I’m not one for New Year Resolutions. Every year-end I feel like a New Years Scrooge because I don’t create personal resolutions for the coming year. I have blogged about resolutions for our business, but lately I have fallen off doing those too.
I’ve been wondering why I feel this way over the past couple of days and I have come to realize that what I end up doing this time of year is reflecting on the last 12 months. I do this to see how I have done with the little changes that have affected me over the period. I think of life as a series of continuous lessons that happen when you least expect it. My reflections focus on those lessons and what I have done to learn from them.
When it comes to our business my reflections focus on making sure that we are continuing to be the kind of business we set out to be when we first started. We are going into our 12th year of business. We have grown from a husband and wife team to 3 locations with 11 vets and about 20 support staff depending on the season. It is easy to lose track of what was important to my wife, Melissa, and I when we started our veterinary practice. I vividly remember getting our first order of supplies and medications from our distributor and wondering if anyone was ever going to use us.
There were 3 things that my wife and I felt were critical in our new business.
An unrelenting focus on our client’s and their relationship with their horse(s).
Prior to opening the business we had spent a lot of time as students and in our internships with experienced vets who either treated horses like livestock, or gave the impression that the client was lucky to have them as their vet.
We saw how frustrated horse owners were by the lack acknowledgement of the bond they had with their horses. We saw how they were dying to be educated on horse health care issues. We saw how they wanted some respect from their vets.
When we opened our business we made a point to spend time with clients talking about their horses and calling the day after an appointment to see if everything was ok. We demonstrated that we cared about the clients and their horses
We also began sending out client newsletters with health care tips and soon started client education seminars. We have continued and added to this with our strong presence on social media and a robust web site.
The biggest way we were able to show respect to our clients was to show up on time for an appointment. If we were going to be more than 15 minutes late we would call to let them know. We still get compliments on our punctuality.
Making sure vets can have a work like balance
When my wife and I were in vet school we realized that the days of a new vet wanting to work 80+ hours 7 days a week were a thing of the past. In spite of this, many vets bemoaned the lack of work ethic in these new grads. Sounded like sour grapes or jealousy to us. We vowed that when we hired vets we would make sure that they worked reasonable hours and were able to share on call. We wanted to challenge the saying that if you like horses it is better to be a small animal vet so you will have the time to do so.
I knew we were on the right path when one weekend my wife and I were on call and our three associates spent the weekend riding or showing their horses…in the summer.
Giving staff an opportunity to grow.
During our internships we met some excellent technicians and receptionists. They were integral to the ongoing success of the practice…and they were paid horrible wages. We realized that if they didn’t have a husband or wife with a “real” job they would be living below the poverty level. On top of that there were few opportunities to develop skills or new roles within the business. That didn’t seem right to us so we were determined to pay our non-vets competitive or above wages and to grow our business so that there were opportunities for growth.
About 3 or 4 years ago I had a light bulb moment when I realized that if we want to offer the best customer care our staff has to love being at work. How can they deliver amazing client care when they didn’t care about our business? Since then we have put an intense focus on making sure we have an excellent work environment based on mutual respect, growth opportunities and profit sharing. This is still a work in progress but I love the fact that our staff at all of our locations gets along well and has several good laughs in the day. One of my favorite compliments from a client was a remark that she loves when our vets come to the farm because they and the techs seem to be having a great time.
I figure if we are maintaining or improving on what we set out to do with out business there is no need for a grand proclamation for the coming year. It’s not as if I am going to wait until the end of the year to make changes for the following year. We have the foundation of what makes our business special so we will use that to guide our business throughout the year.
It is a good idea though to look back on the year to make sure we are keeping true to what we want to be as a business.
I would like to thank you for reading and listening to this blog over the year. I appreciate all of the feedback I get either in person or on the comments page. If there is anything you would like me to discuss in 2014 let me know.
Happy New Year everyone. May you be healthy, happy and prosperous