Navigating rough waters

Steve Flatt is steering NHC away from federal funds reliance toward private-pay options and new service lines.

National Healthcare Corp. was long defined as a family affair of sorts. Then along came Dr. Stephen Flatt. When Flatt (friends call him “Steve”) took the helm of the Murfreesboro-based senior care provider early this year, he became its first leader from outside of its founding family – and at a most uncertain time for the health care industry, no less.

Dr. Carl Adams founded NHC in 1971. His son Andy took over as CEO in 1981 and, in 2004, he passed the mantle to his brother Robert, who served as the CEO until the end of last year.

With Robert ready for retirement, the company turned to Flatt, then its president, to lead the Adams legacy into the future.

It was a safe choice, as the Adamses long ago identified Flatt as a potential de facto family member.

In 2005, Andy Adams recruited Flatt, then president of Lipscomb University. The academician and former Church of Christ minister joined NHC as a senior vice president of development that year and held the position until his promotion to president in 2009.

Throughout his 12-year tenure, Flatt has closely aligned with the ideals the Adamses used to build NHC. It has been a successful undertaking, as the company now maintains 160 locations across 10 states, providing care to more than 40,000 seniors through skilled nursing, homecare, hospice, physical therapy and pharmaceutical services.

“Dr. Adams was a visionary who had a passion to see that America’s elderly weren’t warehoused but [instead] were enabled to live life to the fullest within whatever physical limitations they might have,” Flatt says. “Following him, Andy and Robert Adams were both savvy businessmen, but never wavered on their father’s fundamental principles of providing high-quality care and the best possible customer experience.

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From the Spring 2017 issue of Nashville Post: Leaders.