Debbie Boone is the owner of 2 Manage Vets Consulting and the 2022 president of VetPartners. She has worked in the veterinary profession for more than 35 years as a practice manager, consultant and speaker. She enjoys improving both workplace culture and the well-being of veterinary professionals. She hosts “The Bend,” a vodcast that invites guests to share stories of resilience over adversity. Learn more at dboone2managevets.comRead Articles Written by Debbie Boone
Mission statements are dull, boring and useless, and so are annual performance reviews.
Now that I have horrified my fellow VetPartners members, let me explain.
The issue with most veterinary mission statements, which is the subject of this article, and annual performance reviews, which is not, is that they typically are done poorly.
Over the years, I have asked meeting attendees, “Does your practice have a mission statement?” I usually get a few positive responses. The next question is, “Do you know it and can you recite it?” Rarely are there “yes” replies, and those who respond speak in generalities. Why? Because their mission statement is meaningless, the language isn’t sticky and the practice is not utilizing it as a tool for team focus.
Emotional Guiding Light
Many mission statements are so similar that they are almost interchangeable between practices. They mention quality medicine, good client service and kindness to animals. Do you have an emotional reaction to these statements? Probably not. It is for that reason that most mission statements are useless. Unless practice leaders make the emotional effort to express their feelings about why they do what they do, time is wasted writing a practice mission statement.
Some of the best statements are written to evoke strong feelings — pride, kindness, passion and love. Humans like to consider themselves logical, but they really are just moving through life, using emotion as a guide. Because of this, a mission statement must be the emotional guiding light for the team. Real effort must be made to develop a compelling, excitement-evoking reason for the crusade you call practice.
Try utilizing the following steps to get to the desired goal.
First, determine why you are in business. (View Simon Sinek’s TED talk “Start With Why” at bit.ly/2saFBPF.) What do you want for your patients, yourself and your family, team and clients? What was the desire in your heart to want to start a practice? What did you see yourself and your team accomplishing in the world?
You may be thinking, “I wanted to be my own boss, I wanted to generate profit to pay off debt, I wanted to practice medicine the way I wanted and not be subjected to others’ opinions.” All are legitimate logical reasons for starting a practice. But dig deeper.
Think of what you envisioned your future to be like if you were an owner. Did you see your hospital offering brief service to a lot of patients, like you would see in a lower-cost wellness practice, and protecting as many animals as possible from preventable disease? Your mission: Help the many and provide a lower cost of care to people who couldn’t afford more.
Or did you see yourself as an important member of the family health care team, a respected, frequently called upon resource for a pet’s well-being? Perhaps you would do this by developing long-term relationships with clients and being their pet family doctor through generations of animals and human family members.
Do you want to be Superman or Wonder Woman and come in on the specialty white horse and provide care that is unavailable in general practice, cure the almost incurable and prolong a good quality of life when there is little hope of tomorrow for the pet?
What excites you and lights a fire in your soul? Why did you start the hospital? Why do you want to keep it open? List your thoughts.
What’s in it for the Client?
Second, who do you want your clients to be? Create an avatar of your ideal client. Then consider what your practice will have to bring to the table to attract and keep that type of person. What can you do that will improve the client’s life today and in the future?
As a pet owner, my wish is that my pet has a long, healthy, vital life during which we enjoy each other’s companionship for many years.
Veterinarians and their teams are familiar with the human-animal bond. They personally are lovers of one or many creatures with whom they share their lives. Our clients are similar; they love and care for their animals. Sometimes that is not as apparent as we would like, but truthfully, the people who come to our hospital do care. According to the 2008 Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study, 25 percent of pet owners never took their pet to the vet. Just by coming to the hospital, they are proving to be concerned owners.
What do we do that makes clients’ lives better? We can keep their pets healthy and alive longer. Thirty years ago, according to the late pet gerontology expert Richard Goldston, only 30 percent of 60-pound dogs lived to 11. Now, thanks to improved veterinary care and nutrition and more responsible pet owners, at least half will live 11 years or longer.
Get to Work
Now that you have thought about your purpose, set aside several hours to work on your statement. Mission statements are short — typically more than one sentence but rarely exceeding a page. But writing one is not a short process. Take time to come up with language that simultaneously describes an organization’s heart and soul and serves as an inspirational North Star to everyone who works there.
A mission statement is a public display of what you believe, intend and care deeply about. It will have to be updated as things change. New employees should know your business philosophy, and it should be complementary to their personal mission. If not, you have a poor fit.
Many practices recite their mission statement at the beginning of every staff meeting. Your team members should have the mission ingrained in their mind so every decision they make can be held up to the standards of the mission. If they are asked to do something that compromises the mission, they will refuse and easily know how to respond.
Your clients should know your mission because it may not meet their personal pet care philosophy. By having your mission readily available, you will avoid misunderstandings about the level of care you provide.