I don't give discounts ...

I don't give discounts ...

To my veterinary clients. And I don't feel bad about it.
Nov 09, 2016

Alright, associates in veterinary practice, let's do a little self-reflection exercise. Answer these questions for me:

> Do you believe there is value in what you do?

> Why do you feel guilty about charging clients appropriately?

> Do you truly believe you are stealing from people?

> Are you suffering from imposter syndrome?

… Or do you simply need to reassess your pricing strategy and make sure it represents an accurate and fair value of your services?

For some veterinarians, discounting is an emotional issue. For some, the reasons we behave the way we do with money are deep-rooted in our subconscious; sometimes we can’t access those feelings until someone hits us on the head with it.

So this is me, hitting you on the head.

Discounts: Warm fuzzies for all

Veterinarians have an innate desire to make things right. That desire is reinforced by the need to feel valued by others, to ease their suffering. Warm fuzzies galore. And the easiest path to that feeling is discounting—or worse, giving away—services.

But what are we really doing here? We're flailing around, ignoring our self-worth and looking for external validation and approval. When clients say they’re grateful for a discount, we're happy they're happy.

Sorry to burst your bubble—no amount of external validation is worthwhile unless you honor yourself first and believe your services are valuable.

No Ferrari for that Honda

We can start to change by rewiring our brains. This is called neuroplasticity. To do this, we have to change our beliefs and then our habits. Whether you choose to give discounts and free services regularly or not can play an important role here.

I choose to stick to my guns, charge appropriately and not break down the second a client (or even my boss!) claims a charge is too much. My response is, “Well then, we can work within your budget.” To be fair, my clinic markets itself as a premium clinic with cutting-edge technology, so we don't regularly see low-income clients. But I am certainly not going to give away a Ferrari when all someone can afford is a Honda.

I am most certainly not going to live with the fear that if I charge a pet owner too much that he or she won’t come back. My bosses have repeatedly emphasized this when they talk to me about billing and charges because they think I charge too much. Full disclosure: Today I am on strictly production-based pay, and I don’t change prices. I simply enter in the services provided as dictated by the price sheet—no more, no less. I don’t have the time or energy (nor do I want) to sit and agonize over every transaction with a client. This is precisely why you have predetermined prices, is it not? Rant. Over.

As a young new vet coming into this working world, I still have respect for the way things were done and greatly appreciate what elders have done before me. However, I also have the clarity to see that the way we used to do things is just not sustainable or enjoyable anymore. We are dropping like flies out of the profession. So many of us complain about veterinary practice revenue and how there isn’t enough for reasonable pay. (Any of this sound familiar?) And yet we devalue ourselves and our services with discounts.

My advice is, believe in your value and charge appropriately. The struggle is real, but it’s worth it.

Hilal Dogan, BVSc, is an associate at Home Animal Hospital in Maui, Hawaii. She started the Veterinary Confessionals Project as a senior veterinary student at Massey University in New Zealand.


I was just having a

I was just having a discussion with my staff. We special ordered 100 Apoquel tablets and they want to keep the cost down to the client by a 20% markup.
When I told them my 'turn-key' expenses since, the recession ran about 80%, how could I continue practice with that markup?
They hum and hawed but the bottom line is some of those turn key expenses were their wages.
Then I sat down at my computer and found this article.
Who pays? The client must pay for ALL the items that a veterinarian must stock to provide services, surgeries, medicines, etc. even it they do NOT use them each visit.
If that ever stops, so will veterinary medicine and most of commerce in America. That would be called.... perhaps---socialism.
Would they want to take an 80% cut on theirs share of income? Nope.
That probably is not quite an accurate amount for every clinic but discounts get carried away. You can't eat 'feeling good'. You cannot keep up with technology by feeling good.
People, including staff, have forgotten the pets are luxuries. We love them dearly, but there is no comparison compared the the well being of a human.
When I see statements that were presented in recently in "DVM 360 Leadership Challenge" about the future, I get uncomfortable about veterinary medicine, and America in general.
Why? I quote, "Publicly funded veterinary clinics for any client who cannot afford to pay..." -- There were others of similar leanings, many with more letters behind, their DVM's... Some of those advocated public funded treatment for both humans and animals. Who pays? Taxes.... welcome to socialism. This mode had never worked any place on the planet.
You might say that is mixing apples and oranges and you might be right.
But, those in the trenches know about economics vs emotion.
Again, this well written communication was refreshing and truthful.
Now, if I can just convince my staff.
Larry Fischer

another view of balancing ethics and business

Please read "Ethics in practice, making ethical decisions while retaining a profitable business. by James Yeates. BSAVA Congress 2016 Proceedings, 7-10 April 2016, Birmingham, UK
Pages: 380

One of the best things I've ever read on the subject.

"Veterinary ethics may be primarily concerned with helping
animals, but should also consider the interests of the clients.
For example financial constraints may limit owners’ willingness
to pay for treatment. The veterinary market is an imperfect
market in economic terms, not least insofar as
consumers have limited ability to make rational (in economic
terms) decisions due to their lack of knowledge and emotional
involvement. This can lead to irrational choices by individual
consumers, with implications for animal welfare and
practice profit. Failure to address these issues can not only
lead to poor decisions, but also to personal stress.

It is also important to ensure that veterinary practice is
viable, ensuring that veterinary practitioners are suitably
remunerated and that practices are sufficiently profitable.
Veterinary surgeons cannot provide unlimited pro bono
treatment. Balancing these different concerns can raise conflicts
and dilemmas that face practitioners, from new graduates
starting out in ‘commercial’ practice, through to
partners and business executives. This talk aims to determine
ways in which these pressures can be balanced to find
the ethically best outcome."

James Yeates is the author of "Animal welfare in veterinary practice"
Universities Federation for Animal Welfare.
Chichester, West Sussex, UK ; Ames, Iowa : Wiley-Blackwell 2013