Episode 27: Tommy Lewis – Navigating Mergers and Acquisitions, It Is The People That Matter

Tommy Lewis, COO of Tivity Health, offers advice to healthcare leaders who are guiding their companies through periods of transition.

Tommy Lewis knows that no matter what phase a business is in, it’s always important to take care of the employees.

As COO of Tivity Health, Lewis has experienced many types of transition and transformation, and he’s overseen multiple acquisitions throughout his career. Technology is important, but people are more important.

In this episode of How I Transformed This, Virsys12 founder and CEO Tammy Hawes and her co-host Clark Buckner talk with Lewis about the lessons he’s learned about leadership, business growth and more. Lewis also shares some exciting stories about the transformation he’s witnessing at Tivity Health and in the healthcare industry as a whole.

Leading with Empathy

While technology plays a crucial role in healthcare transformation, Lewis believes it should never overshadow the importance of caring for a company’s employees.

When a new integration, acquisition or other transition occurs, team members often put in extra work to help the company succeed, on top of their regular responsibilities that don’t go away. By recognizing this and providing extra resources to their employees, leaders can make people feel valued and supported, Lewis argued.

“You have to recognize that up front,” he argued. “You have to ensure that people involved with the integration have the support that they need.” 

Lewis possesses a unique understanding of this because he’s been on both sides of acquisitions, as the business being acquired and the one doing the acquiring. 

“Being acquired was really eye-opening for me and helped round out my perspective on the integration process. It gave me empathy for the acquired employees, what they’re going through emotionally, what their families are going through, he explained. “Being acquired just made me a better acquirer.”

Growing and Selling a Brand

Along with Tivity Health’s flagship brand, Silver Sneakers, the company has also owned other brands, including major names like Nutrisystem and South Beach Diet. In his role as CEO, Lewis played a key role in helping to grow Nutrisystem and then sell it in 2020.

“We ended up having a really good year and were able to turn that business to growth for the first time in three years, and we were also able to successfully sell the business at a price that Tivity’s board and leadership team was happy with,” Lewis shared.

When working with multiple businesses, Lewis emphasized the importance of having good partners, along with a team of strong employees. 

“Companies aren’t always equipped to do these types of transactions and transformational initiatives, so you need good partners. And I’ve been really blessed to have some fantastic partners to work alongside, to help guide and coax along the way and provide additional resources to get the work done,” he shared. 

Envisioning a Better Future

Lewis intends to keep growing Tivity Health to become “the modern destination for healthy living,” with brands that include a senior fitness program, gym access for working adults, and alternative pain management solutions. The CEO also recognizes that data and predictive analytics will play a major role in the company’s future.

“What we’re trying to do is transform from a gym access company for seniors to a digital platform engagement company for older adults. We’re defining a new set of experiences for our members and guests,” he explained. “Data is a critical element here, and we’re making significant investments.”

Outside of his own company, Lewis expressed his excitement about the potential for more streamlined data in the healthcare industry as a whole. Since everyone interacts with healthcare in some way, everyone can benefit from its transformation and progress.

“I’m really excited about this space, because we all have a chance to make a difference. We’re all consumers, many of us are caregivers, we all interact with the healthcare system, so we all have a vested interest here. And I’m hopeful that one day soon all of my providers and all caregivers will know me and know everything about me and know my history, and I won’t have to repeat that story every time I go to the doctor and go to the hospital.”

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