Dr. Jim Gill has been a veterinarian for 14 years, but was an associate until 1987, when he bought the Lowell, North Carolina practice that became the Wilkinson Animal Hospital.
“But I didn’t get involved with Sterling right away,” Dr. Gill says. “No,” he laughs, “it took me a year to get smart enough to do that.
“I had a pretty idealistic viewpoint. I thought, when I get out on my own, I’d just naturally have a great staff. I had lots of organizational ideas, and I was good at putting organization into unstructured systems. But what I was not good at was handling staff. I was not able to get them to participate in the team activity the way I really wanted them to, and I found that really frustrating. I got involved with Sterling for that reason.”
Dr. Gill found Sterling’s approach exciting from the beginning. “I saw the introductory seminar, and I was very impressed with the ideas they presented at the seminar. I especially liked the organizational ideas, ideas about getting everyone working as a team, and the emotional tone scale.”
Soon Dr. Gill went to Sterling headquarters in Glendale, California, for an extensive practice analysis and a customized course of study designed to give him the tools he needed.
“When I went out to Glendale, I found the experience very hard hitting. I found out a lot of things that could be done that I didn’t know before. I also found out a lot about myself, that I wasn’t being the kind of leader I needed to be to get done what I wanted to. I got ideas about organization, staff involvement ideas, to make my practice what I really wanted it to be.”
As usual at Sterling, Dr. Gill’s study emphasized the ability to apply what he learned, and apply it he did.
“When I returned to North Carolina,” says Dr. Gill, “I put in the organizing board, so people knew what was expected of them. Really, it was a very light touch, we now had a basic structure. We also did some recall reactivation. And we established some general policies to handle the staff situation.”
Among those policies, Dr. Gill explains, were restraints on irrational or over-emotional behavior while on the job, and a prohibition on backbiting, snide remarks and other useless negativity.
“The morale of the group, and their emotional tone, immediately went up. They were participating more,” remembers Dr. Gill, and adds, “It wasn’t like peaches and cream, of course. There were some serious things to be handled, but every time somebody decided to leave, or we had to let someone go, each time we got someone just a little better to fill that position.
“I went to Sterling in September of 1988, but I didn’t really get started with application until the end of October, after I had taken care of some other business in California. I decided to ignore fixed ideas about how a veterinary practice is slow in November, and we started sending things out – letters and promotion. And the stats went right up, much higher than the previous November.”
Dr. Gill says there is more to say about his staff, but remarks that Sterling and the Hubbard management technology have a special usefulness for veterinarians:
“The veterinarian is somewhat unique among medical practitioners. Although practices vary, ours is a full-service practice. That is, we are not just an out-patient clinic. We run a hotel, a barber shop, an in-patient hospital, an out-patient clinic, a retail store, and probably other things. To identify all those functions and set things up so they flow is really something. And Sterling allows you to do that.
“Furthermore, there’s just a tremendous amount of motion that you can’t really predict – call it randomity (random motion), if you like. If I didn’t have the technology (methods) on the number of things I have to handle, I wouldn’t be able to succeed. And people have to be willing to handle that randomity, people have to flow with it. Because of that randomity, there’s a lot of stress on our receptionist, so perhaps there’s a tendency toward staff problems in most veterinary practices.
“Another thing that used to be a problem and isn’t now is the amount of useless traffic (paperwork and interruptions) and wasted effort,” recalls Dr. Gill. “We had a tremendous amount of it in our organization, and when we cut it out there was an immediate improvement.
“I talk to so many people who say, ‘Isn’t having a small business a pain in the butt?’ These people are fed up with small business. For me, Hubbard management technology has restored hope that when things are not going well, there is something you can put in and restore things. In my practice, every time we have started applying another one of Hubbard’s extremely workable systems or principles, something good happens, and we grow better not just financially but as a group.”
But Dr. Gill’s greatest praise is reserved for the staff he has been able to build:
“My staff thinks we have the best animal hospital on the planet, and they tell people, they promote, they tell others good things about the practice. When I have a relief doctor come in to cover for me when I’m gone, they always comment on how good my staff are. They say, ‘I don’t have to do anything but be a doctor!’ I have a staff most any veterinarian would be extremely proud of!”