Three Day Eventing Prep

Although we are just days away from the arrival of Dressage horses for the first event of the Pan Am Games we find ourselves looking a week ahead as we begin planning for the most challenging week, the 3 Day Event competition. After a week of the dressage horses under our belts I am sure we will be able to handle the care and needs of an additional 50 horses that will be on site, so I am putting a plan in place to prepare the vet team for the cross country event. The 2015 Toronto Pan Am Games face a similar challenge that many countries that have hosted the Pan Am Games, or World Equestrian Games, and that is the Cross Country phase is at a different location than where the dressage and show jumping events will be contested. Our first challenge then is assembling an offsite vet treating area with all of our equipment and medical supplies. We will also need about 15 vets and the same number of technicians and students to handle veterinary care on course, in the D Box, and after cross country while we wait to go back to main stabling area at the Caledon Equestrian Park.

On the Tuesday before Cross Country  we will have an emergency preparedness session where we will gather the veterinary team, the jump judges, the medical team, horse ambulances and numerous other volunteers and run through possible scenarios that we may encounter on course. We can’t cover every potential situation but we can train the teams how to think and respond collectively to whatever we may face.

To help instill a sense of the uncertainties we will face we will use a group of cyclists who will ride around the course with veterinary and medical scenarios on cards. The judges, vets and medical team will then respond to the situation written on the card in random places on course. They used this system at the Winnipeg Pan Am Games in 1999 and it worked very well.

The challenges are different for each support group. For example, the human medical team might not have any experience with horses. How will they respond if a rider has fallen and the horse is in close proximity? Its one thing to be near a calm horse in a stall, but it is another to work around an excited athlete. This reminds me of a classmate from veterinary college. He was the Canadian triathlete champion. We knew him in school to be very mild mannered, relaxed and calm; he made the Dali Lama look excited. Yet when I say him being interviewed after completing the Canadian Championship he was so intense that he would have made The Rock back off. Adreneline changes every athlete so we will work with the medical team on how to work around an excited horse.

Meanwhile, the veterinarians have the opposing challenge in that we are used to dealing with horses in distress, but how do we work with the medical team as they treat a rider and we are examining the horse. We don’t want to get in the way of each other and we need to focus on the situation we have are facing and not be distracted by the other team.

The key to our preparation will be how well we communicate with each other. Most of our prep day will be ensuring we use the radios correctly, that we use proper terminology that everyone understands, and that we accurately describe a situation. The good news is that we will have several veterinarians that are very experienced with cross country events and they will be paired with experienced technicians.

My goal for the equestrian events remains the same: I want all of the vet team to be mind numbingly bored because if we are bored we have healthy horses. The one event that has the most potential to kick us into gear is 3 Day Eventing. With the right preparation we will be ready to deal with whatever we encounter. Hopefully, our training is for naught and we spend the day enjoying the amazing horse and rider pairs conquer a challenging course.

Pan Am Games- Two Weeks To Go

In less than two weeks the first dressage horses will be arriving at the Caledon Equestrian Park to participate in the pan am Games and the list of things to do to prepare for them continues to grow. As the veterinarian services manager I am responsible for coordinating all of the veterinary care for the competing horses so this has required working with those responsible for bringing the horses to Canada, preparing bio security protocols, arranging for the many veterinary team volunteers and ordering the right medication, supplies and equipment to support the teams and their horses.

I have been very pleased by the generosity of 20 equine veterinarians and 18 veterinary technicians who are willing to volunteer their time to help. The Games have highlighted the close relationships veterinarians in Ontario have with each other. I hate to admit that the competitive nature of veterinary practice can lower the professionalism of some vets in other areas of North America but Ontario has a very tight group of vets that support each other. We also have 15 students from all across Canada who are using the games as part of their 3rd year externships. We had numerous clients and vet colleagues volunteering to billet the students but one student who lives in Ontario volunteered the nearby family cottage to host all of the students. Fortunately, they won’t all be there at once, but what a great experience for students to meet other students from the other vet colleges. One of this things I wanted to do when I was selected VSG was to offer as many voluntary opportunities as possible for students. When the games were in Winnipeg in 1999 Dr. McKee and I were fortunate to be student volunteers and the exposure to high level competition and the contacts we made with other vets were very useful as we developed our practice. We both wanted to make sure we gave back to students and we are fortunate that we are able to do so.

