The Heart of Veterinary Medicine

(Manifesto)

The veterinary world talks a lot about financial wellbeing, but what can a practice manager actually do about it?

Independent practices face an uncomfortable truth heading into 2023.

Burnout is high and employee morale is low.

It’s harder than even to compete with consolidators for experienced clinicians.

And it’s shocking how much time managers actually spend recruiting and training inexperienced personnel.

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However, veterinary managers do have a secret weapon in the battle to attract, retain and motivate talent…

…something far more relevant (and cost-effective) than 401(k) matches and underutilized wellness programs.

I’ve seen first hand the power of targeted financial coaching as a fringe benefit for veterinary practices.

Specifically, one-on-one student loan coaching in the workplace.

Student loan debt is the elephant in the veterinary exam room…
…a beast so large that it’s tempting for a practice manager to think, “that’s not my problem.”

That would be a big mistake (especially in 2022).

In general, student loan debt is the root cause of financial stress for both Associates and non-DVM staff…

…and financial stress is what leads to chronic job hopping and employee turnover.

Independent practice managers do have the agility to outflank corporate consolidators by offering student loan coaching to all employees that need (and want) the help…

…and so many do.

December 31, 2022 marks the end of an unprecedented, 34-month pandemic relief period of suspended federal student loan payments.

The ‘repayment restart’ is just around the corner and your staff is looking for guidance.

…but most veterinary professionals can’t afford a professional advisor.

And busy clinicians are too distracted to navigate free online forums for answers.

Your people want a clear action plan for restarting loan payments.

Let me show you the real data that made me a believer.

My name is Mike Sabatino, CFP.

I’ve worked with corporations large and small to build workplace financial coaching programs for thousands of employees…

…including a best-in-class veterinary hospital offering concierge level client services.

This practice seemed on the surface like it should be a dream come true for the employees.

The hospital owner cared deeply about her staff and prioritized people over profits.

Wages and benefits were highly competitive, including generous CE and opportunities for career advancement.

So it might be surprising to learn that roughly 20% of the staff voluntarily exited the practice each year.

That meant the manager’s typical day was consumed by resume screens, interviews and training inexperienced new hires.
The tangible cost of replacing each employee was at least $10,000…

…but that was just the tip of the iceberg.

The hidden cost in terms of lost productivity and knowledge was hard to put a price on.

So what was the deeper issue undermining this practice’s compensation and benefits strategy?

The practice manager surveyed her team and asked what benefits employees wanted but did not have.

It turned out that help with student loans was at the top of the list.

So with that in mind…

The manager and I designed and implemented a cost-effective student loan coaching program.

After I dug deeper, here’s what I learned.

Millennials on staff were buried in six-figure student loan debt.

And it wasn’t just the Associates that were in over their heads.

In fact, the wages of at least two non-DVMs were garnished because of defaults on debt for degree programs they never completed.

The good news is that federal student loans have more flexible repayment terms and consumer protections than any other form of debt.

The bad news is the system is mind numbingly complex…

…and picking the wrong repayment plan can be a costly mistake.

As a Certified Student Loan Professional, I helped the clinic slay the student loan dragon.

The secret to managing burnout and boosting morale is coaching employees to bend the federal student loan rules to THEIR advantage.

For example…

One veterinary technician I coached freed up $800 of monthly cash flow simply by switching repayment plans.

In another session, an Associate saved $230,000 over the life of her loans by optimizing her repayment plan.

These employees felt seen and heard when it came to their single biggest source of fear (and shame).

While the veterinary world talks about financial wellness, their manager stepped up and did something about it…

Word travels fast when veterinary leaders take care of their people.

That said, the impact of student loan coaching can’t be looked at in a vacuum when it comes to employee retention.

Highly qualified clinicians chose a practice for all sorts of reasons, not just financial.

However, one of the biggest factors in whether an employee sticks around comes down to how they feel about their manager.

Student loan coaching demonstrates an employer’s compassion… and it forges a bond that out-of-the-box employee assistance programs (EAPs) just can’t match.

So, I created a new breed of financial coaching… based on my experience in the trenches (working with dozens of veterinary professionals).

Sabadoodle is for veterinary leaders that want to help teams build sustainable careers around their calling…

…and boost productivity.

Sabadoodle is kind of like a guide dog – helping owners, managers and staff overcome the toughest financial obstacles.

This approach may not be a good fit for practices paying below benchmark wages and/or lacking a 401(k) or employer subsidized health insurance.

Sabadoodle is also not a good fit for practice cultures with a “but-this-is-the-way-we’ve-always-done it” mindset around employee engagement.

For growth-minded leaders, the next step is to book a free strategy call with me.

No two veterinary practices are alike so it’s best to discuss the benefits you see to the Sabadoodle approach.

I’ll help you build a compelling business case for Sabadoodle – based on the outcomes that matter most to your leadership team.

You’ll also get a quote for services and suggestions on budget-neutral funding sources, such as eliminating or modifying underutilized wellbeing programs.

Without a student loan expert (like me) on their side…

…borrowers turn to their federal student loan servicer for advice and often get led astray.

Or they may be targeted by insurance salespeople offering “free” student loan advice that’s really just a veiled sales pitch for high fee (and unnecessary) insurance policies.

Sabadoodle is independently owned – we’re not affiliated with any financial institution.

…which means we always do what’s best for our client.

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Schedule a free strategy call with me – so we can discuss your needs and how Sabadoodle can help.