Archives for category: Veterinary

(Clicking on the image above will take you to Amazon where a tiny percentage goes to help fund my book buying habit.)

“We have always had some influence over the justice system but for the first time in 180 years, since the stocks and the pillory were outlawed we have the power to determine the severity of some punishments and so we have to think about what level of mercilessness we feel comfortable with.”

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson shines a, sometimes unwelcome, light on the unforgiving nature of Internet shaming. Ronson convincingly argues that almost 200 years ago we abandoned shaming as a form of punishment, not due a lack of effectiveness with rise of the larger towns and cities, but because it was seen as overly cruel.

Ronson has extraordinary access to those who lives have been ruined because of a bad out of context joke, calling out someone for perceived sexist comments, for making perceived sexist comments, and for being too irreverent in a selfie at a national memorial. The author also cleverly focuses on those less worthy of pity; the successful author who gets found out for making up quotes, and exposes our own attitudes to shaming. And then there are those who seem to have beaten the shame cycle; the UK publicist who went to war with the tabloid press, and the small town where almost a hundred of its citizenry where reveled to be visiting a local prostitute.

As well as telling the story of the various victims of the modern age of public shaming, Ronson also tells us of his own journey and grappling with his own role in the shaming of others and of being of control of his internet persona. This does not hang together quite as well as the rest of the book. I have a hard time, for instance, that such a talented researcher cannot look back through their own Twitter history to see who they have previously shamed. However, this is minor quibble and a brave personal exploration and opening up about personal shame.

The book does end on a relatively positive note due to the miracles of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), however the real point of the book is for the reader to examine how they feel about this return of public shaming. Even for those whom it is hard to defend; the hunters seeking big game trophies, the Vet taking pleasure in shooting a cat with a bow and arrow, and the plagiarizing author, to name but a few – do they really deserve this level of life altering destruction?

For those who answer yes, this book is for you. “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed” is, if nothing else, a testament to how much of a double edged sword internet shame can be, how cruel and destructive it is, and how uncomfortable we should all be with it. The Internet shows us at our best and worst as a culture – it is we who have to change.

Note: I have refrained from using the names of any of the subjects, or related people, in this post so as not to add to add to the problem.

By Mike Falconer

In the very short history of live streaming with mobile devices through apps such as Periscope, and perhaps more importantly Facebook due to its ubiquity, there have been number of notable firsts. Some have been amazing, some have been funny, and lots have been horrific.

The shooting death during a traffic stop of Philando Castile by a Police Officer, quite apart from being an awful tragedy which is still under investigation, had its immediate aftermath streamed live over Facebook as you have undoubtably heard if not indeed actually seen.

The debate, the police response, and I am sure the entire investigation, surrounding this shooting has been framed by one of the witnessing participants and their actions. Not that fact that a video exists but that a video exists and a significant portion of the population of the country, if not the world, will have seen and even taken part in the immediate aftermath.

There may actually be a lot of good that comes from the instant live streaming of events, even when bad things happen; however, we live in a pretty unforgiving world. And so it was the Philando Castile shooting that started me thinking about the wider implications not just for race relations and policing, but for how people will deal with difficult, or even impossible situations, and how that will impact those on the other end of those situations.

Social media, and its close cousin the online review, has created a culture that embraces the shaming of mistakes and, for the most part, rejects the idea of context. All to often these tools are used as instruments of revenge rather than as a tool to achieve resolution or inform other consumers. We don’t put people in stocks in the town square any more, but we do ruin their lives for a bad joke in ill taste or a photograph that seems to mock our most cherished beliefs. As Jon Ronson writes in his excellent – So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed – “We have always had some influence over the justice system but for the first time in 180 years, since the stocks and the pillory were outlawed we have the power to determine the severity of some punishments and so we have to think about what level of mercilessness we feel comfortable with.”

In business, we may yet yearn for the days when an unhappy client meant a vitriolic Yelp post at 2AM. All businesses prefer, or at least they should, clients to complain when they are unhappy for whatever reason. A complaint from a client is an opportunity to salvage a situation and gain a more loyal client at the end of it. However, when the complaint itself becomes an instrument of revenge and shaming how should, or indeed how can, businesses respond?

The nightmare scenario could take many forms, however in the veterinary world it could take the form of difficult conversation about quality of life, cost of treatment, and accusations of medical error live streaming across the Internet, with the client’s social circle providing encouragement and additional fuel to the fire. Add to that nightmare scenario that most people are nervous when on camera and that as a business you have little chance to respond due to social circles being closed and content being shared far and wide. Imagine your worst experience in an exam room and then add 10s, 100s, maybe even 1,000s of additional participants not as a moment on what happened, but actively participating.

