19 Mar 2010 00:00:00.000
The entrepreneurship of students at the country’s newest vet school has been put to the test — inside the Dragons' Den. Scrutiny of their business acumen was part of the innovative teaching programme at The University of Nottingham’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Science.
Ten teams of students had to pitch their ideas on how to rescue an imaginary veterinary practice from failure. Their strategy, financial forecasts and funding proposals were put to the ‘dragons’ in the hope of finding backers for their business proposals.
Business teaching is delivered within the Personal and Professional Skills module which aims to equip vet students to become effective members of a practice team. The Nottingham vet school believes it is important that its students understand how their actions, as qualified veterinary surgeons, will affect the profitability of the practice in which they are employed. The teaching, over two semesters, incorporates aspects of strategy, finance, marketing, management and entrepreneurship. Their business training culminated in the one day business game mentored by experienced practitioners from the Society of Practicing Veterinary Surgeons (SPVS) and industry leaders.
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The students had to analyse the current performance of the fictitious practice, consider their strategy, provide financial forecasts and put together a proposal for funding the newly acquired business. They had to decide whether to continue the business as a mixed practice or to sell part of it to focus on small animal work.
Their proposals were presented to an intimidating panel of potential investors. The business plan had to withstand 10 minutes of searching questions. These included questions about delivering the new strategy to staff, devising a stock management system, creating a “30 second sell” and dealing with telephone calls from clients.
Asking the difficult questions in the den were dragons with experience in the veterinary profession, management, marketing and financial consultancy — Chris Jagger, Director of Estates at The University of Nottingham; Arwel Griffiths, a business and marketing consultant with over 27 years’ experience in industry; Peter Wells, who retired from his position of Global Head of Research and Development for Novartis Animal Health Inc. in 2008; Phil Adcock, an Independent Financial Adviser; and Karen Braithwaite, Director of Academic Support and Administration at the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science.
Richard Holborrow, from the SPVS and councilor and team mentor said: “I was seriously impressed. This module from Nottingham will make these students better employees and for some of them it will have sparked an interest in practice ownership that may have a profound influence on their careers.”
Another SPVS mentor, Ewan McNeill, from Castle Veterinary Centre in Nottingham said: “It really was a huge success in every way. I didn't realise I would get such a buzz from it, and everyone — students, staff and mentors alike — were on a real adrenaline high all day. I had a fantastic team and I got a lot out of it myself”
Dragon, and management consultant, Arwel Griffiths, said: “I thought the teams were very good indeed. Most had understood the key issues and had clearly put a great deal of thought into their approach and delivered their points with confidence. The very best of the teams managed to hit the right balance between having a clear and attractive proposition for financial investors and outlining the clear steps they would take in the business to turn the performance around and create value. All seemed to have a very significantly greater grasp of business issues than I had at their age!”
Kevin Spencerlayh, a year four student, said: “This experience puts us ahead of most vets out there. The business game was really good as well as it brought together everything we had learnt in the module this year. The Dragons' Den was really good fun. The mentors were really helpful and having them there was a real boost.”
Toby Trimble, year four student and member of the wining student team “Vet Equity” said: ”The business game gave me a valuable insight into the running of a veterinary practice and the input from our SPVS member was extremely useful.”
Jamie Meagor, year four student, said: “The exercise really put into play everything that we learnt throughout the business skill module and it was a great opportunity to practice my public speaking and presentation skills.”
Naomi Ragsdell, year four student, said: “Our mentor was a brilliant help and he gave us lots of insights into the realities of running a practice and how much things actually cost. The whole day plus what we have learnt in the module has really enlightened me on the business of veterinary practices.”
Liz Mossop, Module Convenor and Lecturer, said: “This was a busy yet fun day which really helped the students to understand how veterinary practices function as businesses. We hope this will help our students as they graduate and enter the veterinary industry. Skills such as these should help them to stand out as truly all round competent veterinary surgeons. We would like to thank our sponsors Onswitch and John Sheridan’s Veterinary Business Briefing, and the SPVS mentors, who were all practitioners donating their time to help the students.”
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Notes to editors
: The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 100 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THE) World University Rankings.
More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to RAE 2008, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranks the University 7th in the UK by research power. In 27 subject areas, the University features in the UK Top Ten, with 14 of those in the Top Five.
The University provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's “only truly global university”, it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation – School of Pharmacy), and was named ‘Entrepreneurial University of the Year’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2008.
Nottingham was designated as a Science City in 2005 in recognition of its rich scientific heritage, industrial base and role as a leading research centre. Nottingham has since embarked on a wide range of business, property, knowledge transfer and educational initiatives (www.science-city.co.uk) in order to build on its growing reputation as an international centre of scientific excellence. The University of Nottingham is a partner in Nottingham: the Science City.