A healthy history
Almost a quarter of a century ago, Arthur H. Spiegel III founded American Practice Management to provide management expertise and business discipline to the healthcare industry. His interest in improving the management of healthcare delivery was based on his own experiences as Deputy Administrator of the New York City Housing and Human Services Administration.
A thriving company
The company presently employs more than 250 consultants in offices in New York (its headquarters), Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, and Toronto. In the last five years, it has achieved a 36 percent growth rate and has plans to conquer new business sectors. APM's typical client base includes hospitals, academic medical centers, integrated delivery networks, physician groups, practice plans, insurers, and health plans. Impressively, APM has served more than 100 of the 250 largest clients in the healthcare industry
CSC moves in
Despite APM's triumphs, the company learned in July 1996 that life in the consulting world is necessarily whirlwind. Information technology and systems consulting titan Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC), bought up APM in July of 1996, thereby causing confusion in newspaper headlines everywhere with acronym overload. The acquisition forever altered APM's management structure. The old management team stayed on, but APM's Chief Executive Officer, Spiegel, now reports to CSC's President and CEO, Van B. Honeycutt.
The now-mighty firm
New parent CSC is a management consulting, information technology, and systems integration firm. A whopper of a company, CSC is home to 45,000 employees in more than 650 offices worldwide. Competitors include major IT consulting firms like Andersen Consulting and Electronic Data Systems.
APM recruits almost exclusively from prestigious universities and business schools. Past favorites have included the Amos Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, Yale, The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard Business School, the University of Chicago, and Haas School of Business. In addition to hiring consultants and associates straight from school, APM also seeks nurses and physicians as specialty consultants. APM also offers a limited number of summer associate consultant positions.
APM associate interviews are typically conducted over several rounds. At interviews, candidates should expect three or more back-to-back meetings with consultants and other upper-level managers. Insiders say that APM interviewers posit hypothetical scenarios that require candidates to ask probing and insightful questions.
For example, an interviewee might be asked to respond to the following situation: "There are two hospitals in the Twin Cities. Both hospitals are being consolidated and one must close its Pediatrics wing. Which hospital should be allowed to keep its Pediatrics wing open?" In such a scenario, insiders say, the interviewer is looking for a future associate's ability to uncover detail and elucidate a complicated set of circumstances. Questions to ask with this case might include how much care pediatrics patients usually require, what the precise geographical locale of each hospital is, and how far local patients are willing to travel to receive hospital care.
Although interviewees should brush up on their healthcare industry knowledge before their interviews, not all of APM's cases will involve the industry. One amused summer associate reports geting a case that revolved around a bicycle manufacturer.
APM insiders report a brisk and friendly atmosphere. The firm's dress code is "business," although employees receive a respite from their suits on Friday (which is business casual). The fourth Friday of every month is APM's Office Day, when everyone is expected to attend training sessions about firm activities, community service opportunities, and to take part in employee "caucuses."
Drudgery and opportunities
APM insiders report a mixed bag of drudgery and fantastic opportunities at the firm. One insider describes her co-workers as "open, honest, friendly, social, and driven. They are people who ask really good questions." Yet another calls APM "a place where miscommunication lurks around every corner."
One former consultant addresses the mixed reports. "APM doesn't have a reputation as a great place to work," admits that insider. "I was warned of long hours and a rigid environment. And I heard rumors that the company was making motions to be a 'kinder, gentler' place. Personally, I had a great experience there and never saw the need."
A cheerful, peripatetic crowd
More than one insider qualifies his superiors as "leaders, people I really respect and admire." Still another consultant praises the ability of APM consultants to have fun in the face of an onerous workload and insurmountable hours. The only universal complaint among our insiders concern the amount of travel APM requires. "It take a toll on you, that's for sure," admits one person. Reports another: "The travel is rigorous. It's hard to have a life when you're gone all the time. Then, when you arrive at your hotel at 8 p.m. one night, you have to ask yourself what there is to do. Watch free HBO?"
The golden pre-CSC years
Insiders report a nostalgia for APM's independent years, before it was acquired by CSC. "It'll probably be years before all the rough spots are smoothed out between CSC and APM," confides one consultant. "There is integration going on, but such integration requires constant negotiation." Another insider's comments make the two companies seem more like star-crossed lovers than money-hungry tycoons. "CSC and APM need to work on their relationship," she admits. "They need a little more give and take. I think they can do it. Both companies have good people working under them."
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