Press Release - Transforming the Practice Award 2011
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Debbie Newhouse, CVPM, Ralston Veterinary Clinic, Shows Enhanced Profitability in a Tight Economy

ALACHUA, FLA. – The Veterinary Hospital Managers Association (VHMA) has named Debbie Newhouse, CVPM, as its 2011 Transforming the Practice Award recipient. Newhouse, a VHMA member since 2005 who received CVPM certification in 2009, is an administrator with the Ralston Veterinary Clinic in Ralston, Neb. VHMA is pleased to recognize the hard work and commitment Newhouse has put forth in transforming her practice.

About the Award

The Transforming the Practice Award, now in its second year, identifies and rewards excellence among veterinary hospital managers, and highlights effective strategies in improving practice performance. Winners are selected based on their success in meeting one or more of four criteria. Criteria include: increase in productivity; increase in revenue; decrease in expenses; and increase in practice value estimates. Candidates must be members of VHMA who have participated in the VHMA Practice Diagnostic Survey for two consecutive years. This year, 55 practices were considered. Darren Osborne, MA, economic researcher for VHMA, noted, “When selecting the award winner, we use an algorithm to determine how well each applicant fares on each of the criteria. The winner is selected according their performance on these measurements. VHMA considers the profitability of the practice both before and after benchmarking has occurred.”

The Ralston Story

Newhouse was retained by the Ralston Veterinary Clinic nearly two years ago to assist in its transition to an employee-owned practice. The owner was committed to ensuring the clinic remained in the community, where it had been for more than 40 years. To achieve the long-term succession plan, Newhouse was charged with implementing the employees’ training to assume control of the practice. Newhouse’s challenge was to examine what could be done to grow revenue and involve staff members in setting revenue goals to empower them to eventually assume control of the clinic.

Newhouse began by working with the lay staff of 42 and the professional staff of 10. A key consideration was establishing a budget, which included examining the clinic’s current situation as well as where it intended to be. She considered the cost of goods, gross profit, operating expenses and revenue growth and began the benchmarking process to allow for the critical assessment of key business decisions. Staff members were included in this process and provided information from which they could knowledgeably participate in goal-setting activities.

As she embarked on this exercise with staff, Newhouse credited the CVPM process for facilitating her efforts. Having recently gone through certification, she was well rehearsed on issues such as inventory, marketing, reading financial statements and budgeting, to name a few. Newhouse noted, “I had much of the basics fresh in my mind and was able to take a comprehensive view of the clinic and educate staff throughout this process. Equipping staff with essential knowledge about the clinic put them in a better position to set realistic goals for the clinic and increase their confidence about their recommendations.”

Newhouse’s approach has been successful. Even in tough economic times, Newhouse and staff have made bold decisions that resulted in increased profitability. Newhouse acknowledges the integral role that her boss and staff have played in this effort. “Their willingness to set goals and work toward these goals has been impressive,” she said.

VHMA Applauds Newhouse

When asked about this year’s recipient, Osborne said, “Although the award is purely numbers-based and Debbie’s practice demonstrated the best quantifiable results, I was delighted to see Debbie take the award. I have worked with her for many years, and it is so rewarding to see her hard work pay off. She knows her numbers and has an outstanding handle on finances and practice levels. She is good at developing and maintaining a budget. Not only did she recognize the potential in the practice with respect to fees, but she also made the brave decision to promote an increase in fees in a tough economy. Her decision paid off.”

Newhouse successfully increased her practice value estimate by 13 percent in one year by increasing clients and revenues and lowering expenses. This is a significant achievement in a tough economy.

As the award winner, Newhouse will receive a complimentary registration to the 2012 Annual Conference, which will be held Oct. 18-21 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

About VHMA

The Veterinary Hospital Managers Association Inc. was formed in 1981 to provide effective communication and interaction for individuals actively involved in veterinary practice management. Its membership is composed of hospital administrators, practice managers, office managers, veterinarians, consultants, and others interested in veterinary management. The mission of VHMA is to enhance and serve professionals in veterinary management through superior education, certification and networking. For more information, visit

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