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Create SYSTEMS for more FREEDOM and FLOW

I was at one of my clients a few weeks ago.  This is a typical 4 doctor, Small Animal Veterinary practice.

They had a very difficult day the previous week which all could have been avoided if a system was in place, communicated to all and followed by all.

It was a typical 2 doctor day, with scheduled appointments, a few surgeries, discharges and a few non urgent “fit ins”. Then, as will happen in Veterinary Medicine, a “hit by car” emergency comes in and chaos erupts. There were doctors screaming at techs, techs not knowing what they should focus on, CSR’s upset, etc.

The problem all boiled down to one thing, No “emergency system” has been co-created, communicated and followed.

A system is simple a step-by-step plan to follow…..from A to Z.  For example:

Step 1—An Emergency system begins with the incoming call. The CSR takes the call, gets as much information as she can, asks the client how long it will take them to get to the hospital.

Step 2—Alert the team that a “hit by car” is coming in at 2:10 pm.

Step 3—This may be be a quick huddle with the team. Identify which doctor has the skill set and time in the schedule to handle the emergency, which techs can be available at 2:10 to assist.

Step 4—Who will watch for and greet the client in the parking lot? Will they need help getting the animal into the hospital?

Step 5—Continue with immediate next steps.

Can you see how this plan of action will eliminate confusion, identify “point people” and create efficiency, flow and an opportunity for the team to practice their best medicine for the patient?

What systems do you currently have in your business? Are they working? Do they need to be tweaked? Does a new system need to be created?

A great way to approach this and not be overwhelmed is to identify your “top toleration” in your business? What’s the thing that causes the most stress and frustration for the team? Is there a system in place to handle that top toleration?

If not, co-create a system with your team; discuss how to follow and what to do if certain members of the team choose not to follow it.

A system is only as good as those who follow it.

Good luck!


Six Critical Questions for Veterinary Leaders

In his book, The Advantage, Patrick Lencioni reveals the importance of alignment and clarity in any organization.

If Veterinary Practice Owners, managers and the leadership team can create a sense of alignment and clarity within their practices they are well on theory way to healthy organization.

Patrick discussed six critical questions that must be answered together, not in isolation, to achieve that level of clarity.

  1. Question #1 – Why do we exist? What is our Practice’s underlying reason for being? It’s core purpose?  Answer this question again and again to reach the final “why”.
  2. Question #2 – How do we behave? – This question can easily be answered through core values. Core values like integrity, respect, teamwork will easily define how the practice and the employees behave on a day to day basis.
  3. Question #3 – What do we do? This is the easiest question to answer. No need for flowery words, just a one-sentence description of what you do.
  4. Question #4 – How will we succeed? When leaders answer this question they are determining their strategy. Patrick recommends choosing three “Strategy anchors” that will inform every decision the organization makes.
  5. Question #5 – What is most important, Right now? – Every Veterinary Practice must have a top priority, that most important thing, at any given time.
  6. Question #6 – Who must do what? The leadership team must be clear on who does what. All must know and agree on what everyone does. Take the time to work through these questions and watch the positive changes happen in your practice.

*Reprinted from the book, “The Advantage” by Patrick Lencioni

Toxic Team Members

This month’s “Solutions For Success” question!


I’m an Associate in a wonderful practice. I love my clients, the quality of medicine we deliver and, for the most part, our team. But there are some members of our team who are very toxic. They come into work every day with a negative attitude. They complain and seem to place blame on everyone and everything but themselves. How do I deal with this behavior?


veterinary stressGreat question. We’re pleased that you have landed in a wonderful practice, with great clients and feel great about the quality of medicine you deliver. This is HUGE!

The TOXICITY; however, can really hamper all of the great things about your practice.

Here are a few ideas to handle toxic behavior:

  1. If you have a PRACTICE MANAGER, sit down with that person and share your concerns. Hopefully they will address the behaviors with the toxic employees and co-create a solution.
  2. If you don’t have a practice manager, sit down with the owners and share your similar concerns.
  3. If you’re in a situation where you have no support, you’ll have to choose how you respond and what you’re willing to tolerate. There is a Habit from Stephen Covey who wrote “The Seven Habits for Highly Effective People” which will be very helpful as you deal with toxicity.

His first habit is to be PROACTIVE not REACTIVE. What this means is: the toxic person can say or do whatever they want to us but we get to respond in a way that is proactive and healthy for us.

We can get angry, upset, let it ruin our day and or we can say, “he or she said this. How do I want to respond to that in a way that is healthy for me?” This is very empowering. You’re in control.

Good luck!

Building Your Client Base

VeterinarianTim submitted this month’s “Solutions For Success” question

Question this month:

I’m a new associate, entering my third year as a practicing veterinarian. I really enjoy my work! I’m told that I practice good medicine, that I’m thorough with my treatment plans,etc. but, for some reason, my clients will see me once but then request a follow-up with a different associate. What am I doing wrong?

