The five things you do that your staff hate - Veterinary Practice
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The five things you do that your staff hate

Paul Green continues his series with a look at a number of things that practice owners do which their staff really dislike and which can prevent the business from developing

WHEN my team and I work with
a practice to help it grow, we try to
work with a key member of staff as
well as the practice owner.

Often that’s a practice manager; but
sometimes a head nurse or assistant
Depends on the size of
the business.

Over the
years I’ve
found that
directly with
a member of staff uncovers what the
real issues are that are holding back
the business because quite often, the
practice owner is the root cause of the
major problems in the business.

Let me give a real example. We’ve
just started working with a three-vet
practice that’s very well respected
locally. On paper it’s doing okay. In
reality, it’s in real danger of a corporate
opening up nearby and
stealing a huge chunk
of bottom end clients
with cheap vaccine

This practice is busy.
Clinics are always
full. The vets all work
stupid hours. But the net result is that everyone is busy
working in the business and rarely on
the business. The turnover and net
profit don’t reflect the hard work put

So the reminders are still just one
postcard, then nothing. The health
plan is still something the practice
wants to do, but hasn’t got round to.
The practice hasn’t reviewed its prices
for 10 years and is by far the cheapest locally (in fact it’s too cheap). Don’t
even get me started on the out-of-hours situation.

Ironically, the key member of
staff we are working with (one of
the assistant vets) is desperate for
change. He can see the threat of
cheap competition and knows that the
business needs to update to survive
and thrive over the next decade.

So what’s holding
the business back? It’s
the practice owner, of
course. He’s working
all the hours that God
sends, as he has done
for the last 20 years.

He’s so busy seeing
clients that business
development doesn’t get the focus it deserves. He wants change as much
as his staff do. But any conversation
about doing things differently always
ends with “Leave it with me and I’ll
look into it”… and, of course, nothing
ever changes.

This is a common situation for us.
And we have a good solution – we will
work directly with his assistant vet to
make change happen, sidestepping the
practice owner’s inertia.

Most business owners love it when
their staff make things happen in the
business, so long as they are kept in
touch with what’s changing.

This is one of a number of things that practice owners do – which
their staff hate and that hold back
the business. Here are the five most
common. Which of these things are
you doing?

You don’t listen to your staff

Most of your staff want your practice
to succeed as much as you do. They
want to have pride in it, and see it
doing a great job. They understand that
a busier business is a better one.

And you know what? They probably
know more about what needs to be fixed in your business than you do.
Trouble is, they tend to sit on that
knowledge; especially if you have
inadvertently trained them over the
years that you don’t listen to them. Or
you do listen to them but you don’t
hear them, because nothing changes.

A few months ago in this column I
recommended dumping team meetings
in favour of 1-2-1s with your staff.
This makes it more likely they will tell
you what’s really happening in your
practice, and what needs to change.
And you can then set them off down
the route of fixing it for you.

You break your own rules

“No more discounts” you tell your
team. And then a week later, you give a
long-time favourite client a discount.

This drives your staff crazy. It
creates chaos that they have to clear up.
And it makes it harder
for you to influence
your team to change.
If you want people
to do something
differently, you have to
be the first to do it.

You allow
problems to

The longer a problem
is left, the worse it
becomes. Especially
people problems. It can sometimes seem overwhelming
how much there is to do. But the
earlier problems are nipped in the bud,
the easier they are to tackle.

Again, your staff will be aware
of many problems long before you
are. Learn to trust key members of
your team – and when they tell you
something needs to be fixed, take
urgent action.

You still work 80-hour weeks

Seriously, stop that now. It’s okay when
you’re in your 20s. Or when you first
own a practice. But it stops being fun
or clever in your 40s and 50s.

Just because many other vets do
it doesn’t mean you need to follow
the herd. Break the link in your head
between hours worked and results

Some of my wealthiest and most
successful friends (outside veterinary)
work the fewest hours. The more
holidays they take, the greater mental
breakthroughs they seem to make.
Some of the most successful vets I
know have also discovered this to be

You’re not the leader
the business needs

Some of us are natural leaders; some
shy away from it. But if you’re the
business owner you need to lead.
Your staff want to be led. They want someone to say “This
way everyone …
follow me.”

Even if you’re
wrong, even if you’re
making it up as you
go along, your staff
will follow you. In
fact they’ll respect you
more for leading them
the wrong way (so long
as you recognise your
mistake and x it) than
they will for a lack of

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