Opening their own private practice is a dream for a lot of vets. But good veterinary practices, ones that are trusted by their patients’ families and stand out as great places to work, don’t just happen – they’re products of great leadership and cooperation. Even if you consider yourself a good leader or have leadership experience, you probably still have areas where you can grow. These 6 traits can help guide you as you reflect and continuously improve your practice and your management style.
1. Have a Vision
If you have your own practice or want to start one, you probably have goals and dreams for its future, whether it’s attracting more clients, offering cutting-edge services, or even just having an appointment schedule that runs like a Swiss watch. Do the people who work with you know them?
Get clear on both your general values – the principles you want your practice to be guided by – and the specific milestones and achievements you want to hit. Then communicate with your employees so they can all be part of the climb. Team meetings can be a great time to share these ideas and have a dialogue about them. When everyone understands the big picture, they’ll be more motivated and cohesive.
2. Have a Structure
Goals are all fine and dandy, but without a plan of action, they really are just daydreams.
Spend some time researching organisational structures – the chains of command that dictate who does what and reports to whom – in different types of businesses. Depending on the size and specialties of your practice, any one of them might suit your needs. The important thing is that everyone on your team knows who to go to if they have a question or need support.
You’ll also want to make sure everyone is communicating effectively with one another. That might mean everyone having an easy-to-remember email address that they check at least once a day, or it might mean morning “all hands” meetings.
If you’re taking over as the head of an existing practice, you’ll want to ask around about what communication looked like before and make sure everyone is aware of any changes in expectations. It can be helpful to use what people are used to – but only if it’s working!
3. Be a Role Model
If you’re the vet in charge of your practice, you’re the number one factor in what it’s like to work there. You’re the one that everyone else will be looking to to set the tone and determine expectations. If you don’t earn the respect of your clients and staff, they won’t be motivated to earn respect from you. So treat everyone working for you the way you want them to treat those working for them – culture flows down from the top.
4. Don’t Command – Inspire
The difference between a leader and someone who is simply in a position of authority is the ability to put everyone in touch with the common “why.” Help everyone understand what their part in the process means to your patients and their families. Actively seek input from the rest of your team and remember that they are the experts on the day-to-day reality of their job. Make your feedback constructive, specific, and actionable. Basically, see everyone who reports to you as a person who is essential to the overall success of the practice – not just a cog in your machine.
5. Hire and Assign Tasks Wisely
Being a good leader means choosing great people. Start by hiring a really good practice manager or administrator, since that’s a position that will affect the whole practice. Keep in mind that you need to play to everyone’s strengths, including your own, and that should be reflected in how work is divided up.
6. Manage Time Effectively
Are you spending your whole day dealing with whatever comes up, with hardly any time to focus on your actual work? Then you need to empower your staff to solve their own problems and empower yourself to set boundaries and trust others. There’s a lot of info about time management out there, so do some research and figure out what works best for you.