By: Nikki Nitz, CPA, CMA – Simmons Northwest & Simmons Midwest

A common theme I am hearing from potential clients right now is, “Nikki, I just want to be a doctor and practice medicine. I don’t want to deal with all the management headaches anymore.” Can you relate?

Let’s look at the causes of these feelings and solutions to having you live the life you dreamt of when you first decided to take the path of business ownership.

Lack of Time
One of the first things that probably comes to your mind is that you just don’t have enough time. I’m sorry to tell you but this is not a reason you are feeling the way you do. We all have the same number of hours, minutes, and seconds in a day. There is enough time! You just aren’t spending your time as you want to.

When you complain about time it is only because there are other things you would rather be spending your time doing. It is not because there is not enough time. When we are spending our time on things we don’t enjoy they become a stress versus bringing us pleasure. We always have the time to spend on the things that are most important to us.

Lack of Education
You are a very intelligent person! You had to be in order to graduate from veterinary college. However, you may be very ignorant when it comes to successfully operating a business. Just because you are an excellent veterinarian does not automatically translate into you being an excellent veterinary hospital owner.

You likely received very little, if any, business education while going to college. If you have not personally taken it upon yourself to get educated in business you are running your hospital by the seat of your pants. This lack of education may be a cause for you being so frustrated with the ownership and management of your hospital. You don’t know what you are doing! You have never been taught! Therefore, you are not experiencing the results you thought you would as an owner.

If you have no desire to learn about business management, you maybe should not have become a practice owner at all. Even if you have a stellar practice manager and/or hospital administer, you are still the CEO of your business. You are the owner and with this comes ownership responsibilities beyond being a veterinarian. You need to know at least the high-level components of business management. The buck stops with you!

Lack of Delegation
You may also be very frustrated because your hospital is consuming your life. When you entered into ownership you had dreams and visions of this grand life you would have. You would be rolling in the dough and have plenty of time to enjoy life with the people you love most. Now that dream seems impossible. It is not! There are plenty of veterinarians who own hospitals, some of them multiple hospitals, and are living the life you dream of. How are they doing it? They have learned to delegate. They have gained time in exchange for control.

You have a choice. You can keep doing everything yourself or hire people to help you. Some of these people will be employees and others will be hired from outside your hospital. If you are working full-time as a veterinarian seeing patients and also have full responsibility for the management of the practice, it is no wonder you don’t have any time for life outside of work!

If you want to continue to be in complete control of the management of the practice then you simply have to cut back on the hours you are seeing patients. It is really this simple. I caution you to really consider if this is the best use of your time, education, and passions. If you don’t have a passion for learning how to successfully operate a business, then I suggest you hire someone else to do it for you. This will allow you can spend your time being a doctor.

You might argue that you can’t afford a practice manager. If you hire the right manager they will grow your business to levels you couldn’t even imagine doing yourself. This is assuming you are in an area with plenty of market potential. If you are in a market where your practice is already seeing the majority of the patients, this is a whole different issue and outside the scope of this article.

Do you think you can’t afford to hire a practice manager? How many hours a week are you spending on managing your practice? How much do you earn per hour when you are being a veterinarian? Do the math. Then there are the hours you would prefer to be spending with your loved ones or traveling or on hobbies. These hours are harder to quantify. Some of them are priceless! How do you put a price on seeing your kid’s first home run or a date night with the person you fell in love with and married because they are the most important person in your life? You likely can’t afford NOT to hire a practice manager. Right now, you are trading your life for working hours and it is making you miserable!

If you decide your passion is really taking care of the patients, then you need to delegate the management duties to someone else who has a passion for these duties. I want to stress TO SOMEONE WHO HAS A PASSION FOR THESE DUTIES. So often hospital owners place an employee, often a technician, into the practice manager role. You feel you are giving this person a “promotion.” Well, if you don’t provide them with the proper management education and training you are not promoting them at all! You are setting them up for failure! Just as you have not received business education, neither have they! So how do you expect them to be successful at handling employee conflicts, inventory control, scheduling, payroll, financial management, and all of the other management responsibilities without the proper training? Just because they have been an amazing technician for many years does not mean they will be an amazing hospital manager. They may have a passion for medicine versus management.

Solutions
Assess how you are spending your time. Log every hour of your day for a couple of your average weeks. It will be eye opening! You will find you are wasting a lot of time on things that are not of value: television, social media, on-line videos, all the negativity delivered by the news media, are just a few things that come to mind. What duties and responsibilities are you currently doing that would be better to delegate? Should you hire the neighborhood kid trying to earn a few dollars by mowing lawns so you free up those same hours to attend your kid’s soccer games? Should you hire a house cleaner so you can spend more time with your aging mother? The studies repeatedly show that people nearing death wish they had spent more time with people they love, not on their careers. Make better choices on how you spend your time, both professionally and personally.

Get educated. Take some business management courses. It has never been easier to get educated! You can do this from your recliner at home with online education. There are also plenty of practice management courses offered at veterinary conferences. Sit in on some of these instead of always going to scientific classes. Again, if you are going to be the owner you are the CEO and need at least high-level business education to be successful. If you don’t have any interest in business management, delegate! Make sure whoever you hire for the management of your business has passion for management and proper management education to be successful.

I’ve been fortunate enough to know and assist hundreds of veterinarians. I know that they understand what their practice needs. The challenge is the lack of resources and experience to create the practice of their dreams. Practice ownership is rewarding and can lead to financial security. Don’t tackle it on your own. Instead, tap into knowledgeable resources and people you trust who can help you reach your dream of medicine and practice ownership.