The top ten ways to tell if time is kicking your butt

May 11th, 2015

Time Management“But at my back I always hear, Time’s winged chariot hurrying near” a haunting line from an old poem. But one that sums up one of the biggest problems we face in veterinary practice today. The management of our time.

So how can you tell if the time monsters are gobbling up your life? Here are my top ten ways to find out if time is kicking your butt.

1. You own an Apple Watch

Seriously, who actually believes that having email and instant messenger on your wrist is going to help improve productivity? I dropped into the Apple Store to sneak a peek at these gadgets. What I discovered was that the device though wonderfully well designed, is crammed full of distraction based time-traps. Short of having a newborn litter of puppies to feed I cannot think of a more effective way to suck up your time. 10/10 for ingenious design. 0/10 for productivity assistance.*

2. You say things like ‘I don’t have time’ several times each day.

If you are guilty of uttering these words then time absolutely has you beaten at the mindset level. Feeling like time is your enemy is a sure sign that you are not managing things well. Once you have this mindset your reflex to opportunities is to say no and ignore things that might be great fun or work out to be huge opportunities.

I’m not saying that you should suddenly say yes to everything, that’s not a good solution if you’re struggling to manage your workload. What I am saying is that if you don’t feel like you have the choice, then you need to rework your day so you can make decisions without feeling like there’s a stopwatch ticking in your ear.

3. You say yes to everyone and everything.

The exact opposite of what good time managers do. The objective is to delegate tasks away from you, not be such a control freak that you have to do everything yourself.

4. You tell people to “do this, not that”.

The catchphrase of the micro-manager, a siren call for vets and managers across the globe. In our over-worked, under-resourced practices it isn’t hard to see how this occurs. It seems far easier to ‘just do it myself’ than stand by and watch someone else goof it up. I call this behaviour the time bandit because it robs you twice.

The first way this behaviour robs you is by chewing up your time doing silly tasks that someone else could easily learn themselves. The second (and far worse way) is that it robs your team of the chance to grow and develop their own skill level. All of which means you are more likely to be a stressed boss and your team gradually lose their motivation to work because they don’t feel valued.

5. You instinctively put the kettle on to make a cup of tea when faced with an important task.

I suffer with this particular time affliction terribly. In fact, the way I know I’m working on a task of huge importance is by noticing just how loudly my procrastination demons are screaming.

6. You get to the end of the day having achieved no output of your own, but have helped everyone else with their day.

I think back to my first job in management and this was almost everyday some weeks. I had strategic stuff I should have been working on, but there was always someone else who seemingly needed my help. Tactical work is important, but once you reach a certain job level, strategic work is what you should spend most of your time on.

It took me a while to work this one out, and it feels very gratifying to get to the end of your day having helped a lot of people out. But being the grease in someone else’s wheels will only get your business so far. What it needs more than anything else is an adept leader.

7. You have thousands of unread messages in your inbox (seriously) and you leave facebook open on your browser bar.

A no brainer to avoid this right? But email and facebook are the two biggest productivity killers I’ve seen. Yes they are necessary, but if your habit is to get to work, open up email and check out the practice facebook page then someone else is setting your agenda each day.

My strongest advice is that you isolate your email and social media use to a couple of smaller 30 minute windows each day.

8. You do small things on your to do list first

Have you ever gotten into work, looked at your to do list and thought, ‘I’ll just quickly knock off these small items so I have some runs on the board’? Of course you have. We all have. Just remember, if you focus on small tasks, you’ll only ever get small results.

9. You don’t have a to do list

Need I expand? I suspect not.

10. You think being busy equates to being effective.

Ever see those people who have two phones, are bombarded by texts and can’t hold a conversation for more than two minutes without interruption. Time. Management. Trainwrecks.

For some people being busy is an end in itself, but if you want to be successful then focussing your energy on being effective is a far better objective. Focus on results out, not time put in.

So did you recognise any of your own behaviours in that list? If so, then make sure you’re signed up to my newsletter and next week we’ll talk about how to stop time kicking your butt and reclaim your life.

Until then – be safe, be well and be happy.


Dr Dave.

What will our profession look like in 30 years?

