Experts estimate that more than 70 percent of veterinarians are embezzled with an average loss of $200,000. But, because the embezzlers often steal small amounts of money over many years, the thief is never noticed. The US chamber of commerce estimated that 75 percent of employees steal from their workplace and that most do so repeatedly.
A majority of people, if given an opportunity, will take advantage of a situation to steal from their employer on the following frequency:
-3 percent will steal daily
-7 percent will steal weekly
-20 percent will steal 4-12 times a year
-70 percent will steal 1-2 times a year
-4 in 10 doctors experience theft in some form from the practice. 1 in 3 veterinary practices experiences monetary theft from their practice.
The significant types of theft in veterinary practices are:
-Goods and services in Kind
All types of theft can hurt the bottom line of the practice. The Monetary thief, in most cases, has the most negative effect on the practice bottom line. Most veterinarians find it hard to believe that their handpicked, trusted, longer-term staff would steal from the practice.
Here is an unfortunate, and real-life, example. A veterinarian had a highly successful practice with five employees. One was a long-term office manager who came to work early and left late every day. She managed all the financial transactions daily along with the insurance and statement billing. The office manager took an extended vacation. While she was gone, the office sent out statements and received numerous calls from patients that their statement was incorrect and that either their insurance had paid the bill, or they paid on the day of service by check or credit card. The doctor had the staff investigate all the disputes and found out that the office manager had embezzled more than one hundred thousand dollars over the years. He was devasted and could not believe that the long-term, most trusted employee had done this to him.
Methods that have been used by staff to steal from the practice:
Zero Charge- Patient comes in for services, and the office staff member posts a zero-balance charge and pockets the money. At the end of the day, the computer collections balance to the deposit slip. No one notices.
Falsify Deposit Slip– Employee brings the doctor a deposit slip to sign for the day matching all the collections taken in for the day but then takes out all the cash from the deposit bag or envelope and changes the deposit slip when depositing the money.
Multiple Adjustments to Accounts- Courtesy discounts like cash discounts or senior discounts are used. Employee charges the full amount to the patients and keeps the cash discounts and pockets it.
Fictitious Vendor- Employee sets up a fake business with an account and has doctor sign supply order checks for supplies. The employee deposits these checks into an account and keeps the money.
Make sure that even your closest friend in the veterinary practice is being watched. Here are some suggested internal controls to help prevent thief and embezzlement:
Segregation of Duties– Make sure one person does not control all cash flow processes.
Daily Audit Trail– Review daily transactions to catch zero balance postings.
Rotate Duties– This will help to reduce the chance for embezzlement.
Verify the End-day Report to Deposit Slip– Ensure that you see the end-of-day report and it balances with cash deposits. The doctor should be responsible for depositing funds in the bank.
Review Bank Statement– Take time to review the statements monthly.
Require Vacations– All employees must take vacation days that they have earned.
Performance Plans– If the practice meets specific goals and the practice is increasing its revenue, give incentives to employees in monetary form.
Background Checks- Make sure you follow through on background checks before hiring new employees.
Verify References- Check all references.
Having internal controls will help protect the practice and staff that are honest and want to do a good job. It will also help everyone stay focused on their tasks and goals at hand and take away the opportunity for someone to embezzle. You don’t want to have good employees turn into liabilities.
Omni Practice Group has been helping veterinarians for over 15 years developing plans to transition their practice. Our goal is to help you find the right buyer and make a smooth transition of your practice when the time is right. Contact us today for a free no-obligation consultation with one of our Practice Transition Advisors.Read More
We see embezzlement in the veterinary office all too often. The average embezzlement amount REPORTED is over $100,000 in a veterinary practice, and we know most is not reported or ever discovered. Please review the following tips to avoid embezzlement, as well as signs from employees to be aware of.
-Limit access to practice management software to make adjustments, and format software to disallow deletions or changes after the close of each month. Assign passwords to each employee. Ensure the software company understands that you are the only person that can make changes to the software.
-Clearly set expectations and protocol for making adjustments.
-Review daily reports for adjustments, provider production (ensure there are no “zero” charges), collections, over-the-counter collections, and audit/deletion. Ask questions and research as appropriate.
-Review and confirm the accuracy of daily reconciliation of deposit, petty cash, and cash drawer. Confirm monthly bank reconciliations.
-Review accounts receivable aging reports each month and research any accounts as appropriate.
-Do not allow team members to purchase things for the office and be reimbursed.
-Match up all accounts payable checks with statements and confirm accuracy. Watch for vendors or names you don’t recognize or come up frequently.
-Confirm all bills and credit card statements are accurate.
-Never sign a blank check for a team member, client, or vendor.
-Ensure checks are in numeric order and keep all voided checks.
-Look for trends, such as missing checks, incorrect deposits, missing charts, increased adjustments, and patient complaints.
-Review the details of each team member’s paycheck and year-to-date numbers.
-Perform background checks according to state law.
-Have your veterinary-focused CPA involved with your bookkeeping
-Implement a comprehensive written Office Policy and Employee Manual
Potential Employee Warning Signs
- Resistance to change or having your veterinary CPA or consultant view additional practice information
- Collections have slowed with no justified reason
- Daily deposit reconciliation is not being done timely or is inaccurate
- Adjustments increase with no justified reason
- Team member refuses to take a vacation, wants to take work home, has a financial crisis, and/or resents your income and lifestyle
By Corey Young, DDS, MBA, ABI and Jen Bennett, OMNI Practice Group
Congratulations! You just achieved a major professional milestone in completing the purchase of your new practice.
There are many tasks that will require your immediate attention after closing, but one often overlooked item that is crucial to your transition is ensuring you retain the staff.