In the coming two weeks I will be arranging to have veterinary equipment set up in our portable vet treatment area before the final security sweep on July 5. There are numerous equipment suppliers that have generously loaned us equipment so we can offer full medical support to the equine athletes. We will have a full diagnostic laboratory supplied by Idexx for onsite blood and urine analysis along with expedited analysis of samples that need to be seen at their main laboratory in Markham. They are also loaning us their latest digital X-ray units so we can offer on site digital imaging along with a digital ultrasound supplied by Sonosite. This is all equipment and services we use in our vet practice so we are comfortable offering them to the competitors.

I’m also putting together a large order of medications and supplies to treat whatever situation arises. If we have a major problem or disease outbreak we will be using the Ontario Veterinary College as our referral hospital, but we hope we will be able to handle most situations on site.

Next week I’ll discuss the preparations that are going on for the cross country phase of three day eventing. This is when we will need the most support from our veterinary team so that we can cover all areas of the course. We will also have a temporary veterinary treating area at the Will o Wind site of the cross country event so we are having to juggle many responsibilities during eventing week. Stay tuned for more on this next week.

EMBA Valedictorian – Final Chapter of a Veterinarian and an EMBA

Graduating Class

I had the pleasure of presenting the valedictorian address to my class mates at our recent graduation from the Richard Ivey School of Business EMBA program on June 5, 2015. The speech might not have much to do with veterinary business on the surface, but since a number of people have asked me about the value of an EMBA I thought I would publish this speech for those who are interested. It also points out my bias towards a classroom EMBA, rather than an online version. The price is significantly higher with a class EMBA than the other, but the value of learning with other people is worth far more than the dollar value. Like veterinary medicine business involves other people. Its one thing to learn how to diagnose feline diabetes, but the real skill and art of vet med is being able to communicate this to the cat owner and have them trust the diagnosis and comply with treatment recommendations. The same thing apples with business. If you can’t lead or work with other people you won’t get far.

In any case I hope you enjoy the read. I got a very satisfying reaction from my classmates. They laughed when I hoped they would and I heard there were many moist eyes towards the end. I also added footnotes to give context to the inside jokes and mentions of people. Let me know what you think in the comment section.

Thanks

Good evening,

My name is Mike Pownall. I am thankful for the honour and privilege of being selected as our class valedictorian. It is especially meaningful because unlike a typical valedictorian this one was not selected based on the highest grade in the class. Rather I was selected by my classmates to represent them as we celebrate the finish of our EMBA. It is one of the great honours of my life. I hope that by the time I finish, our guests will have a better appreciation of the incredible people in our class, what our 17 month EMBA journey was like, and hopefully my fellow classmates can take pride and satisfaction in our accomplishment.

Unlike most stories I am going to start at the end, because knowing how we ended up helps us appreciate where we started. During our last class Professor Tony Frost[i] asked each of us to come to the front of the room and answer a simple yet hard to verbalize question – If I take away nothing else from the Ivey EMBA experience, I will always take away this….. and for the next 2 hours we all got up in the front of the class and answered that question as best we could.

It was one of the highlights of the program for me because after 17 months we were close enough and comfortable enough with each other to share our personal and intimate answers. There were laughs, and there were tears, and several times there was an emotional hush in the room as we told our stories.

As a class we learned things about each other that many of us had only shared with a handful of other classmates. I am sure I am like many in that my respect and appreciation grew even more for my classmates as I understood the individual challenges we all took to get here.

From that session there were two themes that came through from all of the stories

The first was personal transformation. 51 individuals learned a lot about themselves over the 17 months and unexpectedly changed how they view themselves, their relationship with other people and the world around them. They realized that they can be more successful when they work with the complimentary strengths and skills of others. They don’t have to do it all themselves.

The second was the profound appreciation we all had for our families and friends for the support they gave us through the program. Several of our classmates mentioned that their career aspirations have been scaled back because of how much they valued their family after all of the time away from them.

So how did we get here, different people from when we started 17 months ago? I think it helps to go back to where we at the beginning in August 2013 to the Pre-EMBA accounting class hosted by Murray “a wine label is not just a wine label” Bryant[ii]. Accounting? Excel? For many of us these were not words in our vocabularies. We approached that day like it was our first day of kindergarten. That was how nervous we were.

