Stephen Reynolds, 48, has been compared to a duck that appears smooth and unruffled on the surface but paddles furiously underwater.
On Oct. 1, Mr. Reynolds-who happens to be an avid duck hunter-became the new president and chief executive officer of Baptist Memorial Health Care System in Memphis, Tenn., one of the nation's largest healthcare systems.
"He's a visionary," said Donna Miller, who spent five years as CEO of the Memphis Business Group on Health, a coalition of the city's largest employers. "The healthcare world of tomorrow is going to require partnership-building," a skill Mr. Reynolds has honed at Baptist, she said.
Historically, Baptist has found its CEOs the old-fashioned way. It has grown them from within.
Mr. Reynolds, a 23-year Baptist employee and most recently the system's executive vice president, is only the fourth CEO in the 82-year history of Baptist Memorial Hospital, the system's flagship facility. That level of turnover is remarkable, considering CEOs at not-for-profit hospitals generally average an eight-year tenure, according to the American College of Healthcare Executives.
Mr. Reynolds follows on the heels of such hospital luminaries as Frank Groner and Joseph Powell. Mr. Powell recently stepped aside after 40 years to head Baptist's foundation. Mr. Reynolds is only the second president and CEO of the Baptist system, which was organized by Mr. Powell in the early 1980s. Mr. Reynolds became president of Baptist Memorial Hospital in 1992.
Now at the helm of a $1 billion corporation that includes 18 hospitals, Mr. Reynolds' appears to be well schooled in the values of team-building.
When asked about his strategy, Mr. Reynolds answered, "What I will be doing-I hate to even put in the `I' word-what we will be doing is building upon the strengths of our people, and the people who had great vision."
As he has been groomed, Mr. Reynolds grooms others. Baptist managers are required to read The Fifth Disciple: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization, a management book by Peter M. Senge.
Mr. Reynolds practices what he preaches, said William Tuttle, administrator of 78-bed Baptist Memorial Hospital-Booneville, Miss. "He always took the time to get me involved in projects," said Mr. Tuttle, who started working at Baptist in 1977 as a methods analyst. "He believes in learning by doing."
Mr. Reynolds, a Baptist, speaks out about the "healing, preaching and teaching" mission of the religious-sponsored hospital. In that way, too, Mr. Tuttle said, Mr. Reynolds leads by example, adding, "He walks the faith."
Memphis is low on the managed-care curve, but Mr. Reynolds intends to capitalize on that. Because managed care isn't bearing down as quickly in Memphis, "the door is open for us to work creatively," Mr. Reynolds said.
HMOs have a 21% penetration rate and PPOs have a 29% penetration rate in Memphis. That's compared with 29% for HMOs and 30% for PPOs nationally.
Even though Baptist has won exclusive deals with the Memphis Business Group on Health, they have typically been discounted-fee contracts. Even with the discounts, the system managed to earn $51 million in net operating income on $666 million in net patient revenues, according to MODERN HEALTHCARE's Multi-unit Providers Survey.
The system has gotten a healthy dose of managed care through TennCare, the state's new managed Medicaid system. Although some former charity patients are now TennCare patients, Mr. Reynolds said the hospital is collecting just 25 cents on each dollar of costs. To keep costs down, the hospital is opening a new low-risk obstetrics unit at its downtown hospital. The unit is expected to deliver about 400 babies a year.
In addition, Baptist recently formed an integrated healthcare system steering committee. Sixteen of the 20 members are physicians; remaining are Mr. Reynolds and three of his senior vice presidents. The weighting of the committee members was deliberate. "It's very important for physicians to take a leadership role," Mr. Reynolds said.
He's working on other partnerships as well. For example, one company he's had discussions with is American Medical International, which earlier this year bought St. Francis Hospital, a large competitor in eastern Memphis. The move represented the first substantive investor-owned competition in the metropolitan area of about 1 million residents.
Mr. Reynolds said he's talked with AMI officials about possible partnerships, but quickly added: "We've done the same with Methodist, LeBonheur (Children's Medical Center) and (Regional Medical Center)," the city's tax-supported facility.
Like any team-builder, Mr. Reynolds credits the support and expertise he's drawn from multiple sources, including colleagues at VHA, the alliance of not-for-profit hospitals, and its former president and CEO, Don Arnwine, who's now a consultant.
"We don't think we have to invent it here," Mr. Reynolds said regarding new directions for the system. "We don't mind improving on a good idea."