The Future of Independent Veterinary Practices Episode 9, With Dr. Brad Miller

The Future of Independent Veterinary Practices With Dr. Brad Miller

 

Welcome to the Future of Independent Veterinary Practices - Episode 9, Featuring Dr. Brad Miller

 

Thank you so much for taking some time out of your day and coming back and joining us here on the show, The Future of Veterinary Practices. Today, we have an incredible veterinary practice owner joining the program. So, I'm excited to introduce you to Dr. Brad Miller. Dr. Miller attended Texas A&M University, where he obtained his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, graduating cum laude honors in 1991. He's a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Georgia Veterinary Medicine Association, American Animal Hospital Association, and Gwinnett County Veterinary Medical Association.

 

Dr. Miller is the medical director and a founding member of Georgia Veterinary Associates, which you can find online at mygavet.com, which is a group of four privately-owned animal hospitals in the metro Atlanta area that was established in 2002.


 

 

To start off Dr. Miller, one of the first things that I'm asking everybody on this season of the program is it's been such a crazy year. We've been in lockdown for so long. What are you most looking forward to once COVID is completely over and we can just go back to business as usual?

 

I think the ultimate answer is I am sick and tired of wearing a mask. I mean, when I walk out of surgery on a normal day, I'm so used to pulling my mask down and just taking a deep breath. It's really taxing and tiring. We got a long way to get there. I know. I really want class back in the rooms, back in the hospital. I want to go to live sporting events, to concerts. I want to travel. So, all of those things I'm really, really missing, but I'm sick of that darn mask.

 

So, another one I think really important question, and this has been an important topic of conversation really in the veterinary perspective profession, especially for years. But particularly with this last year's COVID lockdowns, the crazy political climate that sectarian friends and family apart, a lot of stresses and changes turbulent time, what have you been doing to protect your mental health?

Several things. I mean, I'm trying to stay as healthy all around as I can. So, pretty easy to kind of come off your dietary plan during the early days of COVID when we were really stressed. So, I am trying to eat well, trying to exercise. One of my favorite things to do is to get away and go to a local park for an hour to an hour and a half. Go for a run or walk, a hike, just get out and kind of enjoy nature and kind of decompress.

So, that's a big thing for me, but I guess also we've all had a crazy year, but I've really tried to step back and not only realize myself that I'm not perfect in practice or really in any way, but also that my staff, my associates know that as well because most of us do tend to have ourselves in this industry to a pretty high standard. And I think that's fine to have that standard. But I think you also have to realize that you are going to have some failures when you have aspirations that high.

During a lot of my consultations, which I do a lot of orthopedics here, so we're doing some big procedures and I tend to always in the conversation with, we're going to work as a team together, you, me and your pet, and we all have the same common goal of getting your pet back to as close to 100% normal as possible. So, we all have to put the effort forward. And I truly believe that just try to be really open and honest and real with people, let them see who you are. And most of our class will accept the fact that we are really humans and we're not perfect. So, that just seems to kind of help a lot with my conversations.

 

What about also in our conversations leading up to this a bit of talking about minimizing news and social media time, how have you been doing that? Share that a little bit.

Well, so I will preface it by saying when all of this went down and we were having the task force news conferences at 5:30 to 6:00 start time, I was all over, man. I was glued to the computer screen. I was taking notes. I knew every day, what the changes were compared to the last.

Since then, I have really kind of taken the opposite viewpoint. I do want to know what's going on. I tend to listen to a lot of talk radio when I'm coming to work or leaving work. That's really enough for me.

I don't want to get into the sensationalized news stories. I'm not really into social media that much. That's just not my mode of operation. I want people to be happy, yes, I care about their lives, but I don't even get deeply embedded into their lives. So, I want to know what's going on. But a little dab will do you.

 

I'd love to shift direction a little bit and really kind of dive into trends in the veterinary industry, the types of things that are pressures, the independent practices are feeling now, and just kind of get your take on some of this. So, let's start by talking about consolidation. Honestly, I mean, this is truly an existential threat to independent veterinary care. And we're talking a lot about how the conversations that need to be had are do we want independent veterinary care in this country 10 and 20 years from now? Because if we do, I think that people need to start really paying attention to how quickly so many quality practices are disappearing and getting snapped up and what is this going to look like. So, from your perspective, and you're still plugged in, you're a VMG member, you're plugged into an amazing group of colleagues there. You're active in the industry. I see every time I ever go to a show or anything, I mean, you're all over the place and staying connected. Why do you think that practice owners ... What are the driving forces first of all behind price owner selling right now?

