A field guide: Three types of practice owners

A field guide: Three types of practice owners

Jun 01, 2008

It's a jungle out there. With so many different species of practice owners running around, how are you supposed to know how to interact with them? As an associate, maybe you work for someone who makes all the key management decisions on his own—and you're fine with that. Or maybe you want a say in the decision-making process. Whatever your preferred level of involvement, Dr. Melody Heath, an associate at Viewmont Animal Hospital in Hickory, N.C., breaks down the three types of practice owners you'll most commonly spot.

1. The open book. This practice owner involves you in most decisions, whether medicine- or management-related. He or she wants you to weigh in on changes regarding products, services, practice policies, and staffing. He respects your opinion and is open to new ideas involving all aspects of veterinary medicine. To maximize this type of practice owner's communication style, schedule monthly or weekly meetings to discuss your ideas or concerns.

If you plan to pursue practice ownership, it pays to go the extra mile to search for and nail down a position with this type of owner and boss. The business skills, management knowledge, and experience you'll gain while employed in this environment will be invaluable when you're ready to take that big step from associate to owner.

2. The closed book. This type of owner thinks you should be responsible only for your own clients and patients and doesn't let you in on any pertinent decision making. He or she may complain to you about practice finances, lower revenue, rising costs, the poor economy, and so on, but that's the end of the discussion. She may feel intimidated and resentful towards new graduates who arrive at the practice with knowledge of the latest and greatest in technology, equipment, pharmacology, theoretical staffing know-how, and so on. The next time you find yourself trapped in a complaint session with this owner, ask probing questions to get a feel for the situation. Then gently offer your suggestions or solutions. You may not get much acknowledgment, but at least you'll know your words were heard.

3. Somewhere in the middle. This boss won't necessarily seek out your opinion or advice but is willing to listen if you offer up ideas. This owner also gives polite consideration and prompt answers to your concerns or ideas regarding the management of the practice. If you're interested in becoming this owner's sounding board, speak up. Otherwise he or she may think you don't care—and you'll miss a great opportunity to take on a larger role.