Focus on associates: What are you worth?

Focus on associates: What are you worth?

Follow this step-by-step guide to figure your current value to your practice. Then adopt four key strategies to make sure you're worth your weight in gold.
Dec 01, 2004

As an associate veterinarian, are you helping your practice grow? Or is your boss losing money by allowing you to breathe the exam room air? My new-found concern about this issue stems from a discussion I had recently with a class of senior veterinary students at the University of Florida.

I asked them to picture themselves as graduates working in a veterinary hospital (that brought smiles to their faces). A patient comes in requiring a medical work up. How much would they charge for their time and professional services? Do you know what they said? $250 an hour? $120? $80? $60? No, no, no, and no. Their answer: $30 an hour—that's all new graduates think they're worth!

That blew my mind. How can you come out of four years of graduate education, with more than $80,000 in debt, and think you're worth only $30 an hour? Accountants, lawyers, and physicians charge $200 or more an hour. I find this mindset even more perplexing when I factor in clients' esteem for veterinarians and the value they place on your services. So why do veterinarians often underrate and undervalue themselves?

May be you also left school believing you were worth only $30 an hour. But I promise you, that $30 doesn't begin to cover your boss's cost to keep your name on the payroll. Associates, it's time for your year-end self-evaluation. It's time to figure out whether you're earning your keep.

Simply, you earn your keep by producing revenue for the practice. If your pay and benefits equal 25 percent or less of the revenue you produce, then you're probably paying your way. If your pay and benefits exceed 25 percent, your boss may be losing money to employ you. (Of course, there are many nonfinancial benefits that associates bring to a practice. Although they're important, they're also hard to quantify.) So fill out the form on page 26 to learn where you stand, and then let's work on your weak spots.

Boost your production If you need to improve your production, start by looking at your professional transactions, or all of the products and services in which you are personally involved in delivering. (This excludes services such as boarding, grooming, or over-the-counter sales.) Your average professional per client transaction should be at least $120 and, hopefully, closer to $140. If not, figure out why. Also look at how your numbers compare with other veterinarians in your practice.

There are basically two ways to boost your professional per client transaction. You can offer clients another service (such as an ear cytology, a heartworm check, or a skin scraping) or another product (such as toothpaste, a toothbrush, an ear cleaner, or a shampoo).

I'm not advocating that you sell another product or service just for the sake of generating more money. But you likely have more opportunities to educate clients about important products or services that would improve their pets' care.