Well, I guess, first of all, I think the further we go down the road, the fewer practices are available for sale. I do believe the typical person or group is going to sell to a consolidator is either at the age of retirement or they are just tired and stressed out and they're ready to get out of the industry.

Maybe they're tired because they can't hire associates when they need associates. Maybe they had to go back into the exam room when they were owning and not even practicing. Maybe it's HR issues, maybe they don't know how to market. All these little things which there are solutions out there and available. But some independent veterinary practitioners just don't know that those resources exist.

On the other hand, a lot of practitioners over the past five years have thought we were at the high point in the market where the consolidators have bought most of the practices they were going to buy. And we're about to burst the bubble. And so, we need to go ahead and take that high multiple in cash and while we can. I truly don't think that's ever going to happen. If you have a successful practice and you're continuing to grow, and you're watching your P's and Q's, then you should always be very, very much on the radar for these consolidators.

So, that's kind of the way I look at it. I want to practice as long as I can. As long as mentally and physically I can practice, I want to own my own practice. I want to be the owner. I want to reap the rewards of all of my efforts. Why in the world would I bring my practice to the successful place that it is, and the minute I get there, turn around and sell it to a corporate consolidator who ... I mean, the bottom line is that they cannot do this without us. The one thing they have to have is veterinarians.

They can develop HR strategies. They can hire accountants, CFO, CEOs, all the different O's they can hire, but they've got to have veterinarians that work for them. So, I would definitely encourage everybody, if you're burnt out, if you're stressed out, take a step back, try to get some relief, try to hire another veterinarian, try to tap into some other resources.

And if you still feel like you would really like to be the owner of your practice, then that's what you should do. Because the trends are typical if you are not at the age of retirement and you sell to corporate, on average, within two to three years, you're going to typically regret your decision to do that.

 

I love that you're talking about practice ownership. Because really, being a business owner and owning a business aren't always the same things. So, many people who own a business, own a job for themselves and they work hard at that job. They work in the business constantly and really hard. But a business owner really works more on the business and can step back and isn't the person who has to do all the things day to day. They're the person with the vision or the person who's directing it and absorbing those rewards from it. And just not enough practice owners are running it that way.

Yeah. Do you own the business or does the business own you? And so, when the business owns you and you start getting tapped on the shoulder from your drug reps to say, "Hey, I've got this group coming into town next week and they want to take you out and they want to talk to you, I want to do this, that and the other." Sometimes it looks like an easy way out. But ultimately, just think about what is your endgame? If you're ready to be done, this is a great way to be done. If you're not, then again, lots of resources out there.

I get offers on a weekly basis to go somewhere to a retreat with a consolidator or somebody is coming in the Atlanta area. "Do you want to go, Dr. Miller?" And, "Oh, hey, dr so-and-so called me," and I tend to decline most of those offers because they, they being most consolidators, are very good at what they do when they are trying to recruit you into their organization.

And the grass often looks greener on the other side. So, I'm just kind of cautious. I can buy my own meals typically. And if I want to go bird hunting, I'll go find a place to go bird hunting by myself. I'd rather do that than with a bunch of guys I don't really know. So, I don't know, that's just kind of me. I tend to be a little bit more my own little world at times. But I just don't like to be tempted with situations that I think are not the right situation for me.

 

Well, you've certainly seen a number of your colleagues that have sold their practices and done them in different ways there. I mean, there are as many models for both the consolidators as well as different models, not just taking the big offer, but some alternative exit strategies that I'm sure that you've seen some of those play out. Is there anything in particular that you think that not enough people if they are looking to sell that maybe they're not exploring enough and they probably should?

Well, so there is that blended model where you can retain some ownership. Ten years ago, that model didn't exist because the consolidators were limited in number. And they went around and scooped up most of the practices that were mature, multi-doctor practices that were profitable, and the owners were looking to retire.

 

So, since that pool of clinics is not out there, I feel like the consolidators have gotten very creative and realized that once again, you've got to have a veterinarian to run a veterinary practice. And what's better than having an associate veterinarian on board as having an owner on board who has some stake in the game.

So, what is at stake? Everybody has a little different model, everybody has a little different promise. Historically, if you were bought out, then you would be promised a medical director position or a regional medical director position. And he would get 3% of a small percent for all of your hard efforts.

