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Issue: 59 - Nov 15, 2013
The Shortest Way to Results is Taking the Right Action
By: Dr. Steve Kornfeld, DVM, CPCC
Veterinary Success Services

In an environment of gradual but constant decline in client transactions, it has become significantly more difficult to stand out from the crowd and attract the kind of clientele that can allow one to have a profitable and fulfilling career.

The ubiquitous Internet has brought a blessing to our profession, but potentially it has a painful sting. Although more clients can find your practice through online searches, at the same token, the word can get around quickly and reverberate through the ether. This can potentially turn prospective clients and even regular clients to look for greener pastures, perhaps primarily based on cost. This is not an ideal place to be in as a profession and as practices.

What is the cause of all of this and is there anything we can do about it?

For a good part, this is self-inflicted because we tend to spend only minuscule amounts of time working ON our practices or careers, preferring instead to work IN our respective practices, hoping things will somehow resolve themselves by miracle. Well, things rarely do and it is up to us to take matters into our hands.

So what does it mean "to work ON your practice"?

It means that you dedicate pre-planned times during the week and month to move your practice or career toward a finite destination.

To be able to work on your practice therefore, you need to know the following:

  • Where you want to go 
  • How to get there
  • Where you are

To this, it would be wise to add: get into action and never stop until you reach your destination. To know where you want to go and to get going and never stop though, you need to have a strong motivation. To find your own motivation, think of this scenario:

It is five years into the future and you are at a national veterinary conference. You are surrounded by many colleagues. Among them to your delight, you spot an old friend who was a class mate of yours at vet school. You haven't seen her in a long time and can't wait to hear how her career has unfolded and to tell her how lucky you have been in yours. Over a morsel in a quaint restaurant you share your experiences.

You tell your friend how much you have accomplished so far in your career. You tell her how you have taken over a failing practice and how you were able to turn it around. Feel the pride when you describe how you have gone from just you there, doing everything by yourself, to 2.5 doctors and how much you enjoy being a practice owner now. You gush over how your client base has grown and remarkably so, mainly from referrals. You tell her how innovative your operation is and how much your clients comment about the great experience they receive both when in the practice and even when not--when visiting your website and your social media.

As you speak, you notice how proud you are of your accomplishments. You don't think about them usually, but now that you describe them, you feel the emotion welling up inside you.

You see your friend's eyes widening and her expression turning to incredulity and awe. She is totally silent, hanging to every word you say. As you conclude your intro, she says: "How the heck did you do all this?"

So how did you?

You  begin to explain that being focused on the long-term outcome was crucial to this success  and how being in touch with what really matters to you and how you have created a detailed plan and got to work on it relentlessly was key.  You notice a sense of loss in her. She says, "I have been running around, trying this and that and never really following what is important to me. Now I am beginning to realize this was a mistake". Then she adds: "I could really use some guidance. Would you be my guide?"

So what advice would you give her?

This powerful exercise, if done properly, will be your guide to what it is you need to do in your career to be more fulfilled. No matter where you are at the moment with your career, there is almost always a way to turn it in a direction that will make you even prouder to be a veterinarian. 

Now that you have a better idea of what motivates you and where you want to be in five years, it is time to get into action. When it comes to taking action, realize that enthusiasm gets you going, while persistence gets you there. 

To take the right actions, your plan has to be converted to measurable milestones. Start with what came up for you in your five-year exercise and ask yourself how this vision or image can be translated to entities you can set your sight on.

Begin with the numbers you will want to have in five years and then go back to the numbers you will need to shoot for in order for you to achieve the fifth year numbers. As you get to the level of less than a year from now, you can begin asking yourself what actions you will need to take to achieve the first milestone and all those thereafter. If you write down all these actions in a chronological order and in much detail, you will have the semblance of a map to follow, step by step to achieve your five-year vision.

Now you can plan to work ON your practice in an organized and consistent manner.

Decide by when you want to reach your first milestone and the sum of the steps necessary to get there. Next decide how many hours per week or month you can allocate to moving your practice forward and get going.

At first you may feel overwhelmed and you may be tempted to stop working on the practice, as you are already busy enough. Don't let anything derail you, as your five-year vision is on the line. Remember?

As you move closer to your five-year goals, you will notice how things fall into place; how circumstances and people will show up in your life to give you what you need to move forward and to facilitate your reaching your destination.

Then someday, you will become the person you envisioned in your five-year exercise.

An essential part of reaching your 5-year goals is knowing where you are now in your career. In this case, feeling is not the best way to judge. You should be able to substantiate this with some facts. So ask yourself what the important elements you define as success are. So for example, you can look at where you are financially, relationship-wise, ability to control your destiny and satisfaction from your work or practice; all important factors to all of us when we consider the concept of success.

To give yourself a way to judge how accomplished each of these areas is, put them on a scale of 1-10, where 10 is the highest. The difference between this and 10 should give you an accurate assessment of what is still missing.

Why not get this in five years or less?