding "No." Despite that, you and your colleagues are still looking for that perfect price list that will magically make your clients, accountants, consultants, and yourselves happy.

Well, there's no such thing, so why read another article on pricing? The answer: If you can change the way you look at your charges, you can get over a major stumbling block in running the business side of your practice.

Keeping score

A client asks you to do something for a horse, so you get in your truck, drive out to the farm, perform the service, maybe dispense some medication, get back in your truck, and drive away. Somewhere in there you issue a bill, and if all goes well you get paid.

Rise up, veterinarians!
Many of you see the visit as the reason you went to veterinary school; issuing the bill is a necessary evil. What if, instead of looking at the billing process as a "conspiracy against the public"—that's what philosopher Adam Smith called it—you viewed it as a scorecard that shows how much clients value your services?

With this mindset, financial transactions take on a whole new meaning. If you don't provide something of value to customers (calling clients "customers" puts a new spin on it, don't you think?), then you have no reason to be in business in the first place.

Now, how do you translate that newfound attitude into something that helps pay your bills each month? Well, you've likely read articles that say you'll earn more if you raise fees. Customers generally don't complain, so across-the-board fee increases will net you more income even if you do lose a few customers along the way.

While there's truth in that, raising prices and collecting on invoices is one of the hardest parts of your job. And you need to know that getting customers to pay won't get any easier until your view changes. What I mean is, you have to honestly believe deep down that you're providing a service that's valued by customers and that the delivery of that service meets or exceeds their expectations. Only then will the billing process stop seeming like an unpleasant necessity.

Why don't they pay?

Charging appropriately for your services can be tough. You and your colleagues tend to avoid conflict and try to please your customers. That means you feel guilty when customers complain about fees, which happens more and more as Wal-Mart trains us all to expect the "lowest price always."

So let's look at why customers don't pay their bills: They're not able or they're not willing. Both of these issues can and should be addressed—ideally before services are performed. (I do understand that this isn't always possible in life-or-death situations.)