Women leading change: Karen Felsted
Dr. Karen Felsted, CPA, MS, CVPM, is a recognized master at bringing together two fields: veterinary medicine and money. “She has always impressed us with her depth of understanding of companion animal practice and the financial aspects of running a successful hospital,” says Dr. John Albers, former executive director of the American Animal Hospital Association.
Dr. Felsted’s approach is deceptively simple: “If you understand a company’s finances, you understand how the company works,” she says. And, yes, that goes for veterinary hospitals too.
As CEO of the nonprofit National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues (NCVEI), Dr. Felsted took her consultant career to the next level with an online profitability calculator for the NCVEI Web site. When she first designed it 10 years ago as an independent consultant, the calculator was forward-thinking, a dream of gathering enough self-reported data to identify the traits of profitable practices. Her dream, however, was marred by poor execution. Today, NCVEI and the veterinary consultant group VetPartners have joined forces to make the calculator user-friendly and are warning veterinarians about the No-Lo practice, the plague of low- or no-value practices whose valuations are an unpleasant surprise for owners across the country.
Dr. Felsted began her post-college career as a CPA at a top 10 national accounting firm, but she soon followed her high-school dream of becoming a veterinarian and was accepted to veterinary school at Texas A&M University. She entered practice after graduating but continued to employ her down-to-earth finance skills—”Make it interesting and understandable,” she says—as a part-time consultant. She eventually left practice completely after a broken arm put a damper on her career in emergency medicine.
Dr. Felsted now is working to turn the NCVEI Web site, ncvei.org, into a clearinghouse for practice financial data as well as a gateway to resources that answer veterinarians’ money questions. She isn’t preaching austerity and financial absolutes to doctors nationwide, though. Doctors should always decide their own financial fate, their financial rewards, and their financial limits, Felsted says. The organization may look at the big picture, but all its data is from the individual work of individual doctors. And every doctor is the measure of his or her own success, Felsted says.
“Financial success isn’t the only measure of life success,” she says. “If you’re making as much money as you want, if you can take care of your family and retire someday, who’s going to fault that?”