Years ago “Marketing Outside the Box” may not have been a topic veterinary students from all over the country and even the world would commit a weekend outside of school to learn about.  However, it is a new day and students are taking charge of their business acumen early in their careers.  Over the course of 3 days last weekend, I was privileged to spend time with these students at the annual Veterinary Business Management Association national meeting held in conjunction with NAVC 2014.  The VBMA is comprised and run solely by full time veterinary students interested in learning more about business management.  Members of this organization descended upon Orlando for a jam packed 3 days of talks and round-table discussions, all in an effort to expand their understanding of business principles and apply these lessons to the veterinary industry.

    The NAVC 2014 weekend kicked off with a speed networking event (based on the idea of speed dating) providing students an opportunity to make contacts with industry professionals.  Saturday morning our own Jimmy Mahan of Live Oak Bank delved into the topic of what big brands do to win customers hearts and how that can be used in a veterinary practice.  The students spent the afternoon in roundtable discussions on how to effectively run their local chapter and increase participation in their business certificate program.  Wrapping up the day, Drs. Mary Gardner and Dani McVety brought wonderful insight and lessons regarding online marketing and understanding body language based on their entrepreneurial experience founding Lap of Love.  Round 2 began early Sunday morning with presentations by members of VetPartners  followed by small group discussions with these industry professionals on topics ranging from interviewing, work life balance, and politics in practice.  Dr. Jim Clark finished out the afternoon talking about “Negotiation for New Graduates”.  The weekend ended in a celebratory event where these students were able to let their competitive spirit out in some intense games of WhirlyBall (think polo cross meets bumper cars).

    Walking away from this weekend I was mesmerized by the talent that the veterinary profession has coming through the pipelines.  I was also blown away by the insights these students have on the future of our profession. Take a trip down memory lane and imagine how much more value you could have brought to your first job if you would have learned about these topics during your time in school.  I hope that practitioners begin to realize the tangible value that “VBMA member” truly holds on a new graduate’s resume.