“The biggest mistake you can ever make is to think you work for anyone but yourself. From the time you take your first job until the day you retire, you are self-employed.” This is a quote from best-selling author and motivational speaker Brian Tracy in his book 21 Success Secrets of Self-Made Millionaires.
He recommends thinking of yourself as the CEO of your business. In our field, you’d be the CEO of your own service company. You’d be in charge of all facets of the practice: vet med services, financial health, career decisions, and personal relationships.
As the CEO, you have to accept full responsibility for all choices you make and all efforts undertaken. You may try this approach for a few months (or a lifetime). It just might give you a whole new outlook on your career.
In reality, you need to be more than “just” your own CEO. Below are the different positions you’d have to hold.
To be successful in your practice, you have to remain top of mind when a pet owner in your community seeks pet care. Whether you post a blog, design a website, or write a column in the local newspaper, you need to establish yourself as a trustworthy expert. This is your mission. It has nothing to do with having a big ego. It has to do with offering clients and pets the exceptional service they deserve and you can provide.
“Sell” is often seen as a 4-letter word, so it’s important to change your mindset. Everything in life has to do with “selling”: when you make a recommendation for a thrilling movie or a new restaurant, you are “selling” an idea or an opinion.
If you can’t sell your services, skills, and knowledge, how will you eat, raise kids, feed your pets, go on vacation, repay your loans, and hang up your stethoscope one day?
If the word selling is still unacceptable to you, then think of it as “promoting your services” instead.
Some gurus recommend that companies reinvest 3% of their income toward staff development. If your employer gives you an allowance for CE and you reinvest 3% of your salary on top of it, think of what this will do to your skills and knowledge. They will grow exponentially. You will become a much more valuable asset. This will translate into a better you, happier clients, healthier patients, higher income, and a more fulfilling career.
You need appropriate insurance coverage (including health and disability). And you need to save & invest for retirement. This means maxing out your IRA contributions and funding a 401(k) regularly.
Don’t forget to use every vacation day you’re offered! Vacations are good for your mind, body and soul. Although COVID threw a wrench in the whole concept, vacations allow you to meet new people, discover new horizons and explore new cultures. You will become a better version of yourself. Some of the best CEOs have their greatest ideas during their “off” time.
What is your monthly income-to-expense ratio? What is your debt-to-income ratio? Your CPA can help you with those calculations if needed.
You should scrutinize your banking and investment statements, and manage your debt. These are not incredibly thrilling activities, but they are critical to your financial wellbeing.
Research and Development
Is your current position your dream job? If not, consider what your ideal position is. What is the best compromise between location, benefits, housing costs, taxes, and other relevant factors (e.g. school district) in your life?
What skills and know-how can you get to become a more valuable employee? What new niche can you fill? What new knowledge can you acquire? What new service could you manage? Ultrasound? Dentistry? Behavior? Surgery? Derm?
Answering some of these questions will set you apart and you will not be a cookie-cutter commodity. Be different!
It may seem like an impossible goal in vet med, but you should strive for 100% client satisfaction. Your secret goal should be to receive a thank you note or a thank you gift from 10% of your clients. Not to flatter your ego (or your taste buds), but to objectively prove that you are doing a great job at exceeding clients’ expectations.
You’ve heard it a million times. The best CEOs are master visionaries. They make a dent in the world like Steve Jobs. They revolutionize the way we buy things like Jeff Bezos. They disrupt entire industries like Sir Richard Branson.
Even the CEO of a vet practice needs to be a visionary to define the mission, put a plan together and lead the team to success.
The best way to do this is not by locking yourself in an office. It is done by stepping away, by disconnecting, by taking a break from the madness, by recharging your batteries, by exposing your mind to new ideas, and by letting your mind explore new possibilities.
Why pretend you’re the CEO?
Isn’t all of this a bit futile? Isn’t it just playing mind games? Isn’t it a bit childish?
The differences between the mindset of an employee and an employer are well-known. Their perspectives are typically very different.
A practice owner is more conscious of the expenses required to manage a successful practice: payroll, benefits, inventory, equipment, and so much more.
That’s probably not a bad awareness, is it? By thinking of yourself as the CEO of You, Inc., you’ll be more likely to achieve professional nirvana. How about you try it for a month and see what happens?
Nobody has to know.
It’s mostly a mindset.
It can be our little secret.
Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS
Meredith Jones, DVM
Co-Founders of Veterinary Financial Summit
Are you ready to conquer your financial future? Be sure to join us in September for the VFS Virtual Conference. At the conclusion of the event, not only will you have a better understanding of your financial future, you will also have created your financial plan, and become part of a Community of like-minded Veterinarians supporting one another throughout the year.