Guiding and Growing Your Veterinary Business with Your Mission, Values, and Culture
By Michele Drake, DVM, Chief Veterinary Officer, GeniusVets; Owner, The Drake Center for Veterinary Care
Your practice’s mission, values, and culture are connected to the core beliefs of the practice owner. Key staff members, such as your practice manager and your marketing specialist, will need to understand, demonstrate, and adhere to these standards as they run your business and model behavior to other staff. Your mission, values, and brand need to come from the top, and they need to be reinforced as daily guiding principles in your veterinary practice.
Let’s explore why it’s so vital to carefully consider, identify, and communicate your practice’s mission, values, and culture.
Identify Your Mission Statement as Early as You Can
Most practices have some form of a mission statement. But even if you’ve taken the time to write this down at some point, you also need to revisit it, checking to ensure that you include the values and culture of your practice. As practice owners, we need to take the time to know our mission, our culture, and our values, and to share them with our employees in the practice in order to make a statement about who we are. Then, we need to consistently ensure that all of our client and potential client interactions are guided by those values.
When I was 27, I bought my first practice, and I remember inviting my three employees over to my house. We sat down together, and we created the mission statement of my practice. Have you taken the time to decide who you are as a practice, and if so, have you included your key people and employees in the practice?
I built my mission statement within the first year that I owned The Drake Center for Veterinary Care. Every single decision I've made since then is directed by the purpose of that mission statement. And I make sure my employees understand this.
Who Should Know and Understand Your Mission and Values?
It is incredibly important to actually take the time to write your mission statement down, to post it in the practice, to share it with your employees, and additionally to include the values and the culture of your practice.
Whether you’ve taken the time to write your mission statement or not, the question you need to ask yourself is:
Do you actually live the mission statement in your practice, and is the mission statement clearly understood by your employees?
As the owner and leader of the practice, you're either going to decide what your mission, culture, and values are, or they're going to “randomly” appear. For example, in many clinics, there are cultures, including staff cliques or unresolved misunderstandings, within the practice that the owner is not really comfortable with - or flat-out dislikes. However, if you experience this, you may not be sure how to get those cultures and staff members back in alignment with your mission. This hard work comes from the top: the practice owner, with the support of the practice manager and team leads, must demonstrate your culture, continually train employees, and feel confident in hiring and firing decisions related to the core values. Every day at the practice presents an opportunity to align your cultures with what it is that you truly believe is the core of your practice.
To maintain alignment, it is vital that every single one of your employees understands your core values and purpose.
The Benefits of Clear Mission, Culture, and Values
My mission statement has remained the same for the last 25 years. It's very important to have a clear mission, a clear culture, and clear values in order to be a successful practice. Having a clear mission, culture, and values really makes it a happy place to work and makes your employees feel comfortable knowing what they're doing every day when they come into your practice.
Once you have your mission, culture, and values established in your practice, everything becomes easier. Your staff will find purpose in their job descriptions and daily tasks. They’ll comprehend the professional expectations as they interact with each other, use the equipment in your hospital, and follow treatment procedures. And, perhaps most importantly, they’ll know what it means to provide patient treatment and client service to your standards of quality.
Strong Mission Equals Strong Brand
Obviously, your mission, values, and culture must inform your branding and marketing as well. Once you know who you are as a practice, it's really easy to put it out there and connect with your current and potential customers.
In addition, a mission- and culture-informed brand will guide you through nearly all the decisions you make. All of the hiring, firing, employee retention, and client retention come down to having a really strong brand: you know who you are and what you stand for, and this branding helps you attract and retain people who align with you.
A great marketing strategy starts with strong mission, culture, and values. For every startup, in every part of your business, it's important to have these.
“MVC IRL” - or Mission, Values, and Culture in Real Life
In all of my travels with GeniusVets, we’ve done a lot of speaking, and we've actually been in quite a few practices where some of them asked us to come in and help them with their culture and their mission and values.
The practice culture is very clear as soon as you walk into a hospital. I think most people would be able to feel this. Consider these scenes:
- You walk into a hospital where you expected a strictly professional atmosphere, but someone working the front desk is dressed in biker shorts.
- Or, you walk in, and you can actually feel the tension between the front staff and the back staff; they simply don't get along. They have two separate cultures going on, and maybe the doctors even have a third culture. They not well aligned, and it doesn't feel good to be in that place.
- Or, what if you notice uncollected trash, dirty windows, and outdated signage before you even enter the building?
I think most of us know when we enter a business and we get that feeling, but imagine you’re a pet owner who finds these scenarios!
Your clients will feel welcome and confident if they can see your company culture clearly, and in tangible ways. You can remedy some of the above culture conflicts with tactics like:
- A written dress code (that employees sign off upon receiving).
- Regular meetings, cross-training, and mediation among your teams, as needed.
- Accountability for cleanliness, order, and first impressions.
It's so much easier to get your employees aligned when they understand who you are and where you're headed - plus your clients will understand exactly who they’ve chosen to trust with their pets, medical care. Everyone wins when you know who you are and what you want to accomplish!
You can learn more about identifying and communicating your veterinary practice mission, values, and culture - along with other vital business and marketing strategies - at the GeniusVets Academy. Enroll today at https://academy.geniusvets.com/.