February 12th, 2015

Take the Veterinary Career Satisfaction Survey Here:
http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/1984998/Veterinary-Satisfaction-Survey

Thirty years ago the profession was a male dominated, farm animal driven industry. Things could hardly be more different these days and in another thirty years what will the market looks like?
While we can’t answer the last question, it’s undoubtedly true that a rapid evolution (possibly revolution) has occurred in our industry across the planet. Clinical standards, cultural shifts , the rise of corporate business and the feminisation of the workforce are all presenting challenges and having huge impacts. And while we have been relatively good at adapting to some of these changes (typically the bit we’ve done well is harness the clinical progress). There is little doubt that we are having a harder time dealing with the other drivers of change.
It feels much like we are at a cross roads right now, perhaps we’ve been stood here for longer than we might be willing to admit. Pondering how to react. Unsure of the direction we ought to take. But there’s more than a nagging sensation that things are not right within the profession and particularly the labour market. Employees report job dissatisfaction and employers complain that they can’t get the staff required.
So what’s going on and what can be done to fix things? To move forward?
As with all problems some reliable data is required, which is why I’m setting out to survey 500 vets and 500 practice owners about the state of the labour market in Australia.
What I’d like to ask is for you to give 3-4 minutes of your time to take a quick survey so we can gain a deeper understanding of what the issues are from both sides of the fence.
The information is completely anonymous and will be used to assess trends and provide valid information so we can build a better workplace for all. I’m looking for 500 vets in Australia to take the survey and I’d be grateful for your time. The results will be analysed and a summary published later this year for all to digest and review. So what’s in it for you? Well, in short, this is a chance to contribute your opinion and let your voice be heard.
The more voices are added, the louder the noise made and the more likely that leaders from academia and business within our profession will take note and learn what we do well, what we do badly and most importantly what needs to change.
Thanks in advance for your time and please share this with your colleagues.
The survey will close at the end of March or once we reach 500 responses from vets. So please don’t miss out. Make your voice heard and take the survey here.
Thanks for your time,
Dr Dave Nicol.

Where did all the vets go?

February 12th, 2015

To complete the survey for Vet Practice Owners or Managers please go here:

http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/1986775/Veterinary-Employers-Survey

(The survey takes only 3 minutes to complete.)

Where did all the vets go?

It’s a question increasing numbers of practice owners and managers are asking themselves as they struggle to recruit great talent. Which is a bit strange, because we know that new graduates are literally pouring out from the vet schools – and many of them can’t find jobs. So what’s going on in the veterinary workforce? Where do all the vets go?

There are lots of theories and opinions, but what’s needed is some data and insight into what’s going on. Management expert Dr Dave Nicol has observed this issue and has created two surveys that together will help to shed some light on some worrying HR trends in veterinary practices for owners and vets.

You can help solve the problem by taking the survey – the more people submit their answers the more valid the results will be.

So what’s in it for you? Simple. Knowledge – the most powerful tool we can possess. All respondents will receive a copy of the results summary when it’s published. Information that will help to shape your job design and practices in the next decade.

The survey will take only three minutes to complete – and that’s if you are a slow typist! Three minutes and you get some meaningful, strategic insight in return.

The survey will close at the end of March or once we reach 500 responses from practices. So please don’t miss out. Make your voice heard and take the survey here.

http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/1986775/Veterinary-Employers-Survey

Thanks for those three minutes of your time,

Dr Dave Nicol.

Find Shit. Fix Shit. Make People Happy!

November 14th, 2014

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?

Your clients

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.

Your colleagues

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.

Your boss

How do you make your boss happy? Easy. Find shit. Fix shit. Make people happy. And one more thing. Bill your shit properly. Done.

Your family

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?

How to get exactly what you deserve

August 27th, 2014

Ever feel like you don’t get the returns that you think you are worth?

There are many opportunities in life where the energy we put in doesn’t seem to deliver the results we think it should.

Perhaps you put in 15 hrs a day on the front line of your business, yet make no profit and the business stagnates.

If you are in this situation then think about this.

You will get what you deserve. End of.

Put another way, if your day is spent doing $10/hour tasks, like email or photocopying – you’re really only worth paying $10/hour.

If you never get a second to attend to your own really important strategic things because you allow others to add their “urgent,” but trivial, things to your list then the impact you have on your business will itself be trivial.

Chances are, therefore, you are already getting precisely what you are worth.

To change your situation, my advice is to spend a lot of time each day thinking about and deciding what is important to get done, not being hijacked by what is urgently screaming to get done.

Only when you accomplish the important things will your circumstances begin to improve.

So what’s the most important thing you can do today, this week or this month?

What’s the biggest, ugliest and (perhaps hardest) thing that if it gets done will have an exponentially awesome effect on your business or life?

Once you work that out, get on it.

The leaks that are slowly draining your bucket

August 7th, 2014

We all focus very hard on getting new clients. Harder and faster with the emails, the mail shots and the adverts. (Always with the adverts.) We’ve become insanely focused on the new client sign ups, because we can measure these and if we are getting lots of new meat into our grinder then we’re all OK right?

Frequently though, we are doing nothing better with this approach than sinking very, very (almost imperceptibly) slowly. But make no mistake. A marketing strategy focused solely on turning the new client tap to ‘full gush’, will be guilty of making the error of letting those valuable existing clients, simply leak out the bottom. (And into your competitor’s bucket.)

