Re-Tooling Leadership

May 2013

By Gretchen Dillon-Sauer, MBA, CVPM

A continued mantra, “practice progressive medicine,” runs through the mind of current practitioners.
Being aware of medical advances and procedures, new medications, and surgical techniques help to drive the veterinary profession and improve itself on a continual basis. This begs the question, why is the industry not aggressively pursuing advances in business techniques and leadership skills? These would only further the hospital’s health. Instead, a wide-spread malaise exists, caused by the pressures of the economy, society, and ill-prepared hospital hierarchies.

Invest in your practice
While reading trade magazines and journal articles it appears impossible to overlook the demand for the veterinary industry to change. This starts with a change in individual hospitals and the way hospital owners perceive and invest in hospital management. Investing in the correct pieces of “equipment” to operate a facility is paramount.

For perspective, reflect on a hospital’s need for a specific piece of equipment, such as an ultrasound. Without this tool the veterinarian cannot offer the service, perform it, charge for it, or benefit from the information that would be acquired. Tools alter the way in which managers operate facilities. How can a practice be effective without proper tools to operate?

Being empowered with essential and progressive tools is vital. Managers have stumbled around for decades, but you should allow them to become leaders. Encourage the mining of data and its interpretation. Structuring a scorecard that addresses those areas is financially important as well as central to motivating staff, and it takes dedication. Scorecards and its metrics deserve recognition as a pinpoint of progress for the veterinary industry.

Dashboard essentials
Looking forward, see the business dashboard as the next tool. A manager’s dashboard reflects the key performance indicators (KPI) of the business.

As a refresher, KPIs are performance measurements. They vary from department to department and quantitative to qualitative characteristics important within a company’s vision. Now, a dashboard should be simplistic, uncluttered, and visually represent essential data.

Figure one below shows a financial dashboard from QuickBooks software. Mind you, a dashboard provides a calculation—a measurement. A scorecard addresses the quality of the product or service being offered. Although they walk hand-in-hand, these terms and tools are not interchangeable.

The acquired data from these tools lends to a practice of transparency. Knowledge is power. Availing financial data to staff and encouraging meetings where such topics are discussed and embraced creates this openness. With information such as this, each employee can be an entrepreneur within the hospital—growing it as their own. Motivate staff to take on such thinking with rewards from recognition and security to advancement, challenges, or responsibility.

Combining the tools for a bright future
The future shines brightly for those ambitious enough to look beyond the standard P&L statement. Many do not want to envision tackling a balance sheet. Being ready and able to manage change—the power to anticipate opportunities from obstacles—lays in the hands of the practice leaders.

Use knowledgeable workers within the hospital to accomplish the change desired. Realize what data could be at your fingertips via a dashboard. How much greater could productivity be when looking at scorecard data? What possibilities arise while objectively evaluating staff and financial health? Where do obstacles lie in each of those areas? Dedicate leadership to seeking a new path with new eyes and a fresh outlook.

About the author:
Gretchen Dillon-Sauer, MBA, CVPM, joined South Carolina Veterinary Emergency Care in 2001. She was promoted to practice manager in 2003 and became a Certified Veterinary Practice Manager in 2007. Ms. Dillon-Sauer earned a BA in Economics from the University of South Carolina in 1998 and earned her MBA in May 2011 from the same institute. Gretchen is dedicated to excellence in business operations and business management of veterinary practices. Her lectures and workshops have taken her from Canada to South Carolina. Gretchen values the time spent with her close-knit family and friends.

Quickbooks Dashboard

Figure 1: QuickBooks Dashboard for Example Company – Click Here to View Larger 

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