8 Essential Skills of a Great Practice Manager
Being a practice manager isn’t easy. You’re not only responsible for the day-to-day running of a veterinary practice, but you’re also required to be the face of calm and reason in high-stress situations. Which, of course, can arise at any moment.
Every day your role could include operations, managing staff and inventory, finance, client service and communications, generating new business, and managing patient records. Or, all of the above. And these are just a handful among many other possible responsibilities, depending on the size and specialty of your practice.
The ability to multi-task is essential. As is a calm demeanor and the ability to relate to, and empathize with, a wide range of people and personalities – not to mention your patients. But there are several other factors to consider when weighing what makes a practice manager great.
If you’re currently a practice manager – or are looking to become one – here are eight essential skills that will help you be the best one you can be.
While some people are natural-born leaders, for others it takes time and hands-on experience to hone the skill. You need to be able to manage up and influence stakeholders above you, but you also need to be able to direct the team that reports to you and delegate effectively to share the workload among them.
Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts. However, finding common ground in the shared mission of improving animal health can be a great place to start and build on. If you show passion and enthusiasm and keep your team’s focus on the common goal, this is something everyone can get behind.
Empathy is essential for any good leader. Not only will it help ease the hearts and minds of clients with anxious or suffering pets, but it can also help you better understand and manage your team. This will give them more confidence in you as a leader.
Empathy will help you know your team’s motivations and where they’re coming from, and read between the lines to understand what’s at the heart of any situation. Being able to relate to each team member and know how they work will also allow you to more effectively help them upskill, perform better in their roles, and solve any issues they may be having.
In a busy veterinary practice, being able to communicate effectively with staff, suppliers and clients is critical to the efficient running of the operation. Good, clear communication between the practice manager and staff will also build trust and lead to better relationships within the team.
Also, practicing direct and open communication encourages collaboration, boosts motivation and enhances problem-solving opportunities, leading to a happier working environment. Having a base of strong communication skills also plays a positive role with every other responsibility and relationship you have and contributes to your overall effectiveness as a practice manager.
No matter how good the care that you provide for your patients, without proactive marketing your veterinary practice cannot grow or maintain a healthy business. Practice managers have a huge part to play in retaining loyal clients and attracting new ones. So in addition to all the other responsibilities, great practice managers must also know to make your practice stand out in the local community, manage the website and social media, send appointment reminders, and take care of follow-ups.
If you’re running marketing for your practice there are a number of key factors to consider, and making sure your marketing is effective can take up a large chunk of your time. The good news is there are software solutions in the market designed specifically for veterinary practices, which can help make your marketing a lot more seamless.
VetStreet is one tool that provides integrated marketing services that helps your practice deliver highly personal, relevant and timely communications. It offers everything from appointment reminders to thank you emails, surveys, text messages, and postcards – even links to online social media sites like Facebook.
5. Financial smarts
Practice managers are often expected to manage the financial operations of a veterinary practice, so having a knack for numbers will come in handy. Financial responsibilities can include anything from budgeting, pricing and profit margins, to finding opportunities for cost-savings and identifying sources of lost revenue.
Being tech-savvy will help in this area. Software solutions built specifically for the veterinary industry help improve the accuracy and efficiency of finance-related tasks, as well as saving time on analysis and reporting. ImproMed veterinary software, for example, has made it incredibly easy to track practice finances and stay on top of inventory management at the same time.
6. Organization and time management
As you can tell – or maybe experienced first-hand – a practice manager’s day is busy with a variety of important tasks. To do your job well you need to effectively manage your time and responsibilities across a range of demands.
This includes the ability to establish clear timelines and priorities, manage and implement change initiatives in the practice, compartmentalize tasks, and delegate effectively. Being able to identify inefficiencies in practice protocols and procedures that limit productivity and create barriers to teamwork is also an incredibly valuable skill set. As is the ability to make recommendations to streamline or eradicate everyday productivity-killing tasks.
Again, you may find that certain procedures can be streamlined with the implementation of dedicated practice management software. Covetrus offers scalable software solutions for every kind of practice – small and large animal, mobile, equine, multi- or single-location, and more. Check out ImproMed, AVImark, and eVetPractice to see how each can uniquely boost your ability to streamline operations, create seamless workflows and increase staff efficiencies.
7. People skills
While many are drawn to the veterinary profession out of their love of animals, it’s worth remembering that all pets come with a human family. You need to be able to relate to people just as well as you do their pets.
Again, some people are more naturally inclined to work well with others. Even if you are more introverted it’s worth taking the effort to connect with your clients on a deeper level. You’ll also find that your team will follow your example – so make sure to set a good one.
Creating a personable experience for your clients can also be incredibly beneficial for your practice. This idea is supported by a statistic showing that 86% of customers will repurchase from a company where they’ve had a great experience.
So, if you take care of your customers, show empathy in your interactions with them, and take the time to connect at a human level, your clients will feel more welcomed and be much more likely to remain loyal to your practice.
Finally, a great practice manager always displays diplomacy. Not everything is going to go smoothly. High-pressure patient situations, high client expectations, staff tension and stressed interpersonal relationships all contribute to potential problems in your practice.
A great practice manager can stay calm and collected in the face of any high-tension situation and find a way to resolve the issue at hand – while juggling all their other responsibilities. Being able to stay level headed when tensions run high will help you manage difficult situations more effectively and bring the focus back to what’s important – looking after your clients, patients, and team.
Bringing it all together
There’s no denying that veterinary practice managers have a lot to deal with on a day-to-day basis to ensure the smooth running of the clinic, and keep both clients and staff happy. Luckily great practice managers don’t have to go it alone. Download the 8 essential skills infographic or find out how practice management software from Covetrus can help you and your team succeed.