What Would Shawn Do? When to Hire More Staff


We have a 24-hour hospital that has grown tremendously recently, and we have been hiring new staff just to keep up with that growth. We have been seeing weekly revenue of $80,000 and know we could easily generate $100,000 per week.

We want to ensure that we not just adding bodies and look more closely at the level of reception and technician support we need to generate that level of revenue. Do you have a framework that you use to ensure that you are keeping staffing under control during rapid growth periods?


Great question! Generally speaking, you allocate 20% of production for technician and customer service representative (CSR) wages: 12% for techs; and 3% for CSRs, leaving 5% for benefits. A typical DVM generates $600K in revenue. That would mean $120K goes to tech and CSR support, or approximately 2 techs and .75 CSRs per DVM.

What Would Shawn Do? Hire an Associate Veterinarian Who Will Stick


Our practice is expanding, apuppy&vetnd we need to hire another veterinarian. We’ve had trouble in the past with high turnover. Associates interview well but turn out to be lacking in important ways. For example, one talked down to the staff to the point that staff members were regularly leaving in tears. Another gave away the farm because she didn’t feel comfortable charging full price for products and services. What are some surefire ways to identify a quality doctor?


As you’ve experienced, a quality doctor is more than someone who practices good medicine. Your ideal candidate must also be able to relate exceptionally well to clients and team members. Here are three things you can do to find those people.

Ask behavior-based interview questions.

This kind of question helps the candidate talk about real, past behavior rather than theoretical, future behavior. Examples:
  • Identify a specific client type you find challenging. What makes this type of person challenging? Tell me about a time you dealt with this type of client in the past. How did you handle it? What was the outcome?
  • Talk about an interaction with a client in the past few months that went badly. Why did it go badly? How would you approach it differently if you had it to do over?
  • One of our core values is honesty. Tell us about a time when you were honest in your last position, even though it was difficult for you to do so.
  • Think about the biggest challenge you’ve had with staff. What did you do to overcome it?

Conduct thorough interviews.

Ask the same questions of each candidate, and keep good notes. Conduct a phone interview first, then a face-to-face group interview with the leadership team, then a team interview (where the person doesn’t really work but observes the team at work while the team interacts with the candidate).

Check references.

Finally, thoroughly check references. Ask the same questions about each candidate, and be sure to cover on-the-job behavior.

Good luck!


If you have a question you’d like Shawn to answer in a future issue of our newsletter, please reply to this email or submit the question via our website on our contact form. (We will maintain your anonymity.) Thank you!

What Would Shawn Do? How to Hold Meetings that Matter


My staff lets out a collective, resigned sigh when they hear the word “meeting.” I don’t blame them. Our clinic meetings are either time wasters or a platform for ranting. How can we make them count?


The common thread in all good meetings is ACTION. Here are the basics: meeting
  1. Meet only if necessary. Meetings aren’t the place to socialize. Avoid a gathering if the same information can be covered in a memo, email, or brief report.
  2. All meetings must have clear objectives. Outline the specific results you aim to achieve.
  3. All meetings must have an agenda. Organize the objectives so as to keep the meeting on track. Assign presenters and allot times for each topic.
  4. Watch the clock. Start on time. Don’t run over. Limit after-hour meetings.
  5. Circulate information about the meeting to everyone beforehand. Include the objectives, agenda, time, date, location, background information, and required preparation. This will make it easy for everyone to participate actively and meaningfully.
  6. Be a role model for good communication! Protect the self-esteem of participants by stopping any public criticism. Let everyone have a chance to speak, and facilitate skillfully so that one person doesn’t grandstand. Don’t use group pressure to force decisions.
  7. Take notes. Record assignments and decisions. Circulate the notes to everyone afterward.
Holding a meeting doesn’t have to be a major production. A 15-minute meeting can be highly productive if you focus on the issue at hand and concentrate on reaching a workable solution. Meetings are a powerful way to figure out — together — how to do something better.
Good luck!


If you have a question you’d like Shawn to answer in a future issue of our newsletter, please reply to this email or submit the question via our website on our contact form. (We will maintain your anonymity.) Thank you!

Your Team Has Talent!

If you find yourself repeatedly criticizing and judging your employees’ nonproductive behaviors, STOP! Put those same people in different roles, where they can do what they do best.

Identify Your Team’s Talents

Before deciding which role is right for each employee, you’ll need to understand the difference between talent, knowledge, skills, and a strengths.

