Business is a balancing act of finding and firing clients. Veterinary practice is no different. Equine practitioners should be willing to “fire” clients who cause them stress. Practitioners should look for clients who fit their practice.
In this podcast, Kelly Zeytoonian, DVM, MBA, CERP, talks about dealing with problem clients and learning to pick and choose new clients. Zeytoonian is the owner of Starwood Equine Veterinary Service and Starwood Veterinary Consulting in California.
How Clients Cause Stress
There are many ways that clients can cause stress for equine practitioners. Those range from lack of respect for boundaries to expectations that vets can solve all problems.
“The bottom line is that we are a service industry,” said Zeytoonian. “But we find ourselves getting in trouble when we break down our boundaries.”
She said clients communicate with their vets day-in and day-out. “We get the feeling that we have to respond,” said Zeytoonian. “We feel guilt if we don’t respond and resentment if we do respond.”
She used the example of trying to deal with the vesicular stomatitis outbreak in California this year. “It’s throwing everyone for a loop because it’s show season,” she said. She noted that there are different regulations for different shows
Set Clients Up for Success
When asked how equine veterinarians can set clients up for success. Zeytoonian said, “You must have a client fee agreement that includes expectations for payment, care required for ER coverage, how to communicate with the clinic, and how we expect our team to be treated. Make them sign! The act of signing a physical agreement has been shown to solidify behavior expectations and formalize the relationship.”
Find Clients That Are a Match
We asked Zeytoonian how can veterinarians find clients who are the right match for their practices. She said, “Birds of a feather flock together! The best clients are usually from referrals. That also means less up-front time training clients.”
She advised that if practitioners only want to work with reiners, for example, that they should go to shows and become involved in that industry in their areas.
Which Clients Should You Fire?
“We do not have to be everything to everyone,” said Zeytoonian. “We do not have to accept all clients!”
Zeytoonian said veterinarians should use the 80/20 Rule (also known as the Pareto Principle). This can help when trying to determine which clients should no longer be served by your business. She said 20% of your clients cause the biggest problems. “Problem children are not where you are making your money,” she said.
She said to look at culling clients based on value or resources. “That might mean who is the front desk spending the most time talking to. And, are they worth the time?” explained Zeytoonian. Those clients who don’t keep up with general care or decline all work but expect results also might need to go. Those owners don’t match the values of your practice.
She also advised talking to your staff. They can give you an idea of which clients are not a fit for your practice.
You might consider firing clients who only call you for emergencies. You don’t get any regular work serving those clients. Other clients you might consider firing are those who live at the far end of your service area who don’t call you often.
How to Fire a Client
Zeytoonian offered tips for terminating a business relationship with clients. She said while you don’t want to leave clients “high and dry,” having some people as clients doesn’t make good business sense.
Listen to the podcast to get specific tips on how Zeytoonian’s practice handles this sometimes difficult and stressful time.
About Kelly Zeytoonian, DVM, MBA, CERP
Dr. Kelly Zeytoonian is the owner of Starwood Equine Veterinary Service and Starwood Veterinary Consulting. She earned her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in 2009. Zeytoonian is a member of the American Association of Equine Practitioners and is also on the Board of Directors of The Northern California Association of Equine Practitioners. She also obtained her Equine Rehabilitation Certificate Program (CERP) certification.
In 2013, Zeytoonian established Starwood Equine, an ambulatory practice, in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has since grown the business to include five doctors and two locations. As a veterinarian and practice owner, Zeytoonian experiences the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of both veterinary medicine and business ownership. In addition, as faculty at Foothill Community College, she contributes to the future of the veterinary field by educating RVT candidates.
In an effort to support her practice’s growth without compromising the culture of work-life balance that was its cornerstone, Zeytoonian earned a Masters in Business Administration from the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler School of Business in 2020. Now, she uses her combined experience in veterinary medicine and business administration to empower veterinarians to create and maintain a career and practice culture tailored to their individual needs. She has been privileged to collaborate with industry partners and veterinary thought leaders to advance the business acumen of veterinarians.
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