PSIvet Hosts 2019 Business Symposium

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Educational highlights from an event geared toward independent veterinarians.

Your veterinary practice customer’s revenue is up and they are juggling a busy caseload. At a glance, the business seems solid. But how does the owner determine if the practice will deliver the best return on their investment if/when they decide to sell?

Veterinarians should take steps to check the value of their practice well before their retirement date, advised veterinary CPAs Denise Tumblin and Glenn Hanner at PSIvet’s 2019 Business Symposium, held July 26-28 at the Fairmont Hotel in Dallas.


Tumblin and Hanner delved into practice valuation and how to avoid a NoLo practice – one that has no or low profit and therefore a low valuation to prospective buyers. They outlined steps for increasing practice value and advised veterinarians to have their financial house in order before even considering a practice sale. “Don’t expect buyers to pay for potential. Begin now, before you’re ready to sell,” advised Tumblin. “If you want higher value, increase cash flow.” They should also consider their staffing. “Technicians pay for themselves, raising production per doctor,” she said. “Do you have enough techs?” she asked the group.

Avoiding a NoLo practice was just one of the many topics examined during the four-day conference. Each year, PSIvet creates a unique, dynamic agenda of business topics for independent veterinarians and the challenges they face. The conference earned attendees 10.5 hours of continuing education credit.

“PSIvet members learned together and participated in industry-shaping discussions and workshops that will give them a strategic edge when it comes to competing in a changing and ever-challenging industry,” said PSIvet President Patrick McCarthy.

Highlights of the 2019 Symposium included:

Generational insights: In a keynote speech, Cam Marston, founder of Generational Insights, discussed communication styles for each generation and how to bridge inter-generational gaps in the workplace. For example, he noted, baby boomers favor collaborative meetings and conference calls, while millennials and iGens prefer texting and enjoy both group and individual interaction. “They need relationships and interest,” said Marston. “They’ve been raised as the apple of their parents’ eye. If their boss leaves them alone and never asks about their weekend or their new baby, they start to feel the boss doesn’t care about them.”

Fee-setting strategies: Veterinary business consultant Brenda Tassava explored practical and effective methods for setting fees, beyond calling competitors to price shop. Tassava’s method involves examining four pillars: costs, customer value (the total amount a pet owner is willing to pay for benefits received), reference prices (benchmarks such as the AAHA Veterinary Fee Reference guide and the Well-Managed Practice Benchmarks Study) and “the value proposition,” or building a framework for fees. Tassava also provided ways to measure whether fees hit the mark, from sales revenue and profit margin to customer and employee satisfaction.

Moral stress: Nicole McArthur, DVM; Carrie Jurney, DVM, DACVIM, and Barry Kipperman, DVM, DACVIM, discussed moral stress among veterinarians and presented options for alleviating it, including creating hospital policies around common moral dilemmas, practicing gratitude and taking advantage of free support for the veterinary community at Not One More Vet (nomv.org) and MightyVet (mightyvet.org). It’s a needed service: A 2018 study of small-animal veterinarians found that 53% said they encounter one or more ethical dilemmas weekly, 13% said multiple times daily, and 84% said ethical dilemmas contribute to their moral stress.

Technology insights: Kerri Marshall, DVM, MBA, Chief Veterinary Officer at BabelBark, a digital platform for veterinary businesses, predicted that veterinary practices are heading toward a sharing economy, just like Airbnb and Uber. “Imagine there’s no physical practice,” said Marshall. “You get out of vet school, you have your license, people look at your profile and say, ‘I want that veterinarian.’ So, some days you’re helping clients virtually. Some days you’re going into a surgical center. And some days you’ll rent a mobile unit and go out and see your pets.”

Photo of Heather Romano speaking at PSIvet symposium.

Managing HR challenges: Heather Romano, Managing Director, HR & Training, for iVET360, a veterinary business consulting firm, offered her insights on unions and other hot HR topics during a wide-ranging “Power Hour” discussion. If an employee wants to unionize, Romano suggested calling a labor attorney immediately and knowing what you can and cannot do. The first rule: You cannot forbid discussion. “This will not suppress the problem, it will make it 1,000 times worse – and it’s illegal,” Romano noted. Veterinarians should engage their team and find out where communication has broken down. Veterinarians can let employees speak and just listen. “People may feel like they don’t have a voice,” said Romano. “A lot of times just opening it up will keep them from organizing.”

Marketing solutions: Robert Sanchez, CEO of Digital Empathy, a website development and design firm, talked about ways for veterinarians to differentiate their online presence with a personalized website. Sanchez encouraged story-driven marketing initiatives and a message tailored toward what the practice can do for the customer. “Most brands make it about themselves. It’s the common mistake. The first rule of using the hero’s journey [in your marketing] is that you are not the hero,” Sanchez said. “Celebrate your customer as the hero, and position yourself as the guide.”