The Business of Healing Pets, Trupanion’s new blog series written by Stith Keiser of Blue Heron Consulting, will take a deep dive into the business side of animal medicine. Look for a new installment each month featuring topics such as business best practices, effective leadership, strategic hiring, and more.
One of my favorite questions to ask my veterinary students post-externship is what stood out to them most during their time at their respective clinics. Given that by that point they’d spent the last three or so years in veterinary school, my initial expectation was that their response would center on medicine.
However, what I found surprised me. In most cases, what stood out most about their practice experience was the culture and ‘tone’ set by hospital leadership. It was leadership, or the lack thereof, and its broad impact on all things in the hospital that resonated most.
I share this information because, as a practice owner, I know I’m guilty of this. It’s often easier to focus on the more tangible aspects of running our hospitals. This coupled with fighting day-to-day fires makes it easy to avoid honing a ‘soft skill’ like leadership.
What the next generation of veterinarians is reporting actually aligns with what industry data is telling us. Leadership, though sometimes a bit hard to define, correlates with what most of us care about: patient care, the client experience, staff culture, and practice profitability.
A New Era of Leadership
Taking a closer look at leadership will guide us on a journey where we:
- Discuss why we, as veterinary practice owners, should invest in our leadership skills just as we do any other skill pertinent to building a successful practice.
- Examine leadership styles and common traits of successful leaders.
- Learn to leverage leadership theory and styles to effectively lead change in our hospitals.
- Explore how to identify and cultivate leaders in our hospitals.
- Challenge ourselves to develop delegation skills, thereby maximizing the collective efficiency of ourselves and our teams.
- Apply what we’ve learned, allowing us to improve quality of care, the client experience, culture, and practice profitability.
Whether you’re a budding leader or a veteran, a clear connection between strong leadership and our practices’ performance is essential. Without it, we’ll continue focusing on responsibilities within our comfort zone and putting out fires.
Next month: What do we need to understand about our own business before considering our leadership goals?
Stith Keiser is the Chief Executive Officer for Blue Heron Consulting, a group specializing in veterinary practice management coaching. In addition to consulting, Stith is a managing partner at a handful of veterinary practices and collaborates on the advancement of professional development curriculums at several veterinary schools as an adjunct faculty member. In his free time, Stith enjoys spending time with his wife, family, friends, and two dogs, a Red Heeler and black Lab, in the outdoors.