Conversation With: Baylor Scott & White’s Joel Allison Talks Becoming A Business Laureate

Last month, Junior Achievement of Dallas named Baylor Scott & White Health CEO Joel Allison one of its laureates for 2015. He joined Doug Brooks, the former CEO and president and chairman of the board for Bringer International, as well as David Miller, co-founder and managing partner for EnCap Investments L.P. as the laureates for this year.

The Legacy Laureate was Louis Beecherl, Jr., the CEO and chairman of the board of Texas Oil and Gas Corp. KRLD’s David Johnson, a D CEO media partner, recently interviewed Allison. Below is a transcript, edited for length and clarity.

David Johnson: Well, I think everybody in the area knows Joel Allison; (Baylor Scott & White Health is) a massive organization. It has over $6 billion in annual revenue, $8 billion in assets; now it actually seems easy to say Baylor Scott & White.

This is a remarkable time in healthcare. And Joel Allison is going to be going in the Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame. You’ve been doing this for 40 years. You’re in a business that’s constantly evolving.

Joel Allison: It is David, it’s been over 40 years that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s ever changing, there are always opportunities and new challenges, things that need to be done to change how healthcare is delivered. It’s really been an exciting career.

David: As you look back on your career, which is not going to end any time soon, I know, but, you were a Marine, you played college football; what are the skills that prepared you for management?

Allison: All of those experiences really helped prepare me, I believe, for management and being in charge as a leader. You learn a lot of leadership lessons from sports. I’m a big believer that sports does teach you teamwork. It teaches you discipline, teaches you how to continue to prepare and to be ready and to be able to change when things go a little bit differently than what you anticipated. It’s the same thing with the Marine Corps. I found that to be a great lesson in management—how you lead people, and how you respect and appreciate the people that you’re working with.

Johnson: There are so many moving parts. First of all, your industry has just gone through a sea change that’s not over yet so you have to keep up with that. You’ve got a board of directors. And you probably touch, what, five to six billion people in a year?

Allison: Right.

Johnson: I don’t know if you would agree with this, but the ego among a bunch of doctors is about as strong as you can find. How do you juggle all these moving parts?

Allison: Well I think it’s, the good lord has blessed me with the appreciation I have for people. Healthcare is about relationships and it’s working with people. I love the people I work with and serve. You really learn how to build those relationships, and the other lesson that I learned early on was the best thing you can do as a leader is hire the best and brightest people around you and they will help you. I’ve been blessed. I have a great team that is very, very dedicated. They’re committed. The men and women at Baylor Scott & White Health are some of the best people I’ve ever met.

Johnson: That’s one of the keys, delegation. What a lot of people can’t do is hire good people and leave them alone. There’s a tendency to want to do it yourself.

Allison: Exactly. I just want to hire the best and brightest. I’ve got people much smarter than I am, and we agree on the vision and the direction and we let them do what they do best. You be there to encourage and support when it’s necessary. The best thing I can do sometimes is just get out of the way.

Johnson: You look at your fellow laureates, the ones who are going in with you this time around and the ones preceding you the, what, 16 past years? It shows how diverse this business community is in North Texas. It’s not all energy. You think it’s all healthcare because that’s all the headlines right now. But it really is a diverse community, and you have to work with them.

Allison: Correct. And let me also say how humbled and honored I am to be going into the Dallas Business Hall of Fame for Junior Achievement as a laureate. I have tremendous respect for the men and women who have been selected before, particularly with Doug and David, and then Louis Beecherl, Jr. the legacy laureate. I’m so respectful of them as leaders and what they have contributed to this community. They come from diverse industries and backgrounds, but all have a common thread of a commitment and love for Dallas. And to do everything they could do to make that contribution and make this a great place to live, to work, to raise a family.

Johnson: So what’s next? Is your business ever going to settle down a bit?

Allison: I hope not. I kind of like the fact that it’s ever-changing and it’s exciting. I told people, again, that I’ve been in this field for over 40 years and this is the fastest change I’ve seen. I think what this creates, though, is the opportunity to do something that’s never been done before. We are truly transforming how healthcare is delivered in this country.

Johnson: Can you imagine after almost 40 years in the business having missed all this? I mean, the engineering of putting together Baylor Scott & White, the Affordable Care Act and trying to implement that; I mean, this has got to be the most challenging, but ultimately, I would think the most satisfying period?

Allison: Oh it’s been tremendously satisfying. I love what I do. As you know, I consider this a calling as being called into a ministry of healing. And I tell people, because it’s so exciting and I enjoy it so much, that I’ve never worked a day in my life. Again, it’s because of the people I get to work with and serve.

Johnson: Well, you have formidable skills. You’ve got that determination, that zeal, that enthusiasm; you’re very bright, you hired good people, you can delegate. These are skills that you could go run an airline with, couldn’t you?

Allison: Well I don’t know if I’d want to run an airline today, when I look at all of our business and challenges, I think there are other industries that have major challenges as well. But leadership is really about skills that you can transport across other industries as well.

Posted in Conversation With, News.