Only Adaptive Business Leaders Survive

In these uncertain times in Healthcare, in which we wrestle with questions like: Will the ACA survive? Or MACRA? Or any other governmental program we’ve put tons of resources into complying with? I’m reminded of how our Adaptive Business Leaders (ABL) Organization got its name.  Only Adaptive Business Leaders Survive.

Originally, back in 1983, we were founded as the Southern California Technology Executives Network – SO/CAL/TEN. However, by the late 1980’s, several of our medtech Members asked us to start inviting hospital and health plan CEOs into the Group. (In some cases, their medical devices were becoming foundational for service businesses, so they were becoming providers themselves, and they all wanted to better understand this new payer phenomenon called “managed care.”) Being good listeners, we took the bold idea of bringing healthcare providers and payers into our Tech Round Table to our Board; and they said, “Great idea, but a hospital CEO certainly wouldn’t see himself as a technologist.” (Remember, this was the ’80’s, way before the HITECH Act!) So, we searched for a name that might serve as an “umbrella” for both our existing Technology CEO Round Tables, as well as the new Healthcare Groups we planned to form.

And then, it hit us: our Members (and we) had just survived the Crash of ’87, and the “build-down” of Defense Electronics. In that particular sector, 38 of our 40 defense-electronics Member companies, didn’t adapt, and were out of business within a year. The two companies that did survive had one thing in common: they “adapted” their businesses – reshaping core capabilities, renaming themselves, and seeking out (and finding) new clients. Truly they were adaptive business leaders. And, so the name – and the philosophy behind it stuck: if one isn’t adaptive in business, you don’t get to stay in business at all!

On the Tech side of our Organization, this played out again during the Dot Com era. We still have four Members from the late 1990’s, who survived the Dot Bomb. To a one they pivoted: identifying and focusing their businesses on their most profitable market segments, sloughing off the unessential in all areas, and renaming their businesses to reflect these changes. Today each of these Adaptive Survivors is very successful.

And, I suspect, we’ll (continue to) see winners and losers in Healthcare as well, as markets – and Administrations change. Intel’s Andy Grove famously wrote,
Only the Paranoid Survive. I’d amend that to be: only the Adaptive business leaders survive.