Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Borrowing Battery Juice. How Recharging Keeps the Motor Happy and BUILDS Your Veterinary Practice.

Early morning run produces four 1 month old kittens. 
Cold hungry and at the mercy of an often unforgiving world.
There is too much anger and blame in the world. I am just as guilty as the next over privileged white American. Travel the world for any amount of time in any capacity at all and you will return to the land of the stars and stripes feeling lucky. Stick around the USA long enough and the bitterness of wanting more and giving less gets the best of you. Outwardly none of us want to carry each others burdens. If you are a vet you seem to get asked more than you imagine others do to keep helping as the extended open hands never stop coming. It is our lot in life to be asked and expected to help. We are often castigated if we refuse to help. I fear most vets say "NO!" to the Springtime eruption of abandoned kittens, owner surrendered peeing cats, economic euthanasia's for broken bones, bad skin and the behavior cases that would just be too much work to retrain.

Sam, JVC adoption from rescue,
Thanks to the Good Samaritan Fund 
Summer 2016
The excuses are plentiful;
  • "It isn't our job to provide homes for unwanted pets."
  • "If the client can't afford the care needed they shouldn't have ever gotten a pet."
  • "We are not the shelter. We are a business."
  • "If we do it for free everyone else will expect it."
  • "There are too many good/healthy pets being euthanized. Why should we champion the cause of the bad/sick ones?"
  • "What about the liability of a clinic cat? Or, worse, a behavior dog?"
  • "We have an obligation to care for our paying clients. We don't have time to care for both."
  • "What affects my bottom line affects my ability to take care of my staff."
  • "I can't love the pet more than their owner does."
  • "It's not my problem."
  • "It would take too much,,,, (insert the following here) time, effort, resources, care, etc."
  • And, the one no one speaks out loud but secretly harbors; "I don't care."

I will argue every point above. I can even simplify them all to a few basic tenets.
  • You probably do care more than the average person. That is why you busted your butt to get into and out of vet school. This is what makes you exceptional. Who the heck wants to lower themselves to mediocre? 
  • You are not as financially strapped as you portray. And even if you think you are I would offer this. If you are struggling as a vet you are doing something wrong, and it is NOT giving stuff away. It is not CAPITALIZING ON THE STUFF YOU DO GIVE AWAY. Our clients love us simply because we care about them and their pets. If you are not on social media you are losing about 30% of revenues you could have access to because you aren't telling your clients what you do. 
  • People want transparency. We all like to know what to expect as much as possible. If you don't provide it they won't trust you. 
  • You are replaceable. 
  • Any vet who doesn't have a clinic cat is a clinic who says "NO" too often. One of the ways I suggest a client pick their vet is to walk out of a clinic if THEY DON'T HAVE A CLINIC PET. My lawyer reminds me every time they can about how I need to remove my in-clinic herd. They are considered a "liability." This is one of the many defining qualities of why I am not a lawyer.
  • Your staff will stick with you because they believe in you and your clinic. They have choices to. They may think about leaving to make more money, but, they will stay because they know they are a part of the dream of who they wanted to be. Foster this at all levels of your business. It is the CORE of a hospital.
  • Having and helping the needy pets has turned the staff into an army of veterinary care foster parents. This has trained my staff more than I could have ever done on my own. JVC has kitten critical care specialists, puppy trainers, dog behaviorists, and a a clinic of "fear free" personnel because we are true to our mission. 

Let's talk numbers. Every vet who thinks that being kinder and more generous is going to adversely affect their numbers isn't utilizing the power of being the person your clients want and expect you to be. If anyone wants to talk my numbers I can tell you that my clinic Jarrettsville Veterinary Center has grown beyond my wildest imagination. I took a leap of faith, I followed my heart, I employ people I trust and believe in and we share in the joys of trying. We don't always win the battle between life and death, and we don't always decide fate but we don't take or make excuses. Everyone and everything is provided assistance and more often than not the pet wins a battle they would have otherwise died from.

Roadside kitten
Day 2; grateful.
Building a veterinary business HAS TO BE centered around improving pets lives. It is much more than a balance sheet and time cards. It is small miracles, long hours of trying to bend the laws of science and biology. It is also endless buckets of blood, sweat, and tears.

I asked my business partner if he was brave enough to publish our numbers? How much has our bottom line improved while our goodwill runneth over? Maybe if I put out hard numbers that would encourage more vets to think AND act outside of the rigid 'care for paying clients only' box? It is a factor of exponential growth based on a series of key decisions.
  1. Get rid of clutter. Clients who steal your soul, beat you up and cost your ability to maintain faith in mankind and compassion to your patients go. Period. If that means getting rid of 20% let them go. Quietly, peacefully and quickly. 
  2. Be very vocal and open about who you are and what your clinics mission is. Broadcast it.
  3. Embrace the free stuff. Use the talents of your staff, your reps, and your community. Ask for help with anything and give up control. If you don't let your assets sell your business it will never grow. 
  4. Be honest always. 
  5. Understand short term losses and long term gain. If you aren't a part of the long term gain your staff and your clients will see through you. 
  6. You don't have to be anyone other than who you are. Stop trying to be something you are not. BUT, hire to round out your abilities and services or knowingly and openly give up a piece of the client expectations. For example, the vet I bought my clinic from did lots of ear crops. He was very good at them and hence people traveled great distances to see him. Me, well, I like floppy ears. It took a while for me to break it to his followers, but I am not a cosmetic ear vet. I was honest and they were upset he retired and that was the end of it.
  7. Expect that notoriety brings visibility. Be prepared to grow and what that entails. It is a double edged sword. 
  8. Go into every interaction with a smile, an open hand of assistance and expect the best of people. If there is one or two who disappoint you have a fund set aside to offset the loss. You will find that more people are good than bad and that more cases can be won versus lost and you can build forward. In summary, "don't sweat the small stuff.. and you know,, it is all small stuff."
Another of the roadside kittens
How has being more compassionate, opening our doors and services to more people, and doing things others think are impossible helped us? Goodwill builds loyalty. Loyalty builds vet-client bonds, and one long term client who passes your name along to anyone who needs help for their pets is a dollar you never have to spend on marketing that was never going to drive your business into the big leagues anyway.