And so, it's changing for sure. And I predict more change. that might be a more viable option if you're sick of the headaches that you're dealing with and you don't want to find those solutions on your own and you want to cash in some of your chips, then yeah, maybe you go with more of a partial sale and you retain some ownership, the workout, what you do, what you don't do, what you are and are not responsible for.

But again, I guess, I like being the owner, I'm controlling enough, and I really don't want to have to answer to someone other than my partner, my business partner, at this point. I don't really feel like that's where I'm at in my career, maybe it'll change but certainly not anytime soon.

 

Something I'm wondering, and you've come back to it a couple of times now, and talking about people finding ways to hand off and get the help that they need for the different things. What in your experience did you find that when and whether it's recruited somebody outside consultants or service or someone or new position that you're hired for or both that allowed you to take enough off your plate that you still knew was running well, maybe even better, and you could do it on your own because you're so busy, and that you're now owning it the way that fits the owner's vision?

Probably one of them, not one of, the biggest factor for me was actually joining VMG. It has surrounded me with some awesome colleagues, who are just wonderful resources for anything, whether it's a personal issue or it's a numbers issue. So, that kind of instantly put me in a circle of friends and colleagues who I really feel like I could call a point during the day if I had a problem or concern.

VMG is awesome. And then in joining that group as well, it kind of forces you to get your numbers in order. So, now, my accounting, which really was just kind of in another office on the other side of the building with a bookkeeper, sometimes the accountant will show up, didn't really know what those numbers were good or accurate. And so, I think getting these accurate numbers really kind of helps me to have a handle on the business.

GeniusVets, I really struggled with bringing GeniusVets on as our marketing experts to take care of some things. And I will share, I was spending $30 a month for four clinics for my website. And retrospectively, it looked like I was spending maybe $28 a month when I really look back at the way the website performed and they looked. So, we committed to bringing you guys on and have never looked back. I've been super happy with that decision.

 

One thing, since you mentioned it, one thing I will point out, if you don't mind me saying, I actually did look back before today, a little bit before this. And I look back to when we right before we launched your website. And the month before we launched our website, you had 826 visits to your old website that month. And right now for last month, you had a little over 11,000 visitors to your website. And are just really, that used to show up in Google search results only if somebody typed in your practice name. And now it's just like, somebody asked a question about veterinary care if they're in your area, your site is showing up.

Yeah. No, it's awesome. It is one of those things you get what you pay for. The more mature I get in my lifetime, I definitely start to realize that you tend to get what you pay for in life.

 

So, what are the things though, in the practice, did you find certain pain points where you were maybe skeptical to build up a position? Is one of the hardest things in growing any business really, is making those decisions, where you're going to hire up and you're going to invest in a department and really build it out to take something off your plate that you hadn't done before. What are the big ones that you think your colleagues should be looking at?

Yeah, I mean, we have an excellent culture here. And it's very difficult to define culture because it's the people and it's the feeling. It's just the way you do things, as to why do you do what you do. And so, we have always been open to the fact that if the right candidate for whatever position we may or may not be looking for walks through the door, we will hire them on the spot. If they have the right attitude, if we feel like they are "a good fit," then we will open our arms and we will welcome them to the team.

So, we have many, many credential technicians. We actually, at the very beginning of 2020, put them on salary, which we can do in Georgia because they are credentialed. And my practice manager and I had discussions and we weighed the pros and the cons, and we decided, you know what, they deserve it. Let's give them a little more ownership of what they do.

They do an awesome job for us. And we had that discussion with every technician and let them choose whether they wanted to or not, which they all chose to. And it just really brought the team together.

And so now, we have this awesome technical staff. And also whenever we bring in whether it's an assistant or a new technician, we realize that they are here to help us. They are not here to take away our job or make us look bad. They are here to join our team. And so, we kind of have that mentoring at the staff level versus just the associate veterinarian level going on, which has been awesome.

 

There’s a psychological difference for a team member to go from an hourly employee where you're a consistent contractor, really, and to being on salary, it's like this is my home, I'm here. It really is a deeper psychological difference and may a lot of times make a deeper difference there than it does in the ultimate bottom line, right?

Yeah. No, for sure. They know that they're going to get a steady paycheck. And they also know that if they work 44 hours one week, they are able to work 36 hours the next. Be fair to us and we will be fair to you. We have to all get along. And it's got to go both ways.

