Be the Cow, and Watch Your Productivity Soar

by Mar 12, 2020Success

As a general rule, veterinarians tend to be perfectionists and have difficulty delegating.

Best-selling author and entrepreneur Darren Hardy has a perfect solution for us: “Be the cow.”

He explains: “Let’s say you’re a cow on a dairy farm. You are the one who makes the milk – well, sort of. Once the farmer gets the milk from you, now it has to be sent to be pasteurized and homogenized and fortified and packaged and distributed and marketed and sold. The revenue needs to be collected and accounted for.

So, in the success of a dairy farm, only 5% is the making of the milk. And as the cow, that is all you can and should do. The rest of the process, you have to leave to others’ expertise.”

So yes, you should “be the cow.”

Only do what you can do (5%), and delegate, outsource or eliminate everything else (95%).

Of course it’s easier said than done. How can we achieve this mysterious bovine nirvana?

Start with asking yourself these questions:

  • What can only you do?
  • What are you made to do? 
  • What is your “genius zone?” 
  • What do only you do that makes your practice successful?

Next, to figure out who you can delegate to, answer these questions:  

  • What tasks that you don’t truly have to do yourself could you delegate to existing team members?
  • Who do you need to hire to take additional tasks off your to-do list? Depending on your position in the practice, it can be a personal assistant, a part-time or full-time helper, an outside professional (CPA, bookkeeper, social media expert) or a virtual assistant.

Despite what we sometimes convince ourselves of, our team members often have more knowledge and experience with some tasks than we do. Examples include:

  • Comparing prices
  • Changing bandages
  • Drawing blood
  • Managing accounting
  • Taking X-rays
  • Updating the practice’s Facebook page 
  • Negotiating better prices with a vendor
  • Taking patient history
  • Filing business taxes
  • Placing an order with a supplier

Here is a 6-step crash course in delegation:  

  1. What tasks do you feel comfortable delegating? (hint: either you are not good at them or you don’t like performing them)
  2. Decide who can perform those tasks well (hint: if they can do them 90% as well as you, then give them up).
  3. Explain to each team member exactly how to perform each task well (hint: this step is critical. The better you equip them, the happier you will be in the end).
  4. Offer a realistic deadline to complete each task.
  5. Make sure you give each person the right tools and sufficient authority to make decisions to get the job done.
  6. Sit down with each team member and review what they’ve accomplished. Guide them and mentor them, so they can do it better, cheaper or faster next time.

If you’re secretly a micromanager, this is hard work. It’s a paradigm shift. But it’s also liberating, and therefore it is absolutely worth doing.

Ultimately, as a clinician, your main jobs are to diagnose and treat. Almost everything else can be delegated.

As a practice owner, a leader or a manager, things get fuzzy. Yet you need to force yourself to handle what only you should handle: the vision, the top goals for the practice or your team, the big picture, mentoring, supporting etc.

Again, this is not easy. Few people are capable of going from being everything to everybody, to being the cow overnight. So you may want to ease into this new mindset.

Conduct an experiment. Circle 3 tasks (only 3) on your to-do list that you could delegate. Apply the 6 steps described above. Then pat yourself on the back after you realize how much smarter it was to delegate those tasks.

Next, create a plan to delegate those 3 tasks forever.

Lastly, do the same with more tasks. Follow those steps, and you will slowly but surely become the cow.

Granted, narrowing down your role to just 5% might not be attainable depending on your position. And that’s OK. It’s the concept that matters: do what only you can do, and delegate the rest.

This is how your productivity will skyrocket. Just be the cow.

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS
Meredith Jones, DVM
Co-Founders of Veterinary Financial Summit