Q. I'm negotiating the purchase of the practice where I'm employed. The current owner gives discounts to almost everyone—senior
citizens, shelters, friends, and clients with multiple pets. How do I reduce the amount of services being given away without
alienating a large number of clients?
"It's clear you're going to have to make some changes," says Dr. Karen Felsted, CVPM, CPA, a consultant with Gatto McFerson
in Santa Monica, Calif. "The friends one is easy—they're not your friends and it's not reasonable for them to expect discounts
once the current owner leaves." If the current owner will continue working at the practice after the sale, he'll need to tell
his buddies that the discounts are no longer in place. "If he isn't working at the practice," Dr. Felsted says, "you'll just
have to gracefully and tactfully tell the clients that the rules are now different." As a gesture of goodwill, she suggests
giving the current owner and his family a discount.
Dr. Karen Felsted
Move slowly in changing your policy for the other discounts until you get a handle on what they do for you, Dr. Felsted says.
Discounts are either a marketing tactic or a way of contributing to society. If the discount doesn't satisfy one of those
two criteria, it's not worth having, she says.
Consider the number of clients receiving a particular discount and what other area clinics do. If other businesses offer a
senior discount, you may want to continue yours but limit it to services, not products. You can also use discounts only during
slow periods—for example, don't offer them during early morning and late afternoon hours but give clients a small break for
coming in during nonpeak hours. For owners of multiple pets, you could grandfather in current clients but stop offering the
discount to new clients.
The shelters are a different story, Dr. Felsted says. Ask yourself this: Are you discounting for shelters as a marketing tool?
Does it work? Can you track the results? Or are you doing it as a way to make the world better? If it's accomplishing your
goals, stick with it, Dr. Felsted recommends.