And so, that's been pretty huge. And I definitely look at our numbers every month. I mean, really two days before they're due, I'm in my finance manager's office asking her how close are you? How close are you to getting the numbers down? Where's my dashboard?

But the truth is, I really don't manage your practice on a budget. I hate a budget. But I like to look back and retrospectively see, are we doing the right thing? And if we're not, we'll kind of make an adjustment. But just putting these higher-paid technicians on salary, then I know what my monthly outlay is. I know that my labor is going to be good in that department for the entire year.

Also, we have discussions in January. So, it's really, really hard for our organization to know when everybody's anniversary is and sit down and have that conversation in that review. And so, this takes an entire group of employees. And I know, come January 1st, I need to review every one of them within the next couple of weeks. It's very helpful.

 

But let me ask you, with that change, first of all, when did you make that change?

The very beginning of January, pre-COVID.

 

I'm wondering if you started seeing a shift in your practice, about how much stuff the doctors were doing got shifted to vet techs once they came on a salary if there was a different way that you really view them as an organization and utilize them?

ell, yeah, well, I mean, we've done that from day one. I've always believed that a technician should be a technician, a doctor should be a doctor. And really the doctor, ultimately the doctor should be the authority, the expert on everything that tech is doing, but have the technician do it.

Correct the tech if they're not doing it exactly the way you think it should be done. If they question you why explain why. If you can't explain why then maybe they know a better way to do it than you.

So, work as that team. But absolutely, we don't really want our registered technicians doing laundry at the end of the day. We don't want them doing the hospital cleaning and maintenance unless it needs to be done and that's I expect them to do it if they're the best person to do it.

But day in and day out, they need to do their job. They need to take care of the patients. They need to take care of the clients. They need to educate the clients on why we recommend what we recommend.

Our technicians, I mean, do a great job with entering all of our charges and all of our notes. I mean, they make our life very, very easy. We're pretty spoiled here in more ways than one. But certainly, techs are a huge part of what we do, could not do it without them.

 

I can tell you, if every veterinary practice leaned in and did it like that, they would see percentage points added to their EBITDA, instantly. They're just, where did this come from? It came from organizing staff correctly, it's great. We've been talking about one of the best ways to really maximize the value of the practice and utilizing the staff correctly. But what are other ways that you think that practice owners could be maximizing the value of their practice and aren't currently doing so?

Well, so, yeah, I mean, it's all about the EBITDA, ultimately, to you as a current owner, to you as a potential seller, and to the aggregator that is looking at buying you. So, regardless of where you are in the stage of your thought process, it's all about the EBITDA. So, we know that labor needs to be 40%, maybe a little bit less, not a whole lot less because, in this day and age, we need to pay our employees fairly. My doctors get a daily email from a consolidator telling them how many jobs are in our area and trying to lure them to cross that fence.

And so, we want to be fair, but we still need to control that labor. One of the best ways to control that labor is to keep the revenue going up. So, cost of goods sold, we want that at 20% or less. We've been pretty fortunate during this past year to run around 15, 16% on our clinics. And the way I personally do that is I am on an accrual basis of accounting. So, it's not on the cash basis. We're not talking cash flow. We're talking cost of goods sold. So, the best way to get your cost of goods sold down is to buy them at the cheapest price you can.

So, a lot of people, in my opinion, are looking at the bill that comes in and maybe they over-ordered in February to account for not very much in January. And so, February's numbers look horrible. But if you're truly using the accrual method of accounting, you're taking your goods when you purchase them. you're putting them on your balance sheet as if it's a separate company. And then as you sell those goods, you're expensing them out.

So, what I'm saying is to take advantage of volume discounts, take advantage of your rebates. If you can order the extra product at the end of a certain time period to get a 15% rebate, and then if you can maybe stock up on that category of goods, and you've got the cash to do it, you've just lowered your cost of goods sold right off the bat.

So, I get a little bit passionate about that because I don't feel like ever ... And maybe I'm not the one that understands it. But that's the way I really see it. I think that's the best way to keep those goods down.

 

Yeah, that's really interesting, because a lot of people go in and say, "Well, you're holding too much inventory. That's a problem you got, too much inventory. You have too much your money is wrapped up in your inventory." And I really understand that when it's, I don't know how some practices are offering three, four different companies, versions of kind of the same drug and things like that, it's something Dr. Drake, my partner talks about a lot, is choose what you want, get everybody on board with, this is what we're going to offer. And so, clients are hearing the same thing, and then, one, you can get those discounts because you're buying more of just that. But it seems that that gets a little confusing. It's not just about lowering your inventory, you're actually stocking up your inventory to achieve. And with a different approach, and it makes all the sense in the world. It's brilliant.