Mike and Dean’s Answer:

First let me say kudos for practicing great medicine. This is wonderful. Our patients and clients deserve to receive great medical care and thorough treatment plans.

However, the “practicing great medicine and thorough treatment plans” are only half of the equation.

These are the “Hard Skills” you learned in Veterinary School. What you may need is some guidance on developing the “Soft Skills” side of your work.

The Soft Skills are: how we relate to people, how we connect, our listening skills, eye contact, etc.

There is a quote I love that says “What got you here, won’t get you there”.  You learned to be a doctor in veterinary school, now, your next step in your success, is to learn how to connect with people.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • When I enter the exam room, do I greet the client by name?
  • Do I make eye contact?
  • Am I friendly?
  • How is my tone of voice?
  • Do I ask about something that was said in a previous appointment, Ex “How was your trip to the West Coast?”
  • Do I smile?
  • Do I use language that is easy for the client to understand?

Try incorporating these tips and we know your success will grow.  Always remember “The client doesn’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

You can do this!

Dealing with a DIFFICULT Doctor

Alice submitted this month’s “Solutions For Success” question!


I’ve been a Veterinary Technician for almost 25 years and I LOVE my work! I can’t imagine doing anything else. I used to bounce out of bed smiling to go to work. Unfortunately, we have a new doctor who is horrible to the techs and receptionists. He yells, is demeaning to us, and he creates so much tension and negativity that I don’t enjoy coming to work anymore. What can I do!


veterinary tech frustratedLet me start by saying “Thank You” for your passion and dedication to the work you do in this wonderful industry of Veterinary Medicine. Your practice, the clients and their animals are lucky to have you.

Unfortunately though, we sometimes are faced with having to work with people who don’t share that same dedication and compassion.

Your first step may be to sit down with the owner and/or practice manager to discuss the impact that his behavior has on you and the team.

The second step is to take control of your response and daily communication with him.

He can do or say whatever he wants but you get to control your response. Choose to respond in a way that is healthy for you. Be proactive and not reactive.

You’ve probably heard the phrase “We teach people how to treat us”. The next time he yells at you, just calmly say. “I’d appreciate it if you didn’t yell at me”. If he’s demeaning to you say, “‘when you speak to me like that, this is how it makes me feel”.  Make him aware of his behavior!

You can do this!

Get Back on Track

Tom submitted this month’s “Solutions For Success” question!


I’m in my late 40’s and own a small, two-doctor animal practice. I love my work, but I’ve noticed over the last year that I feel as if I’m running on empty. I’m not as excited as I used to be about coming to work and I know that is noticed by my team and my clients.  How do I get back on track?


Vet relaxThanks for asking this question. I love that you “love” your work and are ready to get refocused. As you might imagine, we work with quite a few veterinarians facing your same challenge, particularly those like yourself who own a small practice.

Here’s the thing, there are only 24 hours in a day. As much as we’d like to, we can’t get any more hours in a day.  Rather than trying to manage your time, focus on managing your energy throughout the day.

There is a great book called “The Power of Full Engagement” by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz. In this book they describe “Energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of high performance”

Here are a few tips to manage your energy:

  • Start your day with a “slow entry”. Don’t plug into your cell, emails, social media, laptop for the first hour of the day. Take some quiet time instead to reflect on what you are grateful for in your life, do some easy stretching, etc.
  • I know it may be challenging in the day of a working veterinarian but take a 2 minute break every hour……stretch, step outside, breathe and refocus.
  • At the end of the day take a slow walk to relax and transition into the evening.

You can do this!

Take Care of You

Marie submitted this month’s “Solutions For Success” question

Question this month:37673781_s

I co-own a small, mixed animal practice and I’m trying to balance practicing as a doctor as well as running my business. I’m doing well in both areas but “taking care of me” is suffering. How do I continue to do all that I do and build in time for self-care?

Mike and Dean’s Answer:

Hello Marie,

I love this question! You should know that “self-care” is “top of mind” for many Veterinarians in your similar position.

We usually tell Veterinarians this: “If you don’t take care of you, you will eventually run out of steam.

When that happens you’ll be no good to your team, your patients, your clients etc.”

Here are 3 simple tips to focus on that will help you begin to “take care of you”

  1. Start to manage your energy, not your time – We are all trying to squeeze in more hours in the day to get it all done. The more effective tool is to focus on managing your energy as opposed to your time.  Sometimes, during a hectic day, you may just need a few minutes to breathe and collect your thoughts. Do the 2 plus 2 technique. Breathe in slowly through your nose for 2 and then breathe out through your mouth for 2…..repeat a few times.
  2. Start slow – If you perceive that you have no time to exercise, start slow. Take a daily 10 minute walk just to get your body moving. If you’re not eating well, rather than eliminating something from your diet, add something healthy.  For example: a piece of fruit each day, drink two glasses of water, eat a salad,etc.  As you begin to add more healthy foods to your diet, the unhealthy foods will go away.
  3. “Slow Entry” to the day – We start each day with 5 minutes of gratitude. Find a peaceful spot in the morning, quiet your mind and go through a mental list of all that you are grateful for……then, set an “intention” for your day. You get to decide how you want your day to be. You are in control.

