AAHA conference digs into secrets of success

Published on April 30, 2014
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Hospital revenues and mentorship models as well as the health of cats and dogs were among the topics at the yearly conference of the American Animal Hospital Association, March 20-23 in Nashville, Tenn.

The AAHA conference drew a total of 4,298 attendees—including 1,412 veterinarians, 383 veterinary technicians, and 189 veterinary students and veterinary technician students. The association’s membership encompasses about 3,500 AAHA-accredited practices and 1,900 nonaccredited practices.

The opening session highlighted results from the association’s annual State of the Industry report. This year’s report examined factors in the success of hospitals with revenues that increased more than 10 percent for each of the past two years.

The conference included a panel on mentorship and internship models. In AAHA business, Dr. Kate Crumley assumed the office of president. The association also recognized a number of AAHA-accredited practices.

Attendees at the yearly conference of the American Animal Hospital Association in Nashville, Tenn., participate in an exercise during a session on “Building Better Practice Teams Through Song.” (Photo by Mark Skalny Photography for AAHA)

Opening session

During the opening session, representatives of Trone Brand Energy discussed plans to increase public appreciation of AAHA accreditation.

Kimberly Ness and Jenny Rowland reported that the percentage of pet owners who are aware of AAHA accreditation has increased from 15 percent in 2008 to 28 percent in 2013, according to separate studies.

The 2013 study, a survey of 823 cat and dog owners, found that 81 percent of pet owners would choose an AAHA-accredited practice over a nonaccredited practice if all other factors were equal. In addition, 51 percent would drive farther for an AAHA-accredited practice, and 44 percent would pay more.

Ness and Rowland said the next step is not running another advertisement but increasing word-of-mouth about the relevance of AAHA accreditation to pet owners.

Keynote speaker John Paul DeJoria shared a few of his business secrets. DeJoria co-founded the Paul Mitchell line of hair products in 1980 and founded John Paul Pet grooming and hygiene products in 2005.

DeJoria said mindset counts more than anything else in business, adding that successful people are prepared for rejection. He said salons and animal hospitals alike must make each customer’s visit an experience. He emphasized the power of a “culture of love” within any business.

Partners for Healthy Pets

At the end of the opening session, attendees saw print and video advertisements from the Partners for Healthy Pets promoting annual veterinary visits.

The mission of the Partners for Healthy Pets is to ensure that pets receive regular preventive care. The members are AAHA, the AVMA, the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, and more than 100 other organizations. Among the organizations supporting advertising, AAHA is contributing $200,000, and the AVMA is contributing $1 million.

The AAHA conference included a daylong track titled “Words That Work: Make the Case for Preventive Health Care” through a strategic alliance with the Partners for Healthy Pets.

Karyn Gavzer, a practice management consultant, spoke about the coalition’s campaign to promote veterinary visits and its free toolbox to assist practitioners in the delivery of preventive care. Panelists discussed their success stories with using resources from the toolbox. A workshop helped participants create content to connect with pet owners in the office and online about preventive care.

Campaign information, the resources toolbox, and success stories are available at www.partnersforhealthypets.org.