How to manage by core values (Proceedings)


How to manage by core values (Proceedings)

Aug 01, 2009

Most veterinary businesses, regardless of size, are started by individuals who have a vision of how they would like the business to operate and some idea of their desired long-term goals. Unfortunately, practice owners don't always fully develop and define their vision for employees. This lack of planning and communication on the part of the business owner often results in problems with the successful execution of daily operations and achievement of short and long-term goals.

Veterinary practice owners are wise to consider whether they have clearly defined and articulated the vision and mission of the business to all employees. Additionally, the leadership team should take the additional step of developing core values for the practice which serve as an important foundation for effective management. These proceedings define core values; outline why they are so valuable to develop and how to begin the process of managing by core values.


Developing a vision, mission statement, core values and business strategy are all part of the strategic planning process for any business. The terms vision and mission are often used interchangeably. These statements refer to the purpose and goals of the business. When practices have a written vision and mission, the vision is a loftier statement that creates a picture of what the practice will look like once it has met the long-term goals. Mission statements can be one sentence or several paragraphs. The mission or vision statement defines the focus of a business and highlights the most important operational goals.

Core values are words or phrases that define how a business will conduct business. Core values traditionally encompass the values which are most important to owners and they serve to define how all employees of the business will interact with each other, clients and the community. Companies may refer to their core values as "our beliefs", "our promise", "our commitments", or "standards". Examples of core values for a veterinary practice might include

  • Treating all pets with compassion
  • Making all clients feel welcome and special
  • Honesty
  • Communicating value to clients
  • Treating co-workers with respect
  • Providing high quality patient care

Why core values are so important

Core values serve as a foundation for effective management for two primary reasons. First, they define how the veterinary practice will conduct business and clarify the expected behavior for all employees in the workplace. For example, when employees understand that "providing high quality pet care" and a "commitment to client education" are core values of a practice, they know that their actions need to support and enhance these efforts. Core values help to focus the veterinary healthcare team on achieving hospital goals in a manner that is consistent with the vision of the practice owner.

Second, core values serve as a foundation for talking to staff about accountability. When lack of accountability is a problem, managers can point out that the team member's behavior does not adhere to the core values for the hospital. For example, if tardiness is a problem, managers can remind team members that "respect" is a core value of the practice. When an employee is tardy, they are showing a lack of respect for their co-workers. If "providing exceptional client service" is a core value for the practice then this should be emphasized when discussing lack of accountability with respect to meeting client service standards. Employees are much more receptive to dialogue focused on core values. A discussion about inconsistent job performance no longer sounds like nagging but instead focuses on how adherence to core values is necessary to fulfill the mission and vision of the practice.