In this situation, it will not be about customer service and it will not be about a complaint. It will be about damage control. This will be about the power of one person to control their environment, and those around them, by leveraging their social circle and social reach. This will no longer be a conversation with a client, it will become responding to a leader of an angry mob.

With power comes great responsibility, but also the potential for great irresponsibility.

As people who deal with the public at stressful times we all need to be comfortable with the fact that live streaming is here and what it could mean for all interactions. The time to be thinking about this is not as the person across from you says “by the way I’m streaming this on Facebook.”

I do not have great insights into how to deal with these situations other than the same insights as to how to deal with online reviews. Deal with them the same way as if the camera was not there. Easier said than done I know. Try and address your clients concerns, be accommodating, and try and deliver excellent customer service. Be the reasonable one – be the professional. It may mean that we all need to be comfortable on camera – how we sound, how we talk, and what to say and not to say.

Live streaming has huge potential and has already affected the world and how we view events. However, it’s greatest impact may be at the personal level and end, or a new appreciation for, personal privacy. Banning technology rarely works. Adapting and being prepared, however, is far better option that sticking ones head in the sand. Facebook will still see the rest of you if you do anyway.

A Very Fictional Exchange

By Mike Falconer

Dr. Try Ingtodomybest: Good afternoon Ms. Dis Satisfied what seems to be the problem?

Ms. Dis Satisfied: Problem? I’ll tell you what the problem is. I’ve been waiting to see you for 45 minutes and then when I do see you it is only for 10 minutes!

Dr. T: I’m sorry, we’ve been rather busy today and we we have had other cases that have taken longer than we would have liked – I’m so sorry for the delay.

Ms. D: You are just too busy, you don’t allow enough time for each appointment. You just try to pack us all in so you can charge as much as you can per hour. Oh and by the way you charge too much – been here 10 minutes and you want to charge me almost $200!

Dr. T: To be perfectly honest there is a certain amount of truth in what you say. We have to schedule based on the best use of our time with the most optimistic length of each visit. If we didn’t, your visit would be even more expensive.

Ms. D: Nonsense. My 10 minute visit should cost the same regardless of what else is going on in this hospital. I am only using 10 minutes of your and the staff’s time.

Dr. T: If only that were the case. You see you also pay for the down time; well actually to be more precise all clients do, just like you all pay for the overhead of the building.

Ms. D: Why should I pay for you doing nothing?

Dr. T: Believe me I don’t want you to, I want you to only pay for the time that you use, but in order for that to happen we need to keep as busy as possible. The busier we are the more efficient use of our labor which is 50% of our cost of your visit.

Ms. D: So what you are telling me is that your time is more valuable than mine?

Dr. T: Only in as much as you value it in that way. In order to make care for your pet accessible there is a balance to be struck between the average waiting time / length of appointment and the cost of that appointment. Let me put it this way, Would you be willing to pay more to guarentee less of a wait time and a longer, on average appointment?

Ms. D: That would be depend on the value of the appointment?

Dr. T: I am assuming that is value as you see it as opposed to how I see it?

Ms. D: Surely they are the same thing?

Dr. T: The value of a heartworm test to me is, other than it being good medicine and the best thing for your pet of course, is what you pay for it and the potential for finding other conditions. If we catch a condition early we can then treat with the better chance of a good outcome because we caught them early. The value for you of a heartworm test is piece of mind and it allows you to receive heartworm preventive which is what is the best thing for the health of your pet. Those points of view both have value, but if our view of value is too out of sync then you won’t get the heartworm test for your dog, neither of us has piece of mind and although your visit will be shorter and I can see another patient more quickly, I will not receive the fee for the test or the medication.

Ms. D: So what you are telling me is that if I want to have a longer appointment with you and less waiting time I would have to pay more?

Dr. T: Well of course. The basic rule of veterinary medicine as things currently stand is the whatever walks through the doors pays the bills. If not enough walks through the doors one of three things happens. We raise our prices, we lower our costs (wages are 50% of our costs remember), or we close.

Ms. D: You could always get more people to come through your doors?

Dr. T: Absolutely, but these are the other side of the coin of raising prices and lowering costs. Getting people through the door when they are not already coming in means lowering prices or raising costs – in other words marketing. If successful it solves the problem if it fails it, course just makes the problem worse.
Ms. D: But this just sounds like all you care about is the money?

Dr. T: The flip side of that is that all you care about is the money! Everyone in the building spends their days with pets and most have made it their career and for less money than they could get in other professions.

Ms. D: I’m tired of that argument – there is value in spending your day with pets most people would love a job like that.

Dr. T: Touche! However the reality does not always live up to the public perception. Hence the high burn out rate and other serious ills of the profession. I’ll give your visit today for free if you can name a television portrayal which matches what actually happens inside a real hospital.

Ms. D: ……

Dr. T: Do you like flying?

