Facing Uncertainty in the Finance World- What does this mean for the future of Finance?

Brent Davis

Regional CFO at AdventHealth

Learning Objectives

Please join the North Region of Central Florida CFO at Advent Health, Brent Davis in this Executive Interview where he will discuss how his team has adapted to continue aligning their short term and long term goals with their mission, vision, and values in a time of uncertainty.

Key Takeaways:

  • What is the importance of having a strong balance sheet during the time of a pandemic?

  • How does a CFO adapt their techniques to make the best-calculated predictions when working in a time of uncertainty?

  • What role does the importance of communication and adaptability play in leading a team into the future?

"I think remaining agile, nimble, and flexible in this changing environment is critical. "

Brent Davis

Regional CFO at AdventHealth


Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Connect Virtual CFO Leadership Summit hosted on Quartz Network. My name is Britt Erler, QN Executive Correspondent. Thank you so much for joining us. I would like to welcome our guest speaker here with us today, Brent Davis, regional CFO for AdventHealth. Welcome, Brent. Thank you so much for being here.

Thanks for having me. It’s great to be here.

It’s a pleasure. I am really eager to hear more about what life is like in hospital finance during the pandemic. Before we do that, if you wouldn’t mind just giving the audience a quick introduction about yourself and your current role with AdventHealth.

Happy to. I’ve been working at AdventHealth since February. Sometimes, I am known for bringing the pandemic here to Florida, but that certainly wasn’t the case. I am serving as a regional CFO within our central Florida division. I have direct responsibility for six facilities, about a billion and a half in revenue.

Now, Brent, you had told me the appeal you had when jumping on board with AdventHealth, what a strong team, strong [unintelligible] that they have. But with every company, there’s been so much uncertainty this year, was AdventHealth prepared for this year alone? The strategies, were they in place? Or is this something that you had to create coming in? And what are you doing moving forward?

That’s a good question. Obviously, a lot of the discipline that created our balance sheet historically is still in place. A lot of our relationships and guardrails, decision making processes are still intact today and going forward. That said, I think there was a lot of reforecasting, reallocating, revisioning what that short term and long term future would look like in light of a global pandemic.

So we started to talk with industry leaders around tourism, what’s going to happen to our tourism here in Central Florida as that’s a massive part of our econom? What is unemployment going to look like? What is the election potentially going to do to impact some of our operations? What about Supply Chain availability, both domestically and abroad?

There was just a tremendous amount of legwork that we did across the company to really put together a reforecast to say, where do we think 2020 is gonna land not only financially, but operationally? Then, that turned into capital planning, that turned into strategic planning. And as we go into 21 and future years, we’re continuing to revise those forecasts as we go forward.

Britt Erler 02:38

Of course, and I think every company’s in the same place. What is it going to look like from years to come? I think one of the most important aspects of that is making sure that your team is in line with those goals, and keeping them confident keeping them engaged. I know now more than ever, it is so imperative that companies and leaders stay really in line with their mission, their visions, and their goals for the company. How did AdventHealth do that? What are they doing now to make sure that their teams are on board?

Brent Davis 03:07

Absolutely. AdventHealth is a mission based organization, like many. I think our response at the inception of the pandemic was really demonstrative of what we can what we promise to the communities we’re blessed to serve. One of those is keeping our people safe, means keeping our patients safe. So that meant both investment, significant investment and personal protective equipment for our caregivers, and the patients that we have coming through the doors are our clinicians, both internally and externally.

Brent Davis 03:40

But also, keeping folks financially safe. So protecting jobs, helping people navigate an uncertain time and try to eliminate as many other stresses and barriers that that we can during that time, I think was critical. It comes at a financial cost, right?We like to think of it as an investment because keeping our team members focused on on the work that they’re able to do best, then that allows us to really meet the needs of the community in the best way possible. So was very proud of how had that responded in that moment. Going forward, it’s really about communicating. That creates its own set of challenges. It’s a uncertain time, so I think airing towards communicating what we know, and that we continue to care, we continue to lean into our mission, vision, and values is critical as we go forward.