Personally, after reading the bios of my new classmates I was blown away by their accomplishments and careers. There was no way I belonged here. One moment in particular resonated with me. We were discussing the Caribbean Café case and trying to project the profit over the next several years of a young internet café company in Jamaica. We had to figure out the NPV, or net present value of the projected earnings? NPV, what is that? Murray “rugby is a metaphor for everything in life” Bryant[iii] asked if anyone had figured it out and Deborah raised her hand and walked us through the Excel formula she used in her calculations. I was blown away. I had never met a person who could work a spreadsheet like that. It was magic. I knew then that we were going to learn a lot in this program.

Lets jump ahead 2 weeks to our first week at Spencer. Professor Peter Bell, who taught us analytics[iv], explained to us that there were two kinds of people in the world; Quants and poets. Quants were those who used data in the analysis of everything; their world was easily figured out by numbers and formulas. And then, he said with what seemed like pity, there were poets, who had feelings and saw the world as uncertain and needed to explore the feelings of themselves and their co-workers so everyone could move on together. Quants were easily recognized because whenever we had a spreadsheet exercise in class they would stop playing with their phones in boredom, they would sit up straight, and you could see the faint crack of a smile as they navigated around a spreadsheet.

Sammy was so happy he would even stop watching football highlights, while Renee would shake her head in disapproval.

Many of us in the class were poets and although we didn’t understand Quants we were happy that there was one of them in each of our Term1 learning groups. And we were thrilled that they were willing to help us incompetents learn Excel. Thank you Omar and Michael Benvenuti for organizing after hour sessions for the class. Your selflessness was a sign of things to come.

The first couple of days at Spencer were intense. One person just upped and left the program on the second day. That night, many people were shell shocked, some in tears, others ready to quit because of the challenges of analytics and accounting. But it soon became clear that the quants were challenged too. They were facing situations in Leadership and Marketing that weren’t explained with a formula. For example, we learned in our marketing class with Professor Mark “give me an answer now” Vandenbosch[v] that it is ok to begin an answer with “it depends”. Nothing is black and white.

How else did the changes within each of us begin? How did 51 Type A personalities, a group of

bankers,

salespeople,

marketers,

aids to Federal ministers,

accountants,

physicians,

small business owners,

lawyers,

designers,

(and this is just what Ajay[vi] has done so far in life) veterinarians,

experts in heavy manufacturing,

IT,

insurance,

assisted living

and even mustard learn to work together? Easy. Break them up into groups of 6 and have them pretend they are survivors of a plane crash in the wilderness of Labrador and have them answer – Stay and wait for help, or walk to civilization?

Welcome to the first lesson in our first learning team.

Regardless of the answer we all learned that what we thought we knew to be right might be wrong, so it might be time to listen to and work with each other to get to the best possible solution. The road to personal transformation had begun.

The EMBA is a great equalizer. No matter how smart we are, how poised we are at work, how well we dress, or how successful we are the EMBA program is guaranteed to make each of us feel like an absolute idiot at one time or another. How many times did you raise your hand with the certainty that you knew the answer that would break open the case, guaranteed to get you 95% in class participation, and the everlasting admiration and respect from Simon, Lyn, or Tony[vii] and the only thing that came out of your mouth appeared to be absolute gibberish? We all had those moments, but we felt comfortable enough with each other to try again. We became each other’s biggest cheerleaders, because we wanted each other to succeed.

Our educational voyage concluded with our trip to India where we saw a collision of extremes; exciting entrepreneurship and smiles on the faces of child street beggars, gut wrenching poverty and over the top opulence, women dressed in rich vibrant colours and grey smoke from coal fires over Agra. Our eyes were opened to the opportunities and collective ambitions of economic and social progress in India. Thank you Michael Rouse for introducing us to this memorable opportunity and thank you to Matt for organizing our meeting with the Canadian High Commissioner in India.

Meanwhile we weren’t just changing personally, we were also changing as business people. I knew that the EMBA program had done what is was supposed to do when during one of our company meetings in India our team looked at each other and realized we were able to add value to an international company. We weren’t terrified of the challenges, or doubting our ability like we were 17 months before; we had become business people with the skills, knowledge, awareness and confidence to add value wherever we chose to apply it.

