There is nothing as invigorating as watching a busy veterinary medical floor come together over the care of a patient. In a time of crisis with a pet, we all have one goal and one vision; help the client, help the pet. My biggest challenge as a practice manager has been keeping that unity and momentum strong both on and off the floor.
Veterinary practices are full of passionate and educated team members. The difficult part for me has been trying to find that balance between understanding the goals of each person and aligning those goals for one practice vision. When I started managing my current practice, I spent a lot of time speaking with team members and trying to figure out how to make them successful. I took pride in being someone who could help an assistant, a technician, or a DVM find their strengths and direct those strengths somewhere positive. If I could recognize each individual’s contribution and help the team to their full potential, one person at a time, the company will thrive, right? The hard part came when I began to realize that each person has a passion and a direction, but that direction may lead to a different horizon then where this company is trying to go. Additionally, I had to face the hard truth that some well-intentioned team members were a better fit somewhere outside the company. Nobody wants to be the manager who brings these differences into the open. It’s uncomfortable. It makes our stomachs turn. But when you start to compare each team member against the values needed to make your individual clinic successful, you will find some critical differences. If every clinic had the same goals and the same formula it would make the management of staff much easier because as a whole those in this industry share the same set of values. But our clinics are not the same, and we each have our own recipe for competitive advantage. Our clients come to us and stay long term because we are a better fit for their individual family. For that to work, our teams need to share that recipe one-hundred percent.
I can discuss the various tools that I’ve used over the years, but I’d like to point out the tools that I continue to use today. Managing a clinic full of passionate people is not a job that is ever “complete,” and I will never be able to lead without the help of a village. The most important tool I use each day is my fellow leadership team. Being part of a large practice, I am blessed to have a CVPM, a Hospital Director, and a Medical Director to lean on. The most valuable thing they do for me is provide perspective. They offer new insights, and we trust each other enough to tell the other one when they are wrong.
The second tool that has helped in each decision be it about personnel, finances, equipment, or policy, is having one document to house our precise practice goals, core values, and vision. When I am struggling to decide what is best for the team and the practice, this serves as a roadmap. Which path leads us to that vision? Does this equipment purchase align with achieving that goal? Is the financial risk worth it? Does that person align with the core values? Is this in the 2-year plan that we all decided on? As our Director of Marketing once described it, “it keeps us from going after the shiny things.”
The last tool I’ve used to help me overcome this challenge is sharing. Share that 2-year plan with your team. Share the reason the practice spent so much money on that equipment. Explain why the financial risk of that new service will pay off. In almost 20 years of management, I have never had a team member plug their ears and yell “I can’t hear you!” when I share information about a company they have invested time, sweat, and tears (literally) into. By having these conversations, and training other leaders to have them, I find that people are more likely to take on goals that fit within the company path instead of alongside it.
Aligning the team is my primary challenge as a practice manager and these are the tools that I use each day. I don’t want to say I have “overcome” my challenge because it would imply that I’m done learning. If I’ve realized anything about the veterinary industry, it’s that we are never done learning.
Jayde Quigley, BS, MBA, CVT, CVPM
Chief Operations Officer
Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota (Oakdale, MN)
2015 Emerging Leader