Meeting Clients at Their Point of Changing Need

February 14, 2017 – Preston Smith emerged recently as a new leader in executive search. He has a unique leadership background of more than 20 years serving both the private and public sectors at the intersection of healthcare, law and business. He’s now president of Tyler & Company, a recruitment firm specializing in finding healthcare, academic and life sciences leaders.

Mr. Smith believes the evolving needs of top-tier institutions require outside-the-box thinking when it comes to bringing next generation talent on board. Following are excerpts from a recent interview conducted with Hunt Scanlon Media.


Preston, what led you to your current leadership post at Tyler & Co.?

Prior to becoming president of Tyler & Company, I earned business and law degrees and entered private practice with a focus in hospital and healthcare law. I was elected to be a Georgia Senator for four consecutive terms where I served as chairman of the Senate judiciary committee and worked with a number of top healthcare experts on a comprehensive reform of the state’s medical liability laws. I also spent almost a decade in the leadership of a national hospital-based professional physician services company, ApolloMD. There I worked as president of anesthesia and later as the company’s chief revenue officer and chief compliance officer.

How will that tremendous background serve you now?

My experience partnering directly with hospital and healthcare executives to help solve the complex challenges they are facing has been a tremendous advantage to understanding our clients’ unique needs. That experience has also helped guide me in how to best recruit the new generation of top-tier candidates for C-suite and top-tier leadership positions for which we’re recruiting. In our field, we never lose sight of the fact that recruitment of strong leaders translates not only to the organizational success of our clients, but ultimately for the delivery of excellent patient care in our communities.

How are changes to healthcare affecting executive search?

The environment of healthcare has dramatically changed over the last two decades. The evolution has led to a complex legal and regulatory environment for one thing. The changes result in frustrations by many hospitals and healthcare systems facing the challenge of recruiting senior executive talent. That is where the true need for a firm like ours comes into play. Among many other things, today’s candidate for a senior leadership position needs to have excellent financial and people management skills, and be prepared to demonstrate operational success with objective results which are data-driven and metrics-based. They need to understand the key drivers in an integrated physician enterprise and quickly adapt to the changing world of value-based reimbursement, federal MACRA regulations, compliance, data utilization and protection and patient experience expectations. This, as they say, is not your father’s Oldsmobile.

Are you seeing talent supply and demand problems?

There is plenty of highly qualified executive talent in the market. However, what has changed is the source of the talent and the nature of the executive search solutions. Traditionally, healthcare, academic and life science institutions could fill many positions by posting ads and promoting from inside, without the perceived need for an executive search firm. The recruited talent largely came from the same industry silo and often was based on seniority within the system. As our modern industries have become disrupted by this evolution, a perception has arisen that there is a lack of available talent and it would seem that the supply of qualified candidates is failing to keep up with the unique demands of clients. But, that is true only if clients face this new dynamic landscape while continuing to apply the old recruiting methodologies.

What capabilities do the next generation of healthcare leaders possess?

Shifts in customer expectations have affected every industry and the delivery of healthcare is certainly not immune to disruption in the market. Today’s executive recruited to lead in the healthcare industry is expected to handle all of the traditional responsibilities of the role while also being innovative. This requires leaders who think about how to create transformative models that help support and grow their organizations while leading into the future with cutting-edge initiatives. Navigating this transition requires recruitment from new talent pools to introduce leaders who think outside the box, are capable in leveraging emerging technology and have a deep understanding of the perspective that patients have in their interactions.

How are search firms adapting to the new landscape?

This goes right to the heart of why retaining an executive search firm like Tyler & Company is so important. Recruiting a diverse talent pool of top executives who understand the complex and dynamic changes to the industry requires that search consultants reach into new, non-traditional, recruiting pools. It is critical that the executive search firm truly understand the client, its unique culture and needs. That allows the search firm to become a trusted advisor to talent acquisition managers, C-suite executives, search committees and governance boards. The technology, databases, people and processes should be focused on a high-touch professional service that is nimble, flexible and responsive to the client. And, just as importantly, the search firm should bring value to the client by leveraging that knowledge of the industry to bring highly qualified candidates with deep skill sets from outside of the traditional hiring pool. When a search firm does its job well, the client is presented with candidates from both traditional and non-traditional backgrounds. This is the future of executive search – where the process of executive recruitment evolves to meet the clients at their point of changing need.

Contributed by Christopher W. Hunt, Publisher, Hunt Scanlon Media

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