Yeah, I think I'm doing the opposite of what a lot of us think we should be doing. We have very little inventory. We have six doctors in the practice. And when I walk by our pharmacy, I'm like, I cannot believe we're practicing with this limited pharmacy. But upstairs in a locked room, I've got a lot of inventory. And so, I think for us, it works, it makes our numbers look really, really good and be true to what they are.

 

For the benefit of whoever's watching, to be a little bit more tactical about that you talked about buying them almost as, I believe you said, as a separate corporation and putting them there, and then moving them. And it sounds like you actually physically have them in a separate. So, are you buying them under a separate company and then kind of like selling them to yourself? Are you just buying them and putting them upstairs in a cabinet and then moving into the balance sheet of the veterinary practice as you move the inventory over?

Yeah, we had done that historically to supply the four clinics. We did create a separate inventory company that became kind of a logistical nightmare and didn't really benefit us. And so, now our main hospital acts as that company. And we buy things, we get a discount. So, we're just doing it more internally. It is separate, but again, it's a way to lower those costs of goods completely different than hospital supplies.

Now, hospital supplies are something that you don't want to stock up on. Because you usually can't get a great deal on your suture material, your walk goods, your bandage material.

But I guess to go back a little bit, my thoughts also on if you're really counting your inventory maybe twice a month to try to make sure that you're not having the shrinkage and make sure you're not over, think about what you're paying the person or persons to count that inventory. And if it's needed, it's needed. But if it's not, then move on counted as needed. So, everybody's got a little different opinion there.

We in our organization tend to be a little bit gray, a little bit loose on some of our thoughts and ideas, but it's ultimately because our staff understands our core values. They understand our mission statement. That is really their practice manager and if correction is needed or direction is needed, we point them to the core values and that's what governs.

 

Yeah, it's a great agile methodology that you have there. It's really common in tech companies, agencies, web dev teams, things like that. We approach things in an agile way. So, we understand really the spirit of what we're going for. We get as much nailed down as there's absolutely required, but everything else can be a little bit loose and ready to adapt based on all the changes that are coming at us because you just can't plan every darn little thing.

Which is a great differentiator between a corporately-owned practice than a privately-owned practice. I think that's one of the big differences. There's leeway appropriately. There is management. There is some structure, but there's no micromanagement.

 

Yeah. One other that you mentioned again in our discussions leading up to this was of the consultants and you listed a few of them, but what you didn't mention was the PEOs. Yeah, talk about how you got turned on to your PEO and what they've done for you because I know that lot of practices aren't utilizing a PEO. And we are at GeniusVets, we found it to be fantastic.

Yeah, we love it. So, professional employment organization, it's basically the way most hospital systems operate in that they have a governing organization, a PEO, that is really the employer of the employees. So, that's how we're set up.

I actually am employed by my PEO. That gives us some liability protection. We have some insurance that comes into place. We have some HR advisors there. There's a MyLife Advisor is a, I guess a place that they can go to. They being employees to get some help if they need some personal help.

So, there's a lot of really great things out there that they do for us and it takes some management responsibility off of us and takes some liability off of us. Our workman's comp insurance that whenever we are renewing that, it's not just our group of 65 people. It's a group of 465,000 people that determines our workman's comp. And so, it definitely helps with your costs, your employment costs, and yeah, I mean we love it. We love it.

 

Let's talk about something that's going on a lot. We chat about this leading up to this, is a lot of veterinary practices are feeling the pain they've grown that the last year has been good to veterinary medicine. Everybody went out and adopted a pet. A lot of practices were up year over year. And a lot of them with facing staffing problems that the industry got hit with really hard throughout this. Attracting doctors and staff long been an issue even more so now than ever. What are your tips?

Sure. What we don't do and I'll start with is we don't really advertise a lot. With that say, we have an ongoing ad out. If you are a veterinarian with certain skills that we list out and interested in joining our group, please contact us. So, we do have that ad out. But we don't pay for ads. We don't have a recruiter. We don't use a service. It's kind of like, what's the secret to the sauce. And the secret is there is no secret.