Gus Gus. Found in a dumpster emaciated. Adopted within 1 week.
I have learned that what comes around goes around. I don't have to hope to cast karma. I can see it. People care about their pets. Most of them care about them as if they are family members. I do feel that we veterinarians have an obligation to help the patients we are educated and empowered to serve. I just argue that care should not be based simply on a clients ability to pay out right. There are lots of resources available from many wonderful organizations. We at Jarrettsville Vet will tell you what we can do for your pet. We will also tell you how much it will cost. If you cannot afford this, or, if you would like to know what other outside options are available we will provide them. We also post all of our prices and provide examples of past surgery costs willingly and openly. If they cannot pay we provide options. Economic euthanasia is not a treatment option.

Abandoned bottle baby turned bossy self described Alpha Cat
You reap what you sew.

Ninja kittens decided they liked beds, food and cuddling rather quickly.
There is nothing worth the power of a smile and the joy that a pet brings. It is the most important part of our profession. It is the fuel that feeds the soul of a pet practitioner and supports the passion to be who we are and do what is not always easy.

Skippy Jon Jones
Good Samaritan Fund
Summer 2016

There are appointments where I know I spend more time playing and cuddling my patients than I expect to. These are always the moments I reflect upon each night when my husband asks me, "What was the best part of your day?"

River and Rose
I take the cases that have nothing left. Paisley needed a weird off the sidebar of my vet surgery text book surgery OR she was going to be euthanized. I sweated her surgery. I called my friends for advice. I put out a Facebook plea for guidance, and I jumped in when no one else would.

She now lives with someone who I adore. Paisely was the kismet to meeting a friend I cherish. She was a reason to try and the reward was worth the uneasy challenge. Life is not meant to be easy. Stop seeking easy. There is no reward there.

If I could pick diseases to specialize in they would include;
  1. Puppy Strangles
  2. Pyometra
  3. Demodex
  4. Parvovirus.
  5. Feline Inappropriate Urination
These too often are given up based on huge estimates of care. BUT, they are conquerable! And we shy away from them too often.

Incorrectly diagnosed as sarcoptic mange which almost cost her her life.
These are the faces of what we do. We help any pet from the local shelter who we think we can. We post them on Facebook like mad. We seek the comfort of a purr and a snuggle when we need to walk away from a hard case. We take time to remember who we are and why we are here. Keeping kittens helps the stress, the heart break and the reminder to push on. There are always souls in need and often we each help each other feel loved and needed.

Kitty and Sam
Good Samaritan Fund
Summer 2016

Every vet hopes to live and practice long enough to build a book of their career. To see the puppy they delivered reach teenage status. To save the kitten who had little hope if you hadn't intervened make it to spay/neuter surgery. To have enough cases to add opinions on preference of care. To see our clients children grow and have pets of their own. To build a book of stories that are worthy of brandy, long stormy days and reflection of glory days. We each are building our own legacy one patient at a time. Each one matters and each will build you into the person you decide to be.

Who I delivered via Cesarean section (my first) 11 years ago.

Medicine takes courage, conviction, dedication and ability built on practice and heart.

Celebrate, announce and revel in the bright spots. Take pride and be who you are without fear.. medicine takes no prisoners,, we are all "a ghost driving a meat coated skeleton made from stardust. So what are you waiting for." (My new favorite quote). Every vet has a bit of demented biology we relate to.. embrace it!

Making new friends everyday.
Taking lots of selfies to keep the batteries charged.

If you think all of this isn't possible I ask you a few questions.
1. How often do you feel that your batteries are on empty?
2. Is there anything you are doing that you don't feel proud of? If so, just say no. No fear and face consequences with pride in being true to your inner self. I swear I got rid of all my soul sucking clients and staff.. It took A LOT OF COURAGE! I stopped making excuses that cost my patients for my clients sake, and I abandoned my bottom line concessions. Every decision is made openly honestly and with being kind and compassionate at the forbearance. It is possible.
3. What are you waiting for?
4. Is your desire to calculate overpowering your ability to find peace and joy in being a vet?
5. What are you really afraid of? What if I told you that it doesn't really matter? That you matter much more.

If you are still in disbelief about all of this,, I can add; No good deed goes unpunished. Expect it. Be prepared for it. Be brave. And don't let the pessimists take over your orchestra. Approach them as you would disease. They are there to challenge you. Out smart and out live them. And walk away knowing you are only better because you faced a challenge.. and then don't look back or waste time letting it bother you. We have all learned that there is a force of some greater influence than we will ever possess. (And turns out you can kill  a cat with an arrow and still keep your license.. the rest is just money. We are over the ludicrous idea of having lots of money aren't we?).

As always I wish you kindness, peace and endless compassion. 

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If you would like to learn more about Jarrettsville Vet please visit us on our Facebook page, on our website, or find me on Twitter@FreePetAdvice or on where I answer pet questions for free. Pawbly is open to anyone who loves pets. It is a place for free information and resources to help pets and their families. I also have helpful advice on YouTube Krista Magnifico, DVM.

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