Find Shit. Fix Shit. Make People Happy! Seven massively powerful words. In fact, my entire business strategy boiled down into its very essence. My mission statement if you like.
I’m a big picture kind of guy, so this type of thinking is what I do best, but in order for any strategy to work, you need to be able to work out the steps involved and translate them into the little things that everyone needs to do each day so your business hums along.
Behind each of the three sections of this headline lies a cascade of linked activities that when put together make for an effective, profitable veterinary hospital. Let me put some flesh on the bones of this strategy for you.
Big picture activity # 1: Find shit.
Finding shit starts with getting shit to walk through your door. Aka – having a marketing system that reliably drives people and pets to your practice. Think of the client journey into and through your practice. Think Google, think Facebook, think blogging, think dog park, think word of mouth. My entire marketing mantra is to create content, connect with potential and existing clients and develop relationships. Become the local pet celebrity. And when the time comes – convert that relationship capital into billable work in your practice. Want to know more about how to do this? No worries. I wrote a book on how to do this which you can check out here.
The next step involves having a team members with some basic functionality. Eyes, ears and hands are a great start. But hiring people on the basis of having a degree and a pulse does not correlate well with success.
Recruitment and retention of the right team members is without doubt the biggest influencer on your clinical and financial outcomes. It is also the most horribly neglected area I have seen.
There is so much to talk about here – lot’s of it I’ve said before. But if you’re new or want a refresher then I recorded a free webinar on this subject called the top five recruitment mistakes most vets make (& how to avoid them).
Big picture activity # 2: Fix shit.
You don’t get to fix shit (not enough shit to make for a profitable practice) unless people trust you to fix shit. This is an outrageously common reason practices fail to perform at the level required.
Failure, or worse still absolute refusal, to develop some rudimentary sales skills (listening, empathising, rapport building and not being afraid to fight in the corner of your patient when required.) is the number one reason animals with clinical need leave the practice without that need being addressed.
Secondary to this is the clinical ability of your team. When I bought my first practice everything (I mean everything – even ACTH stim testing) was being referred to a specialist. I’m not joking. If you don’t have the required talent in your practice to fix problems then you’re either going to screw things up and hurt animals, make clients unhappy, do no work, or live with some serious guilt of doing things badly.
If you’re going to be successful then you’re going to have to skill up. That means putting your hand in your pocket and investing in your own education, or paying someone else to come in and do things for you.
Which leads us nicely to…
Big picture activity # 3: Make people happy.
Our industry is littered with technically competent people who get their task done, but leave a trail of emotional devastation around them. We call them doctors.
The emotional vibe of a practice is discernable the second your walk in. Is there a spring in the step and a smile on the face of the receptionist? Is there evidence of a team working well, a tidy, well maintained facility? Laughter and camaraderie amongst the staff?
Or is there tension and conflict?
If it’s the later then you can bet this is rubbing off on your clients, your team, you and your family. Toxic culture will infect your life and is sure to lead to bad business and personal outcomes.
So who do you have to keep happy and how do you do it?
Clients pay the bills, so making them happy comes first right? This is relatively easy – fix the problems they perceive and the ones you find. Manage their expectations, communicate clearly and don’t pull any nasty surprises. Job done.
OK, now things get a little more tricky. We spend more time at work with our colleagues than we do with our families at home. So it really does pay to have good relationships.
Before we go on, you need to understand something about money and happiness. I’ll explain why in a second.
Above a certain threshold more money doesn’t make people any happier. The actual amount is the subject of some debate but the accepted value sits between US$50-$75,000. The unavoidable conclusion we can draw from this is that an awful lot of employees in veterinary practices are earning a level of income that is likely to mean they have significant financial stress in their life.
So imagine the level of job satisfaction in having to come to work and put up with the often poor behaviour of colleagues (I mean doctors) who do are paid above this level.
Us doctors and owners are frequently highly driven, task focussed types that struggle with alien things like emotions. This manifests itself in all manner of relationship wreaking behaviours – tantrums, sarcastic comments, snidey put-downs, dismissal of the feelings of others…
Add into this that we are on the other side of the financial fence, so do not always have the same pressures on our personal finances. I hope you can see the potential for an emotional disconnect.
The best cure for unhappiness in a practice is therefore to hire and develop a team who can form and maintain relationships with others. The name of the skillset required is emotional intelligence.
Though it is an elusive skill to master and often viewed as “airy-fairy”. It is highly rewarding to have the ability to manage your emotions such that everyone can have a good day clinically and emotionally.
The journey you go on in learning how to master your emotions is not an easy one. You will have to face down some demons. It’s hard work, it’s draining work. But even the most thick-skinned rhino can learn to manage their emotions and develop healthy relationships with those around them. I’m proof of that!
If you want to learn more about this, then look no further than Shawn McVey. I can personally attest to the value of his training.
How do you make your boss happy? Easy. Find shit. Fix shit. Make people happy. And one more thing. Bill your shit properly. Done.
Often forgotten in business writing, but of most importance. Your family come first.
Happily, if you focus on the other three areas then I guarantee you that your family life will improve also. You see the skills of emotional intelligence come in just as handy at home as at work. Plus a successful business allows you more freedom.
Earning more money and being less stressed. Having more time away from the business because you are confident it runs well even when you are not there. Having time to see your kids grow up. These are the things we should work for.
We work to live, even those workaholic types like me…that’s the way it should be. Work to live, not the other way around. You’ll never look back and wish you’d worked another hour that week. You may well look back and wish you’d spent more time with your family and friends.
So there you go. My not-so-secret sauce that makes a veterinary business tick.
Now over to you. What do you think?