The cost of complacency in the veterinary profession–and how to fight it

Dr. Jeff Rothstein, MBA, explains how coasting can hurt not only you, but your veterinary practice and team as well.
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May 01, 2014

I see complacency as reaching a point in your professional or personal life where you're OK with the status quo and what you've accomplished. You lack the motivation, energy or desire to work any harder to achieve new goals.

Twenty years out of veterinary school, I still need to fight complacency. I was always interested in practice ownership and management and I felt owning multiple practices would provide certain economies of scale that would allow me to run well-managed practices. For my first 15 years I focused on growing and adding more locations, but I realized bigger is not always better. Since then I've sold a number of the practices, and yes, it's a lot easier to manage.

Here's what I now share in common with many veterinary practices that have been around and are well established: We're not setting the world on fire, but we're doing OK. We don't want to put in time and energy to innovate and push to the next level. We've done it before and now want to enjoy the fruits of our labor.

Don't settle for "OK"

Coasting is OK. Work-life balance is good. The problem is, like it or not, we're in the wrong profession for complacency. First off, from the medical and technology aspect, we can't afford to be complacent—there's too much change to bury our heads in the sand and ignore, if you want to practice top-tier medicine. You can practice medicine that just "gets you by," but that shortchanges the client and patient. It's incumbent on those in private practice to keep up with the latest and greatest. This not only means CE, but also keeping in sync with the management side of the practice.

Fighting complacency is a challenge, but I'm afraid of the alternative. Practice complacency will lead to practice decline, and declining practices can spiral downward.

Start change with you

Veterinarian and team complacency are often directly tied to practice complacency. The impact is that little change comes into the medical side of the practice, and the doctors and teams don't dive into CE and practice expansion because they aren't focused on continuing improvement.

It all starts with you. Ask yourself what your long-term practice goals are: Do you want to develop a new skill or improve those you have or own a practice? Keep asking yourself what you want to do and what it will take to accomplish it.

Take a look at yourself and your practice to see whether complacency is causing problems now or threatening problems in the future.

Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board Member Dr. Jeff Rothstein, MBA, is president of the Progressive Pet Animal Hospitals and Management Group in Michigan.