High Stakes

10 Things Hospital Board Members Are Thinking During Your Pitch

For all the development folks out there, do you ever wonder what board members are thinking during your pitch to buy, merge, joint venture or otherwise partner with their hospital? Having led communications for more than $32 billion in announced healthcare transactions in the last few years, we have some inside scoop.

Top 10 things a board member is thinking during your pitch:

  1. “What would they say at church if we went with this partner?” Board members have an incredibly tough job in determining the future of what is nearly always a beloved community asset.  They feel an enormous responsibility to do right by their friends, neighbors, and of course the employees and physicians in their community.  They are truly fearful of making the wrong decision, and they want to know they can trust you.
  2. “I will definitely double check those quality scores online.” Continuing (or improving) quality of healthcare is top of mind.  Always lead with quality… and know that they will do their own research to verify your track record.
  3. “What’s up with the cuff links?” Know your audience before you walk in the door. The way you dress matters.  If you come over-dressed, you get dinged points for not fitting in.  If you come under-dressed, it’s seen as disrespectful. If you don’t know, ask.
  4. “Really? Where’s the [CEO/CMO/Board Leader]?” Board members want to see your leadership.  After all, this is the biggest decision they will ever make.  If you lead with your head of development or forget to bring a physician leader or board peer, they notice.
  5. “I need to track down my old buddy Dr. Smith, from med school. I bet he has the real scoop.” Reverse due diligence happens well beyond the formal reference checks and reverse site visits. Expect peer-to-peer calls to physicians, board members and even employees in your other hospitals/communities (and hope they say nice things).
  6. “Have they done this before?” Nobody wants to be first. Board members want comfort that you have partnered with similar-sized hospitals. They want to hear stories and results.
  7. “What the hell does that spreadsheet mean?” Don’t assume every Board member has an MBA. Some do, but most don’t.  Make the financial information understandable.
  8. “Points for creativity!” Board members often sift through dozens of proposals, and then sit through multiple presentations. After a while, they start to sound the same.  Get creative.  Show you have taken time to learn their community. Demonstrate your willingness to be flexible on deal structure, if appropriate.
  9. “What can they do better than we can do?” This is a big one, particularly given so many health systems are approaching partnership proactively and from a position of strength – not out of necessity. They want to see a vision for what you believe you can do together.
  10. “Do I like these guys?” At the end of the day, choosing a partner is mostly about culture fit. As long as you have a track record for quality and a strong enough balance sheet, it’s a question of would this be a happy marriage. And, in most cases, the acquirer wants that, too.  So, be yourself and seek an opportunity to have real dialogue with these people.   After all, you’ll have to live with one another for a very long time.


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