Three proven strategies that go beyond monetary rewards and ignite a passionate and dedicated team

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

I hate to break it to you, but at some point in your business career, you will run out of money, benefits, and promotions to incentivize your employees.

But you always have ideas.

Retaining the best staff is a constant concern for all businesses, regardless of industry, size, or economic conditions. Over the past five years, the veterinary profession has witnessed unprecedented competition and demand for the most skilled individuals. Outside forces fueled by venture capital and massive advertising campaigns have lured away many of the best employees of small, independent clinics. Those remaining are bombarded by emails, social media posts, and phone calls pledging bigger pay, better environments, and plenty of support.

I’m not going to lie. It’s tough to compete against those promises. And if I’m honest, employees deserve them.

But enjoying and remaining at a job takes more than a paycheck. To compete with a larger rival, you must match the financial offers as closely as possible and beat them on non-cash incentives.

Retention isn’t just about salaries. For true staying power, there is much more you can - and should - do. Non-cash incentives are essential to motivate team members to remain with you. The art of incentivizing is much more than gifting people with additional pay and perks. To keep your best employees, engage in their feelings about work, career, and needs.

1. Be a better leader

When I began interviewing and hiring employees as a fresh practice owner in my mid-to-late twenties, I quickly recognized that the people applying for a position didn’t leave a bad job; they left a bad boss. I vowed not to be “that guy.”

I committed to better understanding how to train, reward, and inspire the folks sharing my workplace. I learned from books, seminars (I had breakfast with Zig Ziglar!), and my new hires' stories. In other words, I analyzed how to be a better leader.

Capable managers and leaders can make all the difference when it comes to keeping good employees. When a day starts to sink, they have the awareness and skills to turn it around. An adept business leader is attuned to their team’s attitudes and emotions and senses shifts before things spiral out of control.

I wish being an effective leader was a simple, one-size-fits-all venture. The best leaders wear a variety of hats, embody multiple roles, and seamlessly switch from one to another based on need.

And they must genuinely care, be concerned, and convey compassion.

Being a better leader isn’t easy, and I’ll be the first to admit that I’m never satisfied with my abilities. The best leaders never believe “they've got it,” or stop seeking improvement. They surround themselves with research, ideas and iterate based on their situation.

If you want to retain the best employees, start by becoming a better leader. Read books, talk to people you admire, and create a network to help you develop your skills and recognize your blind spots. VerticalVet’s Peer Groups are an excellent platform to connect and elevate your abilities.

The labyrinthine bureaucracy of corporate structures often dilutes their emphasis on developing local leaders instead of constructing executives.

To retain your best employees, tap into your superpower of inspiring and guiding them.

2. Encourage autonomy and be flexible

Training and development is millennial employees' most valued work benefit, followed closely by flexible hours. In a 2021 survey, 94% reported they would stay at a company longer if they felt the employer was investing in their career development. Structured training and mentorship are essential to retain your best team members.

Prioritizing work-life balance can also keep employees happy. Offering flexible work schedules and accommodating personal life demands are critical to keeping your best team members from looking elsewhere.

Another time-tested non-cash incentive is encouraging autonomy through training and allowing staff to have a say in their work. One of the best benefits you can provide to your employees is the opportunity to make a difference through their work and help guide the practice’s course. Providing clear and frequent staff communication on business happenings, direction, and big-picture practice objectives and goals can make all the difference in employee happiness.

Top veterinary employers create an environment where their team members feel connected to the organization and have a positive work experience that’s part of a rich, fulfilling life.

3. Focus on well-being

I can’t talk about leadership without emphasizing personal well-being. In addition to the usual suspects of helping your team with health, diet, sleep, and exercise, I’d also like to encourage you to look at work expectations, feedback and evaluation mechanisms, work environments, ergonomics, and infrastructure efficiencies. Too often, we hear “well-being” and forget that “being” includes your surroundings.

When people feel undervalued, overburdened, and unsupported, they often look for a new job. Listen, observe, and connect with the issues your employees think need changing. Frequently, improper or inadequate equipment, lack of training, or failure to recognize efforts and achievements can cause chronic frustrations, weaken resiliency, and lead to quitting.

Allocate work based on your employee’s strengths, not their weaknesses. Train areas of shortcomings and provide ample feedback. Performance evaluations every three to six months are optimal for new employees and every six to twelve months for seasoned staff.

Strive to create an adaptable and supportive work environment with strong interpersonal communication, working with the highs and lows and unexpected events to build team confidence and a sense of achievement. The end of the work week should be a collective triumph, not an excruciating crawl to the finish line.

The veterinary profession continues to experience rapid change and challenges. With rising corporate ownership and consolidation, the case for employee retention becomes urgent for independent clinics. The employee incentives we choose reveal what we value, our motivations, and our vision.

Take the time this week to critically evaluate your existing staff wages, benefits, and non-cash incentives. You may discover a wealth of non-cash incentives can help boost team morale, productivity, and retention.

Here’s to keeping the best folks on your team,

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:

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 ” 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

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,, 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 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.