Written By: Dr. Ernie Ward, Chief Veterinary Officer.

If you own or manage a veterinary clinic, chances are you’ve encountered an employee who was once outstanding and has recently started to slip or a new team member who isn’t pulling their weight or meeting expectations. You know they need to change but aren’t sure how to proceed.

You’ve got three logical options.

The first option is to accept it. Embrace whatever the issue is as a “new normal” and move forward. The challenge is to stop complaining about the problem and adjust your expectations accordingly.

The second solution is to quit it. Fire the problem employee. You’re the boss, after all.

The third choice when dealing with “people problems” in your business is to change it. You create a plan to train, mentor, and evaluate the employee.

Most managers do none of these. Instead, they behave illogically and irrationally when dealing with employee issues. They complain to their family and friends. They gossip among co-workers. They hope that by ignoring the issue, radiating negative vibes, and rolling their eyes, the problem will miraculously resolve.

The only miracle is these folks remain in business.

Why Feedback Matters

Giving frequent employee feedback is foundational to a successful - and sustainable - business. Yet most vet clinics wait until an employee asks for an evaluation or a catastrophe occurs before providing honest feedback. In the former case, that’s employee-speak for, “I want a raise.” In the latter, it’s simply too late to do any good.

When business leaders fail to give employees feedback on their performance, both positive and negative, workers are left to guess how they’re doing. Team members continue to act in the way they believe is right or acceptable without any outside perspective. Until there’s a problem, they don’t receive feedback; they receive punishment.

Positive feedback informs employees where they excel and how to do more of it. It can be as simple as “catching someone doing something good each day.” A slap on the back and a “thank you” can go a long way toward inspiring the type of work you want and need. More formal feedback sessions, ideally every six months for the first two to three years, can focus more intensely on skills and attributes you want to hone.

Negative feedback offers employees an opportunity to improve. It shouldn’t be viewed as antagonistic but sympathetic to a specific issue and seeks to make things better. It doesn’t necessarily focus on the worst in employees but on what we can change.

The goal is to provide constructive, not critical, feedback. Constructive feedback encourages growth and improvement, while critical feedback only tells someone they’re not good.

Delivering Negative Feedback

Giving negative feedback requires preparation, the proper mindset, and intentional delivery. When done correctly, it should leave everyone feeling appreciative and eager to improve. Done poorly, it can cause emotional outbursts, demotivation, and termination.

The first step managers and owners need to do is prepare the feedback. Most of the time, feedback, especially corrective conversations, occurs in an emotionally-charged setting, with tension running high. Something goes wrong, and you lash out in anger. That is the worst setting to try to communicate rationally and motivate change.


When you’re calm, focused, and willing to focus deeply on all aspects of the problem, you’re ready to prepare your feedback.

What is going wrong with your employee? Be specific. Document actual events rather than general feelings. "They refused to help Sally with Buster Smith's blood test because they said Sally didn't help her." This is better than "They don't help out in treatment." Employees don’t need to hear vague generalizations of their wrongdoings; they need real examples.

How do their actions (or inactions) affect the team or workflow? Again, be specific.

How can they improve? Giving feedback is an opportunity to draft a course for change. It's essential to have some direction you'd like them to take. Writing down your thoughts allows you to refine them and helps keep your feedback session on track. You can still negotiate future actions based on the employee's responses, but you must draft the general process beforehand.

Plan Ahead

Next, tell your employee you’d like to meet with them to discuss their work. Nothing is worse than springing bad news on an unsuspecting employee. Pull them aside and say, “I noticed you and Sally had a disagreement earlier. I’d like to share some feedback and discuss how we can improve things moving forward. Let’s meet tomorrow morning at eight.”

Communication Tips

Your tone and demeanor when giving feedback are critical. Remain calm, measured, and center your thoughts on solutions. Resist the urge to become upset, regardless of how your employee acts.

Avoid using the “feedback sandwich” tactic of hiding the bad news inside a golden bun of good when delivering negative feedback. The standard compliment/critique/compliment strategy may diminish the actual negative impacts of the employee’s actions. Be direct but empathetic. Clearly articulate the problem and offer your plan to correct it. Encourage self-reflection by asking the employee their thoughts on what happened and why. If they veer into blaming others, steer them back to what they control - their actions and attitude.

