How to Achieve Your Practice's Goals With Transparency

Every well-managed practice has goals. As a practice manager, setting, delivering, and tracking objectives is part of the fabric of your day. For most of your team though, those same targets can seem disconnected from their day-to-day work. In order to set and meet practice goals, take the time to be more transparent with your veterinary staff. Identifying the how and why of your practice alongside your team will help you to meet your objectives in no time.

What Is Full Transparency?

Exactly how much you're ready to share with your team depends on the comfort level of your owners and management team and where you're starting from. In a fully transparent environment, you would share the reasoning behind your targets as well as your progress in terms of all your key metrics, including revenue, profit, costs, medical service compliance, and practice growth.

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Some practices are uncomfortable explaining financial targets to their teams. The truth is that veterinary business goals are an essential part of your continued existence, and you need to talk about them. Trust your team members with this information just as you trust them to look after your clients and patients.

The only area to consider as an exception to transparency is payroll data. In general, you don't want to share things that can be traced back to individuals, so you should never present data that only applies to one or two people. For example, if you only have two technicians, don't present total technician wages. Instead, present the total wages for the whole staff, which better masks what each individual is paid. Your teams should understand that wages are an important part of your cost base but not how much each colleague is paid.

How Transparency Improves Your Practice

Every day when they come to work, your team is helping you achieve the objectives you set to improve your practice. If they don't understand why you're asking them to follow a certain protocol or make a change, they won't be motivated to follow through, and any progress you were hoping for will hit a brick wall.

When setting and following through on targets, holding yourself accountable to your team will improve your practice in three ways:

1. You'll Set Better Goals

Before setting goals for your practice, imagine explaining the "why" to people outside of the management team. If you can't explain to your team why they should perform a certain task, how it meets the practice's mission statement, or concrete steps they can take to achieve it, then you should revisit it.

2. Your Team Will Become More Autonomous

When everyone understands why an idea is important to the practice, they can develop their own ways of explaining the reasoning behind protocol to clients and their own strategies to achieve them. They'll start going beyond just following protocol to making independent decisions that align with your mission statement.

3. Your Team Will Become More Engaged

Everyone feels more engaged when they know exactly what's expected of them and how well they're meeting those expectations. Feeling personally responsible for your team's success and seeing how you're performing is a great motivator. You'll really start to notice the difference in your team's mindset as you share progress toward your targets.

Last year at my practices, we set targets for fecals as a measure of how we were doing with preventive care services overall. Each day at rounds we totaled the number from the previous day and used a picture of a dog to represent our progress, coloring more each day. Then, the techs and customer services team compared how many clients they signed up that day. By holding one another to account, the teams pulled themselves together to achieve medically significant results that helped our patients, clients, and business.

Getting Started

Depending on how open with your team you are now, full transparency can feel like a daunting task. It's an ongoing process that requires your investment to reap the benefits:

  • Before you start, review your existing objectives against your mission statement, and update or remove those that don't fit.
  • Make sure they are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely, so that you can measure your progress.
  • Present the targets to your team, listen to their feedback, and work it into what you're trying to achieve.
  • Commit to a timeline to report on progress with daily reports for a monthly total, monthly reports for new clients, or quarterly profitability.
  • Make sure that you follow through on your commitments — now that you've opened up to your team, they'll notice if you stop.

Being transparent with your team will strengthen their bond with the practice and your clients, making them better advocates for the medicine that you want to provide.

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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.

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