More Than Problem-Solving

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MY parents raised us in Dallas, where my father practiced law, first at a large firm, then at his own practice. My parents met while attending a Spanish-language summer program in college. I have a sister who is seven years younger.

My mother is Dutch, so I didn't grow up around her family, but my grandfather would often mail me games and puzzles, starting my lifelong love of solving problems. I would figure them out and mail the answers back to him in the Netherlands. He turned 100 last year, and we attended his birthday celebration there.

I started swimming competitively at a young age but still found time, during vacations in high school, to scoop ice cream at a local ice cream parlor, deliver magazines and give swimming lessons.

I attended Princeton and was a member of its swim team. One time, while our team was competing in the N.C.A.A. championships, I substituted as anchor of a relay race for an injured teammate and was almost caught by our opponents. We won, but that close call showed me how discipline and hard work could put you in a position to be lucky.

After graduating with an economics degree in 1992, I spent a year skiing in Colorado. I moved to Crested Butte and got a job in accounting. I spent my paycheck on rent and a ski pass and applied to law schools. The next year, I enrolled at Harvard Law School, where I met my future wife, Jeannie. After I graduated in 1996, I returned to Dallas to be a clerk for a Federal District Court judge. I had always assumed that, like my father, I would practice law, but Jeannie helped me realize that I do best around people, building teams and relationships, rather than being immersed in legal research.

I joined McKinsey & Company in 1997, working on a study of the petroleum industry, first in Dallas and then Houston. In 1999, I transferred with McKinsey to Amsterdam, where Jeannie and I lived for two years. When we returned to the United States in 2001, we moved to Washington, where we have since expanded our family to include three children.

At the Washington office of McKinsey, I continued to work with a range of clients in consumer products and other industries. I loved the problem-solving. But management consultants figure out the solutions and generally leave the implementation to others. I wanted to help drive the solutions through to completion.

In 2003, I joined the Advisory Board Company, working first as its executive director of strategic planning and new product development. I moved up to the company's business intelligence unit, becoming executive vice president for general management.

Our principal clients are hospitals and health care systems, where we provide strategic guidance and analytic software and help them improve the quality of services they deliver at a lower cost. I was named chief executive in September 2008, just as the financial recession began. Despite that, we have grown steadily and now serve some 3,000 health care institutions. It has been very satisfying to work with health care leaders like the Cleveland Clinic and the Mayo Clinic and to work with other institutions to reduce hospital readmissions at a time when this issue is receiving national attention. We have also been branching out to work with higher-education institutions. We now have about 2,300 employees.

We are also committed to our communities. Staff members last year worked close to 20,000 free hours on community service projects. I serve on the board for Miriam's Kitchen, a nonprofit organization in Washington that is dedicated to ending chronic homelessness.

As told to Elizabeth Olson.

employment

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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