By Rebecca MacMillan BVetMed MRCVS
In the veterinary profession, we work hard and expect to be fairly compensated for this. Some practices are better than others at reviewing their employees pay regularly, others need a little nudge. This article explores some of the steps you can take to boost your salary.
Increase your value
If you are wanting to negotiate a pay-rise then you must be able to justify this against your revenue-generating ability. You should be charging five times your annual salary to cover your pay. This ‘gross turnover’ will be divided between
- Fixed overheads like the building (rent, mortgage, maintenance)
- Bills (water, electric)
- Stock (drugs, consumables)
- Business profit
Only a fifth of what you generate will go on your salary. So, to take home more yourself, you will need to generate more!
We have all been guilty at times of not charging completely for our work. Being in a fast-paced and compassionate industry can lead to errors or shaving bits off the bill. Whilst this is a good trait for being a caring vet, we potentially risk undervaluing ourselves and our team members in the process.
There are several ways you can improve your cash-generating ability within the practice and thus your salary as a vet:
1. Ensure you are pricing up correctly
Missed fees or not charging appropriately for your professional time can add up. A nail clip of £14, missed twice a week over a year could equal £1680 of lost turnover! Now imagine all the other bits as well, surgical times that haven’t been fully charged, the odd missed hospitalisation fee or not charging for that ear clean again…
Making sure you’re correctly charging for your time and skills is the first step to earning more, and you don’t even have to do any extra work!
2. Work up cases fully
Not every client will go for the ‘gold standard’ treatment but by offering it to everyone fairly, rather than making assumptions about the owner’s circumstances, you will be more likely to encourage better workups. This also benefits our patients who will be receiving a higher standard of care.
3. Know your computer system
Make sure you are logged in under your name when pricing up so that the work gets recorded against you and not somebody else. Also, ensure you know how to find items on the system and price up procedures appropriately. Ask for additional training if you are struggling.
The computer system is also the way you can find out how much money you are making for the practice – it should be possible to obtain your gross turnover figure.
4. Look for opportunities
Discuss things like dental treatment more fully with clients so that they can understand the benefits for their pet, offer fine needle aspirates for all lumps as appropriate and pick up cases of arthritis early on, implementing care regimes for them.
Again, doing this means our patients are receiving a better standard of care, and it generates us more revenue. This is more effective than just pushing more worming tablets!
Negotiating a pay-rise
Having your financial figures ready when you have a pay-rise discussion with your employer will help. You should also make a note of other things that you might do for the practice—drumming up new clients through social media or speaking on the local radio may not directly generate income but are still important.
It would be ideal to have frequent performance reviews with your employer so that you can have regular discussions about your salary, key performance indicators and goals you should be aiming for.
You could try and improve your knowledge and skills base by studying for additional qualifications. Post graduate certificates are one way of doing this, with certificates available in a variety of subjects. Be aware, however, that having a certificate will not automatically allow you to command a higher salary- but using your new skills to generate more income and better workups will.
Even attending CPD, that allows you to confidently ultrasound, take dental x-rays, or operate on more patients will all make you a more valuable asset to the team.
Onswitch and the VDS both run training programmes to help with things like consultation skills and communication which can help improve confidence when delivering messages to your clients. For building up your skills with remote learning, check out the Vet Service’s vet webinar platform.
Unfortunately, it is sometimes the case that your employer is resistant to your request for a pay rise. If you feel that you are being undervalued for your work, then the only way forward may be to look elsewhere.
In the current climate, vets are in high demand with many practices are struggling to recruit. You might therefore find it easier to negotiate a higher salary when discussing your package with a new employer than with your existing one.
Being offered a partnership opportunity can seem like a good way to progress your career forward and reap some of the benefits of the business you are helping to build. However, it is not without extra work and stress on top of your normal day job.
In cooperate groups, Joint Venture Partnerships are a way of being able to start your own business with help. Again, there will be many years of hard work and stress before you can reap the rewards of dividends, especially if you buy into a brand-new practice with start-up costs and a new client base to find. But for some individuals, the satisfaction of running their own practice is the reward, and any additional salary is a bonus later down the line.
Life outside of practice
Some vets consider life outside of clinical practice and there are an array of different careers out there that you could do with your degree. Check out the Vets: Stay, Go Diversify website for some inspiration. Locum working may allow for you to try two jobs at once, with some people teaching as well as keeping a hand in general practice, so it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
Whilst it is not in a vet’s nature to view work as a business (after all, we spent years training to primarily help and heal animals, not to sell!), this is one area where many of us may need to change our mindset.
By ensuring we charge appropriately and work our cases up fully, we give our patients a greater standard of care as well as increasing our value. Investing in your knowledge and skills will also help, as well as having the confidence to have regular performance reviews with your employer.