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December 8, 2016
January 5, 2018

How Prepared Are You for the New Year?

Monica Dixon Perry

If 2017 was the year things really clicked and your management activities ran smoothly – give yourself a pat on the back. If you felt like not only were your ducks not in a row – some of them weren’t even on the same pond – then consider 2018 your fresh start. Here are some managerial and organizational tips to get your 2018 headed in the right direction. 

The following four areas of management are major components in the life of all veterinary practice managers. The majority of questions that I receive from owners and managers always circle back to one of these areas of focus. Therefore, I thought it would be useful to provide some resources as we start off another year. 

Organizational Management 

  1. Continuing education is important for the entire team. Start planning 2018 CE opportunities now so that every team member will be able to participate this year. You can look at what your practice generated in 2017 and designate 0.6% of gross towards CE, as this is the industry standard. You can set your budget for 2018 and begin planning!  If you are investing a significant amount toward CE for a particular team member, you may consider drafting a tuition repayment agreement in the event that team member leaves within the year. As with any agreement, you will want your attorney to review the terms and conditions before presenting it to the team member.
  2. If you are not conducting monthly team meetings, what a great way to start off 2018.  Plan to conduct your first meeting during January then stay on track and committed for the remainder of the year. Team meetings are the “glue” that keeps teams on the same page and more unified. 

Personnel Management 

  1. Personnel files should be current and up-to-date. Start the year off right by auditing each employee file for completeness. Make sure you have completed I-9 forms on all employees. These should all be kept in a separate file versus placed in the general employee files. Make sure all appropriate tax forms are on file. Check in with your team to make sure you have current emergency contact information. 
  2. How effective and timely were you with conducting performance reviews? Your team, including associate veterinarians and you, the manager, deserve to have formal feedback at least once a year. Evaluations should be scheduled in advance and conducted on time. I recommend they be conducted according to the employee’s service anniversary date. Granted, you are conducting evaluations throughout the year. But it’s better than trying to conduct them all in one designated month and being unsuccessful because the process becomes time consuming or overwhelming. 
  3. Make keeping up with changes in employment law easier by joining the Society for Human Resource Management
  4. Our industry has a great resource in the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association. If you are not a member, you should consider joining right away. 
  5. As you are receiving this newsletter, you have already provided your email address to us. I would encourage that your owner, team leaders and anyone else that is involved with management receive VMC, Inc. newsletters as well. They can submit their email address and receive helpful management tips throughout the year. 

Financial Management 

  1. It’s important to assess the practice’s expenses and income each month so that you and your owner can be proactive in making decisions to help decrease expenses while increasing income. Click on the following link for a helpful end of month report that you can use as a snapshot of sorts.
  2. Remember that payroll and inventory costs are two expenses that management can control, and you should have a pulse on them as a percentage of gross revenue. You do not want your team payroll costs (this amount includes their hourly wages and payroll taxes only) to exceed 21% of gross and you do not want your inventory costs (drugs, supplies, and lab costs) to exceed 16% of gross.  If you let either of these expenses get out of control, it can negatively affect your practice’s profitability.
  3. Refrain from telling your team what you can and can’t afford. Instead, let them know the areas of opportunity to generate more revenue and work as a team in doing so.  Verbalizing that you can’t do this and you can’t do that will not solve your problems. It will only allow fear to surface in your employees regarding their job security and confidence in your practice. For example, focusing on increasing your dental income if it is below the industry standard will help increase revenue. If you are having cash flow trouble, generating more revenue while decreasing expenses is the magical equation; not inappropriately engaging your team. 
  4. Look at your expenses for 2017. If there are any opportunities to reduce costs, consider doing so now. Can any of your service contracts be renegotiated? Are you paying too much toward merchant and credit card fees? If you have not renegotiated these fees within the last 12 months, now is the time. Running a lean machine and keeping your expenses as low as possible will certainly help your practice’s profitability in 2018. 

Law and Ethics Management 

  1. If you have more than 11 employees, be prepared to complete and post OSHA form 300 between February 1, 2018 and April 30, 2018. Speaking of OSHA, if you do not have a designated Safety Officer or program in place, there is no better time than now to do so.  Do not reinvent the wheel. Visit www.safetyvet.com for tips on starting a program. 
  2. If you have never read the Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics from AVMA or never seen a copy of your state veterinary medical board’s practice act, I would encourage you to do so. You can get a copy of your state practice act by contacting your state veterinary medical board. Although personnel management takes up a significant amount of a manager’s time, making sure you are doing everything you can to minimize any type of liability to your practice and team is an area often overlooked by management. Making sure you are compliant in all areas of running a practice is crucial so that you are not caught off guard. 
  3. Make sure your practice is compliant as far as Sales and Use Tax. You can consult your practice’s accountant for more guidance.

These are just a few recommendations to start the New Year off on the right foot. Look at what transpired in 2017, and from a risk management perspective, if there is anything that you could have done differently to make life easier, map out an action plan so there will be no repeats of any misfortunes. If all of the pieces fell into place for you during 2017, that is awesome and you already have your recipe for 2018!  

May you each have a wonderfully successful year – both professionally and personally!

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