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LORRAINE'S CORNER
This Week's Blog

Even Good Ideas Can Die Old and Untried

If you've been to the movies lately and sat through the previews of coming attractions, you've likely noticed the same themes repeating themselves with different faces, locales, and special effects.  It is rare to find a really unique concept, as the “tried and true” seems safer.

The same happens in our veterinary practices.  Maintaining the status quo is easier, and it’s much harder to come up with a good idea, champion it into reality, and take the risk that it might not have been such a good idea after all.  The result is that some good ideas get overused (like the movie themes above) and others die in the early stages, even though it might take years to pronounce them dead.  

Have you or your team made suggestions or raised ideas in the past that still linger but have not been fully explored?  Maybe it’s time to dust them off and make some decisions.  Consider one of these actions for each idea:

• Take the risk and try it.  If it doesn't work, at least you’ll know.  Agree up front to review the results at a specific date so you can celebrate your success, make modifications, or declare it a failure.

• Assign someone to explore it further and see if it’s even feasible, given the practice’s workload and financial resources.  (Don’t forget to agree on a deadline for a follow up report.)  Then if the recommendation is to go forward, ask that person to champion the idea into implementation.

• Conclude that the idea is just another “movie of the same theme” and not worth exploring, especially if it consumes resources that could be devoted to a better idea.  

• Admit that it was brilliant back when it first came up, but not so sparkling now. Even good ideas can go stale and need to disappear.  This can be hard to recognize and admit, but look for clues like eye rolls or deep sighs when the topic comes up.  It’s better to give up on these oldies and focus on today’s problems and future issues.  

Encourage everyone in your practice to think creatively, since a steady stream of new ideas makes it easier to give up on the old ones. Never stifle a new idea without understanding it and giving the presenter kudos for being creative.  Everyone in your practice should be thinking about ways to improve client service, save time, solve internal bottlenecks, and plan for the future.  Are they?
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LORRAINE'S CORNER
This Week's Blog 

Inner Strength

I cleaned out one of my desk drawers here at work, which admittedly hadn't been done for a while.  My unexpected reward was to find some clippings I had cut from various publications back when Summit was a new company more than 15 years ago.  So this week I’m sharing one of my favorites.
If you can start the day without caffeine or pep pills,
If you can be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains,
If you can resist complaining and boring people with your troubles,
If you can eat the same food every day and be grateful for it,
If you can understand when loved ones are too busy to give you time,
If you can overlook when people take things out on you when, through no fault of yours, something goes wrong,
If you can take criticism and blame without resentment,
If you can face the world without lies and deceit,
If you can conquer tension without medical help,
If you can relax without liquor,
If you can sleep without the aid of drugs,
Then you’re actually a dog

                       Author unknown
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Kathryn Primm DVM's profile photo
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LORRAINE'S CORNER
This Week's Blog
Email – What’s Your Priority?

Every so often I come across an article or a discussion about how to deal efficiently with email.  Sadly, it seems that no one has the perfect answer to this question:  When during the day, and how often, should I check my email?  The latest opinion I read dealt with the topic of whether I should check my work email before I leave for work in the morning so that I can plan my day according to what shows up in my messages.  Seems a bit extreme to me. . . .

Personality types have some impact on how we all deal with email.  Those of us who like the excitement of new projects and ideas are energized by reading emails as they come in.  Those are the people whose smart phones let them know instantly that they have a new email or text message.  Chances are good they are wearing their phone or have it close by so they can check both the sender and the message right away.

Then there are those who stay on task and let the messages accumulate until the current appointment or treatment is completed.  These people tend to check email at a certain time or times each day, and view email as just another task to be started and completed on schedule.  To them, checking email more frequently is inefficient and an unnecessary interruption to the work they are currently doing.  

So what’s the best solution?  No doubt reading and responding to emails as they arrive will keep you abreast of changes in your world in real time.  Your clients will appreciate a speedy response, and your spouse and kids will know they are important to you.  However, you are likely to lose efficiency by allowing each email to distract you, especially if you deal with each when it arrives.  By the time you get back to whatever you were doing, your chain of thought has been broken, and it will take some time to get back to where you were.  

