Strength in your numbers

Strength in your numbers

Open your books to create a stronger veterinary team focused on lifting your practice to reach its financial goals.
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Mar 30, 2016

Sharing your financials with your team can offer a hefty payoff. (Getty Images) Knowledge is power, so it follows that sharing information with your team can improve how team members see their actions directly correlate to the practice’s health. How and what you provide can either get your team to buy into your practice’s success or it can breed dissatisfaction and resentment.

“This practice is all about the money.”
“What’s this got to do with me?”
“That’s great. I deserve a raise.”

Sound familiar? You’ve likely heard these comments when you’ve tried to share financial information with your team, especially during times of growth. So how do you share financial information with your team and get them to buy into the health of your practice?

Business is not a bad word

As a manager, you’re often the middleman. It’s important to share the health of the practice with your team, and it’s much simpler than you may think. It’s often called open book management, and this can be a scary thing for managers and owners. Open book management doesn’t need to be an all-or-nothing step. It’s often best to focus on just a few key measures.

Got goals?

What’s your goal for sharing financial information with your team? What do you want to get out of this? Start with a clear direction and intent to communicate effectively any change you want to make in your practice. Most practices want to keep their team informed and motivate them to buy into the success of the practice—to take “ownership” of their role in the hospital and understand how it directly affects the practice’s heath. Now that you know why, let’s look at the “what,” “how” and “when.”

Step 1: Ask (this is the “what”)

Seems simple, huh? Just ask your team members: “What information is important to you?” and “How often would you like me to share this information?” You may be surprised by what information your staff are interested in seeing. Anticipate that it will be a combination of financial and nonfinancial information. According to Steve Ley, SVP of finance at MedVet Medical and Cancer Centers for Pets (where I work in Cincinnati as practice manager), two of the best financial indicators of practice health are revenue growth and EBITDA.

Step 2: Identify platform (This is the how”—and it matters)

You’ve looked at the “what.” Now, it’s important to identify how you’ll share that data. You have a few choices, including team meetings and posts in the team lounge, on your Intranet or through other communication, such as email.

“It all comes down to making confident, consistent recommendations that improve client acceptance and patient care compliance. When this happens, revenue increases,” says Brenda Tassava of Halow Tassava Consulting.

Step 3: Decide frequency and share (the “when”)

Think about your previous experiences with data. I imagine, at one point or another, we’ve all looked at financial information after a bad week or month and experienced an instant increase in blood pressure. There are constant ups and downs through a year and events such as the weather, holidays and school events—back to school or breaks—that can dramatic influence your revenue. These are why I’d suggest you share information with your team no more often than quarterly.

Now it’s time to put your data in a format that team members can appreciate and process. Brenda Tassava suggests putting it in a percentage format rather than a dollar format. With this approach, it may also help prevent any perception of your practice being “all about the money.”

Consider this format. The goal is to keep it simple and compare the actual numbers with goals that you and your team set together.

Once your team can understand the numbers you’re sharing, another great way to get them bought into the health of your practice is to let them help set goals. There’s no arguing that team members are more bought into things that are “their idea.” Make sure the goals are attainable (you remember SMART goals, right? Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound), because nothing can discourage a team like not meeting a goal. Are we always going to meet our goals? Nope. But it’s important to set a goal that’s attainable.

If your practice doesn’t meet your goal, plan a discussion about why you missed it. Then make an action plan with your team to try to work towards that goal and let them carry it out. If it motivates your team, make it constructively competitive.

Step 4: Manage and succeed (The payoff!)

I’m going to share a secret. Your team members will ask questions. Lots of them. At first you might wonder if it was worth the extra questions you’ll be getting. It is! Wayne Rivers, president of the Family Business Institute, said it best in an article for inc.com: “If people have questions, that's wonderful. It means they're engaged.” In the same article, Rivers mentions that you can’t be afraid to say "no" if they have questions that require more information than you’re willing to share.

All of that sounds simple, huh? It really is. It just takes patience.

The big takeaways:

1. Team buy-in should be the beginning and end goal.

2. Don’t make it about the money. Make it about progress.

3. Be patient with questions. They are ae good thing.

Lastly remember that this is a process and won’t be achieved in three months or maybe even six. Stay invested in your goal and empower your team members to take control of their happiness and success at your practice. Your profits will thank you later.

Editor’s note: Ready to delve deeper into the practice of—and systems to support—open book management in today’s veterinary practice? Learn from the man who literally wrote the book on it. To get a copy of Open Book Management by Ross Clark, DVM, click here.

Brandon Hess, CVPM, is practice manager at MedVet Medical and Cancer Centers for Pets in Cincinnati.