Baylor EMBA, 2018
Vice President of Finance, Catalyst Health Network
"Advancing in Healthcare Finance with a Baylor EMBA"
In 2011, a few years after earning a BS in Economics, William Zollicoffer joined a six-person health tech firm as a financial analyst. Soon, he realized what he wanted out of his career.
“By 2016, I was manager of finance. I decided at that time that I wanted to accelerate on what I had done. I didn’t want to get stuck in a managerial role. I didn’t want to become complacent at that level—I had higher aspirations,” he said.
Now, just 10 years later, he is vice president of finance with the same company—StratiFi Health—leading a team of 51 in finance, accounting, revenue cycle management and IT services. The company provides finance and accounting services and technology to independent physicians’ offices. Its mission is to strengthen communities through improved healthcare delivery.
“What our organization does touches patients at a vulnerable time in their life. My group does finance and accounting, and you could get lost in debits and credits. What drives me is the amount of connectivity I have to our mission,” Zollicoffer said.
Joining a small startup on the rise gave Zollicoffer early opportunities to contribute in ways he might not have had at a larger firm. But his rapid advancement also can be attributed to a decision he made after five years with the company.
Soft Skills Are Essential
When he talked to his mentor about the value of earning an MBA, he was assured he didn’t need one to succeed at the company. But Zollicoffer was thinking ahead.
“I was starting to develop my own professional identity, beyond what I had learned at my firm,” he said. “I realized my career aspirations, and if I wanted to open myself up to be more marketable, more knowledgeable and more helpful in any healthcare organization, these were skillsets that I needed to learn. I wanted to ready myself for a career that met my professional goals.”
Zollicoffer considered several programs in Dallas, where he lives. He chose Baylor’s Dallas Executive MBA Program for its healthcare administration concentration and the tight-knit cohort of professionals at similar stages in their careers.
When he enrolled in 2016, Zollicoffer was confident in his finance and accounting knowledge and experience. But to reach his goal of being a leader in healthcare finance, he needed soft skills in organizational behavior, marketing, healthcare operations, communication and negotiation.
“Those were what I needed as a finance professional at that time,” he said. “Being a leader in finance, you can have debits and credits down to a T, but real leaders in finance develop policies and procedures that impact the overall culture of the organization. If you can align incentives and align reporting and align a vision that coincides with the organization’s mission and values, that’s the highest level of competency that I would recognize for a finance professional.”
The Practical Benefits of an MBA
He found Baylor’s Executive MBA coursework could be immediately applied on the job. Classes emphasized real-world scenarios—from faculty who had worked for years in industry to classmates who discussed how they approached problems at work. “The easier it is to translate to my job, the more value I’m going to get out of it,” he said.
The small cohort model encouraged students to pool their different strengths and experiences to solve problems. Classmates had a wide variety of backgrounds—from finance to nursing to IT—and each student could contribute their particular knowledge to the collective. With his background, Zollicoffer stepped forward to help classmates in the accounting class—valuable practice for breaking down silos in the workplace.
“You learn to lean on people, depending on their strengths, and group up with people so you can accomplish more as a team,” he said.
His goals for a healthcare MBA may have been to prepare for other opportunities in the industry, but the degree showed him how to be a leader right where he was.
“My own organization was growing rapidly, and the demand for the skillsets that came along with the MBA program were in more demand,” Zollicoffer said.
As he rose through the ranks and more people joined his team, Zollicoffer saw he needed to become a more effective communicator. What he learned about communication in his coursework has helped him build relationships and confidence at work.
“Being able to go into a room, being comfortable with what you know and what you don’t know, being able to show up in a way that’s collaborative, with more of a learner type of mindset, has helped me out considerably,” he said. “What Baylor helped me with was giving me a structure and a framework to apply to how I communicate.”
Leadership Lessons—Right From the Start
He was surprised to glean leadership principles in a first-year financial accounting course taught by an adjunct professor with corporate experience as a treasurer of a Fortune 500 company. The course not only helped him build on the accounting foundation he already had, but the professor’s experience was a case study in finance leadership during a company’s last days.
“Anyone can run an organization when cash flows are going well. Looking at the lifecycle of a fortune 500 company and where it ended at the very last of it, it takes a strong finance leader to be in that type of role,” Zollicoffer said. “You could tell that the faculty had a lot of experience and a lot to offer.”
Baylor’s Executive MBA program teaches practical approaches that can be immediately applied at work—tools that will accelerate your development and career, he added.
“The thought that went into developing the curriculum, the faculty that has the commercial and industry experience, the cohort of likeminded professionals that are engaged and were there for the right reasons—to learn and develop—are the things that put the Baylor program above the other programs I considered,” he said.
Are you an experienced finance professional interested in finding out if an Executive MBA degree could be the next step in your career? Baylor University offers Executive Master of Business Administration at the Hankamer School of Business in two of Texas’ key business and cultural hubs—in Dallas and in Austin. Reach out for a one-on-one consultation with our admissions advisers. Complete the form below, and our team will contact you directly.