Learning from the experts... - Veterinary Practice
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Learning from the experts…

Vetinary Practice picks out some of the pertinent points from the “commercial” sessions at the London Vet Show

WELL over 2,000 delegates signed in for the London Vet Show held in the Olympia Exhibition and conference Centre last month. The “commercial” or “management” sessions, covered subjects ranging from greater use of the internet to selling, complaints to footfall and finance, and more. Among the memorable statements…

■ “How many interactions are there between vets and clients in the UK each year? Between 20 and 30 million. How many complaints are made? About 700 a year, which is equal to one in every 30,000 consultations or once every 15 years in practice. And how many of those complaints are referred to the disciplinary committee of the College? Between seven and 10 a year.” – Bob Moore,a past president of the RCVS, urging people to keep the disciplinary process in perspective.

■ “How many of you have read the Guide to Professional Conduct?” asked Bob Moore. About 10% of the hands in the 120-strong audience of vets, nurses and practice managers went up.

■ “We are in a profession that at the moment is far from buoyant, with reductions in the numbers of patients and clients and the frequency of visits. It is not a sustainable business model and we can’t go on this way indefinitely.” – Pete Southerden

■ “Over 90% of practices do not perform dental x-rays; and less than 0.3% offer free dental check-ups or other incentives.” – Ibid.

■ “We are a mixed practice – one of the last ones in Surrey,Ireckon.” – Phil Stimpson

■ “Who owns your practice data: you or your PMS vendor?” – Ibid.

■ “Clients don’t know what you are good at, they know if you are nice and if you are convenient … if you are in a commuter town, do not shut at 6 o’clock, that’s not convenient.” – Alison Lambert

■ “Get a web presence: you cannot be in this era without one – and monitor it.” – Ibid.

■ “How can you run a business that’s so dependent on the telephone and not know how many calls you get? Your number one priority is to make your phone ring. You have to train your staff to love owners and their pets. Caller conversion to appointments needs to be at least 40% … Your business is in the hands of a person or people that most practices spend no money on for CPD.” [When asked how many set money aside in their budgets for training receptionists, no more than 10 of the 200-plus people in the room raised their hands.] – Ibid.

■ “If you market only to the clients you’ve got now, eventually they will all die.” – Ibid.

■ “Supermarkets are masters of making money in difficult times: they get very close to their customers… One rule of supermarkets is that you make more money by good buying than by good selling.” – Rob Wirszycz (company chairman and entrepreneur)

■ “Most professional services firms are rubbish at follow-up calls. Don’t give your clients a form to fill in, call and speak to them. Be proactive; be part of your clients’ lives… The more time you spend with clients, the more revenue you will generate.” – Ibid.

■ “Finance keeps valuable cash at the heart of your business… Earmark 5-7% of your gross profit every year to invest in the practice.” – Simon Wardle.

■ “You should be looking to get your clients paying fixed monthly fees.” – Ibid.

■ “£1 of bad debt requires a £10 increase in turnover to recover.” – Gordon McLean

■ “Make your terms and conditions very accessible and very easy to read.” – Ibid.

■ “For every veterinary surgeon or veterinary nurse who goes self-employed you will save National Insurance.Apractice with four vets and nurses could save about £20,000 a year; plus you will save payroll bureau costs and accounting costs and the vets and nurses will be dramatically better off. Is it legal? Absolutely. It is supported by case law. Guidance from HMRC is almost always wrong on this. It is safe as long as it is properly done.” – Alan Gibson

■ “Vets are like donkeys – they’ll work all day for a carrot!” – John Sheridan quoting an Australian management consultant and making the point that low profitability in practices is a worldwide problem.

■ “Be bold in your business objectives. Big results are best achieved by getting the little things right.” – Ibid.

■ “Is it our role to sell … or to help our clients make considered and informed buying decisions?” – Cathy Gurney

■ “The only thing that makes us unique as a business is the people who work in it, everything else can be copied … You need to be different and communicate the difference to clients.” – Ibid.

■ “Take on reception staff with sales experience. The majority of you probably don’t have it as a requirement of the job.” – Ibid.

■ “If you have not become a limited company, ask your accountant why not.” – Mark Moran

■ “Treat pricing decisions with the importance they deserve: they are probably the biggest single decision of the year… Calculate the financial impact of pricing changes and always do the sums before making a decision. – Ibid.

■ “A website is an online brochure and communication tool; it is a way of attracting new customers; it is a revenue steam; it gives you control over your online presence; it can reduce your practice workload; and it is a tool for increasing client compliance… Look at your website from the visitors’ point of view.” – David Ross

■ “E-commerce is a fundamental tool for increasing footfall into the practice.” – George Christopherson

■ “With e-commerce we get paid before we order the product from the wholesaler.” – Ibid.

■ “As vets all we have to sell is our professional time, but we undervalue it and discount it and give it away more than we need to.” – Alan Robinson

■ “What part of your brain did you stop using in your second and third consultation [on the same case] if you charge less for them?” – Ibid.

■ “To increase the price of professional time, we need to increase the quality, from the client’s point of view, of professional time… As we get older we take shortcuts; the biggest shortcut is to reduce communication.” – Ibid.

■ “Have a not very bright 12-year-old in the consulting room at all times. If he or she can understand what you are saying, then the client probably can too.” – Ibid.

■ “Employment law is a minefield where the mines can actually blow up if not managed well.” – Cath McNeill

■ “Under health and safety law a person is presumed guilty until he or she can prove their innocence.” – Ibid.

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