HMP Connections - A New Way to Connect!

Interviews with HMP Alumni from the University of Michigan's School of Public Health.

Bo Snyder

A Conversation with Bo Snyder

I recently had the pleasure to interview Bo Snyder, the president of Bo Snyder Consulting and University of Michigan HMP Alumni Board Member. Bo received his MHSA from HMP in 1988.

With a foothold in both the provider and consulting world, it was great to get Bo's perspective on the value of an HMP education towards his career.

I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did!

Anthony Parel, MHSA Candidate '18
(May 2017)

Q: You began your career at a provider organization where you spent 18 years before starting your own consulting practice. Was switching careers scary for you?

I was 42 years old, and that was 11 years ago. I had a really great 18 year run with a wonderful organization...that had just won a Baldrige award, by the way. At that point in your life [40-something] you kind of assess things. After mulling it over, I decided that I would give starting my own company a shot. That was 11 years ago, so I would like to say that it worked. But yeah, as for your question "was it scary?" yeah, it was horrifying. I needed the complete support of my wife, and I had that so that was definitely helpful. But I was the sole breadwinner for our family. My wife didn't work and we had two kids in elementary school at the time so I kind of just jumped and hoped for the best. I figured it out as I went along which was both scary and exciting.

Q: What spurred your move?

I was at a good organization that became a great organization during the 18 years I was there. I felt that it was a blessing and a curse to being in a great place: the blessing is that it's a great place; the curse is you're there for so long that you get stale. Just because you're ready to do more, doesn't mean that the organization is ready to do more. This is my advice to young people: if you're on the provider side, go to a place that's big enough for you to move around and make sure that there are lots of opportunities within that organization. There will come a point in time where there are just fewer opportunities for you to move and you have to be patient. You have to either be patient, or you have to move...I felt like I needed to move but I didn't want to leave town; I had two kids in school. Since consultants can travel, I could set up shop in the town I lived in. So that's what I did.

Q: Do you have this same advice for people who start out in consulting, policy, or payer?

Well, that's the thing, I don't know because I didn't grow up in those worlds. But I will say this, take the time to think your career out, don't be rash, and make sure that you have trusted advisors. Also, consider how long you might want to stay at one job. Is the job you're looking for a means to an end or is it the end? I know people who make mistakes on both sides: people who stay at a job too long and people who jump too often. If you aren't sure what you want then find an organization that is big enough for you to move around in. But that's just my two cents and what I wanted to get out of my job. So I guess my key point here is that you should focus on what you're passionate about; just make sure to be flexible too. But definitely, try and find your niche and think about where you can succeed.

Q: You mentioned the importance of having mentors/advisors. How did you go about reaching out to alumni to be your mentors and did you feel as though they helped you grow as a student and professional?

To be honest, I didn't really take advantage of our alumni base early in my career. I've been on the alumni board for a long time now and I think that we've come to this point where there are better opportunities for students to connect with us. I don't know if the alumni network wasn't as active then as it is now or if I was too stubborn and myopic. But I never took advantage of that, in retrospect I wish I had. I kind of made up for that by building my own network and I try to be that mentor to any student that needs one. But that is honestly the best part of this program. Anyone and everyone will sit down with you and give you their time. High-level executives will gladly get coffee with you or any other student and that is invaluable.

Q: What do you think the future of healthcare looks like?

I have to be honest, I don't know. But as a healthcare leader, I'm prepared to deal with whatever happens and I look at the future with both interest and curiosity. There is work to be done whether or not the ACA is repealed. I'm a bit agnostic on the whole issue because I don't want the issue to detract from all of the other important work going on in the field. That being said, it is an important issue; I certainly hope more people have access to affordable healthcare but there are a lot areas in which we need to improve. We can't let this drama detract from the work that all of us healthcare leaders produce. Think about how much time you spend on productive things. If you spend too much time thinking about Washington drama, unless that's your day job, then you are not using your time well.

Q: What was your most beneficial experience as a student of our program?

There was learning at every turn. There was classroom learning, learning when meeting with Professors, and there was study group learning. We were a close class and I think that we learned a lot from each other. This wasn't solely a classroom construct, this also happened when we went out to bars and to get dinner. There was this real passion and desire to make a difference in healthcare and I think everyone grew from that engagement.

Q: What was your biggest regret from your two years in HMP?

I wish I had reached out to alumni more and taken more advantage of the network. I always felt inferior and awkward while talking to alumni. That was a part of coming into the program straight out of undergrad. When it comes to my career, I always wonder "Did I stay in provider for too long? Am I staying in consulting for too long?" I mean, I'm 53 years old; I'm at the last third of my career. What am I going to do for the rest of it? And I've been having this discussion with my wife: "Am I okay with what I'm doing now or do I need to change gears?" Luckily my kids are in college now so I no longer have roots that tether me to one place so I have the option to pivot.

Q: What is the best way to implement change within an organization?

Wow that's a big question. One answer is to get people to envision how things could or should be. Let me digress into my Baldrige world. Baldrige in three parts is: 1.) Is your organization performing as it should be? 2.) How do you know? 3.) What can you change or improve? Get people to articulate what better looks and feels like. Getting people to talk about it is the first step. Once people start talking about it, the gears start turning. People need to be able to identify with and buy into what point B is. Once people can identify point B, the job is easy because you have the wind at your back. A huge component of a leader's job is to think about articulating what point B is and then figuring out how you'll know you're there. Then finally deciding a cadence of accountability, "We are going to meet once a week for one hour to work on getting to point B." Keep chipping away and make sure that you meet every week. Be disciplined. Don't let your efforts become the flavor of the month.

Q: Last question! How do you become a change agent?

Looks for opportunities within organizations and just volunteer and take that opportunity over because no one else is doing it. Find a vacuum and jump in and take ownership and begin to move things. But make sure you do it respectfully because people may push back and challenge you. All in all, make sure that you have allies and people that both share your opinions and challenge them because that's how you really grow. A narrow view is limiting and you need to make sure that you listen to every side and angle as you make change.

Anthony ParelAnthony Parel is a second-year MHSA candidate at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. When not studying for class, staying busy with class-rep affairs, or interviewing HMP Alumni, he enjoys discussing existentialism, debating the ideological divide between Sartre and Camus, all things outer-space related, and Brooklyn quality pizza.