The 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: Earlier this year, you completed the acquisition of MedNOW Urgent Care. Why and how did this come to fruition?
Grant Asay: Clearly, having a strategic private equity partner (Latticework Capital Management) is critical in our acquisition and growth trajectory. With the MedNOW acquisition, we added four mature clinics in a great market. However, what was even more important than the addition of clinics to our portfolio was bringing on two solid physicians who are growth-minded and a cultural fit. They will continue with the company through the next transaction.
The original owner/founder of Xpress Wellness, Dr. Scott Williams, is retiring. Finding strong medical leaders in an acquisition who can not only grow the business but carry on his vision was imperative.
Q: As a portfolio company, what have you found is the power of partnering with a private equity firm? What are the benefits, and how has it strengthened Xpress Wellness?
GA: I think the real power in partnering with private equity comes in perfectly aligning the interests of a strong management team, an experienced governing board and a progressive and resourceful private equity team. When you effectively manage these three entities, there is tremendous opportunity and potential for growth. I attribute a lot of our success to that alignment.
The timing was perfect for Xpress Wellness to find a private equity partner in 2018. We didn’t need financial engineering to drive better returns. We were a young company with a strong vision and culture. We needed a partner that had the expertise and resources to help our management team create an infrastructure from which we could scale the business and prepare for rapid growth.
With our private equity partner’s years of healthcare experience and capital resources, we were able to create an organizational structure, strategy and timeline for quick expansion. Prior to partnering with private equity, we saw 150,000 patients per year. We expect to see 500,000 in 2021 and have a very aggressive runway for additional growth.
Q: What have you learned about leadership throughout the challenges of the pandemic? How did Xpress Wellness adapt?
GA: The pandemic was a period of massive disruption. Business as usual changed quickly as we needed to close some clinics because of the emergency declaration. To get all our clinics open and see patients, we had to be nimble, attempt to predict the future, take risks and be willing to make mistakes.
When a rapid transformation is needed, it turns out that employees can be your most valuable asset. We had early access to approved COVID-19 testing products but quickly found our clinics bogged down and unable to meet the demand for rapid testing. We were doing more testing in Oklahoma and Kansas than any other entity. Fifty or more sick patients were lining up for testing before we opened in many locations.
One staff member who was working the front desk felt that many of these patients could be seen virtually with our providers and drive through the parking lot for a quick COVID-19 test and immediately leave. Many resources had to be realigned, but because of innovative and insightful employees, our team developed a virtual visit platform within weeks of the beginning of the pandemic. This platform served more than 200 patients per day in very rural locations and provided communities with critical data to manage safety policies in their rural communities.
Our virtual program has gone through additional adaptation. Virtual healthcare will be one of our strongest service modalities because of the experience of our frontline team who saw different ways of delivering great care to patients.
Q: You have worked at a high level in various positions. How do you quickly learn the most important things about an industry/business?
GA: There are several constants regardless of your position or title in healthcare. Obviously, you can’t deviate at all from a focus on great care of patients, and your team needs to see you live this. You can never lose sight of the patient, whether you are operating hospitals, caring for dialysis patients or growing rural healthcare.
I have found during my several leadership positions that I learn most quickly from the team members who already understand the business. However, physicians and staff can quickly see through a fake and arrogant leader. They will not share business knowledge without the confidence that their leader is genuine with 100 percent integrity. A strong resume, deep history and experience cannot compensate for a failure to develop trust and a deep respect for your medical and leadership team.
About Grant Asay
Grant Asay is the CEO of Xpress Wellness Urgent Care, an Oklahoma-based provider of urgent care services with locations in Oklahoma and Kansas, and soon Texas, as well. He has more than 35 years of experience in healthcare executive leadership positions, including at Fresenius Medical Care North America and LifeCare Management Services. Asay earned his MHA from the University of Washington and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Utah.