It’s no secret that optimizing financial performance is a constant challenge for veterinary practice managers and owners. Running a veterinary practice is costly. Vet clinics and hospitals have significant overhead. Between the costs of retaining high quality employees, leasing and furnishing clinic space, maintaining sophisticated medical equipment, and the rising costs of everything from medical supplies to vaccinations, the cost of doing business can be pretty doggone steep.
Finding ways to reduce practice expenses and keep costs in check is critical to the success of your business and maintaining profitability. However, you don’t need to compromise care in order to keep expenses under control. It is possible to keep employees happy and provide superior patient care while reducing waste, making smart investments, and negotiating with your vendors. Here are some ways to reduce the cost of running your practice while maintaining top-quality care at your veterinary clinic.
Staffing costs are often our biggest expenses, and for good reason. Our veterinary staff are our businesses’ most valuable resource. It is important to invest in your people by offering competitive pay, benefits, and professional development opportunities. If you invest in your employees, they will contribute to the success of your business by providing superior client service and boosting team productivity. What’s more, employee turnover is expensive, and leads to numerous other inefficiencies. So, it’s well worth the investment to keep your staff satisfied and engaged.
But investing in your staff doesn’t mean you can’t cut staffing costs. You can find ways to lower your staffing costs without cutting corners on employee pay or benefits. Overtime is one way your staffing practices drive up costs. While it isn’t always avoidable, there are steps you can take to reduce the amount of overtime at your veterinary office. Take some time to review your staffing and scheduling practices. Are there times of the week, month, or year that tend to be busier than others? Chances are, there are opportunities to schedule smarter so that work can get done without necessitating overtime. You may want to have an extra person or two on the schedule during busier seasons and keep a lighter staff during less busy times to maximize efficiency. Smarter scheduling can help your team avoid duplication of efforts and burnout while providing better client service and a better employee experience.
At the same time, be aware that understaffing may seem like a money-saving tactic, but can actually cost you in the long run. Understaffing not only leads to poor patient outcomes but will also destroy employee morale and lead to attrition and turnover. When maximizing your clinic’s efficiency, it’s important to maintain sufficient staff or risk compromising patient care, driving away clients, and losing hardworking employees.
Cutting costs at your veterinary practice can feel overwhelming. It is an objective more easily achieved together with the help of your entire team. Be transparent with your staff about your goals to reduce waste and curb unnecessary costs. Make everyone aware of the biggest sources of waste and steps they can take to help improve efficiency. If the entire team can take ownership of a shared set of goals, you’ll be much more likely to succeed. Your staff may even have better ideas about how to improve your clinic’s operations to cut down on waste and unnecessary expenses while still offering exceptional care to your patients. Whenever possible, encourage and reward this type of initiative.
Inventory is another source of potential waste at your veterinary practice. You don’t want to risk running out of necessary supplies or a product your patient needs, but you also don’t want product to expire, or spend years taking up space on your shelf. Take control of your inventory costs with the following tips:
- Take stock of your inventory at regular intervals
- Make sure you’re getting the best price on everything from medicine to bandages to office supplies
- Use practice management software to track which products you go through most often and how frequently you need to restock
- Keep track of each product’s lifecycle, or how long it takes to empty and replace a box, bottle, or case of supply
- Delegate inventory management to a specific member of your team
- Consider using an online pharmacy, which will allow you to earn revenue from online sales without having to stock the products in-house.
Consider a GPO
Veterinary group purchasing organizations (GPOs) can help you save money on drugs, medical supplies, and other items you use at your clinic. By purchasing large volumes of veterinary supplies, GPOs are able to negotiate significant discounts from manufacturers. A GPO can help you save on all kinds of supplies, but you’ll likely see the biggest savings on items you order in large quantities.
Investing in the right equipment can help your practice run better. On one hand, it’s important to shop around when purchasing equipment to make sure you get the best price and to avoid paying for features you don’t need. At the same time, however, paying a little more for high-quality equipment, especially for tools and machines you’ll use most frequently, can save you costly repairs and too-frequent replacements, not to mention the cost of delaying or rescheduling patient care because you don’t have the equipment you need.
When considering a new purchase for your practice, do some research and take advantage of promotions and special offers.
Tech vendors and marketing costs
Cutting your marketing budget altogether is another “money-saving” strategy that will only cost your veterinary business more in the long run. Rather than freezing your marketing efforts, you can use data to spend your money wisely and make the most of your marketing budget. You can be smart about how you allocate your marketing dollars by analyzing what’s working for you and what’s not. The key to any successful marketing strategy is measurability. Businesses who cannot measure the effectiveness of their various marketing tactics waste millions of dollars every year. Find out which channels and campaigns are generating new business and which ones are falling flat. Then, use those insights to make informed decisions about where to invest more resources and where you can stop the waste.
At the same time, you may find overlap among different marketing tools or technology vendors. Could your virtual scheduling, patient portal, and electronic billing all be provided by the same software? Are you paying different agencies to do your social media, website management, and print advertising? If you work with multiple vendors who offer similar services, you may be able to save money by consolidating those services with a single provider. No matter how many vendors or subscription services you choose to work with, review your contracts with them regularly (at least annually) and compare prices with other providers. You may find another, more agile company who can offer the same service at a better price. The software as a service (SaaS) market is highly competitive and rapidly evolving, so you may be able to get a better deal and even a better system by doing a little research. And, while negotiating on price can be uncomfortable, most agencies would rather adjust their pricing than risk losing a valuable client.
Fixed costs like office space can be difficult to bring down, but there are some steps you can take to keep them in check. If you have a lease, review your contract to see if there are places where you can negotiate. For example, you may be able to secure a cap on annual rent increases to prevent your costs from skyrocketing in the future. Similarly, an “option to extend” provision in your lease can allow you to renew your agreement under the same terms to protect you from escalations in rental costs. If operating costs are included in your lease agreement, find out what is included in those costs, and be sure you are not paying for unreasonable expenses such as real estate broker commissions or building repairs.
Of course, the best strategy can benefit from increasing revenue while also keeping expenses in check. Review your pricing structure. You might choose to implement bundled pricing so as to boost your revenue while offering clients a discount on multiple services sold as a package. When discussing pricing with your clients (who are also wary of rising costs of veterinary care), emphasize the value of various veterinary services. It is important to note that regular check-ups, routine vaccinations, and other relatively low-cost services are designed to help prevent more costly (and painful) conditions and procedures in the future. No-show clients can be a major source of waste and lost revenue, so you might want to implement measures to cut down on missed appointments.
Build your brand, nurture a positive workplace culture, and focus on providing exceptional customer service. Combined with the above methods of reducing your business costs, these strategies will help your veterinary practice thrive.