20 Questions with Michael Gavin, President, PRIUM
Claimwire Interview by Steve Schmutz
I was introduced to Michael by a mutual friend, Helen Knight. Michael is about as nice a guy as you'll ever meet. I was immediately impressed with him. As you will see from his responses to my interview questions, he's well-educated and has a lot of experience in the workers' comp field. His passion for this industry reminded me of the keynote speach by Scott Hudson at the WCI Conference this year.
Michael's passion for our industry is contagious and awesome. Add his voice to the many others who are speaking positively about what we do and the positive impact we can have on people's lives.
Here's my interview with Michael Gavin, President of PRIUM:
1. Where did you go to school and what did you study?
I have an undergraduate degree in Finance from Georgetown University and an MBA from Emory University.
2. What was your first job in your professional career?
I was a consultant for The Monitor Group, a global management consulting firm that was based in Cambridge, MA. I think I easily did six years’ worth of work in the three years I was there.
3. Do you have a mentor, and if so who?
I’ve had several people in my career who have been mentors to me and I’m grateful for each of them. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received was from a mentor of mine named Jim Berarducci, who ran the health care consulting practice as KSA when I was there. He subjected all major decisions to what he called “the human being test.” He taught me to avoid thinking about what a given organization should do, but rather what we, as human beings, should do. Sounds simple, but in practice, it’s both difficult and enlightening.
4. How did you end up in the worker’s compensation industry?
The founder of PRIUM, Jim Pritchard, is a personal friend of mine. We had a lot of conversations over several years about health care reform and its potential impact on workers’ compensation. Somewhere along the way, we both decided it would be a good idea for me to stop consulting and start operating. Glad I did.
5. What would you do if you didn’t work in workers’ compensation?
I’ve spent my entire career in health care and can’t imagine doing anything else. I love the intersection of medicine, business, and politics. If I wasn’t in workers’ compensation, I would be working in another subsector of healthcare trying to figure out solutions to thorny problems.
6. As President of PRIUM, what do you do to improve your professional skills?
I have the great benefit of operating PRIUM as a strategic business unit of our parent company, Ameritox. The Ameritox management team is one of the strongest groups of executives in all of health care. I walk away from my interactions with that team feeling challenged to do more while also feeling supported with the resources I need to get there.
7. Besides PRIUM, what other companies/organizations in the industry do you admire and why?
I think the work that WCRI does is invaluable in our space. Full disclosure: PRIUM (and our parent company, Ameritox) participate in WCRI as core funders. Rick Victor and his team do an outstanding job of conducting solid, unbiased, fact-based analysis and presenting it to the people that need to see it most, namely decision makers, regulators, and legislators. They take on controversial topics but stay above the fray. That’s really hard to do.
8. Tell us how PRIUM is doing and what you see in the next two to three years.
PRIUM is growing and that means we’re providing our clients with services they need. I find it incredibly gratifying to present the results we achieve to our clients. We are really good at what we do. No other company has our focus and expertise in managing the care of injured workers in chronic pain. The challenge for us is to stay ahead of clinical trends. Today, we’re still fighting the battle against the misuse and abuse of opioids. But what’s next? We see medical marijuana, medical foods, and other chronic pain treatment modalities coming. We’ll be ready to ensure that they’re utilized appropriately.
9. What are the top two things that set your company apart from your competitors?
No other company has put together peer review, utilization review, urine drug monitoring, and regulatory and compliance consulting services and focused these services on injured workers in chronic pain – so, first and foremost, we have a unique and integrated service set. And second, PRIUM focuses exclusively on applying these services to this patient cohort. This is all we do. All day, every day. Focus is an incredibly underrated strategic advantage.
10. If you had to boil PRIUM down to one sentence, what would it be?
We improve injured worker outcomes and prevent human tragedy.
11. In just a few key words, describe the culture of PRIUM.
We have all the experience of a 30 year old company combined with the attitude and disposition of a start-up. We’re scrappy, we’re not afraid to work hard, and our employees are connected to the mission viscerally. I love coming to work.
