Learning Continues Post-Grad: Azmina Shamji-Kanji (MBA ‘93) Seeks New Paths for Valley CORF Based on E2B Recommendations
“Never stop learning.” One of many pieces of advice alumna and entrepreneur, Azmina Shamji-Kanji (MBA ‘93), shares with the MBA students through the Pepperdine Graziadio E2B™ (Education to Business) program. As the current CEO of Valley CORF, a comprehensive outpatient rehabilitation facility focused on improving the lives of patients affected by pulmonary lung disease, Azmina took the opportunity to gain outside perspectives from students who are up to date with modern business practices. Between her passion for impacting the lives of those who struggle to breathe and graduate students who are willing to take on any business challenge brought to them, the E2B program was the perfect answer to help Valley CORF and the students develop as Best for the World Leaders.
Through the E2B program taught within select MBA courses at Pepperdine Graziadio, students gain transformational learning experiences by working directly with global powerhouses, regional brands, and emerging businesses to confront current business challenges the companies face. Students conduct a deep analysis of the existing business practices and utilize key course concepts to develop recommendations to help address the proposed issues.
Not only did the MBA students who Azmina worked with present new strategies to progress Valley CORF’s marketing efforts, but they also suggested opportunities that surprised Azmina. Backed with market evidence and educational concepts, Azmina is excited to implement these recommendations into her organization’s business model, hoping that in the future, one of the E2B students will become a part of her team and lead the endeavor.
Read Azmina's Interview:
1. Could you provide a brief overview of your career path?
After obtaining my undergraduate degree from England and moving to the United States, I began my MBA at Pepperdine – a work-study program at the time. Upon graduation, I was very thankful that the degree got me my dream job at Angeles Corporation; a real estate syndicate in Century City. Within one day after graduating, the promotion was a major surprise to me. It was an assistant controller position supervising almost 15 employees. I then moved on to another organization in a managerial capacity (more like a COO). A few years later, I had the urge to become an entrepreneur - helped my husband purchase a pharmacy, set up multiple day-care centers, set up a real estate company, bought several properties out of- and in-state started an import/export company, and finally, invested in a training and consulting company. I managed to turn the consulting business around and sold it after 10 years. Thereafter, I taught as an adjunct professor for American International University, Maalot College, and Santa Monica College for about 3 years. I decided that it was too soon to stop being an entrepreneur so when the opportunity came along in the outpatient clinic business to help the founders turn the business around, I took up the challenge. It has been a great journey since I have now been in the business for almost 18 years this coming September. During that time, I have invested in six other clinics with a partner, sold some, shut down a couple, and now have three left - all in the San Fernando Valley. They are all CORFS, which stands for Comprehensive Outpatient Rehabilitation Facility, a Medicare designation established by Congress in the 1980s.
2. What initially sparked your interest in attending Pepperdine Graziadio?
It was at that time, the only program that offered a work-study program for adults – seemed welcoming and I was impressed at the orientation. I was able to continue working and studying while supporting my husband who was in pharmacy school.
3. How was Valley CORF created and what is the purpose of your business?
The founders of Valley CORF found me. I was, at that time, teaching but was interested in investing in a healthcare organization. By that time, I had bought and sold a few small businesses as well as my training company. The model was amazing – with no competition, a very niche/unique service, and life-altering therapy for the elderly – seemed like a dream business. The mission of our CORF is to improve patients’ quality of life, activities of daily living, breathing, provide education on how to prevent infections, and help our patients live a long and happy, healthy life. It also provides psycho-social and emotional support to those elderly patients who suffer alone. At the same time, our programs save costs and prevent hospital readmissions.
4. Why did you pursue a Pepperdine E2B™ project with MBA students?
I was beginning to feel outdated decades after graduating and was seeking new ideas. Our business model worked - we got referrals from physicians. However, 62% of the patient population who suffer from lung disease do not know that pulmonary rehabilitation not only sustains them (which medications and oxygen do too) but improves their quality of life. The problem we identified and articulated to the E2B students was that we had no reach to our intended audience and no idea how to bring the patients on board – rather than depending on doctors for referrals. The teams went beyond our expectations with data analysis and results, possible outcomes, and implementation of what we should consider taking on.
5. What did you learn about Valley CORF from your partnership with E2B and the MBA students' recommendations?
The biggest lesson I learned is that we are outdated by not being actively involved in social media, web marketing, Yelp, etc. Because of that, we are losing a large share of the market and most importantly, we are restricting our growth. The data provided to us by the students to back up our possibilities was mind-boggling and unimaginable.
6. If this program was offered to you when you were studying at Graziadio, would you have taken it?
Yes, I absolutely would have. What a great partnership between students and companies - and what a great way to get the hands-on experience for the students, dive into all the positive and negative aspects of the company, analyze problems, and offer solutions.
7. What do you hope to achieve with Valley CORF in the future, having these recommendations?
We have already adopted a mission statement, which was an idea by one group. In the near future, we would hope to get one of the E2B students to consult with us and take on the project of implementing a full-blown social media program for our three clinics. That is our goal. Right now, we are not ready since we have a brand new clinic and moved Valley CORF to a new location so the pain of all the approvals and license transfers is still ongoing. Once we get past that stage, we will consider all the ideas and reach out to the students that worked with us in the E2B program to find out if there is anyone interested.