Vet Times The website for the veterinary profession http://www.vettimes.co.uk
Qualifying success: how an MBA could change your life Categories : Management Date : February 1, 2012
Most clinicians learn about business at the sharp end, but to develop your practice and personal knowledge, an in-depth qualification could truly enhance your strategic business skills.
WHAT DOES THE master in business administration (MBA) offer to qualified veterinary surgeons or practice owners apart from a distinguished set of postnominal initials? It is much more than a short course in bookkeeping or the rudiments of marketing. The MBA is a highly practical and analytical course that enables personal and professional growth. Two veterinary surgeons offered VBJthe inside track on their experience of the course and gave their perspective on its relevance to veterinary careers. • JULIAN SAMUELSON is a veterinary surgeon based in Kent. He is studying for his EMBA at the University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School. “I am managing partner of the Bell Equine Veterinary Clinic, a 100 per cent equine first opinion and referral practice based in Kent, with 14 vets and a team of nurses and support staff. Together with my partners, I am responsible for the day-today management of the practice as well as developing and implementing strategic objectives. At veterinary school, I received a world-class education. But to the best of my recollection, over the six-year period, we received just two hours of business training. This is startling given that many of us end up owning and managing our own businesses. The Cambridge EMBA is a two-year part-time programme. It involves visiting Cambridge once a month, three one-week block modules, including an international study trip, and a substantial
amount of home study: around 20 hours a week. Assessment is by way of a number of individual and team assignments, as well as several formal examinations. Although the course is designed for and targeted at executives in fulltime employment, it is a formidable undertaking. There have been times when fitting in home study around my day job has been challenging. However, the faculty is very supportive and every effort is made to assist with the learning process, including the intelligent use of remote learning. For those unfamiliar with the MBA degree, the core structure consists of modules including accounting, corporate finance, marketing, operations management, strategy, and negotiation. It also provides insights into other more specialist topics. The Judge EMBA focuses heavily on personal and team development and, uniquely, includes access to individual executive coaching by independent professionals who are experts in their fields. The programme also benefits from its association with the University of Cambridge. Each student enrols in a college and on Friday evenings during the course, a dinner is held at his or her college rounded off with a prestigious guest speaker, attracted, of course, by the university’s reputation. There is an extensive and diverse depth of experience within the class and the ability to share ideas about best practices with a group of similarly motivated professionals is an excellent way to learn new approaches. So, has it made me better at running a business? Well, it’s an incremental process. From day one I learned skills that I could directly apply to my management responsibilities and as the course progresses, the skills gradually combine like pieces of a jigsaw as the overall picture emerges. The veterinary profession is embarking on a period of unprecedented change and opportunity. The insights and skills that I am gaining from the MBA will help me to be more effective in positioning the business for the challenges ahead, so we can actively participate in helping to shape the future direction of our industry rather than being passive observers.” • JASON CHUEI is a UKqualified veterinary surgeon who undertook a full-time MBA at Melbourne Business School, graduating in 2010. He is now marketing manager at Mars Petcare in Australia.
Life changing “After a few years in practice, I had become disillusioned with life as a vet. My wholesome family practice was bought out by a corporate group, who changed the approach, atmosphere and ethics of my workplace overnight.
So I moved to global nutraceutical company VetPlus, as technical manager, and this sparked my passion for business and marketing. However, the recession meant VetPlus was on a hiring freeze and I was given the work of four vets. This was totally unsustainable and I felt that I was not producing the quality of work that I demanded of myself. I decided to move on and ventured to Australia to become a locum. I was diverted via The Cook Islands, where I volunteered as head vet for The Esther Honey Foundation, a nonprofit, international animal protection organisation. The emaciation and deprivation that I had witnessed through my past travels around Asia, South America and Africa was compounded by my experience working for the foundation. It was then that a resounding calling came to me. The reason I became a vet was to serve animal welfare, and I realised that although vets do great work on the ground, that was not going to be enough. I wanted to found an animal-based not-for-profit organisation to neuter stray animals on a large scale. I wanted to provide an umbrella that linked what is a highly fragmented industry and provide the economies of scale, managerial prowess and marketing skills that most charitable organisations lacked. However, I knew nothing about how to set up a charity or running a business, so I decided to embark upon an MBA. Having fallen in love with the Australian lifestyle, I decided to apply to Melbourne Business School, one of the top schools in the Asia-Pacific region. This turned out to be a sound decision. As veterinary students, we were taught very little about accounting, economics and marketing. The MBA taught me all this and so much more. I learned how to be a leader, how to work in diverse and challenging teams, how to read a profit and loss statement, why consumers behave the way they do and how to apply frameworks and strategies to almost any situation. Our class of 55 was represented by 20 different nations, and this was probably the main challenge. All 55 students’ opinions and attitudes, work ethics and motivations were completely different. Managing their expectations and requirements was really interesting, but time consuming. Another challenge was the heavy workload, but in reality this was on a par with what vet school had required of us. After completing the MBA, I spent a few months as a contractor for a management consulting company before taking on a marketing role at Mars Pet Food. Mars is privately owned, so it is not scrutinised like a public company. As a result, it is able to commit to corporate social responsibility initiatives without question. Animal welfare is high on the agenda, so it was a natural fit. I am a marketing manager in the specialist category, and I use what I learned on the MBA course pretty much every day, applying strategic thought to provide more pets with the best possible nutrition available and serving animal welfare in that manner. The not-for-profit agenda is still a dream, and now I have the option to do this through Mars’ initiatives.
The MBA made me a better person, intellectually and emotionally. As a vet, it is important to expose yourself to clinical medicine, but you should not just surround yourself with people in the veterinary industry. Opening one’s eyes to other aspects and other people makes us better vets by being able to better relate to clients. I would recommend that vets considering undertaking an MBA carefully consider their motivations. If you want to progress your veterinary career, then do a certificate or diploma. If you want to open up your own practice, then you don’t necessarily need an MBA to do so, but it might help. If you want to get into the wider industry, this is where an MBA is much more useful.”
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