Catherine Paine Foret
Dr. Catherine Paine Foret is the vice president of communications at Suveto, a company dedicated to veterinary practice ownership. She is the legacy owner of University Veterinary Hospital in Shreveport, Louisiana, and is one of the driving forces behind Harbor GO, an industry-first veterinary business fellowship dedicated to providing new veterinary graduates with a career path to ownership.Read Articles Written by Catherine Paine Foret
We all have our reasons for becoming a veterinarian. Whatever stage of practice ownership you might be at, remember the initial reasons that led you chose to enter this challenging and highly rewarding field. While keeping your eye on what’s driving your passion is essential, you can do many practical things to nurture and grow your veterinary practice. Some of these you learn the hard way.
Here are four tips to implement proven business strategies and practices.
1. Make Your Core Values Your Hospital’s Core Values
You can’t build and grow a successful practice if it doesn’t stand for something. This stems from why you chose to become a veterinarian, why you chose your practice area, and what you find most fulfilling about your job. Often, without you realizing it, these core values shine through your business and draw the kinds of clients and colleagues you desire.
The first step is to sit down and list your core values. Think hard about what differentiates your practice. Keep your list short and simple so that people can easily understand and remember it. One of my core values, for example, is, “I am accountable, and I am the solution.” While that applies to me, it also empowers my employees to solve problems and lighten each other’s loads. Core values that define and celebrate your individual culture will allow your hospital to be scalable and succeed.
Your team won’t know your core values unless you share them, demonstrate your core values through your behavior, and acknowledge your team for supporting those principles. Our core values are all over our hospital as reminders. We work them into what we say and do. We embody our core values. Yours should be so obviously clear that your family, friends, coworkers and clients could consistently tell you what your hospital stands for.
Four years ago, my husband went through a breakfast drive-through with our kids. The restaurant employee was rude, so as they drove off and our oldest said, “She can’t work at UVH. She did not exceed my expectations!”
2. Be Deliberate and Creative About the Team You Build
Finding and retaining quality staff is extremely difficult today, which sometimes can make you lose your focus on what really matters: taking care of pets. When you’re looking to hire staff, make sure you’re using all available strategies. If you’re looking for a veterinary technician, you might go to one primary place, while identifying a receptionist might take you in a different direction.
How do you connect with potential rock stars? Reach out to them on LinkedIn. Become a mentor at veterinary schools. Offer to speak at Veterinary Business Management Association meetings. Often, the best referral comes from someone working at your hospital, so encourage employees to bring qualified candidates to your attention. It’s not uncommon to pay a bonus to a referring employee after the new hire meets set goals after a period of time, such as six months.
Resist the urge to rush to fill a job position. Even in the best of times, that tactic rarely works. With stress at a high point and resources limited, you can’t afford to bring someone on who isn’t qualified or doesn’t advance the positive, service-driven culture you’ve established in your practice.
3. Develop Your Team and Your Practice
Your biggest asset is the caliber of your team members. They need to be consistently knowledgeable, experienced and have the right mindset to move your group forward. While finding and hiring qualified staff might look like a huge hurdle, retaining a strong team is sometimes even harder. Retaining someone is far easier than looking to hire a new person.
When I hire people, I look at their experience and career aspirations and establish goals for them. We meet periodically to assess their progress and share input on their role and the practice. This give-and-take is invaluable and a different type of training in its own way. During the conversations and by actively listening, you can show people that you hear them and that their input is taken seriously.
Nonetheless, there is no substitute for ongoing, quality training. My practice provides generalized training for the entire team and personalized training for individuals in certain roles. Even in specialized areas, two people doing the same job might need different training. This is especially true when it comes to technology.
4. Give Back and Get Back
One aspect of my hospital’s core values is to give back. This takes many forms, from sponsoring a local sports team to helping employees collectively support a cause they believe in. Make sure to look in your community for areas where your practice can meet a need. By authentically giving back, you earn trust and loyalty, which you’ll enjoy every day and benefit from in times of need.
Another way to give back is to make sure your entire hospital is focused on the little things. You see that Mrs. Smith is having trouble walking her pet to the car, so go help her in the parking lot. You overheard Mr. Bernard saying he is having surgery in two weeks, so put his name on your get-well card list. There’s no question that giving back will help your team celebrate the impact you make on those whose lives you touch.
Whatever you do, don’t stand still. Veterinary medicine and hospitals are evolving at warp speed. Remember what you stand for, engage the right people with the right mindsets to work with you, and know that while the big things are critical, the little things matter, too.