Long-range strategic planning requires making hard decisions in your practice. First, you must decide what you and your team are going to do more of. What's working? What services, activities, and products generate the most practice growth and are the most profitable? For example, are pre-anesthetic risk assessments profitable—and good medicine? If so, you may want to challenge your team to increase clients' acceptance of such procedures.
I own a feline-exclusive practice. Our prices are comparable to others in the area, except for our physical exam, which is $6 to $14 lower than most of my colleagues'. I've been thinking of raising it by $6 or $8, but several members of my team think our lower-priced office visit gets clients in the door. Once they're here, they rarely decline any additional recommended services. My team feels that without the enticing exam price, potential clients might be tempted to go elsewhere. What should I do?
I read in a past issue about an equine practitioner who requires payment when services are rendered. I'd love to do that, but my clients expect me to bill them. How can I change my system this late in the game?
A growing business adds customers, expands inventory, buys equipment, and hires new staff. The future looks great on paper, but the additional expenses bring a cash crunch, particularly if collections are slow.
Dr. Brad Rosonke, owner of Hillside Animal Hospital in Scottsdale, Ariz., has little interest in dentistry. But he knows that offering dental services means better care for his patients. His solution: Hire a dental resident--in his case, Dr. Peter Bates--to visit his practice on a regular basis.
"This is a win-win-win situation," says Dr. Rosonke. "Dr. Bates needs to see more patients during his residency, I'm now free to see other patients while he's taking care of dental issues, and our clients get more complete care for their pets."
My office manager suggested that we discount hard-to-collect, 90-day-past-due accounts as an incentive to encourage patients to pay at least something. We'd offer up to 25 percent off the bill, depending on how much the patient pays. We'd require the patient to adhere to a payment schedule until the debt's paid off. Is this a good solution or does it contribute to the problem?
Neel Veterinary Hospital in Oklahoma City, a paperless practice that purchased its first computer and electronic medical record system in 1993, prides itself on its commitment to using the latest technology. “Adding computer radiography was a natural step in the evolution of our practice,” says co-owner Dr. Tina Neel.
Not all tax deductions are created equal. When it comes to building projects, the normal write-off for building costs is 39 years. However, with a little homework and the help of a builder and architect, you can accelerate deductions. The concept at work: cost segregation.
I have lost count of the number of occasions when I have written in this column that partnership in a veterinary practice is very similar to marriage. The analogy is one that potential partners must ignore at their peril. Nonetheless, joint ownership of a professional practice can be much like something else as well: a couple moving in together.