Align Your Practice's 2021 Goals With These 4 Trends

For many of us, 2020 is a year that we will be glad to have behind us. The hopes and aspirations I had when I set goals for this year now seem like a distant memory. Although we can't change the past, we can certainly learn from it — and now is the time to focus on the future and set your practice's new goals for 2021.

Pat Yourself on the Back for Tackling 2020

First, take a moment to acknowledge your efforts. There were a lot of unplanned changes in 2020: Your practice has had to quickly reconfigure to provide services using curbside drop-offs or remote technologies, and many of us had to find creative ways to keep clients engaged in the parking lot. You should feel good that you've been able to guide your teams through this difficult period.

As we head into an uncertain 2021, setting goals may be challenging, as changes in public health policy or a delay in a widely available COVID-19 vaccine are outside of your control and could have a massive impact on your business. You may have to revisit and revise your goals depending on what happens next year, but here are four areas where you can try to set realistic targets now.

  FREE HANDBOOK: How to boost team morale. Candy helps, too

1. Promote Wellness Services

One very positive shift we've seen in response to the pandemic was the change in the way people saw their pets. Being home definitely improved clients' relationships with them, and this is something I think will continue. A key change in our clients has been their willingness to learn about their pets' long-term health. We've been able to have conversations about the benefits of regular bloodwork and show examples of how a baseline is essential in fully understanding results.

Another trend we've seen is a willingness to discuss a wider range of services for older pets. The conversations about stepping up to more comprehensive panels seem to flow more freely now that clients are starting to understand that their pets experience the same effects of aging that we do, albeit more quickly. The increased interest in their pets' long-term health has transferred to an interest in our annual wellness plans.

Take this opportunity to focus on preventive care and consider adding wellness plans if you don't offer them already. Have your doctor team determine a set of plans for different age and species groups, then set a growth target. Work with every member of your team so they're comfortable talking to clients about wellness.

2. Reduce Your Reliance on Pharmacy

Online pharmacies continue to put pressure on clinics and our ability to generate revenue from pharmacy and parasiticide products. This is a trend that accelerated in 2020 with Amazon and Walmart announcing their entries into the market. It's only wise to develop a plan to respond to these changes. Right now, you might be focused on maintaining margin, but eventually, you'll need to pivot to generating revenue from services and products that are only available in your clinic.

Work with your doctor team to ensure your clinic offers the best medicine it can. This may be as simple as ensuring that all of the services the clinic can provide are offered to all clients. You may also maintain some of your pharmacy revenue by increasing the use of injectable products where you are both able to increase compliance and maintain an in-clinic revenue stream. Lastly, you can also consider new services or approaches, like investing in ultrasound or cold laser, or creating vaccine and bloodwork packages to simplify client decisions.

New revenue streams can go hand in hand with better medicine. Talk to your doctor team about things they would like to offer that are not currently available. Set a target to reduce pharmacy revenue as a percentage of your overall revenue throughout the course of 2021.

3. Maintain Optimal Inventory Levels

Correctly managing your inventory can have a huge impact on your practice's profitability. Your inventory has to be consistently controlled. This year, many practice inventories have grown, as clinics worried about supply chain disruption and held onto more stock. The downside of this is that there's a greater risk products will expire or be stolen and that the capital you have tied up can't be used for anything else. Set a target to not have more stock on hand than you need to complete two weeks of sales and work your inventory down to a more manageable level.

As you become more familiar with your inventory, another opportunity you may be missing is vendor consolidation. Most veterinary vendors offer increasing rebates if you spend more with them, and moving all of your vaccines to one vendor, for example, can significantly lower costs. Talk to your reps about the offers they have in place and set a target to clean up your purchasing by the end of Q1 to take advantage of the best tiers you can reach while removing duplicate products from your shelves.

4. Invest in Your Team

It hasn't gotten easier to hire people this year, so providing growth and education for all current members of the team is a great way to show them you care while improving the skills available to you. Having a list of skills that you expect for members of each team can be a great way to open a conversation about what a team member wants or needs to learn about next. Create a development plan for each team member and make it their responsibility to drive their development, with your support. Set quarterly meetings with each of them to track progress. This will not only help improve staff engagement but will ensure that the clinic has all the skills you need to operate smoothly and safely.

There are many tools that can help to provide training and materials. Your PIMS is one great support tool, as many systems contain education materials that can help your team members expand their knowledge.

Finally, don't forget about yourself. Considering all that's happened, 2021 is unlikely to be an easy year, so make time for your own development and think about what personal success would feel like for you. Try to gain the skills you need to stay healthy and happy this year, and don't lose sight of how well you've managed already.

    Share this article

Read These Next

Des Whittall
Practice Manager

Des Whittall is an owner and manager of two veterinary clinics and pet resorts in Texas. A software engineer by training, he worked with an investment bank for 13 years in roles ranging from technical support to business divestment, managing large international teams and complex vendor relationships. With his partner, he has grown the clinics and resorts and is focused on developing businesses that can provide high-quality medicine and development opportunities for their teams.

Welcome to Practice Life:
Everything Practice Management.

Sign up to receive stories and tips from peers and industry experts in veterinary practice management. IDEXX uses the information provided to contact you about relevant products and services.