September 5, 2017, by Paul Caulfield
An MBA experience from the horse’s mouth
An MBA is an incredibly personal journey. Everyone chooses to take on such a challenge for their own reasons, and in the same way each person gets something slightly different out of it. We spoke to Wendy Furness, partner at Scarsdale Veterinary Group, about her own MBA journey and how she is putting it into practice in her own business.
For Wendy, an MBA had been one of her personal goals for some time but the growth of her own business took priority. “I went to vet school because I wanted to own a business which is a slightly different motivation from most people,” says Wendy. “I had probably wanted to do an MBA for about 10 years, but we opened a very large hospital in 2011 and it was so busy I couldn’t have taken it on. But when things settled down a bit I thought if I don’t do it now I’m never going to do it.
“I wanted a scenario where we could get the business side of the vet practice as good as it could be.”
The decision was the right one, she says, with each module of the MBA bringing benefits – some in ways she did not expect. “There was not a single module that wasn’t relevant to me in some way,” she says. “For example, something like economics gives you a much more holistic view of industry. The vet industry is going through a consolidation at the moment whereas it was very fragmented before. The understanding of economics made you understand industry as a whole which in turn helps you understand what’s going on in your sector.” Another top module for her was finance: “I found it challenging and hard – you do push yourself. And obviously, operations management and marketing are really useful in any organisation.”
The focus on reflection – prized highly in the Nottingham MBA – is an element whose usefulness has taken Wendy by surprise, she admits. “I never thought I would hear myself say this but the reflections that you do as part of the modules do make you stop and think about your own influence on outcomes. That’s been more useful that I sceptically thought it would be.”
As well as taking that focus on reflection into her own business, she has found that modules like entrepreneurship and SDO have also made her think more “laterally”. “It’s very easy to get stuck in the day to day of doing your job or running the business so SDO and entrepreneurship and the strategy element made you take that step back – almost from the outside looking in.
“The whole course makes you look at how can you make things better, what can you do to push the business. It encourages you to take the time out to put that time into business development.”
Consequently, Wendy and her partners deliberately set aside time to reflect on how they could push their own business forwards – looking ahead years, rather than just weeks or months. “At a practice level we have undergone massive amounts of change. I think more about if you are pushing things to change what the consequences of that are and how you are going to smooth the process?”
As well as the course content, Wendy has found the exposure to people from a range of environments and industries incredibly useful. “It really makes you step outside the bubble of the industry that you are in and see things through different eyes. Even if people are from a different industry, being exposed to them pushes you to think about what you can take that from that industry and ask yourself what did they do to make that work, what can we do similarly to help our own business and to do things better.”
Similarly, group work, while challenging, has brought its own benefits. “It is challenging because you are constantly working in groups of people you don’t know, so being able to work in a new team dynamic and get something out of that has been challenging but very good. It teaches you to work in the business environment in a team as fast as possible.”
Asked what she has got from the Nottingham MBA, Wendy openly admits that it has not only met her expectations but far exceeded them. “I would not change it for anything, I would absolutely recommend it,” she says. “It’s something I wanted to do on a personal level but I have got even more out of it than I had hoped.
“It’s difficult in terms of time – I have always been very organised but it does take an enormous amount of your time if you are going to do it and get the best out of it.
“It’s completely changed the way I think for the better. And at Nottingham in particular the modular element and the flexibility has been really useful for me and the business.
“It’s not for the faint-hearted but it’s definitely worth doing.”
Wendy will complete her Executive MBA in September 2017. She graduated from Cambridge University in 1997. Wendy’s first job was at the Animal Health Trust in Newmarket completing an equine internship with an emphasis on equine lameness and problems of the performance horse. After completing this she joined Scarsdale Vets in 1998, gained the RCVS Certificate in Equine Practice in 2003 and became a partner in 2006.
This piece was written by Ellen Manning, a freelance journalist, writer & blogger. Ellen writes for several leading publications, and also helps our MBA students to develop their media skills.
Images: Joan of Arc by David & Playing horse by Ken Banks. Flickr.com under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)