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Effective leaders often credit their team members for successes and achievements. And there is a tremendous amount of truth to that. But great teams need great leaders. Here we pay tribute to chief executives who have provided the leadership, vision, clear-headed strategy and decisive risk-taking necessary to propel their organizations forward through economic and political turmoil—creating companies that are stronger and well positioned for a new era of growth. Join us as we honor the 2013 CEOs of the Year.
PAT RICHARDS — President & CEO, SelectHealth
Pat Richards began her career as a nurse in the surgery and trauma unit of the University of Michigan Medical Center. “It helped me really understand what a crisis is,” she says. “In business we often think about a crisis, but working in nursing and working in a trauma floor, I really became aware that a crisis was only if someone stopped breathing or if someone was bleeding a lot. So that has helped me keep pretty calm in various business crises.”
This grace under pressure has not gone unnoticed by her colleagues. “It doesn’t matter what kind of a day she’s having, it doesn’t matter what’s going on in her personal life—when you talk to Pat, you know you’re going to be engaging with somebody who is calm, pleasant, professional, and has a laser-like focus on the task at hand. And that’s really very reassuring to people, particularly when things are difficult and stress levels are up,” says Greg J. Matis, senior council for SelectHealth.
From nursing, Richards moved into the insurance industry, and then into integrated health delivery system organizations. Most recently, she was executive vice president and COO of Health Alliance Plan of Michigan. “When I had the opportunity to move to SelectHealth a little over three years ago, it was just a perfect pinnacle for my career,” she says.
Richards’ arrival ushered in an era of visionary expansion for SelectHealth. In 2012 alone, the company spread into Idaho through a partnership with St. Luke’s Health System, the largest health system in Idaho. It also introduced a new Medicare Advantage program and Medicaid plans. The company recently began transitioning 70,000 Medicaid members from the state plan into its Community Care plan.
Since Richards joined the company in 2009, SelectHealth has also developed a new dental insurance product and SelectHealth Prescriptions, a nationwide pharmacy benefit management company. It now offers a vision plan, serves federal employees, and even has a life and disability insurance offering.
“We have entered virtually every market segment,” she says. “We have really been expanding and growing, again to diversify our products, but to really serve all people in the state.”
Richards says her leadership role at SelectHealth gives her a unique opportunity to improve healthcare on a community-wide level. “I believe we have an unprecedented opportunity to be a catalyst and an active participant in really changing how healthcare is delivered and how healthcare is experienced by the individual.”
“She has a deep and abiding belief in the great good that can be accomplished by a not-for-profit integrated healthcare company,” says Matis. “She cares about us providing the highest-quality healthcare services at the lowest appropriate cost and trying to improve the health of all members of our community.”
DAVE ZITTING — CEO, Primary Residential Mortgage, Inc.
The economic crisis brought a specific challenge to the mortgage industry: increased regulation. But Dave Zitting had already positioned his company ahead of the curve. For example, Primary Residential Mortgage made a strategic decision in 2005 to abandon sup-prime lending and focus on FHA, VA and USDA loans. When the housing bubble burst, the company was already out ahead of the competition.
“With the financial crisis came a lot of new regulation and new ways that we must conduct business,” says Zitting. “Our organization was able to get involved early in what those changes were going to be like and sort of developing ways and means and methodologies and best business practices to be able to ensure that we had a sustainable operation going forward.”
In fact, Zitting was among a select group of mortgage industry representatives who recently met with President Barack Obama’s cabinet. Zitting provided the perspective of an independent mortgage banker as the group consulted with Chief of Staff Jack Lew, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan and others.
It’s an impressive accomplishment for someone who started his career in the mortgage industry as a teenager. A few years later he became a loan officer and originated loans for about a decade.