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Ten-minute chat
  1. Andrew Praill, President of the British Cattle Veterinary Association and a member of the BVA Board

Abstract

Former practitioner Andrew Praill is president of the British Cattle Veterinary Association and a member of the BVA Board.

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What made you apply to join the BVA Board?

The need for a staged transition towards retirement, having been in mixed practice since 1972, led me to look for veterinary-related roles that would be interesting and stimulating. Applying for election to the BVA Board fitted well with this aim. Having been a member of the BVA since my first year as a student, I recognised the importance of the BVA in terms of professional cohesion and influence. Also, being a British Cattle Veterinary Association (BCVA) council member and, ultimately, a BVA Council representative brought me into closer contact with the the BVA's headquarters in Mansfield Street. Chairing the BVA Council Review Group, the outcomes of which I feel have been very positive, encouraged me to get even more involved.

How did you get to where you are today?

After qualifying I joined a rural Herefordshire mixed practice with the aim of continuing there until I stopped making mistakes; this I have never done, so I stayed for 36 years, having morphed into a combined large animal and management role.

The business management side interested me to the point that I applied for and gained a position on the board of Centaur Services. This was an enjoyable and interesting position, my period of tenure ultimately coinciding with the sale of the company as a profitable concern, preceded by the transition from its original cooperative status. I still chair the pensions trustees at Centaur.

The BVA Board is seeking new members. Information packs and nomination forms are available on the BVA's website, www.bva.co.uk/about_us/BVA_Board.aspx. The closing date for applications is 17.00 on October 15.

What does the Board do?

The Board seeks to maintain a robust corporate and financial platform from which the officers, executive managers and the staff can deliver the strategic aims it sets. Those aims reflect current and future requirements for how the BVA integrates with its members, the profession, other professional bodies and organisations and government.

Policy production and direction is provided by the BVA's Council and the committees; the Board is made aware of these policies especially where financial or reputational considerations are attached to them. It is critical that the Board and Council work in a coordinated and collaborative fashion and in this way the Board's due diligence and its foresight provide that platform. Financial and reputational stability are what the board strives to deliver.

What do you bring to the Board?

I see myself as a ‘people person’ and believe that the main asset of any organisation is the people in it. However, my experiences in practice, with the BVA and in business, provide me with a holistic view of the veterinary landscape. This is accentuated by my involvement representing the BCVA or BVA with central, devolved and regional governments, and various agencies including the AHVLA and Veterinary Medicines Directorate where I am a member of the Veterinary Products Committee. Commenting on how these inter-relationships can best be made to work is something that I feel I can provide.

Why is the Board important?

Prior to the Board's inception, the checks and balances and the necessary over-sight of the BVA's activities risked not being open to scrutiny. Being primarily a membership organisation, the BVA has to be financially secure. To achieve this, it has to have an effective commercial engine room, which is currently provided by membership subscriptions and publishing income. Simplistically, this income delivers members' services and policy production, which are at the heart of the BVA's raison d'être.

The world is changing apace and one of the most important roles of the Board is to look forward and to adapt strategies to fit with how it sees the future developing. Risk management is critical in this regard. The Board also has to recognise the relationships that exist with the regional and specialist divisions with regard to BVA's position as an umbrella organisation.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to join the Board?

For those members who recognise the importance of the core values of the BVA and how these fit with future developments and relationships, and also feel that their previous experience can be put to good use to support and enhance those values, the Board offers a means to ‘do your bit’. There needs to be a wide spectrum of experience and expertise around the boardroom table. A recent Board review emphasised that in building the team all necessary qualities should be assessed and sourced. Be they practice sector, legal, financial, corporate, IT, HR, marketing, public relations or whatever, the Board's skills must deliver the broadest possible resource scope. At present, the gender balance of the Board nowhere near fits the gender balance of the membership and this is certainly something that needs to be redressed in my view.

What was your proudest moment?

Arguably, receiving my degree certificate 30 years after qualifying. I was delayed getting to the degree awards ceremony, and the nail on the wall in my study was eventually brought into use when my wife, Jane, procured a copy for me from Liverpool university for my 50th birthday.

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