Ms. D: No I hate it, packed in like sardines, air travel used to be so stylish.

Dr. T: Why don’t you fly business class or first class?

Ms. D: Because I am not made of money – I come here too often.

Dr. T: A business class seat costs anywhere from 2 – 4 times the price of an economy priced seat because it uses the 2 – 4 times the resources of an economy seat. The most precious of which is, of course, space. Your hankering for the good old days of air travel was when all seats were business class. Lowering the barriers to air travel has meant we can now travel like never before; however, it also means that we do not value it in the same way.

Ms. D: So if I am understanding you correctly, you are telling me that as a Doctor you have to bring in a certain amount of money every hour like a quota. How can I trust you if you are doing this?

Dr. T: That is one way of looking at it. I would rather look at it as I have to carry my share of costs of having a facility like this so it can be open. As long as we charge appropriately the unwritten contract that we have where we charge based on our costs and in return we will make every effort to be cognizant of not taking you for granted and at the same time not letting you take us for granted, will mean that conversations like this will never have to happen in the real world.

Ms. D: Well thank you for your time and for your insights – can I get a payment plan for todays visit please?

(Clicking on the image above will take you to Amazon where a tiny percentage goes to help fund my book buying habit.)

 

A short book, Entangled Empathy puts forward the case that for upgrading our relationship with animals to one of responding to the “needs’ interests, desires, vulnerabilities, hopes, and unique perspectives” based on the context of their situation rather than focusing on animal “rights.”

What does context have to do with this subject? Gruen uses the example of man and his children entering a subway car where upon the man sits down and closes his eyes while the children proceed to become extremely disruptive. When eventually someone suggests to the man that he do something about the behavior of the children the man agrees, apologizes, and states that his wife had just died and they don’t seem to know how to deal with it anymore than he does.

Essentially, Entangled Empathy is a rallying cry to abandon ridged ethical principles when dealing with animals and move to a more empathic model. To do this we have to recognize that we already have complex relationships with animals and when it comes to their welfare a one size fits all solution can actually be harmful.

There is a lot of merit to what Gruen is talking about in Entangled Empathy; however, the execution leaves a little be desired. There are some rally quite interesting models used to prove ethical points (such as the man and the children on the subway); however these are not expanded upon with any great new insights. Rather they are broken down to component parts and never put back together again.

Gruen does use a couple of examples from her own life, and work, but they are never fully explored in any meaningful fashion. Anyone who reads the book and expects to finish with a set of tools to better handle animal welfare based on entangled empathy is going to be sorely disappointed.

While certainly interesting, and it gives some food for thought, there is little in the way of answers here which makes Entangled Empathy much more that a statement of principles bordering on “we can do better.”

By Mike Falconer

(Clicking on the image above will take you to Amazon where a tiny percentage goes to help fund my book buying habit.)

“Lean” is a way of thinking about business and business operations based on the Toyota Production Method. Often linked with Six Sigma much trumpeted by GE, Lean focuses more on employee engagement than the statistical analysis of Six Sigma.

A full description of the benefits of Lean, or even Lean Vs. Six Sigma, or Lean Six Sigma are out side the scope of this blog post (for that you can check out the author’s own excellent blog post on the subject of Lean Sigma and Lean plus Six Sigma here.) However, I should probably give some background on why I want to read this book and my interest in lean.

The simple answer is that I had become aware of the short comings of much of the veterinary specific continuing education when it comes to larger hospitals – particularly when it comes to employee engagement and communication. I’ll never forget sitting in on a not very good seminar on internal communication at a veterinary conference and then finding out that the speaker’s hospital had less than ten employees. There is nothing wrong with practices of that size, but the ideas were not scalable – I have supervisor meetings larger than ten people! Because of these issues I started to look to the human healthcare world for ideas and inspiration.

I did this with some trepidation.

Human healthcare has some serous issues and in many ways could learn a lot from the veterinary world – not lease in the use of resources and customer service which seems at times to be virtually non-existent. Having said that, lots of others have similar feelings about human healthcare and there are a number of people trying to make major changes hospital wide.

One of those people that I came across was Mark Graban, the author of Lean Hospitals.

I had been communicating back and forth with Mark over Twitter about healthcare and process issues that interested us both and so I decided to give “Lean” a serious look.

I should make clear, that Lean Hospitals is very much a human healthcare book. For those in the veterinary profession, a significant amount of translation and out right rejection will need to take place. However, for those with large facilities to run and with hopefully a mandate to improve, there is a lot to learn from Lean and the Lean Hospitals volume that I am imperfectly reviewing here.

Lean is about reducing waste. Not just physical waste, but the waste of your employees and your patients / clients time and resources. The general principle is that by harnessing the knowledge of your employees about what they do, and by actually looking at and standardizing how your employees work you can create internal systems that not only save time and money but that are safer for patients and employees. Coupled with this is the idea of a culture of continuous improvement and error proofing of the workplace.