So now we are done. Truly done. It first hit me one Sunday in February when I woke up and I realized I had nothing to do that day. Nothing. No cases to read, no projects or tests to write. My wife, Melissa, and I discussed what we could do that day and we had no idea. We had to learn what normal people do with their free time?

And now that we are done I like to think back on the EMBA and tease myself with some questions.

For example, when I am home in the evening, or during a weekend I sometimes ask myself could I now spend 20-30 hours a week working on the EMBA. Absolutely not. Could you? I don’t know how we did it for the 17 months.

I think of the things we never want to see or experience again: Murray “ I know more about your business than you do” Bryant questioning us about the companies we work for, being Vandenbosched, demand curves[viii], 5 hour take home exams, demand curves, studying inside on a beautiful day, supply curves, sitting in class at Spencer on a holiday Monday………

Then I think of the things we want to see and experience again and all I can think of are the learning and intellectual challenges that came with all of the above.  It was tough but our minds were so alive.

I used to think that the EMBA gave the best return to small business owners like myself, because we could apply what we learned right away., or we could use our businesses for projects. By the way thank you to all of my learning teams; our business is doing great because of your help. I felt that those who worked in larger corporations would have to wait until they moved up the corporate ladder to directly apply their knowledge.

I have since come to appreciate that my classmates in larger companies or organizations are in the best position to fulfill the Ivey mission of being business leaders who think globally, act strategically and contribute to their communities.

As a small business owner I can directly impact a small group of people but that can be magnified by the hundreds, thousands and 10s of thousands as some of you progress in your careers. Your ability to make significant and positive contributions to your business, your employees, your industry, your community and society are profound. Don’t forget our lessons, our cases, and the clarity of how things should be that was so fresh in our minds just a few short months ago. You have a gift of knowledge and skills that will keep on giving.

In closing I would like to thank some of the people who contributed so much to our Ivey experience.

Melanie and Karim for organizing our social activities. We were not always the easiest people to please, but you did an exceptional job helping us blow off steam.

Thank you to Anusha for putting together our yearbook. She has been working tirelessly the past few weeks to get it done for today.

Thank you to our charity committee of Sayma, Anusha, Melanie, Ritu, Marcy, Selwyn and Sonal. They helped the class raise almost $10000 for Asha Education Canada[ix], a charity whose goal is “to catalyze socio-economic change in India through education of underprivileged children.”

Melanie also arranged to bring $1500 and 10 suitcases full of clothes, shoes, school supplies and toiletries to the Missionaries of Charity orphanage, in Agra[x], founded by Mother Theresa. To some, visiting the children in the orphanage was the highlight of their India trip.

Charity doesn’t have to stop now. I am sure we can think of something we can do as a class, or as part of the Ivey community to continue our interest in helping others. I have some ideas so anyone who is interested let me know. Lets see what we can come up with.

I would like to thank the Ivey Staff and our professors. Brenda, and later Sarah Ferguson made sure our lvey lives ran as well as they did. It was Sarah’s first time managing a trip overseas, but she ran as tight a ship in India as she does here. She even stayed a couple of days over in Bangalore to make sure a very sick Andarz got home ok. I have never seen her in a bad mood.

Thank you also to Liz Snelgrove[xi] who knew what we were going through and for being a guide and supporter through the difficulties of juggling work, family and Ivey.

To Murray, Peter, Simon, Lyn,  Tony  the other professors, thank you for challenging and inspiring us. Thank you for the business lessons that often became life lessons. It was a pleasure to be taught by you. I hope you appreciate how each of you has influenced all of us.

Without the support of our families, friends and co-workers we couldn’t have survived the grind of the program. I often think they had the hardest job in the EMBA, particularly those with young children. While we had the support and companionship of our classmates as we navigated the learning challenges and deadlines of the program our families handled all that we didn’t have time for.

Near the end all we cared about was finishing the program so we could go back to our lives with our families and friends. Our appreciation for you has never been stronger.

Finally to the EMBA class of winter 2015,

Thank you to our individual learning team members. You had the biggest influence on us during our Ivey experience. Thank for your friendship and support.

On a personal note, my admiration for all of you will continue to grow. I look forward to seeing your successes in life and in business. I have learned so much from every one of you and you have made me a better person.

