HCA Healthcare
December 09, 2022


Source: Nashville Business Journal
Author: Joel Stinnett
Date: December 9, 2022

To better understand Most Admired CEOs Legacy Award winner Dr. Tommy Frist Jr., co-founder of HCA Healthcare Inc., we spoke with three people who have known him for years, including his younger brother. Here’s what former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist told us, edited for length and clarity.

He was, in many ways, sort of a surrogate father for me, in that Dad was busy a lot with his medical practice. Tommy was the person, from the very earliest years, who showed up at games when I was in Little League baseball, [took] me to college [and let] me do things that my parents probably wouldn’t have encouraged at a young age. Earliest examples would be when I was [8 years old] we bought a small runabout boat. At that time Dad was a doctor, so we were fine, but everything was a stretch because they were raising five children. … [Dad] did well, but it wasn’t like after HCA started. So, when we got a boat it was a big deal. We had never been able to go to the lake growing up, never took that kind of time off on the weekends. …

[Tommy] and Trisha, his wife, would go out to the lake and take me and teach me to water ski. For Tommy, the way he taught was he put me in the water and gave me instructions. But I was either too young to ski or just not very good at it. Time after time after time, he would try to get me up [on the skis] and I couldn’t do it. Finally, he said, “Listen,” — and he knew exactly how much pressure to put on me. It was almost 6 p.m. He said, “That’s it. Either you’re going to get up this time or we’re going to go home and we’re just going to give up this month on skiing.” That was just enough pressure for me, which was a lot of pressure for me at the time, to encourage me to get over the hump and get my head in the right place to get up and ski.

The story on the surface is kind of nothing, but for my whole life I used that as I’ve worked with other people: Inspiring and encouraging them to learn things, but if not, to put them in a situation of just enough pressure that demands their full attention and concentration. Sure enough, most of the time [people] get over that hump or that challenge. …

[Tommy] probably didn’t consciously [put me in that situation] but it does in some way explain his success around other people: giving them responsibility, giving them ownership and then seeing how they perform.