A lot of these ideas will be familiar to anyone who has attended a management seminar in recent years. What seems to make lean and Lean Hospitals different is how it is all held together and that is has real processes and tools for implementation and analysis.

As a book, Lean hospitals takes the form of a workbook, with each chapter giving not only a formal conclusion and lesson points but also a list of questions for group discussion. Although, Mark primarily works in the human healthcare world now, Lean Hospitals is written almost from a lay persons perspective and so the use of human medical terminology or assumption of knowledge of those processes is kept to the bare minimum.

On the downside, Lean as a process, is replete with jargon which mostly takes the form of Japanese words or phrases originally inherited from the Toyota Production method. Although there seems to be no real reason to have to use these terms, other than that some of the ideas need a name of some type, they can be a little off putting and require a certain amount of referring to the glossary (which is excellent!)

Lean Hospitals is also a little expensive for a business book, although cheap by text book standards, but makes up for this by being an excellent read throughout.

The most insightful passage in the book relates that healthcare is full of brilliant dedicated people that daily have to battle with broken systems and goes on to quote Fujio Cho, the Chairman of Toyota Motors: “We get brilliant results from average people managing brilliant systems. Our competitors get average results from brilliant people working around broken systems.”

For those looking for an introduction to the world of Lean, or even just a set of interesting ideas from progressive human healthcare to cherry pick, Lean Hospitals is an excellent starting point.

In this ongoing, and occasional, series I discuss the process of learning to be a manager. Since my background is for the most part in the veterinary field we will mostly focus on the peculiarities of that industry; however, the majority of points made here are transferable to other professions / industries.

In the previous post, we looked at the initial steps in becoming a new manager. In this post we look at potential areas of responsibility.

New managers, or rather managers who are new to managing, can face a couple of dilemmas in their first few days in the job. The unlucky ones face both!

The first is being overwhelmed by all the areas of responsibility that have now landed squarely upon your shoulders. The second is not knowing what your responsibilities actually are, and therefore, not really knowing what your job is.

Take a deep breath and relax.

The first is easy – you will be overwhelmed, you will always be overwhelmed. It is the middle name of all managers. Split your days up, as much as you can, by focusing on different areas each day (see below), and prioritize.

The second is also easy – the buck stops with you. If it doesn’t, then you need to act like it does unless instructed to by your owner, or a more senior manager. You may not know anything about Information Technology (I.T.) other than it is a fancy term for computers. But if the computers are not working then you are the one responsible and in all likelihood fixing them or calling the person who can.

I have identified a number of areas that managers may, or may not, be responsible for. Depending on your particular circumstance, some of these will not apply, or you may share the responsibility with another person. If nobody is looking after that area then guess what? That area is now your responsibility.

We will look some of these areas in more depth in future posts, but for now, welcome to your new world…

The Building

I have worked in buildings that are over 100 years old and in buildings that are brand new and they all had one thing in common: things always break down, never worked properly, or need upgrading. In other words buildings, and the equipment inside them, need looking after. Few things can grind a business to a halt as quickly as a building problem. Having no water, no electricity, or no access to your building, means that in very short order you are closed. This does not mean that you have to understand plumbing, electricity, how quickly concrete sets, or the basics of I.T. (however a little knowledge is very useful) but it does mean you need to work closely with those that do and ensure that you trust them. You do also have to listen to them, and not just hear what you want to hear. They know nothing about veterinary medicine, for example, so they know more about their field than you do.

Staff

We are going to cover managing people in a future post; however, it is important to note that the staff look to you to be there for them. Remember the only stupid question is the one not asked and communication can never be a bad thing. So encourage the staff to talk to you.

H.R.

Human Resources (or H.R.) is the general catchall term given to the hiring, firing, benefits, coaching, and disciplining of employees. It is usually a job that requires a lot of paperwork and attention to detail. Depending on your circumstances, H.R. can make up a significant proportion of your time and it can also land you in hot water if handled incorrectly. I consult colleagues regarding H.R. issues more than any other subject.

Payroll can also sometimes fall under H.R. although this may be more of a support roll to either an outside company or in-house accountant. If you do find yourself handling payroll in its entirety and you do not know what you are doing – STOP! There are computer programs, companies, and accountants who can all help with this. Nothing will undermine you quicker than getting payroll disastrously wrong. 

Belonging to an organization such as your local SHRM (The Society for Human Resource Management) chapter is also a great way to get tips, C.E. and to build a support network in what in itself can be an overwhelming area of the manager’s responsibilities.

