What’s on your “I should get to that” list?

When I hear about organization practices that will allow me to feel calmer, have more time, and magically evaporate all my stress, more often than not, it ends up on my “I should get to that” list despite my best intentions. Anyone else?

I’ve learned from experience that while the outcome may be what I desire, the messy middle is often more painful than I imagined. I sometimes choose to limp along with disorganized processes because it seems like too much effort to change them over. Putting off the potentially negative messy middle part of change is normal, but in owning a business, we need to kick this avoidance technique to the curb!

Let me ask you, how is your ‘I should get to that’ list looking these days? Have you taken time to review your company values and whether your business practices match them? Have you explored that new inventory system? Updated your will and insurance policies? Looked into what changes you’ll make in the fall? If you’re like me and you haven’t, please read on.

In our first podcast, Dr. Leann Kuebelbeck talked about setting up a haul-in only emergency service, and Dr. Daizie Labelle talked about an emergency only veterinarian in her area, and the challenges in implementing and sustaining both scenarios. If we can’t fully visualize the results of a new system if we’ve never experienced it, do we just shelve it saying that it’s simply too hard? Most workplaces run into challenges setting up new systems and challenging the status quo, saying, “It’ll never work in my practice because,” or, “My clients won’t stand for that,” or “My practice is different than that because,” or “I can’t even think about that right now because I’m too busy.” In fact, a whole area of project management is dedicated solely to change, and is closely intertwined with risk management and stakeholder management. Why is it important to make changes proactively?

We all know the adage that change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change. That old saying works really well except when something negative happens and piles on additional stress. 2020 has been an excellent example of putting strain on our systems. Any areas that are weak, poorly organized, or not streamlined have become infinitely more challenging during the pandemic. A personal injury in your practice, a family illness, the departure of a prized associate are all ways in which practices are similarly tested in non-pandemic times, and are predictably unpredictable in their timing.

So, how do we suss out the efficiencies that will help us most, visualize the paybacks realistically, and challenge limiting beliefs? Here are my top tips, pulled from the minds of people who epitomize efficiency and organization, as well as business and research practices:

  • Set aside dream then do time. I’m going to suggest something that every single smart and efficient seeming colleague I have has told me: set aside time each week to look at the “big picture things”. I’d suggest 2-3 hours every single week, probably during the middle of the week, after Monday morning’s madness has subsided, and before Friday’s urgency rolls around. Take time with a cup of coffee when you feel fresh, and look at where you’re at versus where your goals are. Similarly, you can also schedule in “Get it done” time to take action on these big picture items, which may be as important as dreaming big.
  • Phone a friend. Actively catch up with people who are further along the business journey than you. When you’re driving in your truck to the farthest reaches of your practice, call a friend who is also in business of some kind. Catch up, and ask them what they’ve found helps them most. What have they capitalized on recently to push their business forward? What tech was worth it?
  • Explore options for improvement. Similarly, when you’re driving around, make a call to companies you might have heard of and talk to them. Most companies love exploratory calls, and they love to share what their product can do. 20 mins on a call learning about a company is a great way to see if their values line up with yours, what they can offer, and whether it’s worth you knowing more. Maybe you’ll get a free trial, or access to resources you wouldn’t have by just cruising the website.
  • Weight the options scientifically. The old pro/con list is helpful, but can be pretty biased, and it’s hard to quantify “annoying to switch” vs. “will bring in extra revenue”. You can delegate office staff’s time to work on determining some key metrics to determine worth of a swap. For example, have your associates determine how much time they currently spend on billing. How much of that is after hours? How much time is spent ordering drugs each week? Toggl (www.toggl.com) is a free app that you can attach to any browser, phone etc, and monitor time spent on each project. Used universally by freelancers and consultants, it’s a great way to get reports with ease from staff on key time spenders. Decision matrices can also help (see here for more details). Finally, ask questions of your staff and clients whenever appropriate, but be aware that there may be inherent biases present that you will need to apply some levity to. For example, asking clients about pricing, or whether they would use a new service can be helpful, but may not always yield helpful responses.
  • Make a values based decision. You may also want to determine if the new process or decision aligns with the values of your staff and of your practice. If your practice says they really value being lifestyle friendly and your staff value that too, but night after night, your employees write medical records or stock trucks well into their evenings missing personal activities and family engagements, then there may be more of an impetus to make changes to decrease after hours billing time, and the change may be easier to make if the pain point is a pressure point for staff.

It’s still true that there may be a messy middle when implementing new efficiencies and techniques in our practices. It might be a pain and take some time to weigh up the worth, train our staff and clients, and get to the other side. However, veterinarians are excellent innovators, and we owe it to ourselves to take some time out to look at how to make life better for ourselves. Join me and the many other recovering equine vet procrastinators and do one thing today towards making 2021 more efficient.

– Dr. Melanie Barham, Host of The Better Equine Vet Practice

Business Infusions is producing the Better Equine Vet Practice limited series podcast because we want to engage in conversations with equine veterinarians; to better understand their problems, and to connect an inspiring group of practitioners who can share their learnings and successes in practice innovation.


If your equine veterinary practice needs help with increasing efficiency and productivity, please contact us for a free demo and free consultation of HVMS software.


“HVMS practice management software emerged from a practice that had been operating for over 50 years. The practice owner identified a fundamental need to compensate their veterinarians more appropriately for professional services, and capture missed and lost billings. One of the mantras of our Chairman and Founder is that the further the vet walks away in time and space from the patient and the owner, the more they are going to give up in time and billable hours that are really valuable to them. With this type of approach, we’ve built a product that creates efficiency and productivity in the practice and still allows the flexibility to practice in different ways.”


Scott Pickard, CEO of Business Infusions, owners of HVMS software.

About the Podcast

This Podcast is designed for any member of your Team and anyone who wants to improve their practice efficiency and have more time for the things they care about. All members of your veterinary team are personally invited! We will continue to notify you as a valued member of our HVMS family whenever a podcast comes out so you can be first to know. Share with your team, discuss at a staff meeting, or just listen wherever you are!


Interested in being a guest in an upcoming episode? Please contact us hvms@businessinfusions.com

About the Host

Dr. Melanie Barham is a veterinarian, FEI veterinary delegate, entrepreneur, digital marketer and university instructor. With a background in eventing and performance horse practice in the US and Canada, Dr Barham currently dedicates her career efforts to the Ontario Animal Health Network, Global Veterinary Career Summit and strategic business consulting.


Interested in being a guest in an upcoming episode? Please contact us hvms@businessinfusions.com

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