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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Cost Of Snow Days

Remember my rant about winter weather?  Well, it looks like the weather reports were correct and some of the worry was a little justified.  It's still nowhere close to what northern and mountainous parts of the country get, but in this area they're calling it "Snowpocalypse".  It's the most snow in Georgia since the early 1990s, and many of the interstates have been completely shut down due to accidents and jackknifed big-rigs.  Much of this is due to the ice rather than snow, as parts of the area received up to a quarter-inch of sleet and freezing rain. Even Wal-Mart closed early yesterday, which is pretty much unheard-of.

This is more snow than my kids ever remember seeing, and it's been great to share it with them.  My wife made snow cream, we had a snowball fight, and the they got to go sledding with some of their neighborhood friends.  Personally I love snow and winter weather and don't get enough of it for my taste.  So all-in-all, this has been a nice little vacation for my family.

However, as a business manager I have a different perspective on things.  We were closed yesterday because of the extreme weather and the risk of staff getting to the clinic safely.  Since officials were telling people to stay off the roads except for extreme need, this was a pretty easy decision.  Today we contemplated opening late since the snow and ice had stopped coming down and road conditions had improved a little.  At the same time we would likely close early since the roads would re-freeze after dark.  However, my receptionist and tech couldn't get out of their neighborhoods safely, and our other staff lived even farther away. Even if I could have gotten in, I wouldn't have had anyone there.  We don't board pets and don't have any hospitalized patients right now, so there wasn't an imperative need for someone to have to be there.  In all likelihood we would have few to no clients since everyone else would be staying home also, so I erred on the side of safety for my staff and closed today as well.

All of that sounds nice and logical, and I do feel that it was the right decision to make.  However, part of my purpose for this blog is to give people a look "behind the curtain" of being a vet and running a business.  Our gross revenues this time of the year run around $2000-3000 per day, with some days being higher (we'll push $5000 on a really busy day).  So by closing for two days we've effectively lost $4000-6000 compared to normal weather conditions.  We do save in paying staff, which will offset the losses slightly.  But insurance costs, employee benefits, and many other costs stay the same regardless of whether or not we're open.  Our landlord also doesn't give us a break on our rent just because we can't make it in for a few days.  So there are plenty of costs that we're paying out even when we're not there and not bringing in revenues.

Don't get me wrong, I don't regret closing for a few days.  Besides just looking at the numbers and money I have to realize that my staff are real people with families and I need to consider their safety also.  Running a business involves making tough decisions like this.  In order to stay profitable (and therefore stay open) we will have to make up these losses at some point.  Thankfully it's early in the year, so that is a very reasonable goal. 

There is soooo much more to running a veterinary practice than simply practicing medicine!