5 ways to improve your salary

Adrian Pratt

There's only so much money in the veterinary system. That is basically the money in our consumers’ pockets, less the cost of running a vet business.

So, how can we take our fair share out of the system and improve animal health and welfare at the same time? These five approaches are not an exhaustive list but should help address salary improvement with your employer.

1. Optimise business performance

Your salary is paid out of the money you charge clients, so the first requisite is to understand how much money you generate for your clinic. Using the practice management system and ensuring you’re logged in properly as yourself, then all the fees you charge in a day should be easy to find. If you are worried about your employer wanting to share this data, I guarantee that any employer will rejoice in an employee actively seeking to gain a better understanding of the business’s earning potential.

Broadly speaking, your salary should be around one fifth of your gross turnover, with the other bits being VAT, fixed overheads, eg, buildings, variable overheads, such as the drugs bills, and business profit.

The simplest way to increase your salary is to grow the gross turnover or to reduce the other portions. By definition, VAT and fixed overheads are fixed and you can assume the partners won’t take a profit hit to boost your salary, so your only other area of potential is the variable overhead. Charging for consumables and reducing waste is the key here. If you’re responsible for the commercial negotiation with your wholesaler, you may be able to make wins on the supplies bill.

2. See the opportunity in clinical care

Not all clients will choose to take you up on gold standard recommendations for preventative or therapeutic health care, but look for other missed opportunities.


"By first understanding your value to your employer and then considering how to take control of your own earning potential, you can move your salary conversation forward"


Look back at your last week of consults. How many overweight dogs did you see? Research suggests up to 50% of pets are now overweight or obese. Now compare that number with how many pets you recommended a weight management protocol for – recommendations that you recorded in the clinical history and properly discussed with the owner. That gap is your missed opportunity.

Repeat this exercise with virtually any clinical condition and see your potential for improving medical and financial performance of the clinic in an entirely appropriate manner.

3. Charge properly

Vets tend to over-rely on revenue from drugs sales to generate income, rather than charging for their time. But this is not a problem suffered by other professions such as lawyers and accountants or, in my experience, builders.

My builder charges me £28/hr and meticulously invoices every hour or fraction of an hour spent by each member of his team on my current building project.

Vet businesses don’t charge separately for nurse or administrator time but for every piece of work you incorrectly invoice, you’re under-rewarding your team and business.

Chargeable veterinary time is your most highly prized asset so don’t give it away because you’re earning for the rest of your team too.

4. Differentiate and take responsibilities

If you want to be paid more you have two strategies – generate more income and justify your value, or take on more responsibilities and do a bigger job.

The framework for linking revenue to pay is called pay for performance. It could be target or bonus driven, but some see this as a drive to sell more stuff or do more things. It should never include ‘do more bitch spays’ or ‘sell more wormers’. That could be quite inappropriate.

"Chargeable veterinary time is your most highly prized asset so don’t give it away"

But it could see you paid a percentage of turnover or rewarded for other business drivers, such as improving the clinic’s net promoter score or increasing client engagement via social media.

Finding new clients and delighting existing clients with the way you look after their animals will have a far bigger impact than just hitting a flea product sales number.

5. Make performance management and remuneration a regular conversation

We tend to view salary conversations as stressful, shrouded in murkiness and rumour about what others get paid. That shouldn’t be the case. While your exact remuneration should be confidential, there should be a clear link between the work you do and how you are compensated for it.

In this kind of merit based compensation (pay) culture, job descriptions, key performance indicators and regular reviews are the way forward. By setting clear expectations, spelling out the responsibilities you have and how you’re going to be measured against them, the conversation becomes easier and grounded in evidence. Any differences are explained, your next progression is signposted and confidence in the system can be built.

By first understanding your value to your employer and then considering how to take control of your own earning potential, you can move your salary conversation forward.

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