We feel like it's word of mouth. It is reputation in the community, involvement in the community, involvement at the vet school, taking on some externs, taking on some interns, working with our tech college to be kind of a source for mentoring there. But a lot of it boils down to the culture here and our staff will recruit for us unknowingly. Our clients will do the same.

It's kind of, in our area, we try to really be the premier practice in many, many different ways. And if we have somebody come through the hospital and interview for an associate position, we try to be very open and honest. And we let them know how awesome our clients are. We have a great team. We have a great facility. We have all these tools and toys to use. And you're going to love working here. You're going to learn so much from us and we're going to learn so much from you. It's going to be an awesome experience.

So, that's kind of the cheerleading that we do. But it's the real deal when they show up after they take the job, and they show up on day one, they don't get a different version of me or my staff. And then two years down the road, they're still getting the same version because we're very transparent. We love to take care of our patients, our clients, our community, each other. And it kind of shows.

 

Once you bring them in, what's your approach to your staff to helping develop them personally, professionally those aspects of your culture?

So, we are becoming a little more structured in our mentoring. But we have a discussion. We huddle every morning. We have rounds every morning. We talk about what's going on for that day or what's coming up in the future.

And so, backing up a little bit, if an interviewee is coming in, whether it's lay staff or a doctor, we're going to talk about what that looks like the day that they're coming in and what my expectations are. We're not going to ignore them. We're going to be open, honest. We're going to answer questions. We're going to really kind of show them what we're all about.

Once they get there, we're going to talk to the practice. We're going to really talk through with that new employee what's the game plan here. And they're all different. Sometimes they come in and they want to go into exam rooms right on day one. More often than not, they want more mentoring, they want more structure.

And so, we really just have an honest conversation, where are you at, what is your first month look like, what does it look like from our point of view, what do you think you need? And we come up with that plan together.

And then it's basically, see one, you watch me do a case. You and I are going to do a case together and I'm going to watch you do a case. And about four times, you're ready to go, so to speak.

So, we are becoming more structured. I just hired someone actually yesterday and he is going to be an awesome associate, but he has just not gotten experience in school with some of the practical matters like most. And so, we're going to really put some pen to paper and come up with a great plan for him.

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Need to establish a better culture within your veterinary practice? Check out our free Culture Workshop by DVM, The Drake Center Owner, and GeniusVets Co-Founder Michele Drake. 

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Yeah, it's funny. Last season, I was interviewing Dr. Peter Weinstein. I know you know Peter. And he said a great thing. He said, "So many of the vets in the SCVMA are actually worried about the number of resources they limit themselves and the number of resources that they want to put into training people because they say, 'Well, what if I give them all this training and they leave?'" And his response was fantastic. "Well, what if you don't train them and they stay?"

Yeah. No, that's true, that's true. We have to grow, yeah, from technicians to receptionists to associates, for sure. If we want them to be able to get up to speed, we have to put the time and effort into it for sure.

 

I'd love to hear your thoughts on what are the things that independent practices can do to kind of build a moat around their own local communities and make sure that they're really delivering in a way that these consolidated or corporate groups won't be able to.

Sure. Well, again we're going to go back to culture and I think being true to yourself. If you are the same day in and day out with your clients, with your staff, you have the same goals, you understand your why, I think that's a pretty big aspect of what we do. If you don't understand why you do something, yes, you need to know-how, you need to know what you need to do, but why do you do this? Why do we try to not let the phone ring more than three times?

And so, again we talk through these things pretty much everything that is done in my hospital, not pretty much, actually everything that's done in my hospital is done for a reason. And I will let staff know that more often than maybe I should. But it's all about the experience. It's about the patient experience, the client experience, the staff experience, your mental health, your paycheck. It is amazing at what goes into making a successful practice.

There's no way I could even think of 90%, 80% of what we need to do to be successful, but every little thing matters from the way the phone is answered to working in same-day appointments. "It's my pleasure to serve you" instead of "No problem." All of these little bitty things.

And we hear it, it's out in the industry, whether it's listening to Wendy Myers. She is awesome with CSRs. So, it's all these little things. But I do think it's about being true to yourself. It's having a happy staff, getting your patients well as quickly as you can, inform your clientele of what's going on, what the expectations are, keeps them happy.

We kind of started a new initiative on our podcast like a year ago, we have a little tagline called Healthy Pet, Happy Life and that's kind of what we think about. If we keep the pet healthy, we're going to have a happy life as a human. A healthy pet is going to have a happy life. We always just kind of focus on taking care of all these little working points.

