A View From the Top: David Young of Physicians Endoscopy

June 29, 2020

David YoungThe interview below is part of a series from McGuireWoods that features interviews with C-suite leadership of private equity-backed portfolio companies. To recommend a leader for a future interview, email Holly Buckley at [email protected].

Q: What was the best advice you received about running a business successfully?

David Young: The best advice I have received is to make sure you spend enough time knowing and understanding your talent and knowing that you need the best talent to make yourself and your organization successful.

When you enter an organization, you have different levels of talent. You need to quickly identify your A, B and C talent. You need to set a goal to turn your Cs into Bs and your Bs into As, with a larger goal of getting As across your organization in a time frame that you set for yourself. If you understand and improve your talent, whether from internal development or recruitment of talent, you will give yourself and your organization the best chance of success.

As a leader, while it is critical to be thinking about strategy and operational decisions, it is extremely important to get your talent right.

Q: What characteristics do you look for in leaders within your organization?

DY: When I look for leaders, I want to find people who are humble, as they will more accurately represent their business skills, experience and knowledge, and appreciate where they may lack experience or knowledge. This allows a leader to engage in comfortable dialogues with healthcare providers. Good leaders know they do not need to have the answers to everything but will commit to getting answers. I also look for leaders who demonstrate a willingness to be transparent with their organizations, take on conflict within organizations and ultimately drive and become comfortable in making decisions.

The ability to comfortably work at 50,000 feet and then drop to two inches is important. I consider it a red flag if someone is comfortable managing from up high but uncomfortable with diving down. Healthcare is national, but most importantly, local, and you need to be able to work in real data and numbers and specific objectives rather than generalities.

Q: How has the COVID-19 pandemic shaped your planning and vision?

DY: The pandemic has forced leaders to make significant and fast changes to their organizations. For myself and others, this meant ripping up our carefully crafted business plans and understanding the need to swivel and move away from a strategy that was put together cohesively, presented to and bought in by the board and had everyone’s backing. We needed to transition rapidly to address a set of circumstances that forced us to focus on how quickly we could understand what was going on and turn this knowledge into a cohesive set of priorities that allowed our organizations to respond effectively and successfully. In addition, we needed to be able to make changes to this daily, weekly and monthly.

As a leader, you are always planning for today while building a longer-term strategy. The pandemic made us understand that our strategic window had shortened rapidly. We needed to determine how to start explaining the strategic window so we could start communicating to the organization about how we were responding tactically today and tomorrow, but also what was needed in a week’s time, a month’s time, two months’ time, etc. It is a challenge to quickly shorten your window but then also be responsible for thinking broadly — as a leader must be able to do — on how to develop a longer-term strategy when you need to get the organization focused on the now.

Leaders always need to be thinking at least a month or two out and also years out, but you do not want most people in the organization to be thinking that way during a crisis. In most cases, it is unfair to ask team members to focus on longer-term planning when so much disruption has occurred, and they need to execute on what is needed today.

Q: You have worked at a high level in various positions. How do you quickly learn the most important things about an industry/business?

DY: First, I need to understand the business model. That may sound simple, but it’s actually fairly complex. I want to learn about the key triggers and drivers of the business model, those that have made the segment a success and how the company has achieved success within the segment. I also want to gain a strong understanding of why the business model is valuable, what the value drivers are to customers, how customers view the business model and how that is changing. Unless you truly understand the business model, you cannot effectively plan the key priorities of the organization today versus the future.

To gain this clear understanding, I begin with a discussion with the leadership team and then quickly drop down a few levels across the organization to get their understanding of what is happening within their organization and how they see and understand the organization.

In addition to speaking with leadership, I read about the company’s strategy and financials; look at operating metrics, which should be helping me understand key drivers; and start to build a picture and understanding of how I should see the world in which the organization operates. I discuss my understanding with others to ensure I am using the correct terminology, which helps me refine my language.

I also move quickly across the organization and do dropdown meetings with various teams to try to understand how people within the organization view the mission and vision of the organization, how they understand what we do and how they understand what they think is bringing value. Over time, this not only helps me identify issues and priorities but also helps me understand the most important facets about the business and industry.

After doing many meetings across an organization’s entire team, a few common concerns typically emerge that are usually attributable to communication, lack of understanding of priorities, the need for process improvements, and/or training. Through these meetings, you learn about the key internal issues and challenges. This helps supplement the knowledge you have gained while focusing on understanding the external challenges.

In addition to these processes, I reach out across the industry and introduce myself. I also get introduced to people by my predecessor, the person above me, and/or the board and ask those in the industry to help me understand how they view the industry and its place in the world.

I also speak with the bankers and brokers to get their perspective of what is happening in the investment community around the industry. These organizations and people are great resources because they are always trying to predict and understand the issues and trends they are facing and how to position themselves for success. That provides me with good lessons and direction.

About David Young

David Young joined Physicians Endoscopy in June 2018 and serves as president and chief executive officer. Physicians Endoscopy specializes in supporting the GI industry through the development, investment and management of freestanding, single-specialty endoscopic ambulatory surgery centers in partnership with practicing physicians and hospitals and also in the investment and provision of management services to GI practices. Young is responsible for Physicians Endoscopy’s strategic direction, service development and day-to-day management.

Prior to joining Physicians Endoscopy, Young was chief operating officer of Privia Health, a national physician practice management and medical group based in Virginia. He helped build the group to more than 2,000 providers and was responsible for all day-to-day operations. Before Privia Health, Young was chief financial officer and interim president of Smile Brands, the largest provider of support services to general and multi-specialty dental groups in the United States. He has also served as senior vice president of operations for McKesson Specialty Health, an $8.7 billion division of McKesson Corp., and chief financial officer of US Oncology, one of the nation’s largest networks of community-based oncology providers.

To contact David Young, email [email protected].