I cannot thank you enough.

I would like to end with a quote from Peter Drucker, one of the most influential business thinkers of the 20th century.

“Pick the future as against the past; Focus on opportunity rather than on problem; Choose your own direction—rather than climb on the bandwagon; and Aim high, aim for something that will make a difference, rather than for something that is “safe” and easy to do.”

I would like to raise a toast. To all of you. We did it!!

Namaste

Footnotes

[i] Tony Frost taught us “Global Environment of Business”, a macroeconomic course that was part of the overall 3rd term theme of global business.

[ii] Murray Bryant taught us that the obvious problem a business may have is usually related to another element within the business. Although he taught us Managerial Accounting, it wasn’t just accounting; we used more numbers in Marketing than we did in this course. Murray trained us to open our minds to the internal and external forces at paly within a company. The nickname comes from a case where we were determining the value of buying a new wine label machine for a winery. The calculations justified the purchase, but when we discovered that a good wine label can help a winery stand out from the crowd on the shelf we realized that the company couldn’t do without the new labeller.

[iii] Murray loves rugby and his native New Zealand All Blacks. He often used the structure of that team as metaphors in how a business should be run. His examples were right on target.

[iv] This was the course I feared the most and had one of my lowest marks, but it was the course I might have learned the most from in the EMBA. It raised my awareness of the power of data to influence decisions within a company. Our own business has benefited greatly from this course.

[v] If you answered a question from Mark he would keep pushing you with other questions. We used to joke that we would “Tap out” like a MMA fighter when we ran out of answers. It was a great way for us to learn to respond logically and comprehensibly under pressure.

[vi] Ajay Gulati would regale us with his life experiences in different industries and countries. It became a running joke in the class that whenever Ajay would answer a question he would involve some career in had in an exotic country. He was one of the most impressive people to me in our class for what he has done with his life from very humble beginnings.

[vii] 3 other professors that were attending the dinner.

Simon Parker taught us Entrepreneurship. I hear his voice every time I am tossing around business ideas with friends and colleagues.

Lyn Purdy taught us Leading and Change Management. Both are essential soft skills and Lyn was an excellent professor. She is also Director of the EMBA program.

Tony Frost, as mentioned was our professor for Global Environment of Business.

[viii] AS part of Tony’s GEOB class we would work on drawing out demand and supply curves in response to certain pressures in the economy. Essential learning to understand the national and global economies. Fascinating stuff.

[ix] https://www.ashanet.org/canada/

[x] http://www.motherteresa.org

[xi] Liz is the Director of EMBA Recruitment and Program Services. She graduated from the program a couple of years back so was valuable in guiding and supporting us as we navigated through the program.

A Veterinarians Life in an EMBA – The Impact of Year 1

Looking sharp is easy

Looking sharp is easyLooking sharp is easy

 

It was a year ago this week that I started my EMBA journey. During that period we have completed two terms, with one more to go, starting next week. When I reflect back on the year I often think how the experience and education has changed how I deal with my business. Once I get past the horrible anxiety I remember having during the first week I realize that there have been three positive changes in the way I lead and run our business.

Collaboration – When one is studying with gifted people from all walks of life you quickly realize that you are pretty good at a couple of things, but you are much better when work with others with complimentary skills. For example, I love reading data analysis of situations. This probably comes from my veterinary training in that I want proof that a medication or treatment works. Although I find the output of data analysis fascinating, don’t ask me to be the person to mine the data. My Excel skills are much improved since last year, but I am a toddler compared to some of the people in my class that can look at a set of data sources and compile meaningful information from that. Similarly, many of my black and white thinking classmates have a hard time with the abstract concepts in Leadership or Entrepreneurship, since these courses require soft skills. All of us are learning to work in the others world, but we are unlikely going to master those skills that aren’t inherent in a person. That is why complimentary skills will lead to better results. This is similar in the veterinary profession where most equine vets don’t like to admit they can’t do it all, while small animal vets are more collaborative. The later group is more willing to refer to specialists more, and recognize when they are in the deep end, while equine vets are willing to try anything once. As I look at for business opportunities post-EMBA, I am thinking of who would I want to work with that can round out my deficiencies? That thinking was not somewhere I would go a year ago. Until recently, when I had an idea, good or bad, I would pursue it relentlessly until I succeeded, or I crashed and burned. I’m tired of failures and so I’m going to maximize my chances of succeeding by working with excellent people with skills I don’t have.