 Financial

You don’t need to be an accountant to have a significant interest and impact on the financial management of your business. The days takings need to be reconciled and deposited with the bank. Credit cards need to reconciled both daily and monthly when the statements come in. If they are not already in place, controls need to be developed so that nobody, including you, has too much access and unsupervised control over any financial area. Bills need paid, money put aside for taxes and payroll, but an eye also need to be kept on how the business is doing. Are we doing better than last year or worse? Not are we busier, but is more money coming in the door?

Marketing

I’ve covered starting a marketing program in this series of posts; however it is important to remember that marketing can be as simple as making sure that your opening hours are correct on the front door and, for a veterinary hospital, that your vaccine and appointment reminders are going out.

Inventory

Supplies need to be ordered, expired stock needs to be removed / returned, and checks and balances need to be put in place so that pilfering can be noticed and stopped.

Safety

Safety is more than making sure that all of OSHA’s boxes are ticked. Although this in itself can be a monumental task depending on where you are starting from. Being responsible of the safety of the employees, and your clients, means that you have to be the bad guy. It is not enough to tell staff to wear the proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) you are now responsible for ensuring that they do.

San Juan College have a great presentation on OSHA and the veterinary practice that forms part of their Veterinary Technician program – well worth checking out.

Scheduling

Even if you do not handle the mechanics of your hospital’s schedule, you may well have to give guidance as to staffing levels and when is a good time to give vacation time and when is not – for example. It may not be your fault that you do not have enough staff on a busy day or time of year but it is your responsibility.

Regulatory Compliance

Taking a critical eye to a practice, or any business for that matter, and ensuring that things are being done in a correct and legal way can be a seriously challenging task. This is particularly true when you may be asking people to change how they have done things for a significant period of time. However, it is part of the job and is one of the areas where getting it wrong can have significant consequences for both the business and you personally.

State Veterinary and Pharmacy boards vary widely in how helpful they are in response to questions about interpretation, but as a rule it never hurts to ask.  Certainly reading the practice acts that govern your state is a great start and reaching out to other managers through a local organization as we discussed in the last post will also be extremely useful.

Clients

All businesses are ultimately about clients. You can have the best veterinary practice in the world but without client’s you’ll close. Ensuring that they are looked after and that they have a great experience at your facility is outside the remit of this post; however, it is part of yours as manager. If you want a starting point take a look at this earlier post of mine about getting the basics right.

Managers can have an extremely wide, and challenging, portfolio of responsibilities. The most challenging ones; however, are the ones you don’t know about.

Remember, the buck stops with you. 

Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments!

For those looking for more on being an existing manager and starting a new position, this may be for you.

Additional Resources:

Be Safe! Manager's Guide to Veterinary Safety by Philip J. Seibert, Jr. CVT

Click on the image to take you to the AAHA Press page for this book.

It is hard to beat Philip J. Seibert, Jr. CVT when it comes to putting together an OSHA program and this single volume, Be Safe! Manager’s Guide to Veterinary Safety which I reviewed here, although pricey is a great place to start your program.

Just like Phil is hard to beat when it comes to safety, it is hard to beat Scott Stratten when it comes to customer service. I strongly suggest seeking Scott out on YouTube; but for those of you who might like the written word The Book of Business Awesome / The Book of Business UnAwesome is for you and my review is here.  

As always, clicking on the pictures will take you to Amazon and where Amazon may give me a tiny percentage to help my book buying habit.

This year’s Western Veterinary Conference, in my adopted home town of Las Vegas, is a great time to catch up with old friends, former colleagues, and new friends who I had only met online.

One of the conversations that I had over a very nice dinner, was with a former colleague wanting to know about my world – the world of practice management – and how to start down that path.

This was more difficult than I imagined – mostly because my own route into office management / practice management / hospital administration was so accidental. I therefore thought; “there is a good idea for a series of blog posts if ever I heard one,” and so here we are!

Because my world is the world of veterinary medicine and practice management this series will concentrate mostly there. However, it is my hope that this series, much like my blog in general, will also work for anyone in a relatively small business looking to move from the trenches into management.

A Brief Recap

Before entering the world of veterinary medicine I had a very successful career in the world of entertainment lighting (theater, television, events, etc.). Within that pretty specialized and small world I worked in London’s West End as an electrician, a Company Manager (someone who corals actors and worries about when the show is going to close), a touring production manager, a console programmer and operator, sales and technical support for lighting suppliers, marketing of lighting products, and ultimately an industry writer and commentator.

After being in the industry for almost 20 years I decided I wanted a compete change. I moved to Arizona and took a job in a tiny veterinary clinic to keep myself busy, feed my DVD habit, and allow me time to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up.

I really enjoyed working in a veterinary hospital and it seemed I was well liked there too by both the doctor and the other staff. When the office manager announced that she was moving, on a few months after I had arrived, my name was suggested as a possible replacement. The rest, as the very overused saying goes, is history.