What HAPPENS when you walk into a room?

IMG_0849This is a recent picture of Dr Dean Tyson and I leading a 3 hour workshop at UPenn Vet School.

We’re facilitating a year long “Barth Communication Excellence Series” designed to give the students the tools and training to enhance their “Soft Skills”, now called “Essential Skills”, needed to be successful in their lives and their future work in the Veterinary Industry.

This learning focuses on the concept of Emotional Intelligence. EI a powerful tool that drives your success and happiness. The first component of EI is Self-Awareness.

We saw a great question recently that really pinpoints this concept: The question was “What HAPPENS when you walk into a room?” The answer to this question can be very eye opening.  Do you bring a negative energy into a space? Do you intimidate others? Are they empowered when they see you?

Understanding ourselves is the first step to understanding others and improving our effective communication skills. How we relate to clients, our team members, and essentially everyone in our lives can be improved by understanding and developing our own self-awareness.

Enhancing our self-awareness begins the journey to achieving higher emotional intelligence. We simply must be aware of our own emotions before we can manage them effectively. Self-awareness of our emotions also helps us to empathize, so we can better understand what others are experiencing. Take time to look in the mirror every morning before you walk out the door and checking how you will appear before others. SELF AWARENESS IS THE PATH TO YOUR HIGHEST POTENTIAL. It will not only make you a better doctor, technician, or receptionist, but it will make you a better everything!

Think about self-awareness like this: you know how you feel when you’re anxious to get somewhere but you’re stuck in a conversation with someone else — your mind becomes focused on the getting out the door instead of how to tactfully wrap things up with your colleague. Being aware of this anxiety and redirecting your attention from where you are trying to go to the conversation right in front of you will build respect and trust.

The more you know of yourself, the more you will know of others.

Steps to Prepare You for a Successful Outcome

This Month’s question:Vetinary Staff With Dog And Cat In Surgery

I’m the new Associate at a wonderful, small animal practice. One of our Technicians is an experienced, credentialed Veterinary Technician with 25 years of experience. She is very capable, very talented, sees herself as indispensable. The clients love her, however, she is a bully to me, the new associate. She is short, abrasive and demeaning to me in the treatment area in front of co-workers, however, in front of clients and the practice owner, she is passive and dismissive. How do I handle this?

Mike and Dean’s Answer:

Thanks for reaching out to ask this question. You should know that this is a common problem in the Veterinary Industry. New Associates are typically paired with very experienced technicians who can be a bit abrasive, short etc.

Here’s how we would recommend dealing with this. It’s time for you to have a “tough talk” with her.

Here are the 6 easy steps to prepare you for a successful outcome.

  1. Prepare – Really think through the outcome that you want. Create your “talking Points” to help you stay on track during the talk and see yourself being confident and successful
  2. Documentation – Rather than just telling her that she’s demeaning and short with you, give her concrete examples as to when she has demonstrated this behavior.
    For example: if you and she are in the exam room with an owner and her dog, you recommend a treatment option and the technician rolls her eyes and disagrees with you as the doctor.
  3. Be polite and powerful – Stand in your power, but do it from a polite, straightforward place
  4. Stay calm – It could get loud and escalate but as long as you stay calm and focused, you’ll be in control of the situation
  5. Keep business goals in mind – Help her understand how her attitude and actions can affect the business
  6. Practice, Practice, Practice – It’s great to walk through this to a point where you feel powerful, confident and ready to have the conversation

As an additional side note, make sure you choose a quiet location and time to have this talk.

You can do this!

How to Improve Communication with my Team

IMG_1012Tom submitted this month’s “Solutions For Success” question

This month’s question:

I’m struggling with how to improve my communication with my team. I seem to take one step forward and two back!

Mike and Dean’s Answer:

Hello Tom,

Great question! You should know that “communication” is the top challenge in any Veterinary Practice. How do I communicate effectively with my team, with my clients, stakeholders, etc.

Here are 3 simple tips to focus on that will help you manage step into a more effective place of communicating with your team

  1. Use Powerful Words – Be careful about the words you choose. They can lift people up and empower them or, instantly, bring them down. Two of the most important words in a Veterinary Practice are “THANK YOU”. Start making it a regular practice to say Thank You.
  2. Listen – Listening is a powerful gift you can give to another person. Most people listen with the intent to reply. Start listening with the intent to understand. This is called “Empathic” listening. It’s a deep, seeking to understand form of listening. No judgement….just seek to understand.
  3. Compassionate Communication – Show them that you care. When communicating be fully present, non-judgmental, authentic. There is a great quote by Zig Ziglar “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”.