Today's Veterinary Business

DEC 2018

Today’s Veterinary Business provides information and resources designed to help veterinarians and office management improve the financial performance of their practices, allowing them to increase the level of patient care and client service.

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20 Today's Veterinary Business Business Business CAREERS As I settled in to my new role, Terri started work at Orchard Park Animal Hospital, a clinic owned by two of my University of Tennessee classmates and one of hers. She enjoyed working there, probably the most fun since her time at Dalton Animal Care in Georgia. She shared that the staff was excellent and that the clients were friendly and willing to provide the best care for their pets. Shortly thereafter, two of the owners expressed interest in work- ing less and perhaps selling part of the practice. We were intrigued but knew this would require Terri to work more. With two kids now needing transportation to a variety of activities and my Merial travel, the change would be almost impossible. Starting yet again at another company was of no interest to me, and going back into practice after so many years away would require just that: practice. By this time, the owners of Orchard Park showed even more interest in selling. Over the years, I had created a list of best practices from the hospitals I'd encountered throughout my career. I had watched, listened and learned from key opinion leaders, successful practice owners and consultants. Terri and I ran the numbers over and over and decided to buy a piece of the practice. What I figured might take a couple of months ended up taking closer to seven as we trudged through the appraisal process, ne- gotiated the letter of intent and saw our lawyers nitpick over minutiae. Finally, about a year ago — Dec. 29, 2017 — it became official. Terri and I and a former classmate, Dr. Brett Houlberg, each owned one-third of Orchard Park Animal Hospital. What I Learned Despite my having a playbook on what makes a practice successful and having years of managerial experience and a clinic full of tal- ented, tenured staff members, the first several weeks felt like trying to drink water from a fire hose. What follows are a few of my admittedly early observations and insights for aspiring prac- tice owners, plus feedback for my former colleagues still in industry. Pick Something (Part 1) Yes, you technically can be the owner, practitioner, office manager, inventory manager and bookkeeper and still read all the fecal flotations, but what are you neglecting? Is it your family, your health, your practice or your patients? My advice is to pick just one or two roles and let them be your focus. You cannot do everything. Hire a prac- tice manager. Delegate inventory management. Train your staff to read fecals. This doesn't mean you shouldn't maintain regular oversight, espe- cially over the finances. To quote consultant and Today's Veterinary Business editorial adviser Fritz Woods: "There are two types of veterinary practices: those that have been stolen from and those that know they've been stolen from." Pick Something (Part 2) Every manufacturer or distributor will tell you why its product is the most profitable, provides the best value and offers the highest com- pliance rate. But the key is to pick a product and make it your clinic's primary recommendation. I've seen the data at Novartis and Merial, and I've seen the clinics that do and the ones that don't. I'm telling you it doesn't matter which product you choose. Align your doctors and staff around a primary recommendation and watch compliance increase while your inventory costs diminish. Does It Have to Be This Hard (Part 1)? If you work for a manufacturer or distributor, your company's new-clinic account application is only five pages long, but it's one of at least 20 others I'm racing to complete. It's 2018, so why am I still printing forms that need to be filled out by hand and faxed back? Did you even receive the fax? Why wasn't I informed you still need a tax resale certificate? And why does your company need one that's dif- ferent from what other companies request? I found that rolling over my 401(k) to an IRA is much easier than trying to establish an account with some companies. Does It Have to Be This Hard (Part 2)? I appreciate a manufacturer's promotions and sales incentives for new practices. But categories, levels, terms, restrictions and differ- ent due dates create confusion and even suspicion. Whether you're the clinic's buyer or a sales rep trying to sell to the clinic, everyone would much prefer a simpler process. Why should spending money with your company be so difficult? Does It Have to Be This Hard (Part 3)? As noted above, getting my foot in the industry door was a frus- trating process. (It can still be that way.) Yes, a company makes a big investment when it hires a veteri- narian, and there should be proper vetting. But the Catch-22 of not being able to get a job in industry because industry wants only can- didates with industry experience eliminates many from the talent pool. In hindsight, I am so glad Scil took a chance on me. To those of you who want to get into industry, I say don't be shy to take a chance on a small company. I still chuckle at the three major pharmaceutical companies that, because I lacked industry experience, passed on me Dr. Whit Cothern, fourth from left, helps drag for ticks at the Konza Prairie Biological Station in Kansas. At far right is "Dr. Flea," noted veterinary parasitologist Dr. Michael Dryden. Dr. Whit Cothern observes during "Wildcat Parasitology," an intense weeklong course held at Kansas State University. At left is Dr. Melissa Rash, a Boehringer Ingelheim professional services veterinarian. 1 2 3 4 5

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