Four critical business concepts today’s veterinarian needs to know

You know how important business skills are to running your practice, but did you receive any business training in veterinary school? Likely you answered “no” or “not enough,” but the good news is that this is changing and there are many topics covered in DVM programs now that were never considered even as recently as 10 years ago.

To ensure the long-term viability of your veterinary practice, here are four critical business concepts you need to know:

1. General practice economics  
Ensure you understand how to read basic financial statements and have a solid working knowledge of your practice’s financial health. Review your financials at least quarterly and make sure you’re thinking about what investments, large or small, you’ll need to make in your practice over the next few years (Sidenote: this post on Section 179 is a good read for anyone with capital investments on your list). For a wealth of veterinary economics resources, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is a is a good place to start.

Pricing strategy also falls into this bucket. Many vets struggle with determining how to price both products and services, and all too many take a “set it and forget it” approach. There are many approaches to pricing—and just as many resources to help you. So make the time to consult an expert, attend a relevant course at your next conference, or take advantage of resources such as those offered by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA).  

2. Client communications
Strong communication increases patient compliance, health outcomes, and client satisfaction. It’s also how a client or prospect will differentiate your practice. When clients feel heard, supported, and empathized with, everyone wins. Establishing steady communication before, during, and after each visit ensures you stay connected to your clients year-round. Moreover, you’re able to provide an ongoing stream of information—about seasonally relevant screenings, potential outbreaks in your area, holiday-specific safety precautions, etc.  

3. Marketing fundamentals
Learn to grow your practice and find new clients in a cost-efficient manner using social media. Facebook® is the best place to start (you can add additional platforms over time but better to start slow and master one at a time), and once you build a page for your practice you can update it regularly and also consider targeted advertising through the platform.

4. Employment law and human resources basics
Like many small business owners, veterinarians may also find themselves dealing with HR issues that weren’t part of their academic curriculum. Stay up to date on employment law with resources like the American Veterinary Medical Law Association (AVMLA) that can help guide you on pertinent issues, and new legal developments you should have on your radar.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but is a great starting point from which any veterinarian can develop a solid set of business skills.

Companies like IDEXX are also helping to support skills building not only with today’s practicing veterinarians, but also with the veterinarians of tomorrow. For example, I’m working alongside IDEXX and a group of Ohio State University veterinary business students on an 8-week summer research project to explore veterinary practice economics and compliance related to diagnostics. Participating students are partnering with IDEXX as a part of their curriculum pursuits in earning a Graduate Business Minor alongside their Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degrees. It promises to be an exciting project.

For more practice management resources, check out the practice management topic on the IDEXX Learning Center.

Fritz Wood, CPA, CFP

posted by Fritz Wood, CPA, CFP

Fritz owns H. F. Wood Consulting, where his clients include many animal health companies. For more than 20 years, he has conducted research examining veterinary productivity and personal finance. He completes projects, writes articles, teaches at numerous U.S. veterinary schools, and speaks to thousands annually at international, national, state, and local events. Fritz’s past credentials include personal finance editor of Veterinary Economics, service on behalf of the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues, and treasurer for the American Veterinary Medical Foundation. He is also a founding member of VetPartners™. Currently, Fritz serves on the advisory board of Veterinary Team Brief.

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