I knew a little about veterinary medicine, some things about people management, not near as much as I would have liked about financial matters, and almost nothing about human resources. I did know about marketing and customer service, and I knew what I hated about going to the vet with my dogs. Mine in not a path I would recommend for everyone, and I made a lot of mistakes. However, I feel I have been at this long enough that I have some insights about getting to where I am and how others can get there too. If they want to!

Terminology

One of the things that is very annoying about my job, is that I am routinely described by titles other than the one on my business card and employment agreement.

Officer Manager

The generally accepted definition of an office manger is of a reception supervisor who also may handle scheduling and other areas such as accounts receivable. More than a lead receptionist in other words, but less than a practice manager.

Practice Manager

A Practice Manager oversees all the areas of hospital in addition to reception, may also handle payroll and other human resource functions.

Hospital Administrator

The job of a hospital administrator is one of having overall finacial and management responsibility for all areas of the the whole hospital, with the direction and supervision of the owners.It may also include all the functions of an office manager and practice manager. They will be involved in the hiring process for doctors and may also have supervisory responsibilities over them. There will also be a significant strategic and planning element to their function.

In all likelihood, managers start as office managers and then progress to practice management and then hospital administration. There is not right or wrong way, however, as long as the needed skills and / or experience are there. It should also be noted that all hospitals are different. I have effectively been a hospital administrator at three different practices and my job and responsibilities has been different at each.

Education

I am a big believer in education. That might sound strange coming from someone who hates actually taking classes themselves and does not have a degree. The bottom line is that your life will be easier with a degree and more doors will open with an MBA. Trust me I know from experience. It is not impossible to be successful without those things it is just harder. If you are planning on learning a lot of new skills, whether as DVM interested in practice ownership, or a technician or receptionist looking to get into managment, you may as well get some letters after your name for the effort.

Becoming a Certified Veterinary Practice Manager (CVPM) is a qualification designed for the job at hand. Several times I have considered getting the qualification myself. If you are having problems as a new practice manager, or making the move from office management to practice management, this qualification is for you.

If formal education is not an option, or just not you, then CE, CE, CE. Continuing education wherever you can get it: online, locally or nationally. It all helps. Speaking of which…

Get Help

I would not be the Hospital Administrator I am now, and would not have the career that I have had, if it was not for my local hospital managers association whose meetings I attended every month while I was in Arizona. Being able to meet with other mangers, find common ground, and being able to talk issues out that you might be having was incredibly useful. If you don’t have a local managers group look for other business groups, including the chamber of commerce, that might be able to help support you. It is a cliche but still true – it really is lonely at the top.

Resources

Throughout this series I plan to give some reading suggestions. The two books below tackle the difficult issues of enthusing others about your ideas, and how to make things change. One of my current favorite sayings that keeps rattling around in my head is “As a manager it does not matter how good your ideas are; it is your ability to implement them that matters.”

I have reviewed both these books before and other than providing a very basic introduction I have just provided links to the reviews. As always, clicking on the pictures will take you to Amazon and where Amazon may give me a tiny percentage to help my book buying habit.

“Made to Stick – Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die” by Chip & Dan Heath

The title pretty much says it all: not all ideas are created equal and how we present things can have a dramatic impact on whether ideas take hold or not. You can read more here.

“Switch – How to Change Things when Change is Hard” by Chip Heath & Dan Heath

You’ll note that both these books are written by the same pair of authors and therefore they work perfectly together as the two sides to the same coin. You can read more here. These books are, at their core, about the nature of communication. If you can’t communicate as a manager then you can’t manage.

For those who are looking to get into management I’d love to hear from you, and for those who are already there I’d love to hear how you got there. Comment away!

Next Time – Part 2: Time to Focus

I had been a big believer in Yelp and the review site model: treat your customers well and they will reward you. I have also had little time for the Yelp haters: “Stop complaining about Yelp and work on your business.”

Well that is what I used to think and then I saw the real, ugly side, of Yelp. Forbes, PBS, and the New York Times seem to agree.

As a rule, the larger the business, the more clients you have, and therefore the more chance that you are not going to be able to keep them all happy. That is not to say that you should not try, but there is always that reality.

In the veterinary world, there is a great product called Vsurv that allows for electronic surveys to be sent out to clients who visit your practice. It plugs straight into practice management software. The great thing out surveying every client for whom you have an email address, as Vsurv does, is that to gives you real data for client satisfaction. Data that you can track from month to month. Even with a 50% – 60% compliance rate you are still talking about hundreds of responses. If I have 30 online reviews 10 of which are filtered (more on that later) but I see 100 – 150 clients a day the online review numbers add up to the statistical error rate of direct surveying.

