A well-thought out business plan is essential for any veterinarian running or looking to run a practice.
As Steve Covey (American businessman and author) highlights in his book ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’, it is imperative as a business owner to begin with the end in mind.
What this means is that it’s important to continually work towards a target, something that keeps you on track and in check. This is where an effective veterinary practice business plan comes in.
Whilst creating a business plan might not be the top of your priorities, a good strategy linked to a set of tactics to execute is key to working smarter- not harder.
Not only can a business plan help you set and stay on track with your practice goals, but it can also help you stay on top of changing trends that may be impacting your practice (see the top four trends that are shaping the future of your practice here).
In this article, we outline how to create a veterinary practice business plan, which is not only effective- but easy to implement.
Outline Your Core Values
Whilst you may think that the concept of ‘practice values’ might seem a little abstract, this step will underpin everything you do (so don’t skip it!).
When we refer to ‘core values’, what we’re referring to is the core principles you have in your practice which you would like to emulate to your staff and your clients.
Whether you actively have a written list of practice values or not, odds are you already have a set of values that you abide by.
For example, if the wellbeing of your staff is a priority- you’re probably already implementing actions which promote staff wellbeing without thinking about it much.
The benefit of listing these values however is that it keeps you accountable and makes it clear to those around you what the rules of the game are in your practice.
Once articulated, the values and the behaviours that flow from them form the foundation of your culture.
The problem is that it’s easy to put aside values when we are busy (and if you’re a veterinarian that’s all the time!) so intentionally capturing and building them into your business plan is important for effective implementation.
See here how to incorporate your values into your practice.
List a Set of Business Goals
Now you’ve created a base for your business plan (your core values), your next move is to build some solid foundations.
This is where your goals come in. Based on your values, what long-term and short-term goals do you want to achieve?
Examples of goals are:
– I would like to streamline my booking services
– I would like to expand my team
– I would like to improve my team’s communication skills
At this point, it’s ok to keep it vague (we’ll get more specific later!). What’s important is that you outline a set of say 3-5 goals (don’t overcomplicate them) which align with your core values and are measurable, attainable and relevant.
Once you have a list of your values and goals, it’s time to get technical.
Don’t panic-you don’t need to write a thesis.
But as any good veterinarian knows, evidence is key. By taking the time to really understand your market (and any gaps you can capitalize on!) you can save yourself heaps of time and money.
Think about it like this. If you were asked to buy a gift for a friend, you could spend half a day perusing the shops trying to find something you think they’ll like, or, you could spend a couple of minutes looking at the person’s amazon wishlist and order something you know they’ll love.
The point is, market research helps you concentrate your efforts into strategies that you know are more likely to pay-off.
When conducting market research ask yourself these questions:
– What’s the level of demand for my services?
– What are my competitors doing – and can I do it better?
– What are my clients ‘pain points’ aka what are my client’s problems, and how can I solve them?
– What are the trends in this market
– What are my strengths and how do these map to the market?
If you are a current practice owner, getting feedback from clients is a fantastic way to get market data – as is attending conferences and hearing what is happening in other practices and indeed other countries!
Encourage your clients to fill out a feedback form after service, or send out a survey in your next newsletter (try using google forms for creating surveys – it’s easy to use and most importantly free).
Regardless of how you conduct your market research, this stage arguably is one of the most important parts of a business plan – so take all the time you need.
Not sure what strategy to use for market research? Click here.
Create Customer Profiles
Now you’ve built the foundation – its time to put the floors in.
Once you’ve got a gauge for your market, it’s time to create some customer profiles.
Customer profiles are essentially a list of general personas which you wish to target at your practice.
It’s important to create these because having a good understanding of who your client is and (and more importantly what they want) can help direct your efforts into the right places.
Here is a fantastic resource that you can use to guide you through the process of creating a customer profile in 6-easy steps.
We cannot overemphasise this step. Right now vets around the world are being overrun with clients due to the pandemic driven increase in pet ownership.
Traditionally, vets have tried to help all clients do all things at all times. But this attitude is at the heart of the discontent and burnout we face as a profession. Better to select your clients very carefully and build a service around their needs.
Once you have done this – it’s time for the next step.
Time to Strategize
You’ve created your values, listed your goals, done your homework and penned your profiles. So what now?
Now it’s time for action.
Now you have an understanding of what you want to achieve and where you want to focus your efforts, you need to outline how you’re going to do this.
Go back to your goals. Using the knowledge that you have now, you need to outline how you’re going to get from point A to B.
The start point for this is to sharpen up those early goals so they are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timed (SMART). Meeting this framework allows you to clearly articulate what it is you are trying to achieve and by when.
For example, if you want to increase your revenue – be specific, by how much would you like to increase it by? How are you going to measure your success? Is your goal realistic? Is it important to the overall functioning of your practice?
Once you have made your goal specific, measurable, attainable and relevant, create a timeline. Determine who in your team is going to be responsible for what, and make your goals clear to everyone.
It’s important to note that if you are working in a team, getting others on the same page is essential.
Going back to an earlier point – this strategy needs to be realistic – and realistically you’re not going to be able to do it alone. So designate tasks accordingly, and keep others (and yourself) accountable with team business reviews (more on this in a minute).
Use calendar tools such as Asana to set specific priorities and deadlines. This will help hold everyone to account and help get work done.
Congratulations! You’ve created a basic business plan and are now in a position to work in a very organised way towards your goals.
Now it’s time to review everything you’ve achieved. Having a specific time frame whereby the team sits down to evaluate whether the practice has reached its goals is key to keeping up accountability.
Evaluating your performance (and reviewing aspects of the plan that fell through/didn’t go to plan) can further help you figure out what to include in your next period of work. Typically these are broken down into business quarters.
Don’t take the setbacks too hard – it’s almost impossible to adhere to a business plan perfectly, and those setbacks are key to creating an even better plan for the future! There are rich lessons for you as a leader and your team to be gained.
Although creating a veterinary practice business plan can be time-consuming, it is nonetheless incredibly important.
As you probably have now worked out, implementing a strategic business plan is an ongoing process which you should try to repeat at least annually with quarterly way points to reflect, reorganise and course correct.
Although it can seem arduous, taking the time to create a good veterinary practice business plan is likely to be the difference between a successful one – or a bad one. So take the time to invest in yourself and your business and start planning now.
Want to learn more about how to run your business without the drama?
Check out our 60-minute complimentary masterclass for veterinary leaders, teaching you how to be the best practice owner you can be here.