How Sarah added business acumen to her veterinary skills

With the support of VetPartners, vet Sarah Reeves went back to university on the day her son started school, and achieved an MBA, a prestigious business qualification, with distinction.

Here, Sarah, clinical director at Shearbridge Vets in West Yorkshire, talks about how the opportunity to add business skills and knowledge to her clinical background has provided a great opportunity to develop her career…

FOR many people, studying for a qualification while they’re juggling a demanding career and a young family is incredibly daunting and perhaps even impossible.

But, for me, the opportunity to study for an MBA was a real luxury because I love learning, and it was also a chance for me to have some time to myself doing something I enjoyed. I viewed it as ‘my time’ and a chance to learn and develop my skills, and ultimately, my career.

Don’t get me wrong, studying for an MBA is extremely challenging and a huge commitment, but I’ve got so much out of it and really enjoyed learning.

I’ve been a clinical director at Shearbridge Vets for three years and, when I first took on the role, I was part of the first cohort to undergo management training, organised by VetPartners at their headquarters in York.

We covered areas, including finance, marketing and HR, and it opened my eyes to ways I could improve the practice and our ways of working.

It’s easy to become blinkered in work when you’re dealing with the every day tasks of being a vet in a busy practice, and this provided me with a fresh outlook.

Many vets don’t have the opportunity to see this other side of the veterinary industry and it’s not something you learn at vet school. Many people end up in management roles because of the length of time they’ve been in practice, rather than being taught how to manage.

Out of this management course came the opportunity for some team members to study for an MBA, and I jumped at the chance.

It was a big commitment because I work 30 hours a week and my youngest was just starting school. In fact, he started school as I started York St John University business school with my VetPartners colleagues.

The course was very much geared towards the veterinary industry and tailored towards myself and the practice. There is a mixture of studying at home and university. There was a great team spirit among the 12 VetPartners employees who did their MBA at the same time, and a great feeling of togetherness.

One of the most important things when you’re studying part-time is time management, so I set myself clear targets so studying didn’t impact on my children.

The topic for my capstone project was implementing the use of automatic stock control for our practice. We had considered doing this, but doing the Masters give me the reason to go ahead and it has been successful. The feedback from the team has been great and there have been financial gains for the practice.

I also applied change management and leadership skills I learned to our Pet Health Club, a scheme clients sign up to for preventative health care and check-ups with the cost spread throughout the year, and we are seeing good success and more people signing up.

Completing my MBA has given me new knowledge and skills, as well as more confidence in my own capabilities to be a clinical director. I’ve been able to add business skills to my clinical skills so I feel much more equipped.

I am very happy in my current role, but always open to fresh ideas on future progression in VetPartners.

I feel a great sense of accomplishment from completing my MBA and gaining a distinction was the cherry on top.

  • Sarah Reeves is a clinical director at Shearbridge Vets, which has branches in Queensbury, near Bradford, and Hipperholme, near Halifax.
  • She qualified as a vet at Liverpool University in 2004, before joining Shearbridge Vets in 2009.
  • Sarah lives in Hebden Bridge with husband Simon, who works in financial management, children Albert and eight-year-old Edith, and their cat Betty.




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