12. What challenges do you see the workers’ compensation industry facing in the next few years?
On the one hand, our industry is deathly afraid of all things psychiatric in nature (not without some justification – many an adjuster has been nailed by “diagnosis creep” on a claim). On the other hand, if we don’t collectively figure out how to deal with the underlying mental health issues in the injured worker population, we’re going to be eaten alive by it – medically, operationally, and financially.
13. Tell us about a failure you’ve had, and what you learned from it.
I can’t begin to count them. Here’s one: I failed my driver’s license test when I was 16. Ostensibly, I learned not to roll through stop signs. More importantly, I learned successful people become successful by learning how to fail well. Very few people achieve worthwhile goals without bouncing back from a series of successive failures. The trick is to bounce back fast, confident that having made the mistake, you won’t repeat it. Failure should be a badge of honor, not a source of shame.
14. Tell us about a success you’ve had, and how it came about.
The week after failing my first attempt to get a driver’s license, I went back and passed. But it wasn’t quite that simple. Here’s a little peek into my psyche: I asked for the same examiner I had had the previous week and waited in line until he was available. I had to prove that the previous failure was an aberration – and I needed to prove it to every single person connected to that failure, including the guy from the DMV (who clearly had no recollection of me and couldn’t possibly have cared any less about my triumph). That’s how you bounce back fast. You look failure right in the face and you don’t blink. Even if it’s at the DMV.
15. On a professional level, what factors motivate you on a daily basis?
The people around me. I am blessed to work with really great people. We’ve been through good times and bad times and we’ve figured out how to laugh regardless of the circumstances. I find daily motivation through the personal and professional growth of the people at PRIUM.
16. What is your favorite fiction book, and non-fiction book?
Fiction: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Atticus Finch is the single greatest character in the history of literature.
Non-fiction: The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. We’re looking at an entire generation of young adults who cannot write. I think this should be required reading for every person between the ages of 13 and 25. I love Twitter, but the 140 character world we’re creating is inhibiting our ability to communicate clearly with one another.
17. What historical figure(s) do you look up to and why?
I admire American presidents in general, but Woodrow Wilson has always had a special place in my heart. Had the world listened to him after World War I, we might have avoided World War II.
18. If you could hire any famous person to be the spokesperson for YOUR COMPANY, who would it be and why?
Unfortunately, there’s no shortage of famous people who have experienced and ultimately recovered from addiction. Given our focus on prescription drug misuse and abuse, we’d have an undeniably big group from which to choose. I asked around the office and Robert Downey Jr. seems to be a popular choice. Apparently Iron Man has a great deal of credibility. I haven’t seen it, but the vote was pretty clear.
19. What can the workers’ compensation industry do to attract talented professionals?
When I say I’m involved in the workers’ compensation industry, I usually get quizzical looks from people. As an industry, we need to do a better job of helping young, talented professionals understand that workers’ compensation is a fascinating niche that sits at the intersection of public policy, medicine, and law. There are a lot of things wrong with workers’ compensation, but we also do a lot of things right. And it doesn’t hurt that some of the world’s largest and most respected private equity firms are now into our space to the tune of several billion dollars. That should help attract talent.
20. What should a growing company look for in a potential private equity investor?
With so much capital flooding the workers’ compensation space, I’m often asked by owners and other executives of private companies about my thoughts on private equity firms. Most executives are getting at least two or three calls a week from firms asking for meetings. I usually share two pieces of advice. First, hire an advisor. Yes, that costs money, but it will make for a smoother process and a better ultimate decision. Second, make sure you look for more than just money. Go with a firm that can connect you to customers, recruit key board members, and truly help grow the business. Money alone won’t add nearly as much value as the relationships a firm can foster.
As president of PRIUM, Gavin is responsible for the strategic direction and management of the medical intervention company. He brought considerable experience in several major sectors of the health care industry to PRIUM when he joined as Chief Operating Officer in 2010, and he is the author of the thought-provoking Evidence-Based blog.
Prior to joining PRIUM, Gavin was a consultant with Kurt Salmon Associates, a leading provider of strategic advisory services to the healthcare provider sector. Previously, he served as the vice president of operations for MDdatacor, Inc., a health services start-up that provides innovative information technology solutions to support pay-for-performance programs in the ambulatory care environment. He began his career as a consultant with The Monitor Group, a global strategy consulting firm in Cambridge, Mass.
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