I’m often asked what is more beneficial, going to University and getting a professional education or learning through the University of Life. A recent profile, published by my MBA University Cass Business School reminded me of this question. My Grandfather always taught me an education was easily carried. However, there is no better way to learn something than actually doing it yourself, and making the mistakes. Returning to do my MBA after 12 years of working, made me realise the combination of both was invaluable to me. This recent profile by Cass shows my experience and how it has helped me.

Leading the way in innovation and coaching
With aspirations to help people solve their problems, Cara Macklin (MBA, 2017) has launched two impressive businesses to ensure her clients thrive in their environment and reach their full potential. Disrupting the healthcare market creating a totally new concept in elderly care – Northern Ireland’s first Lifestyle Care Home – enables residents to enjoy a fulfilled and active life in a beautiful home, while Cara Macklin Coach – as an entrepreneur and professional coach, Cara uses both her business experience and leadership coaching to help successful senior leaders achieve greater results developing themselves, their team and ultimately grow their business.

Find out more about Cara and how she started her two businesses here:

Can you tell me about your time at Cass?
I completed the full time MBA. Prior to that I had 10 years’ experience as Strategic Development Director, of an award-winning Health Care & Hospitality Group growing it from three businesses with 250 employees to seven businesses and 600 employees. Although I had experience operationally & strategically; Innovation & Strategic Development, Operations Director, New Business Opening, Sales & Marketing, Head HR & Transformation, Procurement Director, Culture, Customer Experience and Financial management, the MBA gave me much more insight into different industries, and international experience.
Although challenging, the MBA experience was invaluable, giving me the opportunity to work on projects outside my experience with people who had real expertise. The academic learning combined with real industry experience was a great discipline to put the theory into practice. One of the key highlights of the MBA, was the international electives in China and South Africa and completing a consultancy project in Iceland. This was an experience that I’ll never forget and a huge learning for myself.

What happened after you graduated?
With my experience in healthcare and the learnings from the MBA, I wanted to disrupt the elderly health care market. After graduation I created the concept and opened the first Lifestyle Care Home in Northern Ireland. This model was based on holistic health and wellbeing, of both medical care and social care, where elderly people would come and live a fulfilled live. The facilities included a café, spa, hairdresser, nail bar, pub and cinema. Within eight months of opening the home achieved 100% occupancy, prices 30% above competitors, won Care Home of the Year and I was awarded Women in Business Innovation Award, NI Top 40 under 40 and Institute of Director finalist for Innovation.
During that time I also trained as a professional coach, and then launched a coaching business – Cara Macklin Coach. I combine my 14 years’ experience in business leading large teams, developing and growing organisations and opening new business, with my MBA knowledge and professional coaching. Now I coach successful senior leaders who have an entrepreneurial mindset, and want to develop themselves, their people and ultimately grow their business. This allows me to work with leaders in different industries across the world, who really want to achieve their potential, push boundaries and have a big impact.

How did your businesses come about?
The Lifestyle Care Home Milesian Manor, came about because the problem I heard over and over again, was people had to go into a nursing home, but they didn’t actually want to go in. From that I focused on the problem – “people don’t want to go into a home”, and did research on what was the real reason. The overwhelming feedback was people didn’t like the environment, and the perception was that’s where you went to die. So I decided to flip that on its head and make it a place where people came to live a really fulfilled live in a beautiful environment.

Cara Macklin Coach came about because I’ve always had an eye for developing people’s potential and getting the best out of them. I recognised a lot of organisations develop the business, but often leaders don’t develop themselves or their people at the same rate and that’s where the problems can happen. My success in the businesses I have grown and opened, one of the key foundations has been my own continuous development, having coaches support and challenge me along with the development of my teams. As a senior leader I know first-hand how exciting yet challenging and lonely it can be running a business. Combing my business experience, with the professional coaching training I want to help successful senior leaders with an entrepreneurial spirit, who want to develop themselves, their teams and their business.

What have been the biggest challenges?
I believe in business the biggest challenge centres around people. When you’re creating something new, it’s hugely challenging bringing people on the journey in terms of your vision to deliver it. With the Lifestyle Care Home and Cara Macklin Coach, I use lots of different tools and techniques from my experience and learnings in the MBA and coaching training, to inspire others and deliver the idea. No matter how good an idea is, if you can’t convince other people such as your customers, staff and key stakeholders, it won’t go anywhere.

What has been the most rewarding experience?
With the Lifestyle Care Home the most rewarding experience has been creating a concept that was totally new and innovative, and making it happen against an environment being continuously told it wouldn’t work. The positive impact on people’s lives both in terms of the elderly people and their quality of life, and the happiness and contentment of their family.
With Cara Macklin Coach, it’s hugely rewarding seeing senior business leaders achieve things they never believed possible. Helping them create new ideas, inspire their team to deliver these and ultimately grow their business. This impacts not only financially in their business, but also the personal impact on the leader and their own growth and development is the most rewarding experience.

Do you have any advice for anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?
When starting a new business, make sure there is a real problem that you are solving and there are customers willing to pay you for it. Sounds simple, but without these you don’t have a business. As a leader wanting to grow and develop a business, I believe you must continuously develop yourself and develop your team as well as improving the business.

Successful leaders who continue to develop, don’t do that without going through growing pains. I know first-hand through my own challenges in business, and coaching other senior leaders, it’s critical to have a strong trusted support network. Leadership is lonely, and having a trusted mentor or coach is like a critical friend who supports through challenges, and develops you to achieve much greater things.

Thank you to Cara for sharing her story! If you would like to find out more about Cara’s ventures, please email: hello@caramacklin.com.