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Issue: 62 - Feb 14, 2014
“Do You Know Where You’re Going To?”
By: Peter Weinstein, DVM, MBA
Veterinary Success Services

In 1975, Diana Ross starred and sang the theme song to the movie, Mahogany.  The song title is the same as the title of this article.  Here are the first few stanzas:

Do you know where you’re going to?

Do you like the things that life is showin' you?

Where are you going to?

Do you know?

Do you get what you’re hopin' for?

When you look behind you, there’s no open doors.

What are you hopin' for?

Do you know?

This was the theme for our high school graduation a few years later. At the time of high school graduation, the song made sense and provided guidance.  Almost forty years later, the song is disturbing and concerning when I talk to so many professionals who really don’t know where they are “going to”.

In a business or life scenario, to me the initial item, before you take a step in any direction, is to visualize where you are headed.  Whether you are a high school student looking to go to veterinary school or a veterinarian looking to open a practice; whether you are an aging veterinarian looking to retire or a veterinary student deciding what area of veterinary medicine to enter; you need to have a vision for your future. 

I like to think of it this way: if you have a GPS in the car that is on but not programmed it can’t take you to where you are trying to go and there is a chance you will have no idea where you’ll end up.  In life and practice, you need to program your metaphorical GPS or you will have no idea where you are going or where you will end up. 

In practice, the ‘where you are going’ is called a vision.  A vision is the picture of the final product for your optimal practice (if you are an owner) or the optimal experience (if you are an associate, employee, manager, etc.). It includes all of the details from colors and odors to operations and accounting.  It is your true blueprint for success.  Would you build a house without a blueprint?  You can’t build a successful practice without a vision.

A vision not only tells you what your practice will look like but how it will do things and MOST importantly WHY you are going to do things the way you do. 

The vision I had for my practice, in summary: MAH will provide a Mayo Clinic level of animal care in an environment of Nordstrom’s like client service. 

This vision was the guiding beacon for how we performed clinically and sent a message to the doctors and staff what the expectation for performance was.  Concurrently, the service component also gave a message to the team that client care was to be world class. Everything we did was with this in mind and with the best interests of the pet’s health. Why did we do what we did? To attain, maintain, and sustain the human animal bond between our clients and their four legged family members. 

In my various roles over the years, I have found that at all levels of veterinary medicine, this concept of a vision is frequently lacking. There is a world of high school students whose goal is to get into veterinary school but who really have no vision of anything beyond that. Similarly, there is a world of veterinary students whose goal is to graduate from veterinary school and get a job and who have no vision of anything beyond that.  And more concernedly, there is a world of veterinary hospital owners who have bought themselves a job and who have no vision beyond that.

So, here is the message behind my madness.  Take a moment, or two, and start to create your vision.  Start to program your personal GPS.  Start to look through the windshield and no longer through the rear view mirror.  Start to think about WHY you do what you do and how you are going to spend the rest of your life focusing on that why. 

A practice vision gives you focus on hiring, training, marketing, managing and leading. A personal vision gives you focus on what you need to do with your career, your family, your finances, and your life.

A practice vision will prevent you from wandering about the practice looking for things to do. A practice vision will allow you to motivate and extol your staff to new levels of success. A practice vision will keep you focused down the road.

Did you buy yourself a job or a vision?  If you are running your practice without a vision, it’s a job. If you are running your practice with a vision it is a guiding light for future success.

To get from where you are today to where you want to be in the future requires that ‘you know where you’re going to’. 

When you are done reading this, do the following:

  1. Schedule time to focus on what you want to receive from your practice, your job, your life. Write it down.
  2. Schedule time to identify to where you are driving.  What is your target?  What do you want to accomplish? In practice, in your job, in your life.  Write it down.
  3. Create a vision of how you want your practice to look so that it will give to you what you have envisioned. Write it down.  (Replace ‘your life’ for ‘your practice’ and repeat).
  4. Review #3 daily for a few weeks modifying it each day until you can’t modify it anymore. Write it down.
  5. Share your ‘final’ vision with people around you. Ignore their jealousy; that is their comments. Listen to their input but never let somebody tell you that you can’t accomplish something.
  6. Share your vision with your practice team, family, and friends. Make it a part of your daily action items to review it. Write it down. 
  7. Program your GPS. Live your vision everyday. Enjoy the view.

NOTE: I would love to read some of your visions. You can share them at 

And if you want to share them with the world, you can do that at

P.S. - here’s my current vision statement:

The best use of my productive time, heartfelt effort and passionate dedication is to speak to veterinarians, veterinary students, veterinary team members, and prospective veterinarians and veterinary team members about how great it is to be involved with being an animal caregiver and how caring for animals is a blessing; how important animals are in all of our lives; how lucky we are to be involved with animals or want to be involved with animals.  To motivate others to want to become veterinarians or work with animals.  To educate the public about the great things that veterinarians do for the animals of the world.