Is there a smart phone or tablet that will prioritize emails?  My phone lets me set up a different ring for calls from key people in my contact list.  Can that be done for email messages too?  It would be fabulous to know whether that incoming email is a critical message from a client or a colleague or is merely a routine newsletter.  If you know of such an app, please let me know.
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LORRAINE'S CORNER

'This Weeks Blog: 

Standard Mileage Rates Go DOWN for 2014

The IRS has released its optional mileage rates for 2014.  So if you’re enjoying lower gas prices at the pump, here’s one consequence to those lower costs.

• Business use of a car, van, pickup truck or panel truck – 56 cents per mile
• Medical mileage or moving costs – 23.5 cents per mile

These two rates are both ½ cent lower than in 2013.

• Mileage for charitable activities – unchanged at 14 cents per mile

For practices that reimburse employees for mileage, be sure to get an expense report or other substantiation for the reimbursement so that it need not be treated as compensation to the employee.  

If you use your vehicle in your own practice, remember that you are required to keep a mileage log to substantiate your auto expenses.  Mileage to and from the practice is nondeductible commuting expense, and personal miles must be tracked and are nondeductible as well.  The log does not have to be contemporaneous with the expense, but a record of the various data points should be made near the time of the business use of the vehicle.  

As we start 2014, get a small log book and write your car’s mileage in the front as of January 1, 2014.  Then keep a calendar of how you use your vehicle (keeping it either in the car or at home, whichever is easier) and note each trip you take in your car.  Try to combine business trips with personal errands in the same general area whenever possible.  Each time you put gas in your car, write the odometer reading on the receipt and keep the receipts in chronological order during the year.  That gives you a snapshot of your mileage throughout the year, which, along with your calendar and whatever notes you did make in your log, allows you to put together a pretty accurate record of your vehicle’s activity during the year.  And, of course, if your spouse has a non-business vehicle, use that car for family trips and other personal mileage whenever possible.  

Talk to us or your tax preparer about whether to use the mileage rates above or deduct actual expenses (including depreciation) to claim your 2013 deduction. Depending on how your tax preparer computed deductions on this vehicle in the past, your choice may be limited.  But where possible, you should use the method that gives you the largest tax deduction and is still representative of your actual facts.
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LORRAINE'S CORNER

This Week's Blog:

Forward or Backward? 
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Wishing you happiness and prosperity in the new year!
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LORRAINE'S CORNER
This Week's Blog
Alimony Deductions/Alimony Income – A Revenue Gap the IRS Hasn't Closed

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA in government jargon) recently announced that in 2010, $2.3 billion more was deducted on individual returns as alimony paid than the amount of alimony income reported by the recipients.  (TIGTA Rep’t No. 2014-40-022.) If you recall, alimony paid to a former spouse is deductible if certain conditions are met, and chief among those is that the recipient must report the amount received as income.  

That begs the question:  Are the payers deducting more than they actually paid, or are the recipients not reporting the income received?  The answer? The IRS doesn't know.

Although the payer is supposed to include on his/her income tax return the taxpayer identification number (TIN) of the person receiving the payments, the IRS has no procedures to check that a correct TIN was entered, or even that any TIN was entered at all.  Short of examining the entire return in a few cases (and generally for another reason), the IRS is doing little or nothing to close this revenue gap.  In fact, the current filters that select returns for examination actually exclude returns which represent a high risk of incorrect deduction or underreporting of alimony income, according to TIGTA.  

The result of this study on 2010 returns?  TIGTA recommended that the IRS develop a strategy to address this revenue gap.  That includes modifying the filters that select returns for examination to catch returns likely to reflect too high a deduction or alimony income which is too low.  They also recommended that the IRS revise its procedures to verify that any return claiming an alimony deduction includes a valid TIN for the recipient.  Finally, TIGTA recommended that the IRS revise its processing instructions to ensure that penalties are assessed when an alimony deduction is claimed but no valid recipient TIN is provided.

As taxpayers, shouldn't we expect the IRS to collect the tax that the current Internal Revenue Code defines before the federal government looks at alternative ways to raise revenue or borrows more money?
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LORRAINE'S CORNER
This Week's Blog 

Employee Satisfaction – What’s Changed?