Veterinary businesses are like any other business….

Discipline – One of my challenges in running our business prior to the EMBA was finishing or continuing what I started. I would get excited about a new idea, and the project, or task, I was working on would languish until I remembered it in the future, or it just dropped off my radar completely. I’m embarrassed about that as I write this, but project management was one of the reasons why I thought I needed a MBA. Over the past year I have appreciated the value of following through on projects I have started in many ways. My co-workers are more motivated and engaged in my projects. Before, they would wonder if my latest idea was going to happen. They would question why they should commit to following through if I wasn’t going to. It had to be very demoralizing to them having their work be discarded or ignored.  This also ties into the benefits of having the discipline to be thorough in communicating with co-workers and clients. Now there are fewer unanswered questions that require follow up emails of phone calls for clarifications. Finally, a key focus of my discipline has been the analysis and review of various financial and key performance indicators in our business. For example, we have prepared and adhered to a monthly budget. If the best predictor of future activity is prior trends I am able to predict with a fair bit of accuracy our yearly financial performance. I am also tracking the activity of our vets and certain categories of medical procedures. If we are measuring things we can respond in a timely manner when performance is not up to expectation. Typically most veterinary business owners review financials or veterinary activity after their accountants have completed the year-end review. By that time it is already 3-4 months into the new year and too late to make any significant changes for that year.  Veterinary businesses are like any other business and if I’m not on top of what we are doing I am unable to respond to any challenges or opportunities until it is too late.

To keep me on track I have adopted a rule that I have no more than 3 ongoing projects ongoing at once. Until I finish 1 of the 3 I don’t start another project. Sometimes the timing of a project needs to be delayed because of outside factors and so I take the project off my top 3 list and return to it when appropriate.

Confidence – My new found appreciation for collaboration and disciplined behaviour have contributed to a new found confidence and calmness in my day to day engagement with co-workers, and management of our veterinary business. Collaboration means that I don’t have to do everything myself. Partners and co-workers with the skills I lack give our business a better chance to succeed. At the same time, the results from a disciplined and through approach to communication, project management and business analysis gives comfort that future plans will work out. It is easier to have confidence about the future of our business based upon being prepared and understanding how all of the pieces of business fit together, rather than crossing my fingers and hoping for the best. Being proactive is more reassuring than being reactive. This doesn’t mean I won’t screw up in the future, but it should be less likely, and costly.

Reflecting back on how I have improved as a business leader I wonder how anything ever got done before. I think a lot of wasted effort was used to get to where we ended up. There were too many two steps forward and one or two steps back instead of steady forward progress. The amount of wasted opportunity and efforts makes me nauseous thinking about it.

Another way to measure my progress is that after a year of the EMBA I can safely say that the expense of the program has paid for itself already. Between money saved, smarter business decisions and improved revenue I have recouped the investment.

Starting next week we will be learning about business on an international scale. At first glance I don’t see how this will impact our very local business, but who knows what can happen. The program has surprised me many times already in what I can apply to our business, so why should this last term be any different?

I’ll keep you posted.

I would live to read your comments, so please make sure you drop a line. Thanks

 

 

 

 

 

New Opportunities for Technicians in an Equine Veterinary Business

techs MPES

The following is an article I wrote for Partners in Practice, the digital veterinary business management magazine sponsored by Merck Animal Health. The article spawned an interesting email discussion between myself and a retired veterinary technician about the limited prospects facing most technicians, regardless if they are registered or not. Unfortunately, there seems to be far more opportunities in companion animal hospitals. This is likely a combination of work flow behind closed doors, and the type of dental and surgical procedures performed in a companion animal hospital. Unless a tech is working for a surgical equine practice there doesn’t seem to be many opportunities for them. It is the rare vet who lets a technician give iv injections, or take x-rays on a farm call. In any case, I thought I would give some of my opinions on other options that are available for technicians in an equine veterinary practice.

As an aside, the photo above is of all of our technicians. We are very fortunate to work with such amazing, dedicated and consistently curious people. Their desire to do more as technicians allows us to involve them even more in the care and treatment of our patients. We are a better business for doing so. Without them our vets couldn’t do their jobs as well as they do.

