Ten-minute chat - business manager

Emma Batson

What makes you tick, work-wise?

I've always had an interest in horses and, having survived a year working with young thoroughbreds in New Zealand, I did a PhD in equine physiology at the Royal Veterinary College. I then joined Merial Animal Health. During eight years with the company, I was lucky enough to get to know some of the leading lights in the equine veterinary industry.

My role at XLEquine is similar in many ways, but at the same time is also quite different! One of the most exciting aspects is being part of a team that can make a real difference to the working lives and success of our equine vets, and the benefits that brings to their clients. Equine diagnostics and medicine have advanced significantly, as have the challenges for modern equine practice.

With horse owners having greater access to information, client communication is key, so we ensure that our customers experience best practice horse healthcare.

Tell us about your career path

It started with a biology degree and then the year in NZ, followed by my PhD, which focused on equine tendon biology and predisposition to injury. With Merial, I evolved through technical and business development roles, with the overall aim of raising the profile of its equine brand. Specifically, my focus was to increase sales of the equine portfolio, but included leading, motivating and developing a team of three dedicated equine specialists, an equine marketing and technical manager and a regional telesales coordinator.

How did you get the job with XLVets?

While at Merial I developed some strong relationships, both individually with XLEquine member practices, and also with the group. My new role is similar in that it involves working in partnership to deliver excellence in practice, as this is very much at the core of the ethos of the XLEquine brand, so it was a more natural progression than might be apparent.

What does a business manager do?

It involves developing the value of the brand, the benefits to the membership, and raising awareness of the brand within the veterinary industry. I also constantly seek to improve business processes and opportunities for member practices, and to develop campaigns to deliver excellence in practice and offer education and information to practice clients.

What made you move from an animal health company to private practice?

Although this is a very different type of business, I believed that I could apply much of what I had learned and enjoyed doing to develop my new role. I particularly aspired to the ethos of a collaborative working group to drive the future of independent practices. This role provides me with the opportunity to work at the sharp end of equine medicine.

What have you been doing so far?

Much of the collaborative efforts of the business involve sharing best practice, so there's a strong focus on personal development and training, both for vet members and their clients.

Using the template of the XLVets FarmSkills training programme, we have developed EquineSkills, a new training scheme for horse owners. The first step was to organise for our equine vets to attend a training programme called ‘Train the Trainer’, which teaches techniques and methods to aid the delivery of practical instruction and course leadership. We also have VetSkills, which focuses on developing CPD for our young equine graduates or mixed practice vets, so there is a top level consistency of clinical knowledge, for example when dealing with an equine emergency. It also fosters an opportunity for camaraderie to develop among our members.

We have set up customer care training for all receptionists and customer- facing members of the team, which is a crucial part of client management and care and engages all members of the practice team with XLEquine. It's vital that everyone can contribute to the ongoing success of the group.

A key element of my role is working in collaboration with independent organisations such as the Animal Health Trust with which we have spent the past few months embarking on an equine infectious diseases campaign. We will shortly be launching what we believe is the UK's first fully comprehensive biosecurity information booklet for horse owners.

How do you see your role evolving?

The main focus is to keep developing initiatives that demonstrate the value that is offered, focusing on the client journey through an XLEquine practice. I will also continue to develop our collaboration with external organisations. Our marketplace is rapidly changing; a proactive and adaptable approach means that the opportunities created can be embraced.

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