10 Books That Will Change Your Veterinary Career
Exceptional Veterinary Team asked 10 veterinary professionals for their favorite career-changing reads. From personal goals and management skills to communication and clients, these 10 books are sure to inspire and motivate you, no matter if you’re a practice manager, veterinarian, technician, or part of the office staff.
Ernie Ward, DVM
Name of book: See You at the Top by Zig Ziglar
What was the best thing you learned? I love the way Ziglar leads you through an exploration of self-image, how to improve your relationships with others, goal-setting, how your daily attitude affects everything you experience, and how a good work-ethic is essential for sustainable success. Real old-school advice sprinkled with touchy-feely wisdom that was years ahead of its 1975 original publication date. If you take Ziglar's commonsense and practical teachings to heart, this may be the only management book you'll ever need to read.
How did it change your career? I first read it during my second year as a practice owner, just two years after graduating from veterinary school. It grounded me and validated the feelings and ideas I had about managing a veterinary clinic. It was as though my long-lost wise grandfather was personally speaking to me and mentoring me during this challenging period. The first time I saw Ziglar speak live a few years later I felt as if I'd known him my entire life.
Mark Russak, DVM
Name of the book: Raving Fans by Ken Blanchard & Sheldon Bowles
What was the best thing you learned? This book describes three secrets that, if embraced, will allow the reader to create a truly unique client service experience for their practice.
The 3 Secrets of Raving Fans Customer Service
• Step 1: Decide what you want
• Step 2: Discover what the customer wants
• Step 3: Deliver your vision plus one percent
Raving Fans goes beyond theory. It illustrates its message with real-life examples that drive the points home in an easy to read fashion.
How did the book change your career? It showed me how to create not just satisfied clients, but "raving fans,” simply and without utilizing large amounts of resources. I became more client-centric. I concentrated on exceeding delivery of my client service promise each and every time the client dealt with my entire practice and practice team. Consistency created credibility. I learned how simple changes can allow you to stand out from everyone else.
Betsy Charles, DVM, MS
Name of book: Employees First, Customers Second- Turning Conventional Management Upside Down by Vineet Nayar
What was the best thing you learned? This is the story of an Indian telecom company and its fall from number one. It describes what a new CEO did to transform the company from one that was losing ground to one that regained its prominence. My favorite part is that it illustrates that strategies that worked in an industrial society do not work with the knowledge work force. The author (who is the CEO) challenged several long held traditions, traditions that were not working, and implemented a new and different strategy that worked. He championed the importance of taking responsibility instead of blaming, building trust through transparency instead of hiding in the corner office, giving the employees a voice by encouraging input instead of "telling" them what to do, and modeled the importance of practicing what you preach.
How did it change your career? His story and what is happening in veterinary medicine are, in my opinion, profoundly similar. We are trying to run our practices using a model that does not work anymore. There was a time when the veterinarian was seen as the all-knowing expert, someone not to be questioned. That model worked well when the veterinarian was the only individual who had access to information as a result of his or her training. We now live in a world where everyone, our staff, our clients, has access to information. We are still experts and our job is now to empower our people and our clients to understand what information is good and what information isn't so good.
Justine Lee, DVM, DACVECC
Name of book: How Full is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath & Donald O. Clifton
What was the best thing you learned? Being aware of how you communicate to colleagues and how others communicate to you. One snarky comment can really deflate or "empty" someone's bucket, while one small compliment – even when seeming trivial – may really "fill" someone's bucket. It's important to realize the impact your communication has. Being that we spend more time with our colleagues than our family, I found this book a good reminder of the importance of how we treat fellow human beings.
How did it change your career? It made me realize that I was in an environment that didn't foster appropriate communication, despite attempts to improve them. As this was chronically "emptying" my bucket, I made the decision to get out of that environment!
Ron Cott, DVM
Name of book: The One Minute Manager by Kenneth H. Blanchard & Spencer Johnson
What was the best thing you learned? How to manage difficult discussions and/or conflict management.
How did it change your career? The biggest issues regarding management in any profession is communication roadblocks. This book opens one’s eyes regarding the simple three step process in making something that is uncomfortable fall into your personal comfort zone. It teaches you how to have better management skills without losing control of the situation.
