The Numbers Man

George Paz, chairman, president, and CEO, Express Scripts, Inc.

GP1_1On being a líder:
The health-care industry is a special spot for leadership development because the needs are so great in lowering costs and improving outcomes. In that context, I’ve become a leader by creating value; creating jobs and opportunities.

On taking a leap of faith:
When I was a partner in an accounting firm, a client of ours was looking for a CFO. I knew a lot about accounting, but not so much about running a business from the financial side, managing treasury, strategizing about applying assets to growth. But, I saw an opportunity and went for it, and it taught me a lot about the value of acting with confidence and accepting risk in decisions.

On his secret weapon:
My acumen with numbers has helped me set targets, assess opportunities for mergers and acquisitions, better understand my clients’ businesses, and generally manage capital well.

On his mentor:
Barrett Toan, my predecessor as CEO at Express Scripts, was highly ethical, visionary, a leader who questioned everything and never took anything for granted. He always made sure to keep asking questions until he fully understood the situation, then acted.

On childhood dreams:
I grew up in what was then a very rural farming community, O’Fallon, Missouri, and many people there were not college educated. I didn’t aspire to be what I saw around me, a mechanic, or farmworker, or whatever. With television just beginning to give us glimpses into other worlds, I saw people like Ward Cleaver coming home from jobs in business and leading a different kind of life, and it looked very attractive to me.

On industry challenges:
The dual challenge of managing the long-term inflationary cost of health care, with little corresponding return on improved quality of care. The industry is focusing on both now, out of necessity. We are also expanding our understanding of applying of behavioral sciences to health care to improve patient outcomes.

On lessons learned:
Early in my career I had a quick temper and fast trigger finger. I learned that being more contemplative and understanding leads to better decisions.

On his passion:
Improving the health-care delivery system in this country.