Be honest, sincere, and listen. Most employees know when they’re underperforming, so negative feedback isn’t surprising. Make it clear you intend to help them improve rather than pointing out faults. Many managers fear asking employees to speak when giving negative feedback, resulting in a one-sided conversation. Allow the employee to participate in the dialogue as long as they remain professional and civil. Listening demonstrates empathy and can enhance your insight into the problem.


When your evaluation ends, the employee shouldn’t walk out thinking, “What just happened?” Summarize your feedback, action plan, and follow-through process. Provide the employee with a copy of your assessment to review later.

Create a written development plan with regular check-ins to monitor progress based on your conversation. Offer specific actions or changes you’re looking for. Weekly five- to ten-minute meetings while you’re working on the problem ensure the issue remains top of mind for you and the employee.

When improvement is observed, celebrate it. If the employee fails to change, document it. If no meaningful gains have been made in two to three weeks, it may be appropriate to part ways or change your approach. Your business won’t grow if you foster a team of employees disinterested in progress.

Giving negative employee feedback is unavoidable in owning or managing a business. Constantly monitor your processes for areas to enhance, provide regular and thoughtful feedback to employees, and strive to elevate your communication and leadership.

Here’s to getting better,

Dr. Ernie Ward
Chief Veterinary Officer, VerticalVet

VerticalVet is Global!

VerticalVet is now part of Vimian’s Group, Veterinary Services segment, VetFamily! Through this acquisition, the VerticalVet team remains the Group Resource Community that you know and trust with more tools and resources on the way.

Click here to learn more!

Added Benefits

In addition to being able to access key data through VerticalVet’s ViQ Analytics and Elevate Insights platforms, participants also benefit from specific discounts exclusive to ViQ. This includes an extra 2% from MWI, potential eligibility for BI’s Rebate Program, access to VerticalVet Reminders, Care Logistics, a members-only networking platform, and more.

Not a Member Yet? Click here. >

Real Results

Several practices in our 2021 pilot group were looking to sell and wanted to understand the value of their practice. Using VerticalVet and the ViQ Analytics platforms and methodology, these practices were able to analyze Quickbooks and their own PIMS data, helping better align their inventory, COGS, and fixed costs to increase their EBITA significantly.

What is Elevate Data Insights?

How it Works

Alongside like-minded and non-competitive owners, ViQ groups meet monthly to discuss subtopics within a quarterly theme. While smaller breakouts or one-on-one meetings with Dr. McDonald may happen, ViQ’s unique strength is blending the shared knowledge and experience of the group with the individual participant’s own strategy and practice data.

Learn More >

Why Join?

Owners have two primary responsibilities: 1) maintaining the long-term viability of their practice and 2) removing obstacles so their teams can be successful. ViQ participants explore key business areas like Operations, Profitability, Human Resources, Leadership, and Whole Team Wellness, improving each area to increase profitability, job satisfaction, and more.


Joining the PLATINUM program is free for one staff member from each member clinic. Each additional member costs $300. Participants are eligible to receive additional savings for their clinics from our partners, as well as discounts from VerticalVet on Reminders and enhanced Elevate Data Insights.

Not a member yet? Click here. >

Real Results

PLATINUM members actively implement, test, and adopt the concepts they discuss during meetings, often realizing increased revenue and efficiency. Adopting Reminders, for example, helped multiple clinics increase, on average, revenue by up to $81,000 and improved preventative care compliance by 60%.

What is Elevate Data Insights? >

How it Works

VerticalVet facilitates the initial four meetings with a base curriculum: Human Resources, Inventory, Finance, and Digital Marketing. From there, the group decides which topics to pursue in future meetings that best meet the group’s needs and interests.

Learn More >

Why Join?

The number one piece of feedback that we hear from Practice Managers is that they wish they could talk to someone in their field that is NOT a competitor about how to improve their practice. PlLATINUM provides a simple, efficient platform to have these conversations.

On Demand Learning

Info you want, when you need it.

Dr. Ernie Ward, Executive Director of Education, explores Vet Medicine, Finance, Business, HR and more with a broad range of guest speakers in Elevate, VerticalVet’s member platform. With nearly 30 video interviews available, the information you want is On Demand at your fingertips!

Business Academy Live

Take a deep dive on everything from Wellness Diagnostic Testing to Dental Compliance to the Opioid Crisis and how it can impact your clinic.

Vet Med School Live

Veterinary peers and consultants discuss new advancements, current trends, treatment alternatives and more.

