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Issue: 43 - Jul 16, 2012
Change Is Not An Option
By: Gerald M. Snyder, DVM
Veterinary Productivity

Does it seem that no matter how hard you work you just can’t seem to get ahead -- or give your family the things your family seemed to provide for you when you were a kid. Does it seem like forever since you and your significant other were able to take some time off, not associated with a meeting, to enjoy some time together?

Are you driving an older car? Are your kids going to the second best schools? How are you going to set aside enough to pay their for their college education? 

How much time do you really have left to come up with the kind of real money you need to put aside for a decent retirement? Did you know that it takes two million dollars in assets at retirement to fund a $100,000 lifestyle?


For most of us, a change is not an option. College tuition and retirement sneak up on you reeeaaall fast!

What are the things you might want to change right now?

  1. Work less, make more money. STOP FEELING GUILTY about not being able to give your family the things they want and need...that nagging thought, “Gee, I’m a veterinarian. I shouldn’t have to say ‘we can’t afford that.’”  You can increase your income without adding any hours. 
  2. MAKE UP FOR LOST TIME! Be sure you have a big enough regular contribution to your IRA or 401K put away to retire on. If you have a sick feeling in your stomach every time “retirement” is mentioned, you can and should fix that.
  3. STOP YOUR STAFF SQUABBLES! Get rid of the tension. If you are stressed and unhappy just driving to work every morning, it is probably because you are expecting staff problems! Hey! You are not a management expert but you can hire one. It’s not your fault. Nobody taught you the how of managing your staff.

You know that too much of your daily problems are income oriented. Staff underpaid, drug bills ever increasing.

I mean, we’re nottalking “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” here. We’re talking about things your family NEEDS, that you simply can’t supply.

And that’s with you working so many hours a week you’re basically AWOL as aparent. Kids grow up awfully fast — and the time you’re missing with them is gone for good. You could wake up one morning (I know lots of veterinarians who have) and discover that your adorable little girl or enthusiastic son is now a grown-up stranger.

You already know how to keep that from happening — but it takes time. Time doing stuff together that you both enjoy. Time you simply can’t afford now because your practice may be carnivorous with you as the maincourse. 


When you retire you’ll want to do all the fun things you’ve put off while you worked, right? See the world you missed and play a heck of alot more. You won’t be able to enjoy those things if you’re worried about the serious money you’ll need to stay as healthy and independent as possible when you’re truly old. Have you gotten long term care insurance yet? You really don’t think that you are going to sell a practice for more than 50-70% of gross, do you?

Old age is not for wimps. It’s hard!  It’s not for people who’ve run themselves out of money either. Do you have any idea how much it can cost to keep someone who’s frail or ill at home? Or any idea how bad the alternative — life in anursing home — can be?
If all of that weren’t bad enough, how about the problem of managing a dissatisfied, underpaid staff and keeping them from alienating your clients. Most often, they are good  people, but their needs are not being met because you can’t afford all the cafeteria benefits that a large corporation can provide. 

nless you have good business management skills (which, of course, you weren’t taught in veterinary school) or a practice so successful you can shower them with money, staff can often seem like an even bigger hurdle than your most difficult clients.


Put all these problems together and it’s no wonder you drive to work with anxiety, stress and depression as your passengers. Day after day after day.

ITS GOTTA STOP!!!  Living like that is a recipe for disease, divorce, and depression. Burnout is sneaking up on you!


There are only a few ways to turn any practice around, many of which you can do without a consultant.

Educate your staff.
They have to know a lot more than the clients and let’s face it you do not have an education degree or you do not have the time. You can buy the tools you needfrom Animal Care Training (800) 357-3182.

You can review staff performance meaningfully by using the free forms found on my website: http//  


Educate Your Clients.
Use a clipboard and a medical history questionnaire to allow staff to determine what the pet REALLY needs before entering the exam room and send a written Medical Report Card home with your client so they can read, and, incidentally, understand your recommendations. Both forms are designed by me and free copies are available from the printer by calling (800) 634-1876. I know of no practice using these forms and not adding $100-200/day in revenues. Of course, that’s only a thousand a week but it’s better than nothing. Do you really think your client presenting their pet for an ear infection can absorb the other problems you mention; periodontitis, seborrhea, medial patellar luxation, conjunctivitis. Give them and yourself a break! Give them a copy of the physical exam report card so they can check out those terms on the internet.


Learn how to invoice effectively. Don’t say fecal when you mean intestinal parasite screen. Don’t say “dental.” Ever!! It is an adjective that means nothing particular to clients!


Check out the right way to invoice dentistry at

Get your act and your life together! Got a real flash for you. If you don’t change, practice is about to get a lot worse. Any minute now, some client is going to call for your recommendation for a veterinarian closer to them because they can’t afford the gas to drive to you! Your number of client transactions may be dropping as you read this article. 


Be better prepared. Enjoy our profession and go home to your family each day without a sigh of relief. Look forward to each new day in the practice. You can do it!