Fritz Wood, CPA, CFPTM
Name of book: The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley, Ph.D. and William D. Danko, Ph.D.
What was the best thing you learned? This book reveals the surprising secrets of America’s affluent. The authors are academicians who’ve spent decades studying how people become rich. Importantly, Stanley and Danko have discovered how ordinary people can become wealthy. The authors debunk the commons myths and misperceptions about who are the rich, what do they do, where do they live, how they buy, what they drive, and how they got rich. Most assuredly, veterinarians will view their clients in an entirely new light!
How did it change your career? It’s just a very simple, easy to follow “how to” guide. It not only informed me about how everyone can accumulate wealth over time, but also helped me to never prejudge someone (for better or worse) depending on things like:
• Where they work
• How much money they make
• Their education
• Where they live
• The car they drive
• How they’re dressed
• The jewelry they wear
• The family they were born into
Dave Nicol, BVMS
Name of book: All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriott
What was the best thing you learned? There is a hilarious bit where the practice principal, Siegfried Farnon, gets annoyed with a young James Herriott when he's being somewhat profligate with how much suture material and medicine he's using while stitching up a dog. He chastises his young charge and tells him to do it differently.
In a later passage, the pair attend to an expensive race horse that has cut its skin. Young Herriott begins the procedure to stitch the wound closed and is following Siegfried's advice to the letter. In fact, he's being about as scrooge-like with sutures and wound powder as possible and it's clearly driving Siegfried mad, as he's pacing about dementedly in the background. Finally, completely unable to control himself, Siegfried explodes and grabs the materials from James and begins literally throwing wound powers about and reels off the suture materials flamboyantly as he sutures the wound shut. That leaves a completely bemused Herriott scratching his head in the background. It’s absolutely hilarious to see the interaction between the characters.
The scene sticks with me to this day, and I often think of it when I'm managing my team. Even after all these years, the book continues to exert an influence on me!
How did it change your career? It was certainly one of the things that influenced me to be a veterinarian in the first instance. I was completely smitten from the moment I finished the first page. The humor with which the author writes definitely showed me that medicine could be fun as well as amazing. It was really clear that being a veterinarian was a central part of a strong community. Being a part of a community has really been a strong part of my career. I'm someone who very much enjoys relationship-building and a less formal approach to medicine.
Dave Nicol is a vet, hospital owner, writer and speaker at many conferences around the world. His twitter handle is @dave_nicol.
Karen Felsted, CPA, MS, DVM, CVPM
Name of the book: The Harvard Business Review (publication)
What was the best thing you learned? My favorite article was actually one published in the early 2000s about the Mayo Clinic and how they market their services. They actually do very little formal advertising yet are one of the best known brands in medicine. They focus on much of what we talk about in veterinary medicine—friendly receptionists, seeing clients when it’s convenient for them (not us), a soothing environment, etc. They clearly recognize that clients can't judge medicine so they judge us by the things they do understand, which may have little to do with medicine. The Mayo Clinic has clearly taken this to the nth degree; something we need to focus on.
How did it change your career? What I like about the Harvard Business Review is that it opens your eyes to how things are done outside of veterinary medicine. I think we are sometimes too insular and need to recognize that just doing things the way we always have isn't going to be enough to be successful in the future.
Jane Shaw, DVM, PhD
Name of the book: Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
What was the best thing you learned? The concept of a relational bank account – how through our communication and interactions we make withdrawals or deposits into our relationships. In maintaining a positive balance, we have a cushion to fall upon when things get rocky or tough.
How did the book change your career? It provides guiding principles to keep your leadership and communication sharp. It also promotes a collaborative leadership style to empower members of your team.
Karyn Gavzer, MBA, CVPM
Name of the book: Crucial Confrontations by Kerry Patterson, Josephy Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Swizler
What was the best thing you learned? Learning new strategies and interpersonal skills that helped me be a more effective communicator and team builder. I enjoyed the examples throughout the book that demonstrated how to use the concepts in a real world way.
How did the book change your career? It changed the way I approach conflicts! Prior to reading the book, I would have rather avoided them. Now, instead, I think about how to have productive conversations to resolve them. I still keep the book on my nightstand and go back to re-read sections of it every now and then. I always get something new from it.
What would you say? Which book inspired your veterinary career? Leave your comment below!