On with the article.

Every veterinary practice has investments that have not worked out as planned. Have they really made a profit on a gastroscope or PRP machine? Sure, taking a DR xray is convenient and clients love the immediacy of the results, but are the vets taking enough x-rays in a year to justify the leasing and maintenance fees? One of the most underutilized investments in an equine veterinary practice are the veterinary technicians. Unfortunately, the typical scenario for many equine vet technicians is a wasted education and boredom if all they do is hold legs for injections or jog horses.  As a result, there is a high turnover of technicians as they get frustrated by their low wages, and no career advancement.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Many equine veterinary practices are taking their cues from their small animal colleagues and utilizing their technicians for many non-dvm roles by expanding the job descriptions for their technicians. These forward thinking businesses are finding that they have happier and more loyal clients and staff, and they are actually saving money by paying their techs more than they have in the past. Here’s how.

Client Education

Technicians are ideal for educating clients about health care issues during appointments, or as part of a formal client education seminar. While the vet is at the truck preparing treatment medications, or writing the bill, a technician can be explaining treatments or recommended after care instructions. Presentations to clients don’t have to be the sole domain of vets either. Technicians can present on topics like bandaging, nutrition or rehab, for example.

Client Follow Ups

It is the rare client who doesn’t appreciate a follow up call from the veterinary practice inquiring how their horse is doing after a procedure, or answering client questions about a recent appointment. A well-trained tech can make these calls freeing up the vets time for more appointments. If the client asks a medical question beyond the scope of the tech they can arrange a time for a follow up call from the vet. In the meantime the bulk of the interactions between clients and techs will not require further input from a vet.

Social Media

If a tech likes to write or take photographs they can be utilized to supply content for the various social media platforms the vet practice are involved with. Whether it be a blog, or posting to Facebook or Instagram techs are well positioned to take the photo of the healing wound, or the new foal, or write about deworming protocols, or even a behind the scenes look at the role techs play in the practice. What seems mundane to most vets is very interesting to their clients. After all, most horse owners at one time considered becoming a vet. Any information a practice can supply on the activities in a vet practice is always appreciated.

Invoicing

While the vet and tech drive from farm to farm there is often ample time for a technician to be writing up invoices for previous calls. Initially, the vet might need to dictate many of the invoice items, but over time many techs become very familiar with the ways of the vets they are working with and can often prepare an invoice and a basic medical record on their own. The vet may want to add some notes to the medical record, but that takes far less time than creating a complete invoice. An interesting benefit of this is that unlike vets, techs are less likely to offer discounts to clients.

A little extra training for your technicians to expand their roles offers so many advantages to an equine veterinary practice. Clients appreciate the many touch points that a tech can offer, which gives vets have more time to focus on what they do best, diagnosing and treating horses. Clients that feel appreciated are less likely to move to another vet practice and are more compliant with patient care. It’s far easier to keep current clients than replace them. There is another financial benefit since an employee happy in their job is less likely to quit. A rule of thumb is that it costs a years salary to train a new hire and regain the lost knowledge of the departed staff. If a vet practice is replacing disgruntled techs every year how much money are they losing? It’s certainly worth paying existing staff a bit more to help show appreciation.

Veterinary technicians are often an underappreciated opportunity for business growth and cost savings. By expanding technicians roles many veterinary practices are discovering that their vets are busier seeing more horses, clients are happier and techs are more satisfied in their jobs. Who wouldn’t want all of this for their business?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Veterinarians Life in an EMBA – What Comes Next?

 

 

 

Changed Priorities

 

My EMBA is incredibly time consuming. Last week I lifted my head from the cases and projects they I have been working on and realized that winter is over and it’s all of a sudden really nice outside. If I count the modules we have done I find that our class is just past the midpoint of the program! Summer is almost here, but first I have two more 4-day class modules and 5 more projects before this term is done. Then we have the summer off before we start up again in September. Summer will give us a bit of a breather so that many of my classmates and I will have time wandering what the heck we’re going to do when this is all over.

