Today Tauber alumnus Bill Muir (MBA & MSE-IOE '97) is a proud Michigan parent. And even though he now lives in Tennessee, he never misses an Ann Arbor football game! In the two decades since his graduation, Bill has enjoyed leadership roles in manufacturing, distribution, and contracting, and is currently Senior Vice President at Change Healthcare.
Q: What drew you to the University of Michigan?
A: Without question the outstanding business school. University of Michigan Business School at the time. But also the opportunity to return to school full time and pursue the dual degree option that MJMI (yes, I am that old), and then TMI offered. I was able to get both an MBA and an MS in IOE. I had just left the Marine Corps and had a passion for operations. The dual degree was a perfect fit for me. Additionally, it did not hurt that I have 12 family members who are all graduates of the University of Michigan, including both my parents. I was raised singing "Hail to the Victors!"
Q: When you think back on your time with the Tauber Program, what stands out?
A: The real world experiences. Anything from my team project with Chrysler to the Integrated Product Development class with Prof Bill Lovejoy. While much of the work in both the College of Engineering and the School of Business was academic, TMI added the real world aspect and how we could use our education to help a business as we left school.
Q: What sticks with you as important lessons learned while at the Tauber Institute?
A: Leadership. Without question. Even though I had just left the Marine Corps when I returned to Michigan, and had been in some very critical leadership roles while serving, Tauber and the interaction with my fellow students helped me improve and hone those skills for my transition to civilian life. In addition, as mentioned above, Tauber helped enhance the academics that I studied at Michigan with exposure to real companies, real problems, and leadership from industry that helped me prepare for my career after graduation
Q: How did your Tauber experience shape the professional that you are now?
A: Taught me to think about the big picture. I am in a role that requires a strong operational background but also business sense, and an understanding of the impact of my decisions across a wide business and a significant portion of our customers. Tauber helped me to blend both engineering and process excellence with a business focus.
Q: What is the most challenging aspect of your work life today?
A: I run the print operations for the largest printer of transactional healthcare information (patient statements, explanation of benefits, explanations of payments, check, medical claims, etc) in the US, and also the largest receiver of mail (largely medical claims) in healthcare in the US. Every day is a challenge. The amount of print we do on a daily basis is mind-blowing and everyone on my team understands that paper is not the way of the future. We are constantly trying to drive our customers to digital, but digital adoption in healthcare is tremendously slow. So on one hand we are literally trying to drive ourselves out of the print business, yet on the other, there is still a huge demand for healthcare print. So I have the privilege of leading an organization that knows and understands that we want to eliminate ourselves, yet at the same time we continue to grow and thus face the always present operational challenges of higher productivity, perfect quality, and lower cost. It is a great balancing act - and a tremendous amount of fun.
Q: What’s the most important thing to remember in business?
A: Best advice I ever got was as a student at Michigan. Larry Bossidy, then the CEO of AlliedSignal, came to speak to a group of us and he was asked that same question. His answer: “always be the dumbest person in the room.” I have never forgotten that. In everything I do I always try to hire people who are smarter than I am and let them loose! Minimal guidance, maximal trust and support, believe that I hired well, course correct quickly when I didn’t. Best advice I have ever been given, and advice I always pass along.
Q: What recurring principles do you see showing up in your career?
A: From an operations perspective it is always the same, no matter the industry. Quality and cost – in that order. Customers will pay for quality. Build quality into everything you do. Your process, your people, your product. From a leadership perspective, it is trust. Hire well and trust your people. Support them and most importantly, listen!! “Know it all” leaders are not leaders for very long.
Q. What are you working on now?
A: At Change Helthcare, we just completed a large merger with a portion of McKesson, McKesson Technology Services. We are now a 15,000 person company that provides a multitude of services to the healthcare industry. We are a technology company with a simple vision: inspire a better healthcare system. I am privileged to lead our production operations. In my role, I have responsibility for leading our factories (we have 5 US locations and 3 overseas) that provide BPO services to healthcare payers and healthcare providers. They outsource to us their printing and mailroom needs. I like to tell people that my organization takes files from our customers and prints them and makes them into mail (3-5 million envelopes per day) - and we collect mail on behalf of our customers and make them into electronic transactions (200,000 mail pieces per day). While our company is almost entirely a technology company, I have the privilege of leading our manufacturing.
Q: What has been your biggest challenge?
A: When I moved into my current role I was given the opportunity to combine the operations of 5 vertically aligned businesses into a single operational entity that provides a service to many different businesses. We moved from vertical to matrixed. Taking that organization, shuttering our excess capacity, creating synergies where they could be created, developing the strategy for the organization and selecting the leaders for my team, was a huge challenge. But 4 years later we have created an organization that always delivers. Our quality is beyond 6 sigma (Last year, 18 errors in over 1.3 billion printed documents), our cost structure is significantly improved, and we are able to grow the business with a scale that did not exist previously. A tremendous challenge but very fulfilling. And only possible because I have a tremendous team – and yes, there are other Michigan grads on my team!!
Q: What is your greatest professional accomplishment?
A: I spent 4 years as the CEO of a small business. When I was asked by the owners of the business to take over as CEO, they were literally writing personal checks to cover payroll. The line of credit the company had was maxed and every project that the company was working on was behind. I took a big risk and left a great job with Dell to try my hand at a turnaround. After a tremendous amount of restructuring, re-focus, and returning to the core business of the company, we were successful. I left that business in 2010 after hiring a permanent CEO (I was just a CEO for the turnaround), the business was fully solvent, line of credit renewed and paid off, cash in the bank, largest customers extremely happy, and the owners making money! It was a great opportunity. We were able to save a business that employed over 100 people. The business is still going strong today. None of that was possible without great people and, frankly, without the knowledge and experience that I gained at Tauber.
Q: How did your Tauber experience shape the professional that you are now?
A: Made me realize that there are so many different ways to look at and solve a problem. The exposure at Tauber to so many different industries, so many different talented people, and so many different ways of thinking stays with me today. In fact, a couple of my favorite days of the year are to come back to Spotlight! and to participate in the IPD class as a voter each year. So many creative ways to solve a problem. I learn something every time.
Q: Advice for current Tauber students?
A: Hire well. Don’t be afraid to be the dumbest person in the room. Listen. And for the younger Tauber students, do not be afraid to ask questions of more experienced people. And last but not least, if you have a good idea, no matter your seniority or position, voice it!!
Q: What would fellow alums be surprised to know about you?
A: Nothing super surprising about me. But good to know, is that my family has had Michigan football season tickets since 1965, and I drive from Nashville TN, where I live, to A2 for every home football game every year!! I always find some good “excuse’ to do all my Friday meetings on the phone. My middle son is heading into his senior year at U of M and he is in his 3rd season as a manager for the football program so I never miss a game! Go Blue!!