Britt Erler 04:32

Of course. Congratulations to your team and to all the departments within your organization that they’re not easy to do. With there being so much uncertainty, with people having much more on their plates than they used to, keeping that communication, keeping those visions lined is very difficult. So kudos to you and your team.

Britt Erler 04:51

As far as communication, everything has gone virtual. Has that made things more difficult for you as a leader or have you noticed that people are working just as well from home?

Brent Davis 05:02

I’ve been tremendously impressed at the resilience of our team members across multiple departments, across multiple geographies, I think people’s transitioned home has been relatively seamless. You can see I’m hearing a guestroom here at my house. This has been my office here for the past couple months. I really appreciate that a lot of our team members have taken it in stride. I was able to write a big thank you letter to several of our departments today, just acknowledging that in spite of a transition home in this remote work environment, their performance still remains top of our internal scorecards, and their diligence is evident in spite of changing business practices.

Brent Davis 05:45

I’d say, as a leader, it’s a little bit difficult to get some of that FaceTime that we’re so used to. We’re reliant on FaceTime with our colleagues, being able to catch people in the halls before after meetings, drive by with our leaders or other team members, just to check in on how they’re doing right to get that pulse. That’s a little bit harder when you don’t have that physical proximity. But at the same time, I think we continue to adapt. It’s a bold new future. We look forward to embracing this technology in new ways going forward. It wouldn’t have come at the same pace or at the same adoption rate without being forced upon us.

Britt Erler 06:23

Exactly. We’re in the same boat. We had to go from in person events to virtual, and it definitely has not been an easy task. But I think we’ve seen that people are just as resilient, and they can work just as well from home. Like you said, it’s still that face to face interaction, it’s so important, which is why hopefully, these interviews and presentations at least people aligned and informed of what they need for their industry.

Britt Erler 06:46

On a final note on that, in regards to staying true to your mission, values, your visions, while companies have fallen off the wagon a little bit, just with all the chaos that’s happened this year alone, what advice do you have for leaders to help get them back on track to make sure they’re really staying true to that mission?

Brent Davis 07:03

Well, that’s a great question, Britt. If I knew, I would read a book or do something. I think each of us shows up to work today, each day trying to do our best. I think staying connected to the reason why we’re with the company we’re with, why we’re in the profession we’re in, is just a good reminder to stay grounded in that and just to keep yourself healthy, keep your teams healthy and communicated with, really lean into the challenges celebrate successes. I mean, I think those blocking and tackling techniques that we all learn is probably where we can start. But I really just want to encourage everyone out there to keep moving ahead, keep doing your best. We’re going to get through this together.

Britt Erler 07:48

Of course. I love that. I think that’s the perfect mentality for companies across the board. Let’s dive right into some of the nitty gritty stuff. Finance, obviously, is one of the biggest functions in a company to keep it alive. But right now, making accurate forecasts, putting together effective planning, that’s a very challenging thing to do and a lot rides on that. How has AdventHea;th decided to do this you? What advice do you have for people trying to make these accurate predictions?

Brent Davis 08:18

As I mentioned earlier, we reached out to folks across our communities to talk about tourism, to talk about unemployment, to talk about what people were feeling on the ground, this kind of Wall Street versus Main Street mentality because we really want to know. We’re in the communities to serve real people, real patient, these are friends and neighbors taking care of friends and neighbors and really keeping our ear to the ground to understand does da change in Canadian policy mean fewer snowbirds to Florida this winter? I mean, that’s a massive percent of some of the business in some of the communities where we have hospitals and health care entities today.

Brent Davis 08:55

So I think keeping abreast of those national international policies, but also locally to understand how are physicians feeling. What are they doing? Are they shifting towards telemedicine are their patients feeling comfortable to come back to their offices and receive routine or elective procedures? I think all that culminates into making some predictions, those fancy word for guesses. So we put those guesses together, and we really track and trend those against what we actually start to see. Then, we update those regularly and have that feed into how we’re investing capital, how we’re making operational decisions so that we keep our costs and our investments in line with what what we’re actually seeing.

Brent Davis 09:38

I think it’s just a constant effort. It’s actually increased the relevance of finance, I think, in our company today because it’s no longer an annual budget exercise. This is a weekend wait week out, a conversation around how are we performing against where we thought we would, what what changes do we need to make going forward?