Business & Industry

Experts in Business Growth, Finance, HR and Medicine discuss compliance, managing tricky patients, persistent challenges and other pressing topics.

Let us know what you’d like to hear more about (or if you want to be a guest)!


Freedom to focus on what’s important.

Does your team send personal emails or postcards to clients about lapsed prescriptions, missed appointments, or worse? Reminders is your path to greater efficiency (which means more opportunities to provide dynamic patient care). Reminders:

Optimize Communication

Use the extra time to build your social media following AND your relationship with clients when they visit the practice

Boost Client Engagement

On average, Reminders users saw 300+ more clients in a year-over-year comparison

Generate Incremental Visits (and Revenue)

On average, practices using Reminders increased weekly revenue by $1,610 (that’s $81,000 annually)

Increase Compliance

On average, practices improved preventative care compliance 50 – 70% using Reminders

Learn more or get started with Reminders by booking a Healthy Practice Assessment today.

Social Media

Tools to keep you connected.

Your clients use social media to learn more about the world around them, and that includes who is caring for their pet. Be part of the conversation! Our monthly tool kits provide you with templates and ideas to build a winning social strategy.

Content Calendar

Pick a channel and use the guide to plan your month of content using the PIEE method – Promote, Inspire, Educate, Entertain.

Key Performance Indicators

Track and measure your metrics at intervals that matter to you with this simple template.


As the best way to help clients find relevant content, use this hashtag guide for your own posts to create a conversation.

Sample Posts & Graphics

We’ve made it easy to manage your social media with sample posts and suggested graphics – free of charge!

Log in to Elevate to get started! Don’t have access to Elevate? Contact us to get connected.

Custom Campaigns

Ready to get it done?

With a little planning, your practice can elevate its marketing quickly. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how to put together a Compliance Improvement, WinBack, New Client Acquisition, or Home Delivery campaign. Check it out!

1. Call Us! Before we do anything, let’s talk about your goals

2. Schedule a Healthy Practice Assessment. This creates the basis of your plan.

3. Data! We provide a report and recommendations based on your PMS data.

4. Green Light. You decide on your plan and the campaign to start with.

5. Images, Emails, and Post Cards Creation Oh My! – Don’t worry, we got this 🙂

6. Book a meeting with your team to talk process (transparency is key).

7. Launch? Launch! We will tweak and test along the way.

8. Results: In 90 Days, you’ll be able to truly see the fruits of your labor.

Contact us to get started!

Terms and Conditions


Practice is a licensed veterinary practice. VerticalVet (“VV”) is a veterinarian buying group (“VBG”). Practice desires to join VV to use VV as its preferred VBG and VV desires to add Practice to its VBG.


In consideration of the mutual covenants and agreements hereinafter set forth, the parties agree:

1. VerticalVet Membership. The VV annual membership fee is up to $625 (“Fee”) for practices. Practice will never receive an invoice from VV, the membership fee is retained from accrued Practice rebates (“Accrued Rebates”) as described in Section 4. The Fee total cannot exceed $625 but fees for additional services may be assessed as provided in Section 2 and 3.

a. For new VV Practices that are not using VV’s VerticalVet Reminder (“VVR”) services, VV shall schedule a free VVR Performance Review to demonstrate VVR’s value to Practice ($795 value – no charge).

b. Notwithstanding anything herein to the contrary, VV retains the right to modify (i) the Fee no more than annually upon written notice provided to Practice including an opportunity to opt – out, and (ii) the payment schedule for Accrued Rebates. Practice may review Accrued Rebates by contacting VV at any time.

c. Any VeticalVet member practice can participate in either of VV’s Peer Share programs; The Platinum Program for Practice Managers or the ViQ program for practice owners. Each member practice may have 1 representative join either program at no additional cost. If Practice desires to add additional Peer Share participants, Practices’ Peer Share program fee increases by $300 per additional Peer Share participant. Information about the Peer Share program is available at: https://verticalvet.com/peershare/

2. Boehringer Ingelheim Invitational Program. For an additional $450 per year (paid for by BI), a Practice may participate in VV’s Boehringer Ingelheim invitational program SBG Program. This program is an add on and is offered on an annual invite only basis to less than 90 VV member practices. Other terms and conditions apply. Information about this program can be provided by the Verticalvet Member Resource Team. Please direct inquiries to memberresources@verticalvet.com. ” VV annual membership fees for practices in this legacy BI SBG Program are $625 (“Fee”) for practices earning $8,000 or less in rebates or 8% of the total rebates earned for practices who have earned $8,001 or greater per calendar year.