Of course the hard part is spotting the leaks. No sorry, that’s not true. The hard part is being brave enough to look for the leaks. Here’s why.

If your active client numbers are stable, but you are registering 100 new clients each month, then take a wild guess at how many are leaking out from your bucket?

Think this might be an over exaggeration? Try it out. But only if you dare.

An Update from Recruitment Bootcamp, Gold Coast

March 25th, 2014
Nancy & Dave at Recruitment Bootcamp Gold Coast

Nancy & Dave at Recruitment Bootcamp Gold Coast

We had an awesome day here at Broadbeach, Gold Coast. There was excellent interaction with our delegates and good feedback on the material. Looked like a lot of light bulbs went off today. But OMG there were some really crazy recruitment and HR real life horror stories today. I’m so glad people came as help is definitely at hand. ;-)

Here’s what two of our attendees had to say…

Recruitment Bootcamp: Delegate Feedback from David Nicol on Vimeo.

If you want to come along there are two dates left.

Melbourne on Thursday 27th March and Sydney on Tuesday 1st April.

Click here to book a place today.

Email banner

March 14th, 2014






Recruitment Hot Tip: Softball questions get you nowhere

February 26th, 2014

Recruitment Bootcamp: Softball questions get you nowhere from David Nicol on Vimeo.

Nancy is now almost resigned to the seemingly endless mistakes Dave makes as he tries desperately to hire in a new vet. In this edition Dave's interview technique has let him down badly.

How to hire veterinary staff efficiently

February 17th, 2014

I have a mantra that flies in the face of everything you ever learned about recruitment. It’s simple.

“One Job. One Applicant. One Interview. Done.”

Sounds weird right? But when you stop and think about it, this approach makes a lot of sense.

Traditional veterinary recruitment (is broken)

Traditionally businesses divide the recruitment process into two stages.

Recruitment – where we cast our net far and wide when promoting our vacancy so we get lots of potential applicants. And then selection – the process of whittling down the applicants to our desired individual.

But based on the general level of staff engagement (which is low) and turnover (which is horrifically high in veterinary practice) I’d say there is compelling evidence that this approach is not yielding good results. In fact, I’d go further and say that this approach is largely responsible for a lot of the issues we have each day with our staff management.

A different way of recruiting (that works)

Last month a new client came on board with my recruitment business (Recruit Right for Vets) with a challenging brief – to hire a team member with experience who would take on the mantle of developing the team of nurses and driving standards forward in the practice.

Now here’s where we did things differently. Once upon a time my client would have sent out the same old job advert, and guess what. The advert would have looked a lot like everyone else’s – a generic snooze-fest that doesn’t accurately reflect the practice or the role.

Instead, I interviewed our client in depth – worked up a very detailed person specification and wrote an advert with language that ‘spoke’ only to someone who fit this profile. In the advert I included accurate descriptions of what the practice and job are like.

My client was keen, but understandably apprehensive, about doing things differently. He was also worried because the response was low, something he was not used to. I asked him to hold firm and not panic. And sure enough after two weeks a CV appeared – a very exciting CV indeed.

Fast forward through the various next steps of the unique recruitment process and I have just sent this applicant for her first and final interview. The role isn’t in the bag yet, but a better matching candidate I have yet to find. So barring any interview disasters, this ought to be a match made in heaven.

Was the process a little weird for my client?
Yes.

Was my client nervous to receive so few CVs compared to previous campaigns?
Yes.

Was my client able however to get more profitable work done, rather than sifting through multiple CVs and worse still, interviewing several hopeless candidates?
Yes.

And ultimately because I used a scientifically rigorous process to check off skills and behaviours, does my client stand a better chance of hiring a 10/10 super star?
Categorically YES.

That is what the Recruit Right for Vets process brings to the veterinary world – a time effective, efficient and guaranteed* way of improving your greatest asset – your human resource.

So if you have the smarts, like my client in this blog, to understand that who you hire is the single biggest factor in determining your level of happiness and success then I’d like to invite you to come along to one of our recruitment intensive workshops to be held in March and April across Australia.

During the workshop – called Recruitment Bootcamp – yours truly, alongside my longtime mentor Nancy Slessenger, will teach you every step in our process so you can start to write great adverts, use time effective ways to rule out poor candidates and learn the secrets of how to perform an in practice interview that works.

The process was developed and honed in my own veterinary hospitals and has helped forward thinking practices across Australia, the UK and America to find great people for their clinics.

If that sounds like time well spent then head over to our registration page to find out more about the class (which is fully guaranteed – if you attend and don’t feel like it was worth it – we’ll give you your attendance fee back).

To your ongoing success in practice,

Dr Dave Nicol.

*Each of the services offered by Recruit Right for Vets comes with a guarantee, full details are available at www.recruitrightforvets.com.