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Issue: 32 - Aug 15, 2011
Become Proactive In Your Practice
By: Steve Kornfeld DVM, CPCC
Veterinary Success Services
Consider for a moment what is the most likely occurrence of a clinical case in veterinary practice. The pet is sick- the client calls in- the client makes an appointment- the pet is brought in. In other words, the pet needs care- the practice provides this care. The client doesn’t think the pet needs care- the client is oblivious of preventative care- the client does not call- the practice doesn’t do anything about it- there is no appointment- people complain that business is terrible.
This case scenario is the reactive way of doing the business of medicine. The basic belief here is that we should limit our interactions with clients to reaction: we only act if and when clients initiate the interaction. If this is the case in your practice, do you see how you might be setting yourself up for passivity? Also, the way you treat patients and deal with clients when they are in your practice may leave much to chance. When so much is left to chance, results tend to be unpredictable. In this article you will learn how you can becomeproactive in your practice.
The fundamental difference between reactive and proactive medicine is: Reactive medicine is an accidental unfolding of events. While in the case of proactive medicine, everything you do is planned out in advance and it has a purpose. In addition, in proactive medicine little is left to chance and almost everything done in the practice is measured, tested, measured again, questioned and compared. Then conclusions are drawn and new actions are incorporated and measured, until the best formula for achieving set goals is achieved. Can you see how much more control and predictability you and your staff will have when you are proactive as compared with simply reacting to events?
Why is it important to be proactive? It is important because your success depends on it! Although with reactive medicine you can do well, it may not be enough to be very prosperous with this way of practicing, especially when times are not as easy as they used to be and when standing out is a key to success. How else can you distinguish yourself so more clients notice you?
How do you become proactive in veterinary medicine, then?
Step One: Purpose- First and foremost you need a reason, a purpose, for an action you want to take in your practice. This action may be as simple as picking up the phone and calling clients, or as complex as overhauling your practice operations. Just know though, that without a strong enough “Why”, nothing else will happen. Ask yourself then: “Why do I want to take this action(s)?” “Will what this is going to give me is important enough for me?” If the answer is no, change the action or reexamine your belief about your practice and career. With an established and strong enough purpose, you can move to the next step.
Step Two: Strategy- The strategy deals with the “Where”: Where do you want this action(s) to take you in a predetermined period of time. When creating a strategy, the key is instead of thinking what you need to do today, tomorrow and so forth and hope to reach a desired goal, to decide what that goal is and then to go backwards all the way till tomorrow, even today. Using dentistry as an example, going backwards means?
·         What percentage of increase in net profit do I want to see in my practice as a result of focusing on more and better dentistry, in one year?
·         How many dentals a year is it going to take for us to reach that goal? 
·         How many dentals a month, a week?
·         Which months should you do more (or less) dentals?
·         Which days of the week should I do how many dentals?
·         How much should the average dental be for us to reach this goal?
·         What kind of compliance rate do you think it’s going to take?
Step Three: Action Plan- While the purpose deals with the “why”, the strategy deals with the “where”, the action plan deals with the “how”. Without actually taking action; nothing happens. We know that. However, now you have a strong reason to take action, you know what you want to achieve and you know what the milestones along the way are. All you have to do now is create a list of actions to take in any given moment that will give you the results you want. At the moment you may not be sure these are the best results. No matter; at least you are doing something different. At the end of the process you will be able to assess the outcome and decide which actions need changing.
Using dentistry as an example, I invite you to consider what it’s going to take for you to get to your goal. I would ask you to write down five ideas of what you think you need to do in order to greatly improve the way dentistry is being done in your practice. Take a few moments to think through. Ask your team to do the same. Now I’d like for you to assign these ideas an order of importance, according to your belief and understanding. You have now created the basis of your action plan to building a proactive and successful dental program in your practice.
Step Four: A special campaign- The best way to start a new program, in my opinion, is through a special campaign. Let’s say for example, that you want to improve results from your dental services; naturally, a great untapped potential. Historically, the busiest dental month is February. This is because there is already some kind of culture around “national pet dental month”. People are therefore primed to promote it, for whatever reason, and clients are much more open to accept their recommendations. So, if February is national pet dental month why couldn’t any other month be a dental month? People love specials. I am going to suggest then, if you are serious about maximizing results from your dental services, to decide on a date to start your own “Pet dental month”.
Step Five: The Pareto Rule- Twenty percent of your activities bring 80% of the results. It’s an incredible but true law of nature. So how can you harness this important law of nature to your advantage? Once you have created a long list of actions to improve results in dentistry, think in terms of: “Which of these actions can give us 80% of the results in veterinary dentistry?” Once your identify these 20% activities, by consistently focusing on them, you are very likely to get your desired results.
Step Six: Pick and choose- Admittedly, all this requires energy and commitment. You will therefore get much better results if, as you start your new dental program to focus your attention on the 25% of your clients who traditionally are open to your new ideas. You cannot be everything to everybody. So build your dental program to maximize the potential of the top 25% of your client base. This means clearly identifying these clients and then educating them on this new service. Can you guess how you can find these clients?
Step Seven: Success metrics- The next component of a proactive dental program is to pay close attention to its success metrics. Just like in any game, if you don’t keep score you lose purpose. How otherwise will you be able to tell whether your new campaign is successful? You also need to be able to measure how much better your dentals have become. This is where your management software can be helpful. By entering specific codes for each component of your new dental program and collecting the information, you can keep track of its progress.
Step Eight: Drawing conclusions- This is the last step in a proactive practice. At the end of any process you embark on, you need to sit down with all the data and compare the results to the blueprint you have created in the second step. If you are honest with yourself, you will be able to draw useful conclusion and decide what you need to do next. Keep doing this long enough and you will have a detailed map for a powerful proactive practice.