CPA, CVPM, MBA
Mira Johnson is the managing partner with JF Bell Group, a CPA firm serving veterinarians exclusively. Born and raised in Slovakia, she earned a master’s degree in financial management and accounting. She obtained her CPA license shortly after arriving in the United States. Mira became a certified veterinary practice manager in 2022. Her passion for technology has helped many veterinarians better their practice and improve their personal lives. To learn more, visit jfbellgroup.com.Read Articles Written by Mira Johnson
Owning a veterinary practice can be overwhelming if you act like you’re the only employee and think you have to do everything. Empowering your team not only will free up your time and reduce your stress but also boost your employees’ confidence and make them feel more fulfilled professionally.
When you delegate tasks, team members get an opportunity to grow. There is nothing better than an enthusiastic employee taking on a challenge. Make sure the task you delegate is realistic, can be measured and is specific. By defining your expectations, you ensure that both of you are on the same page.
Here’s what to delegate and to whom.
Veterinary technicians are directly involved daily in the use of supplies and the dispensing of products. Have your technician make a list of proposed reorder points if you have not established them. Explain what your clinic stocks and what is available only from your online pharmacy. The technician should be familiar with the computer software so that she can look up quantities sold or used in the prior period.
Once reorder points are in place, allow the technician to create the purchase order and make sure you maintain final approval. You should verify the products on the purchase order and the quantities ordered. Depending on the software you use, you can set up a different login for the purchase order and the order approval. Some practice information management systems have an approval system in place.
Have you ever run out of printer toner? Isn’t that fun? Put your receptionist in charge of office supplies. Again, set expectations and be specific. Having one extra toner cartridge on hand is plenty if your veterinary practice uses only one printer. The receptionist also can reorder branded pens, leashes, sympathy cards and similar items. Again, make sure you maintain final approval. Once you have developed a routine, you can set a supplies dollar limit — for example, $50 or $100 — that does not need your approval. Budget the maximum that can be spent each month and review the limit periodically.
Involving another person in accounts payable might seem scary at first. The job becomes easier if the employee is asked to verify recurring invoices, such as those from diagnostic laboratories and cremation providers. The first step is to familiarize the employee with the invoices. Mistakes happen, so what’s important is to verify that you were correctly charged for 10 cremations in April when your records indicate only five. Maybe the vendor overcharged you, or perhaps you failed to charge the pet owner. Make sure the employee documents all discrepancies and reports them to you.
If you have a large veterinary practice, reviewing the entire invoice might be unrealistic. In this case, implement an audit technique that selects a sample. For example, verify the 10 highest charges and five random charges. If you find a mistake, verify another 10 items. Also, make sure the cost is the same as what your software shows. Laboratory prices and medication costs change periodically. If your system is fully integrated, you might not need to perform this check. For example, suppose you do business with a particular distributor and create a purchase order in an integrated PIMS. In that case, the program might alert you when the cost of drugs and other products changes. You can simply hit a button to update all prices.
Fully Integrated Accounts Payable
With this option, you can delegate invoice payments. How does it work? I suggest asking all vendors to send the bills to an email address tied to an app, such as Dext or Hubdoc. These apps can export all your bills automatically to your accounting software. No data entry is required. With proper setup, the bill will magically appear with the attachment of the actual invoice in Xero (or QBO). From there, you can connect to an app like Bill.com or Plooto.
Your office manager or receptionist can verify that the bill is correct (as explained in the “Accounts Payable” section above) and click “Pay.” You can set up approval rules. Initially, I recommend that you approve all payments. Later, you can set payment limits and approve only the bills over the limit. Please note that the same person should never be in charge of both purchases and bill payments. (Learn more in my article “Automation Gets the Job Done” at bit.ly/3wCyM6V.)
Have you gotten to the bank this week? Your business should make deposits as frequently as possible (preferably daily), and yes, they can be delegated. Cash receipts should be counted and balanced in the sales summary every day your practice is open. Someone not directly involved in receiving and recording cash should make the deposit. Reconciling what was deposited with what the sales show should be performed by another individual. If yours is a small clinic employing a handful of people, deposits can be tricky. Do not take shortcuts. Learn more at bit.ly/3gBTvka.
Chasing unpaid bills can be frustrating, which is why many practice owners postpone the task. Who has time for it? If your clinic does not have a process for collecting past-due amounts, let an employee do the research and propose a solution. If a formal process is in place, review it with the employee. The collection campaign can be a series of letters or emails. Decide when interest and penalties will be charged and when you will turn over the account to a collection agency. Before proceeding with extra charges and collections, speak with an attorney about the laws in your state.
Again, automation is king. Some practice management software systems can automatically add a fee once an account is overdue by a certain number of days. Others might automatically kick out letters or emails periodically. Make sure to review the process in detail and double-check all the letters before they leave your clinic. You can delegate the task to an office manager or receptionist if you own a small clinic.
If you have not hired a vendor to manage your social media channels, find a creative team member who would enjoy the experience. If the person is passionate about social media, even better! Consider registering the person for continuing education classes that focus on veterinary marketing. Set rules on what is OK to post and what is not. Spell it out. I recommend tools like Buffer, which allows posts to be scheduled and reviewed before they go live.
Do you provide boarding services and employ a teenage kennel assistant? You might have found the perfect person to capture videos for TikTok and snap photos for Instagram.
Before you return to work and start to delegate, remember that mistakes happen. Be patient and kind. Make your clinic a safe place for an employee to learn and to grow from mistakes. Provide periodic check-ins and review everyone’s work. Praise the positive.
Try to delegate in small doses — one project at a time. Let an employee master one aspect before you add responsibilities. Hold people accountable and compensate them for the additional work. If the task is not going as planned, ask questions. Maybe someone does not have all the needed resources or is not the right person for the task.
As your delegation skills grow, your team members will feel empowered, confident in their abilities and contribute positively to your practice, allowing you to enjoy a better work-life balance.