A talent is a pattern of thoughts, feelings, or behavior that a person does well without thinking about it. Examples are instantly converting pounds to kilograms or effortlessly making small talk with every client.

Knowledge is what an employee knows in a factual way. Examples are the specifications of different types of computers, the physical signs of a disease, or the features of an ultrasound machine.

Skill is the ability to perform the fundamental steps of a process or procedure, such as a tooth extraction or collecting a client’s payment and entering the sale in the computer.

Strength is the ability to perform a task in a consistent, near-perfect way. It takes practice to turn a skill into a strength.To identify an employee’s talents, ask these questions:

  • What part of your job is most satisfying to you?stretching
  • Given a choice, how would you spend your time here?
  • List five characteristics that describe you.
After observing the employee hard at work, ask yourself:
  • Where does the employee focus her efforts?
  • When is she most productive?
  • When does she seem happiest?

Fit the Person to the Role

After getting to know your employees better, you will be able to put them in the right roles and give them the right projects. Write down which talents, knowledge, and skills are required for each role or project you have available. Then match up the employee to the role.

For example, you need someone to call clients whose pets are more than two months overdue for their annual exams. The goal is to set appointments. Which talents, knowledge, and skills are required for the role? You need someone who:
  • Easily converses with people (talent)
  • Knows all of the reasons why a dog or cat should have an annual exam (knowledge)
  • Enjoys talking on the phone (talent)
  • Is persuasive (talent)
  • Can schedule appointments in the practice management software (skill)

Two employees are available for this project. Beth has a knack with people, is familiar with the practice management software, has worked as a technician, and loves the challenge of turning a “No” into a “Yes!” Mark is a manager who is skilled at organizing and jumps at the chance to improve the day-to-day operations of the clinic. He is a computer whiz who loves process. Mark is a nice guy but doesn’t have any sales experience or much people know-how.

Who is the better fit for the role? Assigning this project to Beth makes more sense. It’s inherently easy for her to talk to clients in a way that will lead them to the desired action. She has the knowledge based on her background as a technician, and she is skilled at using the practice management software. Mark may be enthusiastic and able to learn on the fly, but his talents don’t lend themselves to this project. Don’t set him (and yourself, and the practice) up for failure by putting him in a role he isn’t suited for!

Employees who are able to showcase their talents at work are engaged and happy. Put your team’s talents to work in the right roles, and watch as productivity and profit increase and turnover decreases.



This article is adapted from content in Shawn McVey’s presentation titled, “Turn Talent into Performance.” To schedule Shawn to give this presentation to your group or team, contact Cindy Oliphant at 888-759-7191 or by email.

What Would Shawn Do? The Basics of Giving Good Phone


Our receptionists seem so curt when they answer the phone. I think they’re turning away prospective clients! How can I train them to do better?


phoneYour clients and prospective clients expect excellent service at all times. To meet the challenge, create protocols and use scripts. Have each person practice the scripts to improve tone, inflection, pitch, pace, and volume. Here’s a start:
  1. Always answer within three rings.
  2. Smile as you pick up the phone. State the name of the hospital and your name. Offer assistance. “Thank you for calling _____________ Animal Hospital. This is Tracy. How may I help you?”
  3. Affirm the person has made the right choice by calling the practice. “I can help you with that.” Or, “I’m sorry to hear your dog is not feeling well. I would be happy to assist you.”
  4. Obtain contact information. “Have you been to our hospital before? May I quickly get some contact information from you? Thank you, Mr./Mrs. _________.”
  5. Analyze the client’s needs. When necessary, triage. Ask two to four brief questions to get enough information to proceed, such as, “How old and what breed is your pet?” “How long has this been going on?” “How is he responding to you?”
  6. Make the appointment. “How soon can you bring Fluffy in?” Or, “I have an available appointment at (option 1) or (option 2)? What time works best for you?”
  7. Finally, confirm the appointment. “Great, I have you and Fluffy confirmed for Monday, December 12th at 6:30 PM. You will receive a confirmation email within 10 minutes. If you have any questions between now and then, give us a call.”
  8. If it’s necessary to put someone on a BRIEF hold, ask, “May I put you on a brief hold?”
  9. If it’s necessary to take a message, let the caller know when they can expect a return phone call and from whom.
  10. End the call. Repeat any actions that still need to be taken, ask if you can do anything else for the caller, and thank them!
Good luck!