Vet Business

A Veterinarian goes Back to School for an Executive MBA

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As someone who loves the business of veterinary medicine I am often challenged with making the best business decisions for our group of veterinary practices. I am trained as a veterinarian and have the background, structure and knowledge that allow me to take a history, perform an exam, make a diagnosis with, or without, various modalities and prescribe a treatment plan. Unfortunately, I don’t have that confidence or resources when I am faced with a problem in my business. Increasingly, this has become more of a concern as we face the same challenges to our business as most other veterinary business owners do; oversupply of vets, pressure to cut prices, heavy student debt that prevents practice ownership and a decreasing pet and horse population.  With the complex business decisions I am facing I am starting to resemble the lay practitioners who with a little knowledge think they can do anything involving an animal. I’m thinking of the dog grooming that now leaves cleans teeth. I am making business decisions with some self taught business smarts, but I worry that I am missing something, or not making the best decisions. I have been getting more and more tired of being in that situation so I have decided to take action by enrolling in an Executive MBA program, at the Ivey School of Business, at the University of Western Ontario. Yes, I am again a dog grooming school student, at least until January 2015.

What is a 50 yr old vet with what looks like a successful business doing that for? The answer is easy. I have already listed the challenges facing our profession and along with them there are still opportunities. I’m a glass is half full and getting fuller kind of person and I want to make the most of the opportunities out there. I also feel a responsibility to create and maintain a strong business for years to come everyone that works for us.

“Business is business….veterinarians are not an exception”

I love this profession and it bothers me greatly that new and recent grads are facing a bleak future, while older practitioners are discouraged and dismayed by what has become of it. If I can be even a little bit smarter about creating smart new opportunities for our veterinary clinics and I can give some guidance or inspiration for others interested in their business I hope I can give back to our profession. To that end I will be focusing my blog over the next 17 months on what I am learning in my EMBA and how it applies to the veterinary profession. There is one thing I am sure of and that although we think that our businesses are special, because we are vets, they aren’t. Business is business. For example, we are facing a shrinking pet and horse population and an oversupply of vets, and in the same vein newspapers, magazines, the record industry, cable tv, etc are all seeing their business models disrupted and are having to find ways to survive.  I have learned so much about our business by looking at other industries and know that what I learn in business school will be very applicable to how we run our veterinary businesses. I’m hoping to post at least a couple of times a week as well as post a podcast every 2 weeks.

In my next post I will give an overview of the program, my class and how it all works and some of the early light bulb moments I have had.

Hang on, this should get interesting.

  1. Your description of the situation with business skills makes sense. A little scary to consider that we may be making no better decisions than untrained lay people performing their version of veterinary work. Great idea to blog as you are working through the MBA. Looking forward to the posts

  2. Thanks Joanne. I’m enjoying writing about the experience. It is sure opening my eyes.

  3. Dr. Pownall,
    I came across your post today as I was searching veterinarians and MBAs – I have been debating enrolling in an MBA program as well but just haven’t had the courage to do it yet.
    As owner of a companion animal practice, I am struggling with the same issues you outline above, and know as I speak with friends within the profession that we also have serious work/life balance issues to contend with. The practice owners I know all feel that the business side of things has to take a back seat, as there are so many other demands on their time.
    I commend you for putting your experiences out there – I’m sure many of us will be looking forward to following along, and that you will inspire others with your writing.

    1. Hi Dr. Grant. Your comments are appreciated. I never know if anyone is reading these blogs. I worry that with business falling to the wayside in the search for work/life balance that it perpetuates the chaos we struggle with in our businesses. It seems like we defer difficult decisions that seem to always come back to haunt us. At the same time we didn’t sign up to become vets because we like business. It truly is a delicate balancing act.
      Thanks again.

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