So a product like Vsurv is better than online review sites. Then what about Yelp?
Well the big problem with Yelp is its review filter. What’s Yelp’s review filter you ask? Well you wouldn’t be alone in not knowing much about it. Unless you run a Yelp page you probably don’t know about the filter, and many who do run pages don’t know about it until they get bitten by it.

Yelp’s review filter is supposed to protect the integrity of Yelps reviews by filtering out suspicious reviews: Overly positive reviews by users that have only one or a couple of business reviews or overly negative reviews by the same kind of user. A least that is the idea…

The problem is that the criteria that Yelp uses to filter it’s reviews is a closely guarded secret – supposedly to avoid businesses “gaming” the system. The filter is supposedly “automatic” and therefore is not influenced by petty concerns such as advertiser preference. However, individual users, and businesses have no recourse to un-filter filtered reviews.

To add to the problems, consistent reports exist of Yelp filtering only good reviews and leaving only bad reviews after the business concerned refuses to advertise with Yelp. I personally have seen a negative review get filtered and then miraculously become unfiltered – not sure how an automatic filter changes its mind but apparently it can.

You can even read the filtered reviews – and it is quite amazing how different a picture of most businesses you can gather by reading the filtered reviews. Yelp only allows access to filtered reviews via a Captcha – why? To make it more difficult to link to? It is quite an experience to see 15 filtered reviews 13 of which are positive that have basically the same user profile as the six recent negative reviews that have not been filtered.

Then, of course, are the online reputation management companies that promise to get bad online reviews removed from Google, Yelp, and other online review sites. All the major review sites say that the only way to remove reviews is with the same tools that everyone has access to – flagging in other words. There is, however, another way – the reviews themselves have been created by a reputation company which can work “miracles” by removing review that they themselves have posted. On a couple of occasions now, I have seen very odd reviews appear and then been approached by some of the more unscrupulous types of Online reputation managers who say that they can work “miracles.” This issue has been addressed by Yelp, but only in the broadest of sense.

The real issue with Yelp; however, is that is does not practice what it preaches. Concentrate on customer service and customers will give you great reviews. So what does is say when so many potential customers feel that the Yelp system is fundamentally flawed and refuses to engage them on the subject? Yelp encourages businesses to respond to negative reviews however provides no mechanism to challenge its filter. Yelps does provide a flagging system, but no feedback on why it does or does not agree with the business owner flagging the review in question. Yelp also refuses to engage with clients about the review side and will only engage about advertising.

I, for one, do not actually believe that Yelp is trying to extort business owners as some charge. I do, however, feel that the product and company is flawed.

The word from Yelp seems to be do what what say – not what we do.

I’m not a big believer in that.

There is a bad joke / semi serious statement amongst veterinary practice managers; “no good deed goes unpunished.” And while I see the reality in this, and have even said it few times, I ultimately do not subscribe to the point of view. What is wrong with being nice?

I get it, I really do, being nice is hard. But being polite and showing respect for your peers,  those you interact with, those who report to you and those you report to is not only the right thing to do, it is in your interest.

Since being a manager, and someone who hires and fires, I have always been shocked at those who felt that just not turning up for work, and refusing to communicate was an acceptable way to hand in one’s notice. Despite the obvious impoliteness and unprofessional behavior of leaving your co-workers in the lurch, there is the added inconsideration of those who feel at least partially responsibility for your well-being. Stories abound, and I have personal experience of, employees with limited family in serious trouble at home which is only discovered when an employer starts inquiring after their well-being after they fail to show up for work. I never even considered doing this, and I’ve seen this behavior from young and old so the generational clichés don’t offer any answers.

As I discussed in another post, the superstar employee who feels they are above the general rules of behavior in the workplace is another example of a failure to be nice. I don’t have a lot of sympathy for this kind of behavior and generally find it to be counterproductive – the exceptions being just that and not proving anything.

And then there is the Dunkin Doughnuts Lady…

The following video is pretty offensive but it does prove a point. A customer feeling that they have been wronged videos herself claiming free food from the day shift of a Dunkin Doughnuts  after she feels her receipt was not given to her in a timely manner the night before. While all the time informing anyone who will listen that she is filming the encounter, and that she is going to post it on Facebook, she delivers an avalanche of racial slurs, abuse, and is generally obnoxious. The employees, to their extreme credit, keep their cool, try to make the customer happy, and are professional throughout despite extreme provocation.

(WARNING: THIS VIDEO CONTAINS VERY OFFENSIVE LANGUAGE )

The story of the video however, does not end with the video. After being posted online last week it went viral, but not in the way that the original poster had hoped. A tirade of negative comments about the behavior of the customer led her to delete her Facebook account and one can only imagine the personal repercussions – the least of which is finding out that the majority of people do not think the way she does.

