At some point in the life cycle of a business, most owners or board members will face an exciting and difficult crossroads: whether to merge with another business, acquire another business or be acquired by another business.
The rule applies across industries, from retail to restaurants and, yes, health care. Stay open long enough, and merger and acquisition opportunities will present themselves.
For decades following our establishment as a Community Mental Health Center in 1977, Burrell Behavioral Health focused largely on our seven-county southwest Missouri service area. In that time, there was significant M&A activity in the wider health care industry, which continues today. Hospital and medical systems are constantly looking to take advantage of financial and workforce scales and to compound their influence with government and payer sources alike. When executed properly, this leads not only to thriving systems but also better, more accessible care for patients.
The M&A wave for behavioral health care soon followed, sparked by the 2014 Excellence in Mental Health Act, co-sponsored by Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt. This legislation fundamentally changed the way CMHCs in eight states – including Missouri – are reimbursed, and therefore the level to which they can invest in expansion, workforce, technology and programs for the people they serve.
Since I joined Burrell as president and CEO in 2017, we have made it a company strategy to seize this moment in history and become active in the M&A space, completing no fewer than five true mergers or acquisitions with companies of various sizes and scopes. These partnerships each presented significant expansion opportunity and meaningful community impact for all companies involved.
We continue to learn much about how these activities affect our clients, our team members and the way we do business. The following are some lessons we’ve learned – and are still learning – through this process. And while the experiences of a large behavioral health system may seem like apples and oranges compared to those of, say, an independent restaurateur looking to expand, I think you’ll find many of these concepts are universal.
C.J. Davis is president and CEO of Burrell Behavioral Health and the CEO of Brightli. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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