Some interesting information came out recently from SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management.  For the last few years, surveys tracking employee satisfaction have indicated that job security, opportunities to use skills/abilities, and compensation were the top three satisfiers, and in that order. Now a survey taken in the latter half of 2013 suggests that compensation/pay has jumped to the number one position.  That was true for all four generations of employees (Millennials, Generation X, Baby Boomers and Veterans) who now rate pay as either number 1 or 2 among the list of factors leading to job satisfaction. 

So what’s changed?  SHRM suggests that during the recession, job security was critical as employees watched businesses downsize, cut hours, or go out of business.  Receiving only minimal raises was less important than keeping the job.  But now that the economy seems to have stabilized, employees are looking to make up for lost wages.

In addition to overall pay, employees rated these three compensation factors as important:
• Being paid competitively in the local market
• Having a base rate of pay (for income stability)
• Having the opportunity for variable pay, such as bonuses, commissions, rewards for ideas or suggestions, etc.

For many practices, profits are not yet high enough to give significant raises.  However, the survey also indicated that benefits are now significantly more important to employees than they were in 2011 or 2012, now rising to 4th place as a contributor to job satisfaction.  So as performance reviews and raises are discussed in your practice, be sure the current compensation figures you discuss include all the benefits the practice is paying, such as retirement plan contributions, health insurance premiums, continuing education, professional liability insurance, uniforms, etc.  Those are costs employees rarely see, yet they are part of the total compensation package.  And if you are spending less than the average on employee benefits (3.3% of revenue per AAHA’s Financial & Productivity Pulsepoints), consider adding additional benefits rather than simply adjusting employee pay.
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LORRAINE'S CORNER
This Week's Blog
Email – Dealing with the Unwanted

First, sorry about the gap in blogs.  Although my goal is to post at least twice a month, the last few weeks have been very busy, with clients selling practices, buying practices, working with us to improve their hospital’s profitability, and still others asking us to prepare their 2013 tax returns.  Isn't it amazing how the IRS could delay the start of their return processing season in early 2014 because of the sequester but offer no similar delay in the deadline for filing returns?  But that’s a whole different topic. . . .

Now about today’s focus:  email.  I can’t speak for you, but I know I’m getting significantly more email than I used to, and it’s not just from clients or prospective clients.  Email is a great way to communicate with veterinarians, as it’s hard to squeeze in even a quick conversation between their scheduled appointments.  And playing endless phone tag is frustrating for everyone.

So my issue isn't with those kinds of emails – it’s with the growing number of emails from vendors, peripheral industry contacts, newsletters I've never signed up for, and email blitzes aimed at small businesses in general.

Granted, a few come from sites with information that is useful in my work and that I've used previously, but for every one of those, there seem to be 3 that come from sources I've never visited.   It sure feels like someone is profiting from selling or trading my email address!

And even though there should be an “unsubscribe” at the bottom of newsletters and mass mailings, I find that while clicking some of those links works immediately, some take a few weeks to stop, and some never stop at all.  While it may take just a few seconds to delete the unwanted emails – unread – it still seems like an annoyance and a time waster. 

I’m no computer expert, so do any of you know a way to stop unwanted emails when “unsubscribe” doesn't work, short of changing your email address?
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Making veterinarians personally and professionally successful
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Jason Knight's profile photoJohn Bond's profile photo
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i just love how veterinarians care for and help our pets. I don't think that my dog would have made it to where he is if we hadn't taken him to the vet. He was having some pretty big problems, but he is doing a lot better now. 

Jason|http://www.animalhousevh.com/
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LORRAINE'S CORNER

This Week's Blog:

Happy New Year!
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Making veterinarians personally and professionally successful
Introduction

Summit Veterinary Advisors, LLC, has been providing a broad range of consulting services to veterinarians since 1998.

Our goal is to make veterinarians more successful, both personally and professionally. We're committed to your success, and we will be a valuable addition to your team. We offer a unique synergy based on our diverse backgrounds and comprehensive knowledge of veterinary practice management. We have over 65 years of combined experience working with veterinarians and managers, and we appreciate that every practice is unique.

Our well-rounded financial and management services provide a comprehensive focus on your needs and those of your practice. We focus on what you need, not what we sell, even if that means referring you to another consultant who specializes in areas we do not.