Scholar insights – Narelle McGeoch
Enhancing leadership in the charity sector with an MBA
Recognising that both she and her workplace would benefit from an MBA skillset, Youthworks COO Narelle McGeoch took the leap and applied for a Kaplan Busines School MBA scholarship offered through the Australian Scholarships Foundation.
A surprisingly common issue in the not-for-profit sector is the struggle to financially attract professionals with MBA qualifications. While employees in the sector are often deeply passionate and highly skilled, they may not have the skillset to implement all the practices, tools and strategies that an MBA-qualified professional could bring to the business. Likewise, those working in the financially constrained charity sector may not be able to self-fund further education.
It’s an issue that Narelle McGeoch, COO and Acting CEO of Youthworks, has experienced from both perspectives. Aware of strategic gaps in her workplace and the need for an MBA skillset, Narelle took matters in hand and applied for an Australian Scholarship Foundation scholarship to address the need.
“I have long wanted to do an MBA but it was something that was economically out of my reach,” says Narelle. “I really wanted to increase my understanding of business operations and to develop my skills in finance, strategy, leadership, operations, data analytics and innovation, to bear fruit in this sector.”
On her way to the C-suite
“I was ecstatic when the offer was made to me. I still can’t find words to express how grateful I am.”
Narelle nominated to do the two-year intensive primarily online, juggling it alongside lockdowns, full-time work and raising three small children. She also made a decision to show her gratitude by aiming for straight HD’s, which she has recently heard she achieved.
A suite of leadership tools at Kaplan
Narelle says that, alongside developing firm friendships with the impressive cohort, the key highlights at Kaplan were the delivery of Business tools, Project Management tools and Leadership, Personality, and Psychometric testing.
Through five financially focussed subjects, Narelle says she learnt how to analyse data from financial statements, apply the analyses to understand the reasons for company growth and failure, determine key economic impacts on company performance, assess corporate social responsibilities, and evaluate investment opportunities.
“I have learnt to calculate financial ratios to understand business performance and assess the financial viability and sustainability of businesses, investments, and projects,” she says. “Many of the calculations – predicated on the time value of money principles, meaning that money earned today is worth more than money we expect to earn in the future – will stay with me throughout my career.”
Putting MBA tools into practice
Soon after starting the MBA, Narelle was promoted from her Executive Officer position into the COO role. She immediately began funnelling her new skills and learnings into the job.
“Putting the tools into practice helped me to hold on to everything I was learning and meant that the impact of the studies was coming through immediately.”
Narelle says she began to analyse the organisation holistically, both internally – by looking at processes, systems, resources, capital – and externally, through the competitive and regulatory environment in which it operates.
“By applying the strategic management diagnostic and analytic tools I quickly gained a deeper understanding of the external environment Youthworks is operating in. I was able to interpret the context of the organisation’s competition, identify gaps in the market, and discover how the business could leverage its capabilities to increase its competitive advantage and improve business performance,” she explains.
“I feel that before the MBA I didn’t fully understand the non-financial metrics and KPIs that are in place in an organisation. Often I would look at the financials – which do give a clear, quick picture of the organisation – but I feel that there is so much more, especially in the not-for-profit space.”
Narelle says that thanks Kaplan’s strategic tools she has implemented a number of non-financial metrics now. These include a customer satisfaction score and retention rate; net promoter score; employee satisfaction score; employee absenteeism and turnover rates; website traffic and bounce rates; social media engagement rate; and customer acquisition cost, to name a few.
With new metrics in place, Narelle took new steps to identify and analyse internal business capabilities and limitations around resources, funding, labour skills and knowledge. Then, to address gaps and support her team, Narelle implemented Leadership, Personality, and Psychometric testing questionnaires within the executive team.
“This really helped them to understand each other better and strengthened their collective performance,” says Narelle.
“The MBA has broadened, diversified and strengthened my own skill set, and these learnings have enabled me to help improve and sharpen the current skills matrix of the senior executive team within my current workplace, resulting in immediate and continuing benefit.”
“I am better able to invest time in them and lead them well so that they can be inspired to grow and stay with the organisation. I’ve also learned how to prioritise my time and delegate tasks effectively.”
The resulting impact for Youthworks, says Narelle, is a stronger leadership team and a refined strategy that addresses and lifts the organisation’s position in the sector, ultimately delivering better outcomes to both the donors and the youth it supports.
“I have honed my strategic thinking abilities to allow me to identify sources of competitive advantage and capitalise on them to create opportunities by leveraging and optimising the organisation’s strengths, as well as understanding its limitations in line with market opportunities.”
Kaplan Business School has been a proud partner of the Australian Scholarships Foundation since 2014, and during that time Kaplan has offered dozens of Master of Business Administration Scholarships to current and future leaders in the not-for-profit and charity sectors. Read more about the scholarship here.
Congrats to all our scholarship recipients in 2023
A big congratulations to all the not-for-profit scholarship applicants awarded scholarships in 2023.
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