Britt Erler 10:00

Of course. When you say regularly, is that once a week? Is that once a month? How many times are you having to revisit? Because I feel like everything’s changing month to month right now. So how do you effectively plan that out and schedule it out for you and your team?

Brent Davis 10:15

I think monthly was a great place to kind of settle into another word, an annual budget process, it’s kind of one mega forecast going into 21. So we haven’t been making as many tweaks to the end of 20. It started out just week, and then month, and then moving up towards quarter, and now we’re looking at a year. At some point, you can’t always be shifting your short term goals, right? Because sometimes, you need to lock in and say, what capital coming out [inaudible]. We’re in this. So let’s do it.

Brent Davis 10:51

I think remaining agile, nimble, and flexible in this changing environment is critical. Because at the end of the day, we don’t know. Who’s going to get on a plane and come back to Disney World? When is going to be a big guest for everyone. That’s going to be different for for everyone in various markets across the country or even internationally. That’s just one example of the factors that are in play for a healthcare entity today, similar to a lot of other businesses, right?

Britt Erler 11:21

Yeah, of course. I’m actually from Florida, originally, Central Florida. I went to school at UCLA. I went back to visit family two weeks ago. We decided to go to Universal Studios for a day and see what it was like. I had no idea how many people would be there coming in from all over the world. I was pleasantly surprised with the numbers we saw. So I think a lot of businesses are going to be very happy to see that moving forward.

Britt Erler 11:46

In terms of taking calculated risks, obviously, that’s something that finance specializes in. But with everything we have going on, people’s roles are expanding, they’re focusing more on the day to day stresses than they are on focusing on the bigger picture, how do you get them realigned? How do you get them back into that environment of taking those risks?

Brent Davis 12:06

That’s a good question. I think in an era of uncertainty, our risk tolerance gets a little bit lower. We look to de risk our operations and say, okay, normally we have a performer and we have X amount of tolerance on either end, that might get a little narrower. The amount we’re willing to invest in a strategy upfront might go down a little bit before we really prove it success. I think developing a plan B, C, and D potentially, is a good way to give ourselves some options as we make investments, too.

Brent Davis 12:41

So how do you how do you pull back out of the that day to day crisis management back to more of a strategic mindset, I think, is really the role of the management team at large. So understanding how to prioritize attention to the frontline, because that’s where care is happening and being delivered each minute of every day. But also, to step back and say, at the end of the day, we do need to reach some longer term objectives. How do we allocate some time and energy and resources toward achieving those as well? That’s a constant push and pull on my calendar every day. I know my colleagues are feeling the same thing.

Britt Erler 13:20

Absolutely. I think that’s some fantastic advice for finance execs. I think a lot of people are really in that same boat. Any final piece of advice tips that you have, just based on what you’ve seen in your current role and company?

Brent Davis 13:33

I just want to reiterate that everyone should take courage. Health care providers are here to serve and their commitment to their communities are is only stronger than ever. We really have appreciated the community support. So many of our facilities folks have come out and whether it’s food, or writing thank you cards, or just acknowledging the work that these caregivers are doing each and every day has been really well received.

Brent Davis 13:58

So I would encourage everyone to thank their nurse, relative, their neighbor, their physician, their RadTech, their food service worker, or anyone that’s involved in this. It is truly friends and neighbors taking care of friends and neighbors. We are happy to do it, and join with the country as we grapple with continuing to respond and move through the pandemic. Other than that, wear your mask. Stay safe out there.

Britt Erler 14:27

Completely agree. I think if there’s one silver lining, it’s how much we’ve been able to come together and how nurses, caregivers have you said, they’re really just taking their time out of their complete life to save people, to help people. It’s a beautiful thing.

Britt Erler 14:40

Thank you to AdventHealth and to all the workers that you have on board for all of your support. Thank you for all of the advice that you’ve given to finance execs today. I think it’d be really helpful for them moving forward in making projections for 2021. Thank you to everyone who also joined us here today. It has been fantastic. If you have any additional questions for Brent, please do not forget to comment in the discussion forum below. As Brent said, please wear your masks, stay safe, and enjoy the rest of the summit.

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