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Count down to 2020

Figure out what truly belongs in next year’s inventory and plan ways to spread the word — and education — to your team and clients.

Count down to 2020
Run an end-of-year inventory sales report to find out which products are moving and which are not.

How is it that just a few weeks ago we were enjoying a summer filled with barbecues, family get-togethers and warm evenings? Or are you relieved that summer is over because you had to deal with fleas, ticks, humidity and a caseload that seemed never-ending? I prefer the first scenario even though both are likely true. As the holiday season and the end of the year rapidly approach, now is the time to use 20/20 vision to prepare your 2020 inventory.

Inventory, one of your largest expenses, can create financial headaches and cash-flow issues when it is mismanaged, leaving you to wonder why your bottom line is, well, bottoming out. By making some inventory resolutions for 2020, and reorganizing, resetting and reinvigorating your pharmacy and retail space, you have a good chance of finding additional money to put toward the bottom line. That is your ultimate goal.

While an end-of-year inventory count is self-explanatory, I want to take it a few steps further. Let’s start with a usage review, meaning look at all your inventory, including retail, and determine which products and supplies are being used and which are collecting dust as they await their demise in the expired box, which we all have. This task can be done with your practice management software. Run an EOY (end of year) inventory sales report. Find out which products are moving and which are not. Use this information in three ways.

1. Create a Stop List

These are the items you decide to stop carrying in 2020. A couple of factors should enter into the decision. Here are some questions to ask:

  • Is the product still relevant? In other words, is it older technology or medicine, and should you instead carry the newer or upgraded version?
  • On the rare occasions you want to prescribe the product, can you outsource it or make it a special-order item?
  • Is the product in a similar class or offer similar benefits to products that are more popular with your doctors and clients?
  • Might the product be needed immediately in an emergency? Snake anti-venom comes to mind. In my practices, we might see a snakebite two or three times a year. Anti-venom is very expensive when it hangs out in a refrigerator, but when we need it, we need it.

Your usage report might reveal products that look like they should be discontinued, but further evaluation could lead to a conscious decision to continue carrying them.

I often find that veterinary hospitals are good about bringing in new items but not so good about discontinuing items. Five years later, the clinics are placing excess inventory in offices, bathrooms and the broom closet.

2. What Pharmacy Training Will Your Staff Need?

I know, I know, you are asking how many lunch and learns do you need on the topics of the life cycle of a flea and the mechanisms that allow NSAIDS to work. Keep in mind that what seemed like an education series last month happened three years ago. We always need refresher courses. The majority of hospitals likely added staff members during those three years who need the education. Products are constantly changing and advancing. We owe it to clients and their pets to stay up to date with education.

I encourage you to purchase a traditional school office calendar. Still, to this day, I use a 2-by-2-foot paper calendar for forward planning. Yes, I realize it’s almost 2020 and technology makes such things unnecessary, but I would tell you a traditional calendar is an easy way to map a year’s worth of meaningful, timely staff education. List the topics you want to cover next year, and then assign the manager or head technician to work with product reps to schedule training. Look at your usage reports and let them dictate which products should be covered.

With end-of-year usage sheets in front of you, now is the time to evaluate missed opportunities. Ask your inventory specialist or lead receptionists to create a comparison chart for some of the top categories in pharmacy and retail. How did 2019 compare with 2018? Did your sales grow, decline or just maintain? Each number tells a story, and many of the stories end with the predictable line “And there lies your opportunity.”

Look at the numbers and realize that with additional staff training, additional client education and some goal setting, you can predict your success in 2020 product sales. Identifying opportunities will help you to further define needed education in the coming year.

3. Create Four Themed Quarters in 2020

While highlighting your amazing product lines and educating clients about them is important, what is easier is to have a focus and set of goals for the entire practice. Using your beautiful paper calendar, let’s determine and schedule quarterly themes. Your practice might choose dental care, preventives, nutrition, and joint and mobility care. Or maybe dermatology and the non-itching, happy pet makes the list.

Once you have identified your quarterly themes, plan the needed education. Then go to your support staff and create a task group that will make the three-month themes fun and exciting for the staff and clients. I guarantee that you have employees who possess untapped creative talent for establishing techniques that would enhance compliance.

Now is the time to use your 20/20 vision and plan ways to improve product and pharmacy sales in 2020. Everybody faces challenges and roadblocks that can limit sales or client compliance, but now is not the time to complain. Now is the time for a comprehensive plan to enhance the knowledge of your team and your clientele.

Now please read line 5 on the eye chart:

P L A N & S U C C E E D

You have perfect vision.

Selling Points columnist Brian Conrad is practice manager at Meadow Hills Veterinary Centers in Kennewick, Washington, and immediate past president of the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association.