La Trobe alumnus Marcus Guthrie completed his Master of Business Administration (MBA) in late 2015, studying night classes while working full-time. He’s now the CEO of Mildura Health Private Hospital, where he oversees 130 staff, three theatres, 29 in-patients beds, a day procedure unit and an oncology unit. Guthrie shares his insights on why you need an MBA to progress your career, and the benefits of studying at a regional Victorian campus.
From the hotel business to CEO of Mildura Health Private Hospital
I’ve been in management roles since 2000, albeit in a different career, as a director in luxury hotels around the world. My career path was from the Whitsundays, through the Caribbean, to the Seychelles and in the Maldives. There I was tasked with converting two islands from three star to five star. We mobilised 750 multinational staff and the project was quite successful. Along the way I had a family developing, so we decided to come home to Mildura. Initially, I was appointed General Manager of the Mildura Golf Resort. Then, I was awarded a position as Business Manager at the Mildura Base Hospital. That progressed to Patient Services Manager, looking after four departments and around 100 staff. And then Medical Administration Manager, taking care of all the senior specialists in the hospital, as well as Ramsay Healthcare Specialist clinic. In late 2017, I became the CEO of Mildura Health Private Hospital. As I was progressing in the healthcare industry, I realised I needed an MBA for three reasons. The first was the learning and growth opportunity; the second reason was that it’s really becoming a prerequisite to have an MBA on your file; and thirdly, largely, for career advancement. An MBA is fast becoming a prerequisite for career advancement.
Doing an MBA
Starting an MBA offers a fantastic learning and growth opportunity and a network of professional friendships. A lot of businesses require their middle to upper management cohort to have an MBA, for the value it brings to an organisation.
First, it cements the management fundamentals that you already know. What I found interesting was that management fundamentals haven’t really changed since the 1700 and 1800s, so it’s about learning to apply those theories to your everyday practice. It’s a good opportunity to reflect on those management fundamentals and prune them to suit the current business landscape. Second, there’s a large focus on sustainability and responsible, ethical leadership. I really enjoyed that aspect of the MBA – it ensured that I was on the right path within the work environment.
What I enjoyed the most was the networking. When I started my MBA there were 66 people in my cohort, many of whom I still keep in contact with – they’re from all different industries around Victoria and Australia. I learnt about their careers, about their professional challenges and professional opportunities, and the ideas they are trying to implement in their own careers. That was a really rich learning experience for me. Marcus was also drawn to the La Trobe MBA’s flexibility: “I could spend time with my family, handle my work commitments, but also have class time.”
La Trobe’s Mildura campus
La Trobe’s campus in Mildura was a significant factor for me starting my MBA, because I could complete the MBA from my home base. My job was really busy, but so was my personal life. We have three very young children, so I needed to support to my wife and children at home. At the time I spoke at length with the MBA Director and it was quite clear that the La Trobe MBA was a great opportunity for me. I could spend time with my family, handle my work commitments, but also have class time. There was great flexibility.
I was able to complete work, race home to see the family and then go to La Trobe to study one or two nights a week, from 6–9pm. I really enjoyed the night classes because they suited my lifestyle – they didn’t affect my work schedule. As well as that, there was the option of intensives from Fridays through to Mondays. You could pick various intensives on your calendar throughout the year and take off a significant amount of study time by doing that. And if I wanted to travel to Melbourne or the other regional campuses to complete my studies, I could.
My vision was to become CEO of this hospital one day. It still feels quite strange to have achieved my goal, although I’ve had a really clear vision for five or six years now. I remember saying to one of the Board members five years ago that, ‘Ultimately this is where I see myself and this is where I’d like to be’. It’s good to have a clear vision, but there’s a lot of hard work and also an element of luck involved – quite easily I could have gone in another direction. So that’s been a bizarre realisation, that I’ve actually got here – all the while knowing that the hard work has only just started.
There are many service moments in a patient’s journey that can have a positive effect on their overall care, says Mildura Health Private Hospital CEO Marcus Guthrie. You can draw a lot of parallels between hospitality and hospitals. Patient treatment should be viewed holistically, inclusive of all interactions a patient has throughout their journey of care. We look at a patient’s journey through a hospital as opportunities to care, and our interactions with family and friends of the patient are important contributions in the journey of care. It’s not just about treating the patient and the patient gets better, it’s also about the other contributions along the way: the quality of food and the friendliness of staff that deliver the food, the cleanliness of the hospital, or saying hello to a family member as you pass in the corridor. There are a significant amount of service moments in a patient’s journey that can have a positive effect on the overall care of the patient.
My vision for Mildura Private Hospital has always been to provide safe, quality healthcare. If the management team and I continue to have that goal, then I’m sure we’ll be very successful. The hospital’s a fantastic resource for Mildura. We service 70 per cent of Mildura Health Fund members and we also service a catchment area of Broken Hill, Renmark and Robinvale. It’s a really important hospital for the local community, especially because we’re co-located with the Mildura Base Hospital. There’s plans for expansion in the future, which will benefit the local community and members. Hopefully in the future, both hospitals can work together even further to improve service to the community.
I talk to people about La Trobe’s MBA all the time because I really believe in it. Don’t be worried about the workload. You should treat it similar to a sport, where you have to train two nights a week and then you generally have one day on the weekend that you’re committing to that sport. If you can commit that as the bare minimum, you should be able to navigate through an MBA quite easily.