Is it time to think the unthinkable and put your prices up?

By Alan Robinson B.V.Sc. MRCVS DMS, director of VetDynamics

price-increase

Throughout the last few years, the cost of running a veterinary practice has increased constantly. Whether it is drugs, utilities, insurances or equipment, the prices keep going up year in and year out.

It is surprising to see that, despite that, so many veterinarians do not increase their prices at least every year.

The awful truth for many practice owners is that doing nothing could result in a dramatic loss of profitability.

It’s time to review your pricing for next year.

It’s a great time for a refresher on the shocking impact that seemingly small price cuts (or the effect of inflation, consumable prices and exchange rate movements) can have on the viability of your business.
The results may well shock you.

The first table (below) shows that discounting for many businesses can have a devastating impact on bottom line profits – often much more than we would ever believe. Even with seemingly modest reductions.

For example, the table below shows that a business with a 20% profit margin that implements a 10% price reduction (either through promotion, negotiation or cost increases that have not been passed on) needs to increase sale volumes by a MASSIVE 100% just to stand still in terms of profit!

The Effect on Gross Profit of Putting Your Prices Down
If you cut your price With your present gross profit being:
10% 15% 20% 25% 30% 35% 40%
5% 100% 50% 33% 25% 20% 17% 14%
6% 150% 67% 43% 32% 29% 21% 18%
7% 233% 88% 54% 39% 30% 25% 21%
8% 400% 144% 68% 47% 36% 30% 25%
10% 200% 100% 67% 50% 40% 33%
11% 275% 122% 79% 58% 46% 38%
12% 400% 150% 92% 67% 52% 43%
15% 300% 150% 100% 75% 60%
16% 400% 118% 144% 84% 67%
18% 900% 257% 150% 106% 81%
20% 400% 200% 133% 100%

The implications are mind numbing.

Just to maintain last year’s profitability you and your people would have to work 100% harder, you may need to drastically increase stock levels, your staff and equipment have to handle 100% more output – and that’s before you consider the potential negative hit on your cash flow.

And you make no more profit. In fact, if you ‘only’ achieve a 20%, 30% or 40% increase in sales volume you make less money.

What about putting your prices up?

Crazy you may think – especially now.

You can hear your staff and colleagues protesting already – “we’ll lose customers”, “our sales will drop”, “we’re surrounded by Corporates”, “you’ll go out of business” and “our competitors will have a field day”.

But consider this.

Again based on a 20% gross profit margin, if you put your prices up by 10%, you would have to do 33% less before it affected your net profit.

The Effect on Gross Profit of Putting Your Prices Up
If you increase your price With your present margin being:
20% 25% 30% 35% 40% 45% 50% 55% 60%
2% 9% 7% 6% 5% 5% 4% 4% 4% 3%
4% 17% 14% 12% 10% 9% 8% 7% 7% 6%
6% 23% 19% 17% 15% 13% 12% 11% 10% 9%
8% 29% 24% 21% 19% 17% 15% 14% 13% 12%
10% 33% 29% 25% 22% 20% 18% 17% 15% 14%
12% 38% 32% 29% 26% 23% 21% 19% 18% 17%
14% 41% 36% 32% 29% 26% 24% 22% 20% 19%
16% 44% 39% 35% 31% 29% 26% 24% 23% 21%
18% 47% 42% 38% 34% 31% 29% 26% 25% 23%
20% 50% 44% 40% 36% 33% 31% 29% 27% 25%
25% 56% 50% 45% 42% 38% 36% 33% 31% 29%

In other words, you could supply 33% fewer products or services and you’d actually be better off.

You’d be doing less work and making more money.

And you have to ask what are the chances that 33% of your clients would leave if you are doing a great job and providing excellent value? Virtually none – I think you will get busier!

The reality is that when we first work with new clients we discover that many undercharge.

And when they muster up enough courage to increase prices, most discover that they keep their clients and continue to win more new clients – because they give great service, excellent value and go that extra mile.

They were always worth more and their clients know that.

I have discussed this issue with practice owners in our Platinum Practice workshops all over the UK over the last 12 months. When I ask who has raised prices in the last 12 months, a surprisingly large number say that they have.

And when I ask them if they have lost clients as a result, the answer in the vast majority of cases is a clear and resounding “no” (and we are talking rises here in the order of 5%, 10%, 12% and 15% – way above inflation).

In fact in all cases, the effect has been a dramatic, significant and immediate increase in profitability, which improves cash flow, boosts reserves and allows investment into the business.

Of course, the effect of not charging what they should would have had the opposite effect – low or no profits, poor cash flow, low reserves and no investment.

Can you see why failing to act could be financial suicide?

For some businesses with the capacity to handle a 40%, 50% or more increase in volumes a price cut could result in enough new sales to increase profit, and could be the right decision.

However, the reality for most businesses is that a price cut or unaddressed ‘cost creep’ is a recipe for disaster.

Using these tables will help you make much smarter decisions about your prices for 2016, and may help you to understand why it is vital to resist the temptation to make (or allow through cost creep) seemingly minor, but potentially crippling price cuts.

It can be a hard decision to take, but not taking the right decision now could be even harder as the consequences catch up with you.

If you need some advice or courage consider our Practice Profit Builder.

So how do I change my prices in Animana?

Visit the KB article here:  http://help.animana.com/kb/update-product-prices/

About the author:

AlanRobinsonAlan Robinson has been a veterinary surgeon in practice for 20+ years, a successful business consultant for 15 years to over 600 practices and a director of Vet Dynamics.  His mission is helping independent practice owners improve performance and quality of life in practice.

“I believe most practice owners are working much too hard, for far too long and for much too little reward, because of inefficiency, frustration and poor profitability in your veterinary business”