Dr. Carol McKee and two other veterinarians started Southpointe Veterinary Hospital in Allen Park, Mich., in 1982 with one team member. It was easy to handle management duties back then, says Dr. McKee. “We could save animals, and we could help answer the phones,” she says. But soon a handful of employees turned into more than a dozen, and she needed help.
Dr. McKee looked internally for her first office manager and found Joyce Blair. Blair had started as a kennel attendant and had worked her way into a veterinary assistant job. She had previous management experience and was a people person. Blair has now been Southpointe’s office manager for 15 years, handling hiring and firing of team members and tackling client concerns and team members’ interpersonal issues.
Control freaks don’t need to worry, Dr. McKee says. Hiring an office manager never meant she gave up control of the things she loved. She is implementing the practice’s move to a paperless system, and organizes client handouts in the practice software to easily print for exam room use. She also still handles equipment purchases. “I had a hard time giving up management duties,” she says. Blair has taken the onerous management duties from Dr. McKee and left her the gems.
It’s not all roses, of course. Dr. McKee has to make tough decisions every day. But Blair is invaluable: managing staffing according to appointment schedule—not perceptions of busy-ness—and saving the practice labor dollars whenever she can. “If Michigan didn’t have a law against nonveterinarian owners of clinics, I’d have brought Joyce in as a partner,” Dr. McKee says. Dr. McKee’s partner, Dr. Kim Cox, said she’d buy in only if Blair remained with the practice “forever.”