3. VV Data Insights. If Practice is a Peer Share participant or an active client of VVR, VV Data Insights (“Insights”) are supplied at no cost. If Practice is not a Peer Share participant and not an active client of VVR; but desires Insights, it can be provided at an additional fee of $50/month to cover data and administrative fees (the “Data Insights Fee”). Information about Insights are available at www.verticalvet.com/data-insights/.

4. VV Program Benefits. VV negotiates with manufacturers, providers, and suppliers (“Providers”) of medications, foods, sundry items, and services, including medical and business focused continuing education programs, to secure Practice benefits (“Benefits”) that, when possible, meet or exceed those offered by other VBGs. Benefits are listed in detail on VV’s website, www.verticalvet.com, and updated as Benefits are added. Practices are not required to make minimum purchases to participate. The Fee, Platinum Fees, and Data Insights Fee are collectively the “Total Fee.”

a. VV administers, collects and pays Practice Accrued Rebates exceeding the Total Fee annually. If the Total Fee is met, and Accrued Rebates total less than $50.00, they shall be applied to the following year’s Fee. Practices should expect rebate payments sometime in quarter 2 of each year for the prior year’s Practice Accrued Rebates. If Practice does not accumulate Accrued Rebates to cover the Total Fee, VV covers the balance.

1. Conditions. The following are conditions of membership: (i) Practice is not required to withdraw from any other VBG to be a member of VV; (ii) Benefits secured by VV may exceed benefits offered by other VBGs; but this is not guaranteed for each Benefit offered; (iii) Practice must retain its license to practice veterinary medicine or its membership shall be automatically terminated; (iv) Practice authorizes VV to share its identifying information with Providers to the extent necessary to set up and demonstrate Practice’s authority to purchase and use the Benefits offered; and (v) by executing this VV agreement, Practice acknowledges that VV is Practice’s preferred VBG and will be recognized as such with participating VV vendors. If Practice determines, at any time, to (i) designate a different VBG as its preferred VBG or (ii) is sold to a non – VV member or veterinary practice corporate consolidator, it waives its right to collect Accumulated Rebates processed and collected by VV for that year.

2. Confidentiality. The parties acknowledge that the existence of this Agreement, all information related to it, and anything conspicuously marked confidential is confidential and proprietary (“Confidential Information”). Confidential information shall not be disclosed for any purpose unrelated to this agreement without the prior written consent of the other party. Confidential information is not: (i) information that s or publicly becomes known through no fault of a party hereto; (ii) information received from a third party authorized to disclose it; (iii) information developed independently by a party; or (iv) information a party is required to disclose by government authority or a court of competent jurisdiction.

3. Representations and Warranties. Each party represents and warrants that it is authorized to enter into this Agreement, that they will carry out its terms promptly and professionally, and that they will comply with all applicable laws and regulations.

4. Independent Parties. The parties are independent entities. Nothing in the Agreement is intended to create an agency, partnership, joint venture, or fiduciary relationship between the parties and neither party has the authority to act for or on behalf of the other except as provided in the Agreement.

5. Term. This Agreement begins on the Effective Date, continues through its one (1) year anniversary and automatically renews for subsequent annual terms upon conclusion of the prior Term. Practice or VV may terminate this Agreement at any time, but no portion of any annual Fee is refundable.

6. Notice. Notice required or permitted in the Agreement shall be in writing and sent by electronic mail, subject to confirmation receipt requested to VV’s ‘Contact Us’ email address provided at www.verticalvet.com and to Practice’s email address provided during online registration. All such notice shall be deemed received the following business day from the date it was sent.

7. General. This Agreement constitutes the entire understanding of the parties and supersedes all prior communications and understandings. It may only be amended in a writing executed by both parties. Practice may not assign it without the written consent of VV. The Agreement shall be governed and construed under the laws of the state of Ohio. Any dispute regarding the Agreement shall take place in the state or district courts of Franklin County, Ohio. If any provision is found invalid or unenforceable by a court of authority, the remaining provisions are valid.

8. Execution. This Agreement, by its presence on the website is executed by VV and becomes a binding Agreement when Practice accepts it and completes their registration.