The VHMA Files: Be a fly on the wall

Veterinary managers speak frankly about what they would like to say to practice owners.
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May 31, 2014


(GETTY IMAGES/OWEN LLOYD)
Candid conversations between practice managers and owners are hard—and rare. The VHMA designed and administered the No Baloney Survey to get to the heart of the unspoken issues that may affect working relationships.

The VHMA analyzed 513 responses from anonymous respondents—425 practice managers and 88 practice owners—and posed one key question: What would you like to say to your practice owner or manager but don't know how to? Respondents could select from 14 options or write in responses.

Owners: chew on this

Managers' No. 1 unspoken concern is equal treatment. Managers wanted practice owners to understand that when they fail to follow and enforce practice policies and procedures among all employees, they undermine their managers' effectiveness. About 40 percent of the manager respondents shared this concern.

Many managers also expressed worries that their practice owners don't value their contributions to the practice. Comments such as, "I feel unappreciated" and "You don't pay me enough" underscore the importance of positive reinforcement and active listening to maintain good owner and manager relationships.

Food for thought

Another key point: 28 percent of managers reported that they failed to share positive comments with owners,
saying, "I don't think I thank you, the practice owner, enough for all your support." Thirty-seven percent would like to say, "Thank you for creating an environment where I enjoy working."

Twenty-three percent of managers were concerned that the owner's commitment to the practice was weak. They expressed their frustration with comments like, "I feel this clinic is not that important to you," "You need to run the business as a business" and "Sometimes you are so uninvolved in the business it makes it difficult."

Despite some grumblings, overall the responses paint a favorable picture of the working relationship between managers and owners. Managers appreciate owners' efforts to create a positive work setting but would like owners to treat all team members in a consistent manner. Managers take their responsibilities seriously and believe that owners should exhibit the same commitment.

Next month, we'll share what practice owners would like to share with their managers.

Christine Shupe, CAE, is the executive director of the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association. The association is dedicated to serving professionals in veterinary management through education, certification and networking.