This incident also shows of the worst side of social media, where someone tries to leverage it for their own ends and as a shield for their own bad behavior or sense of being wronged. This can also be called the Yelp Effect. I am not a Yelp hater, but I do think it is a flawed system and one that rewards bad behavior from both businesses and customers with little recourse. The Better Business Bureau had its flaws but at least there was an attempt a resolution.

In the veterinary world, an often heard phrase is “you don’t care about animals” often paired with “it is all about the money.” Although uttered by people in difficult circumstances, and born out of frustration, it is still extremely hurtful for anyone who has choose to make their career working with animals and has caused more than a few sleepless nights for a lot of deeply caring people.

We all have difficult customers, employees, and colleagues – it is how we deal with them that counts and makes a difference from one business or organization to the next.  The bottom line is that doing the right thing, being polite, professional and, I guess for want of a better word nice, is the only way to behave for your interest and for everyone else. It is the only way to guarantee that things will not get worse.

And you never know, it might rub off on to someone else.

Over the years I have, and continue to, hire a lot of people.

Due to my own personal preference I also tend to interview a lot.

I work in the veterinary profession. Which is one of those professions that many people feel they would like to try even though the reality is sometimes not all that it is cracked up to be.

The obvious extension of this is that I see a lot resumes, applications, and applicants.

Some are excellent.

Some are bad.

Some are just not right.

And some make such basic mistakes that it overshadows everything else.

So for those on a on job hunt, or starting on the career ladder, here are my top eight tips.

1: Read the job posting!

If the job posting says no phone calls, that means no phone calls.

It is not unusual for companies to receive hundreds of applications. For small businesses, receiving hundreds of phone calls checking the status of applications can be a serious burden. I know a lot of employers, myself included, who automatically disqualify applicants who call when the job posting specifically says not to. It indicates that the applicant has not read the posting or can’t follow written instructions. Don’t be that person!

If the job posting says you need a license, or some kind qualification, that is generally not negotiable. If you still think you are right for the job make sure that you address the fact that you do it have the right license / qualification in your application letter. This shows that you have read and understood the job posting. It does, of course, not guarantee that you’ll even get an interview – but it should stop automatic disqualification for not reading the posting properly.

2: Your résumé should be the right length for the information you wish to present.

There is nothing worse than a two or three page resume squeezed into one page. It is almost impossible to read. Likewise a one page resume stretched to fill two or three pages just wastes time, paper, and shows that the applicant is trying to be something they are not.

3: Fill out an application if asked.

If you are asked to fill out an application, even if you have a resume and letter of application, fill out the application! Yes, it is double work and it may not present yourself in the way you wish to be presented, but that is normally the point and it is what your potential future employer wants – so start off on the right foot.

4: Be contactable. Be professional.

Your phone number must be right, you must have voicemail, and you should check it at least daily.

The same goes for email.

Take a good long hard look at both your email address and the message you have on your voicemail. You might want a funny message on your voicemail for your friends – but potential employers will not be impressed. Likewise, if your email address can say a lot about you. But if it says any thing other than your name, it probably does not say anything good. Email addresses are generally free, so make them professional.

5: Dress for Success – what to wear to an interview.

My personal take is that you should dress at least one level above the person you are meeting. How can you tell what they will be dressed like? Look at the website! If the person interviewing you is in scrubs then business casual will be fine. If they are wearing business casual, then you should probably be wearing a tie. If they are wearing a tie you should probably be wearing a suit.

Please remember that business casual does to mean what you would wear for a night on the town.

If you have tattoos or piercings and you are prepared to take them out / cover them up for work then do so. Some employers don’t care about such things, but many do.

Flip flops, jeans, revealing attire, and aggressive piercings are all inappropriate for almost all interviews.

6: Honest is the Best Policy.

If you have things in your past that you are not too proud of, or if there are holes in your résumé, be honest about them. Being open and honest may be looked on positively. Trying to hide things or lying is always looked on badly.

7: Working Interviews

Many Veterinary practices use working interviews as a way of ensuring that new employees have the appropriate skills and are a good fit. If you are asked to take part in one, it is important to remember that this is your chance to shine. However, many practices have rules about what you can and can’t do on a working interview. It is never wrong to ask, but it can be very wrong to assume.

8: Getting Turned Down

Don’t take not getting a job personally. If you never get called for an interview for your dream job the worst thing you can do it call up and berate a potential employer. Likewise don’t be too pushy about why you haven’t heard back. A simple email thank you for the interview and the chance to meet is a simple professional way to say that you are interested without intruding on the employers timeline for hiring. It is a rare employer indeed, who looses the application and all the contact details for some one they want to hire.

Getting a job is hard. Don’t make it harder on yourself.

No employer has ever said – that person is too professional to hire.

How not to behave in an interview, courtesy of the excellent Trainspotting (Warning Very Strong Language).

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