Clarity of purpose

Emma Williams profiles incoming NZVA CEO Kevin Bryant, who has a passion for serving members of organisations that make a difference.

Former industry training organisation leader Kevin Bryant is a self-confessed city boy, yet he’s spent his entire working life on primary sector issues.

After getting a marketing degree from Victoria University of Wellington, Kevin joined the New Zealand Dairy Board, where he worked for 15 years, mostly in customer service, sales and marketing. He then went to the world of industry training organisations (ITOs), where he earned his stripes in leading organisations that serve members.

Kevin led the Agricultural Training Organisation for more than 10 years, and was the founding CEO of the Primary Industry Training Organisation (New Zealand’s largest ITO). “At Primary ITO I had a bit to do with rural veterinarians. I gained an understanding of them and how they interact with farmers,” he says.

While at Primary ITO he worked with previous NZVA CEO Julie Hood to establish a qualification system for people working in veterinary clinics who were not veterinarians or veterinary nurses. The scheme eventually got off the ground as the New Zealand Certificate in Animal Technology (Rural Animal Technician), now delivered through Otago Polytechnic. It gave Kevin valuable insights into the NZVA and whetted his appetite to help veterinarians.

“I want to keenly understand our members and the stakeholders delivering outcomes to veterinarians.

“The NZVA staff need to continue to look towards, and focus on, member needs. We are here to serve members – that is our priority. We need to be certain that our education, leadership and advocacy are servicing members in the most effective ways they can.“

Internally, I’ll be ensuring that the NZVA has clarity of purpose. I’ll be working with the board and staff to get really clear on the vision, purpose and strategies so we can further support our members. I’ll also ensure our purpose aligns with what our members and stakeholders need and expect. I want the NZVA to be as responsive as it can be to members. I want us to always be looking at what we can do better.”

He is clear on the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges for veterinarians and the NZVA. “Veterinarians have a long history of being trusted, well-educated professionals. We have a real opportunity to remind the general population of the value that veterinarians contribute. I want to make the important work that veterinarians do more visible. I also think that the NZVA needs to keep reminding veterinarians just how important they are to society.“

A real strength for the NZVA is that the majority of practising veterinarians are NZVA members. But I am interested in why a minority of veterinarians have not become members – and what the NZVA could do about that.”

Kevin is interested in further supporting veterinarians in business. “While they are great at being veterinarians, they sometimes need support in running small businesses. Small businesses often struggle, and this is a great opportunity for the NZVA to support veterinarians. The NZVA will continue to support all veterinary businesses, large and small.”

Over the years, he has demonstrated that he is a great people leader. “I have a collaborative and consultative leadership style. That said, I won’t make decisions by committee. I’ll take advice, then make the decisions I’m required to as CEO.

“I’m committed to values-based leadership. If you look after the people, the people look after the business. I think it is particularly important to treat volunteers like gold. Organisations can often overlook volunteers. I want our NZVA volunteers to feel truly valued.”

He is dedicated to a growth mindset culture. He wants staff to grow, make mistakes and learn from them. “It is vital to be open and approachable. You need a chain of command in an organisation, but open communication is vital. I thrive on honest, frank conversations.”

When not at work, family is a top priority. Kevin has two daughters, both back home in New Zealand after overseas stints, one of whom has children, and a son who lives in Tasmania with his partner and daughter.

His family are avid travellers and have taken many overseas trips together. Kevin, his wife, their children (and their partners and kids) holiday together annually, either in New Zealand or overseas. He is also into mountain biking and gardening, and is an avid Hurricanes and All Blacks supporter.

Caring for animals has always been a big part of the family’s culture, says Kevin. “One daughter in particular is a real animal lover. As a child, she brought home a steady stream of stray animals, including rabbits, sick hedgehogs, turtles, fish and cats and dogs. We have always had pets in our house.”

He is crystal clear on how animals help human welfare. “Animals help people to feel good. And if we look after veterinarians, they can look after the animals, and we’re all happier for it.”