Here are some helpful tips for you to consider:
The first thing you will want to do is a formal “meet and greet.” I highly recommend that you meet your new employees within two days of the seller notifying the staff. This will help ease their anxiety about who the new boss is and give you an opportunity to personally remind them that they are an asset to the practice. It is also always a nice touch to schedule the introduction during lunch hour and as a kind gesture, to bring lunch for all. Be sure to check with the seller on any dietary restrictions, food allergies, and favorite restaurants.
Next, your new staff will be worried that you will be making changes that may negatively impact their lives such as pay, benefits, work hours, scheduled time off, etc. Make it a top priority to understand their concerns and to assure them that you will carefully evaluate all potential changes before making any decisions. While things might not be run exactly how you want them to be, be sure to weigh the consequences of losing a key staff member because of a decision you might make. Sometimes it is better to leave things intact while you get yourself established with the staff and with your new patients before you implement your desired changes.
Finally, you will be busy but find time to make a personal connection. Set aside one-on-one time with each staff member, get to know them, what they care about, and why they got into veterinary practice. Establishing a relationship early on will pay dividends down the road as your new patients will certainly be asking their trusted veterinary technician, assistant, or office staff member, “What do you think about the new guy/gal?” The goal is to not only retain your staff but to retain patients as well. Having staff in your corner is critical to your long-term success.
In Washington State, Governor Jay Inslee has halted all non-emergency services and elective procedures for the next 8 weeks forcing most medical offices to close during this time (hospitals, surgery centers, dental offices, etc.)
Rent is still due!
The obligation to make a rent payment is not automatically stopped because your business has been forced to close! Here are some ideas of what you can try:
Talk to your Landlord.
Engage with your landlord right away. It may be news to them that your office has been forced to close, leaving you with little to no ability to produce revenue. They might in a situation to help, though this is a negotiation not a guarantee. Ask your landlord if they would be willing to waive or reduce your rent, a 90-day deferral of rent could be option, or just pay the CAM/NNN – anything can help. Offer to make it up over time once the doors are back open and you’re treating patients. Remember the landlord may be having their own financial hardships, but they do have an interest in you being able to pay the rent for years to come.
Check-in with your Insurance Agent.
Some insurance policies have coverage for unique circumstances in the case that you are not able to run your business. This may help with covering rents and loss of wages.
I am not an attorney, nor is this an attempt to provide legal advice. So, check-in and consult your attorney, make sure they specialize in Commercial Real Estate Law with a focus on Medical leases and contracts. On rare occasions, your lease may include Force Majeure, which could offer relief in unforeseeable circumstances that prevent someone from fulfilling a contract, but this is unlikely. After a quick review of a traditional WA State Commercial Brokers Association Lease, there was no Force Majeure clause within the document.
Ask your attorney about Common Law which is prevalent in many states. This may address the impossibility to perform and make an income, it doesn’t automatically relieve you from your rent obligation, but the fact that you are forced to perform only emergency procedures in WA State may allow for an avenue for relief.
Banks across the nation are offering short term Small Business Loans at low rates as a method for giving small businesses financial aid. First, check-in with specific banks that focus on loans for Medical providers. Small Business Loans are available now. Some larger national banks may offer other loan programs or allow for deferred payments for the time being. Now may also be a good time to refinance your practice loan into a lower rate loan and saving you money.
If you need help getting in touch with a qualified attorney, banker, want to talk about your specific circumstances and ideas, or just want to tell me I am wrong, please contact me at Steve@omni-pg.com.
Connect with Steve on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/steve-kikikis-378b8697/
Freshen up your practice – Buyers like to see a fresh, clean and somewhat updated practice. That does not mean you need to do a complete remodel and spend a $100,000. It does mean you need to take a look at your flooring and your walls. If you have large holes in your wall or your flooring was leftover linoleum from World War II, you should fix the holes and put in new flooring. Talk to your landlord, sometimes they will help with the cost. If you have equipment that is held together by the “fix everything” duct tape, contact your local equipment rep and have it fixed.
Update your technology – We run into an occasional practice owner that considers indoor plumbing as new technology. If you are in that category, or if you have not done any technology updates since Richard Nixon was president, you should look into digital x-rays and other technology that will not only appeal to buyers but will help you increase your production in the practice. Contact your equipment rep for the latest and great technology.
Financial Review – Have a meeting with your financial planner or advisor to see where you currently stand with your retirement portfolio. This will help determine how soon you can possibly retire, how much more you may need to put away to retire and/or how much you need to get out of your practice sale in order to retire.
Practice Valuation – You should get a valuation done on your practice. This will help your financial planner and you see where you stand with your entire portfolio. Some doctors rely heavily on their practice sale to be a piece of their retirement nest-egg, so if you don’t know what your practice may be worth, you don’t know what size of nest-egg you have. Call Omni for a free snapshot valuation.
Clean up your books – If you have been aggressive in running expenses and other items through payroll, you should work on making sure the books are clean. If you have multiple practices, but run all of your income and expenses through one tax id number, you should ensure you can separate the income and expenses of both practices. Meet with your CPA to analyze your numbers and see if you are in line with industry averages.
Grow your practice – One of the worst things you can do is take your foot off of the gas pedal. If you want to maximize the value of your practice, keep production at least level with prior years. A growing practice sells quicker and easier than a dying practice. If you don’t know how to grow your practice and make it more sellable, contact a consultant, or have a practice assessment done.
These are just a few items that you can do to help prepare your practice for a sale. If you work on these items now and over the next 3 years, you will maximize your practice value, enlarge your pool of potential buyers and be able to sell your practice quicker.