VHMA Emerging Leader
Jessica Hicks, CVPM
Village Animal Hospital
While there are many challenges a practice manager encounters, being young only exaggerates them. I came into a small-animal practice that was on embezzlement rebound from the former manager. The morale of the staff and owner was low, the turnover was high, and the finances were a mess. I quickly determined the best place to start was with the staff members, and they turned into my biggest challenge.
At 23 years old, I was managing staff members who were not only older than me, but who also had been in the veterinary industry much longer. The rest of the staff was roughly the same age as me. I was committed to learning how to become a leader who could lead by encouragement and foster the growth of the practice. I began by examining the individual qualities of my staff and determining which individuals were the best fit for the practice. Based on this review, I knew which employees should stay and which needed to leave. I began replacing staff and hired my last full-time staff member in January 2011. My goal was to hire people who fit with the practice and its goals and mission. To date, staff turnover has been low and staff morale high.
I instituted a more comprehensive hiring and training program and ongoing training and staff investment, and implemented a well-versed employee handbook. As staff morale improved and more uniform standards of care were implemented, finances improved and the practice grew. These improvements had a positive impact on owner morale, too.
The veterinary industry, no matter what role you play, is full of challenges. Keeping your head up and your eyes on your goals will help managers conquer those challenges and grow from them.