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3 Tips to Transform Your Practice Culture

Updated: Feb 11

Here’s a cold, hard truth for you: your veterinary practice simply cannot achieve sustainable success without a strong, positive culture. Think about it. When your team is happy and engaged, they are more pleasant to be around. They’re also more productive and their uplifting attitudes make clients want to keep coming back. Conversely, if your employees are miserable, that will affect service levels, which will ultimately impact your bottom line.

If your practice culture isn’t where it should be, the good news is, it’s not too late to turn things around. Here are a few tips from our practice growth experts on how to create and nurture a healthy, compassionate and cohesive workplace.

Start With Yourself and Other Practice Leaders

If you’ve noticed tension or friction amongst your team lately, the first place to look is directly at management. Simply put, it starts at the top. Everything you and the other leaders in your practice do can and will affect the rest of your staff.

Some of the common causes of negative behaviors that can be tied back to management include:

  1. Lack of structure (e.g. policies, procedures, discipline);

  2. Lack of clear expectations;

  3. Poor communication;

  4. Absence of core values;

  5. Lack of investment from leadership.

Take an honest look at how your practice is being run. If you recognize any of the above issues, consider doing the following:

Develop a mission, a vision and a set of core values. These are the fundamental beliefs of your practice that set the tone for how everyone approaches their duties. We strongly recommend involving the entire team in the process of defining these critical beliefs.

Set and adhere to clear expectations. Every employee should know exactly what is expected of them at all times. There should be no ambiguity. They should also know what types of behaviors and attitudes will and will not be tolerated. Once these expectations are set, management should act swiftly to address any deviations.

Show your team that you genuinely care. A person who knows they are appreciated will work exponentially harder than someone who feels unheard. Make sure your employees know their feedback is always welcome and be sure to truly listen when they do come to you. Take care of your team and they will pay you back with better performance as a result.

Prevent, acknowledge and address compassion fatigue and burnout.

Our industry is unique in many ways, particularly in terms of how emotionally involved team members will become with clients and their pets. One only needs to look at the statistics of mental distress in the veterinary field to realize that compassion fatigue is a very real concern. Wishing it didn’t exist or brushing it under the rug when it inevitably occurs will only serve to cripple your team and lead to further problems down the road.

To prevent and manage these common issues in your practice, start by educating your employees and learning how to recognize the signs. Encourage your team to come to you or other leaders and ask for help when they are struggling. Be understanding when they do. Promote a healthy work/life balance. (Here are a few more tips for how to manage and overcome burnout and compassion fatigue in your practice.)

Don’t Put Off Difficult Conversations

Confronting a problem employee may not be easy, but it’s absolutely imperative if you are to achieve a positive, healthy practice culture. In many cases, it’s truly the one bad apple that manages to spoil the bunch, and if you’re not careful and proactive about it, you could end up losing one or more of your best employees due to lack of action on your part.

As a practice owner or practice manager, you have an obligation to step in and address issues when they occur. In some cases, you will be able to curb bad behavior or turn around a poor attitude. In others, understand and be prepared that you may need to cut ties for the betterment of the rest of the team. If there are multiple offenders, you may need to act as a mediator and hone up on your conflict resolution skills. Whatever the case, it’s essential that you always act in the best interest of your team as a whole.


The culture of your practice can make or break your ongoing success. By taking the three simple steps listed above, you can effectively transform the atmosphere of your workplace into one where your employees will thrive. And as a result, your client acquisition and retention numbers will soar.

Our Advice on Transform Your Veterinary Practice Culture in 2024

Why is a strong, positive culture essential for the sustainable success of a veterinary practice?

A strong, positive culture is essential for the sustainable success of a veterinary practice as it fosters a supportive and motivated work environment. This increases employee satisfaction, reduces turnover, and improves team cohesion. Engaged and happy staff are more productive, provide better patient care, and create a welcoming atmosphere for clients. A positive culture also attracts top talent and loyal clients, enhancing the practice's reputation. It encourages continuous improvement and innovation, which is crucial for adapting to industry changes and maintaining long-term success. A positive culture is the backbone of a thriving veterinary practice.

How can defining a mission, vision, and core values influence a veterinary practice's environment?

Defining a mission, vision, and core values is pivotal in shaping a veterinary practice's environment. These elements establish a clear purpose and direction, guiding decision-making and actions. They create a unified framework that aligns the team's efforts, fostering a sense of belonging and purpose. Core values serve as the ethical compass of the practice, influencing how staff interact with each other, clients, and patients. This clarity helps attract and retain staff who share these values, promoting a cohesive and positive work culture. Ultimately, these foundational principles significantly impact client satisfaction and the practice's overall success.

Why is setting and adhering to clear expectations important for every employee?

Setting and adhering to clear expectations is crucial for every employee in veterinary practice as it ensures everyone understands their roles and responsibilities. This clarity eliminates confusion, increases efficiency, and enhances teamwork. Clear expectations provide a framework for performance evaluation, enabling employees to meet and exceed standards. It fosters a sense of accountability and professionalism, leading to consistent, high-quality patient care and customer service. Moreover, it aids in conflict resolution and maintains a harmonious work environment, as employees know what is expected of them and can work towards common goals effectively.

Why is addressing difficult conversations with problem employees crucial for a healthy practice culture?

Addressing difficult conversations with problem employees is crucial for a healthy practice culture as it directly impacts team dynamics and morale. Unaddressed issues can lead to a toxic work environment, lower productivity, and decreased staff satisfaction. Tackling these conversations, head-on demonstrates strong leadership and commitment to maintaining a respectful, professional workplace. It provides an opportunity for growth and improvement, both for the individual and the team. Addressing problems promptly prevents them from escalating and affecting the overall function and reputation of the practice. This proactive approach ensures a supportive, positive, and efficient work culture for delivering high-quality veterinary care.

How can transforming the practice culture positively affect client acquisition and retention?

Transforming the practice culture into a positive and cohesive environment can significantly enhance client acquisition and retention in veterinary practice. A positive culture improves staff morale and performance, providing higher-quality patient care and customer service. Satisfied clients are more likely to become loyal and recommend the practice to others, aiding in client acquisition. Happy and engaged employees are also more likely to create a welcoming and friendly atmosphere, which enhances the overall client experience. This positive client experience is crucial for retention, as clients are more likely to return to a practice where they feel their pets are well cared for and valued. In short, a positive practice culture directly translates to better client relationships and business growth.

Want more practice management tips and tricks? Bookmark the DVMelite blog and check back often for fresh, relevant content.

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