The intensity of the EMBA is a lot like my workload in vet school; I never seem to get ahead of it and I always wish I could understand a subject just a little better. Vet school had a balance between studies and my personal life, while the EMBA has this, plus the addition of a full time job. Some of my classmates are working 60-80 hours a week at their jobs, while trying to find the time to do their school work and scratch out a couple hours in the week to see their family. All of us are struggling to give attention to work, school and family, yet it seems that many of us, are undergoing some personal changes that are creeping in from the periphery and starting to distract us when we really don’t have the time to deal with it. We all started the program set in our careers, perhaps looking at other options, but not really sure what is out there. Hopefully, the EMBA would give us some skills that would help get us a promotion, or at least help us do our current job better. That was my goal. I wanted to learn  more business skills that would help me run our veterinary businesses better. That was then. And now? Many of my close friends in the program have reverted to their teenage selves as they ask what do I want to do when I grow up (get out of this program)?

How are these changes affecting me? A few months ago I attended the American Association of Equine Practitioners annual convention in Nashville. Usually, I look forward to this for months. I can’t wait to see friends, check out new medical equipment and indulge in CE. Attending the convention this year was a shock to my system and it has only been recently until I have figured out why. I flew to the convention the morning after a 4-day EMBA module in downtown Toronto. This means that I’m staying at a hotel and going to class right smack in the middle of the bustling financial district. I’m wearing a suit and tie and working with driven classmates from a wide variety of industries and businesses. Four days of 8-hour classes,  group work before and after classes and yes, social activities, is draining. But when you are there it is all encompassing and you get into a groove. After the module I went home, repacked my suitcase and flew into Nashville the following morning. I arrived at the convention center and I saw thousands of horse vets wearing the uniform of horses. Depending where they are from in North America this could mean Wranglers and cowboy boots to khakis and polo shirts. I greeted old friends and we started talking about equine veterinary medicine, mutual friends, their own businesses and I’m struggling. Really struggling. What was once so comfortable to me is making me very anxious. I’m having a hard time adjusting from talking about contribution margins, writing a marketing exam and fretting over an upcoming Information Technology project to the easy going relaxed manner of equine vets. Some of them are my closest friends that I have shared the ups and downs of our respective businesses through the recession, and people I have called, or have called me for advice on veterinary cases. What the heck am I doing here?

It wasn’t until about 3 months later, when I was talking to another vet who is also a grad of my EMBA program about the situation, that I realized I was probably having an identity crisis. What the heck? Am I 16 again filled with angst wondering who I was in the world? Not quite, but when I examine the situation I realize that I came into the program with a distinct professional life as a successful veterinarian and businessman. Since the EMBA I have been exposed to so many new business skills and colleagues that appear so different from where I came from. I feel that I am being pulled hard between my current life and one of other professional opportunities. From a predictable and comfortable life with people I admire and trust as my closest friends, I have come to this new land of ever expanding horizons.

I am comforted that many of my EMBA colleagues are feeling the same way. I have had  many conversations with people that are going through what I am. Classmates are seriously contemplating career changes, transferring to other countries or just waiting for a opportunity that feels right. One of my Term 2 workgroup teammates, Sonal, put it perfectly when she described her own questioning as “what will some of us do with all of this, and how can we add value to our lives and those of others?”.  The last part is huge in many of our lives in that until this EMBA at Ivey we have been focused on our careers and businesses and improving our lot in life. Now, like every great education should do, our minds have been opened to opportunities and how the power of our knowledge can do a lot more for ourselves, and the world around us.

I love veterinary medicine. I think it is one of the most honorable professions in the world in that we can help care for those who cannot speak for themselves. Nothing makes me happier than seeing the relief on a horse owners face when I have been able to successfully treat their suffering horse, although, between school and running the business I don’t get to see this enough. As a business owner I’m excited thinking about the positive changes that are happening  to our business because of this education. Yet, I am also chomping at the bit exploring other business opportunities that are now opening up before me. The last time I felt like this was in my final year of vet school. I knew I was going to be a horse vet, yet I knew there was more than that to come. I was right. One year later my wife and I had opened our own vet practice that continues to grow. So what is next? What else is out there beyond running our business with more skill and insight than I did before, or is that enough? Can I use my education to help other vets and the profession, branch into other industries, work with classmates in other businesses, or donate my time to a charity? I never thought when I started the EMBA that I would be facing these decisions. I thought I was done with these career choices years ago. I’m glad I was wrong. What a wonderful position to be in.

I would love to hear your comments so please don’t be shy.

Thanks