I was a 23-year-old veterinary practice manager

I was a 23-year-old veterinary practice manager

This Practice Manager of the Year nominee shares her experience overseeing older, more experienced team members.
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Jul 21, 2015

Veterinary Economics and Firstline will be publishing dozens of personal stories, in-the-trenches advice and bright practice management ideas in the coming months—all from the final nominees in the 2015 Veterinary Economics Practice Manager of the Year contest, sponsored by VPI-Nationwide. The final winner will be announced at a special reception CVC Kansas City Aug. 30.

While there are many challenges a veterinary practice manager encounters, being young only exaggerates them. I came into a small animal practice where the previous manager had left after allegedly embezzling. With so many issues crying for attention, I decided the best place to start was with the staff.

Talking to the people

At the time I was a 23-year-old managing some staff members older than myself and with far more years’ experience in the veterinary industry. I learned quickly that managing and leading staff is tough. You can read a book and learn how to monitor a business and what steps to take to facilitate growth, but you can’t read a book to become a leader who encourages team members to grow themselves in their careers and help the practice to grow.

I started by talking to and observing team members to find out who was there for the right reasons and who had to go. I wanted to know what motivated them, what encouraged them in their jobs and how they best handled constructive criticism.

Making matters a little difficult was the fact that the practice owners and staff had crossed the friendship boundary so much. So I was careful and took an individualized approach, creating an atmosphere of two-way communication. I listened to the staff and incorporated them into decisions. That has become my most successful motivational tool.

Managing very different partners

I think I’ve been fortunate to have two very different personalities in the two practice owners. Thinking along Myers-Briggs Type Indicator lines, one is a Thinker and one is a Feeler. The thinker is also a great financial mind, so he provides a wonderful nonclinical perspective. The feeler is our veterinarian with a huge heart and enough compassion to fill the clinic.

At first, having two different perspectives in management was frustrating, until I realized that by taking into account both perspectives earned dividends for us. For instance, my thinker didn’t understand everything that goes into managing clients and staff. The feeler doesn’t understand why I send out those crazy reports once a month that get her in trouble with her partner because it details how much we’re giving away during appointments. I put them both together: I implemented a discount bonus initiative for the doctor, rewarding herself for not giving away products and services. That satisfied both owners and the bottom line.

I’m still young, and I know I continue to grow within the industry. I just love the chance I have to share my knowledge and help others grow and accomplish their goals along with me.

Jessica Manning, CVPM, is practice manager of Village Animal Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky. She is a Veterinary Hospital Managers Association Emerging Leader and is running for the organization’s board this year. Read more about past Practice Manager of the Year nominees and winners as well as new nominees in the next few months at dvm360.com/PMOY.