The Positive Impact of Simplicity
Brendan Burchard says it perfectly. "People are remarkably bad at remembering long lists of goals. I learned this at a professional level when trying to get my high-performance coaching clients to stay on track; the longer their lists of to-do's and goals, the more overwhelmed and off track they got. Clarity comes with simplicity."
I like simple. Running a successful veterinary practice can be simple when you focus on how to impact the change you would like to obtain and find the least amount of steps to get there.
Long ago I decided to focus on the core elements that drive success in most any business; client satisfaction, employee satisfaction, healthy financials and common sense business policies that clients can understand and staff can explain. This doesn't mean I ignore the complexities that abound in veterinary medicine, but I place the most emphasis on the four aforementioned because they make the biggest impact when working to move a practice forward.
I find this approach necessary and successful because the average privately owned veterinary practice does not have hallways filled with specialized business professionals. Practice managers and owners are wearing hats with a frightening array of titles pinned to the brim. HR, accounting, marketing, finance, advertising, customer care, inventory manager, janitorial services, educator, IT tech ... of course this list is just the tip of the iceberg.
Since we wear many hats, one of the first "simple" things I like to implement to help staff complete additional duties is "admin time". This works especially well for those with any kind of inventory oversight. For technicians or front desk staff that have this duty, do them a favor and block time for them to say "I'm here, but not here". This time block might be once a week, every other week or once a month. This approach allows a staff member to focus and power through a duty which translates to better accuracy, efficiency and a less frustrated employee.
A true story example happened recently. I was leaving a practice after close time and noticed an extremely frustrated receptionist on hold with a veterinary diet vendor. She said "I've been on hold for 20 minutes and got hung up on, called back and now I'm being told I have a 15 minute wait - I'm going to be here another 1/2 hour. Food has to be here tomorrow; some clients are waiting on diets - I was too busy to order it this afternoon."
My mind goes to a couple of places here as probably does yours: why did we wait until the last day, the last minute to order? Could we have placed the 'bulk order' the day before and just added in any stragglers? Mostly though I thought if this gal knew the order absolutely had to get done today, why didn't she make it happen? Why didn't she say to a co-worker, manager, or owner, "I have to get food ordered today, I will need 15 minutes of uninterrupted phone time, can someone help me by sitting up front for a short time?"
Seems simple, yet I hardly ever see this done. I hear over and over "I just cant get anything done because I have to see patients, clients and answer phones. The down time never lasts long enough for me to complete anything". Admin. Time. All anyone has to say is "I need X amount of admin time today." In the above example, if you order food the same day every week, ask the person that makes the staff schedule to automatically add in that time away so coverage is pre-planned and the duty gets done. Try it, I promise you'll like it!
Another simple and helpful implementation is using your appointment calendar to serve the internal needs of the practice. Again using the above food order example, I've seen staff panic because they simply forgot to order. Many times there are reminders lists and checklists to help us remember but those things are not always 100% visible. What is? Your appointment calendar!
Create a column called "staff notes". Here is a place staff can leave notes to themselves as well as notes to each other - I call them side notes. This is by far one the best, if not the best way I've seen teams communicate with each other. Jane creates a note to herself every Tuesday to order food. Sally leaves notes so she remembers to run equipment maintenance. Diane left an FYI staff note to all because Immiticide is on back order. The sharing of information is endless in a practice; using this method is really effective. Once a staff member has read the note, they initial. If the note needs to carry over to the next day, the front desk moves it and it goes on. Once a note is no longer needed, the color or status can be changed to indicate this.
The adjustment is simple; the staff just commits to looking at the staff note column every day, reading the notes, absorbing information and responding if necessary. Say goodbye to sticky notes and that carbon copy memo pad. By the way, these notes are a permanent record. Since you create them like an appointment, your software will save them and you'll have a record of anything discussed or disseminated. If the note gets deleted, many systems will allow you to run and audit trail, so notes are never really lost.
I sometimes say information is lost in the air waves in a practice. I'll see doctors and staff telling each other things that can not be done or addressed in the moment. Wouldn't it be nice to say, "Just leave me a side note so I don't forget". It's so quick and easy to make that note. Once again,