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July 21, 2020

Dealing at the Deadline

I confess that I enjoy the distractions from real life that sports bring, but COVID has me a bit conflicted.  If ever we needed some mindless stuff to talk about that aren’t so heavy, it is now.  Loving or hating the Yankees or Cowboys or Lakers would be a relief.

Then again, it is sports we are talking about, not people dying; or caregivers who sleep in the basement to protect their families from the risks of their job; or the one in five people who are unemployed; or the 100,000 small businesses that may close forever.

But these are people and businesses and universities, too.

It makes my head hurt trying to decide if I am for or against.

That said, they are trying to make it happen and since they are, there is an analogy I want to steal.

In major league baseball, the trade deadline generally comes around late July, after they have played about four months.  Teams that have a chance of making the playoff are ‘buyers;’ those who are out of it are ‘sellers.’

What that means is that buyers trade the future – young prospects – to the sellers for players in their prime who can help them win now. General managers look hard at their team and decide if they should be buyers or sellers.  In this COVID-shortened season they will, virus willing, play only a third of the normal games, so the trade deadline comes quickly.  The decision to trade or hold will be even trickier, but no less important.

COVID may have shortened the baseball season, but the pandemic season just seems to be lengthening day by day.  Little did we know that ‘by Easter’ meant Easter 2021.  Physician practices, like every other business, may not be able to count on the quick return to normal strategy.  As such, it may be time to lean back in your chair and ask, ‘Am I good with our situation, our prospects, our chances…or should we be buyers or sellers?’

In the recent physician survey published by McKinsey and Company that we referenced a couple of weeks ago, half of the independent physicians were more likely to consider an employment option than they were pre-COVID.  I get it.  Getting to a safe harbor now might cause you to tolerate more employment hassles than you would have in the past, though it is worth noting that being employed by a health system did not, is not, may not provide as much security as you might have imagined six months ago.

Conversely, only one in four was more likely to think about partnering or selling now.

Let me encourage you to consider that option a little more.  Maybe it is time to be a buyer, or a seller, or both.  Maybe this is better than standing pat or just throwing in the towel and taking a J-O-B.

Times like can lead to some moves that create a much better future scenario.

Tim Coan
Tim Coan

CEO and founder

Tim Coan, ALN’s CEO, writes an insightful and witty blog weekly about a variety of topics relevant to independent physician practices.