And so, I think when you do that, you don't really have to work at or really you don't have to worry about your competition because your competition, you're your own competition so just do what you do well.

And you're going to attract those clients that you want and they're going to love you, you're going to love them. It's going to be a beautiful relationship. It's just there's nothing, in particular, I think that we do well, but I think we do a lot of little bitty things very well all put together and makes us successful.

 

A couple of the things that you said there that really, really stood out to me is one, knowing your why. And really, I think that's a massive differentiator for independent practices versus corporate groups because there just tends to be this once the ownership has left the practice and it's a corporate group, they just don't have that same rallying point of the why anymore. Everybody in the veterinary industry is good people. They're in it for good reasons and all of that, really. But you just don't quite get the same passion and that same connection that makes everything resonate authentically as when you really focus on your why. So, that's a huge thing, focusing on that. And you've said that a little ways time and time again here. What was that?

Yeah. Recently, I received something in the mail from a corporate consolidator. And it's actually a book on their why. And before I open the book, I know what their why is. That's why they bought a veterinary practice. They don't work in the practice. They don't take care of animals. They don't provide nursing care. They don't have the client interaction. But yet, we have an entire booklet that's produced that talks about for the love of people and animals or something along those lines, is there why. So, that really hit home. That is not their why.

I heard a very wise man say not too long ago when we're talking about corporate sales. His statement was, "You're going to make a lot more money owning a veterinary practice than you ever will selling a veterinary practice." And I truly believe that. If you can just retain ownership, let's say you're 20% EBITDA and it's a million-dollar practice. So, every year you're making $200,000.

And let's say, a corporate consolidator comes in and offers you maybe five times your earnings, which is a million dollars. So, if you do the math, with this particular practice, every five years, you made your million dollars that you would have made when you sold it, but you still own the practice.

And now your practice, hopefully, is doing 1.5 million or 2 million. So, that's definitely my mindset. I am fine to put in the sweat equity and the mental equity to achieve my goals. And my endgame, I don't even know what my endgame is, but it's certainly not to get out of medicine any time soon.

 

Well, Dr. Miller, everything that I thought the interview would be it has been. You're humble. You're very modest, but you are wicked smart and very successful. And for reasons that are very evident to me and all of the knowledge bombs you were dropping here today. In closing, is there anything that you would recommend that any of your colleagues who may be watching here today to reach out and do? You mentioned VMG. Anything else that you think that they should take some steps on if they really want to help themselves?

Well, yeah, I just think, get your house in order, whatever that means to each individual. If you are weak in marketing, consider giving GeniusVets a call. They may or may not be the right company for you to work with. If you're having trouble with your local CPA and getting your numbers right and your accounting right, there are resources in KSM, which works with VMG very tightly. There are resources out there.

So, find some colleagues that you can talk to, bounce some ideas off of, use as a consultant when you need to when you feel like you are at your wit's end. And that's a great thing to do.

But also, really believe in yourself and know what's in your head and what your true why is, I'll go back to that. That's super important because that's what keeps at least me coming to work every day, enjoying what I do. It's different every day, but I just love it. And whatever that is that's going to make you happy and how you need to get there, that's where we all need to be.

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Anybody wants to follow along with Dr. Miller and what their practice is doing, how they're connecting with people, and see for yourself what the things that are making them successful, check out their website, MyGAVet.com. And through there, you can check out their Facebook page and their Instagram account to see all the fun things that they're doing to connect with people.

If you're a veterinary practice owner, you might not realize, but it's true, you have a full-page profile featuring your practice right now at geniusvets.com. So, I sure hope we got all the information correct. You should go check it out. Go to geniusvets.com/start and there is a link in chat that you can go ahead and click.

There's a short video on there, a one-minute video to show you what it's all about. It's very easy to find your practice and claim your profile. It's 100% free. It's just one of the many ways here at GeniusVets that we're trying to really give back to independent veterinary practices across the country. So, check it out.

And join us next week. We are going to be having a huge event where all of the interviews that we have been conducting over the past several weeks, industry leaders, veterinary practice owners, we're going to tie them all together into a, I think that works out to be about a six-hour webinar, where every one of these questions is on April 9th, every one of these questions that we have been talking about for the past few weeks, we're going to edit all of these brilliant bits of wisdom together into individual sessions. And we're going to give out tons of prizes, it's very fun. To register for The Future of Independent Veterinary Practices full-day event, go here

 

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