Mike Thirtle

Coffee Break


Mike Thirtle
President and CEO, Bethesda
600 Hoffmann Drive, Watertown
Industry: Health care
Employees: 3,800
Family: Four children: Natalie, Jack, Dan and Madelyn.

What was the smartest thing your company did in the past year?

“We were honest with ourselves after taking a strategic look into our future. We came to the realization that our 113-year-old organization wasn’t reacting to the wants and needs of people with developmental disabilities. Market conditions started changing 15 years ago and we hadn’t begun to react. Over the past two years, we have been incredibly (and painfully) honest. We now have an honest strategic plan supported by an honest budget to position us for the future in the real world that we operate in.”

What’s new at your company?

“As we position ourselves for the future, we will build upon our longstanding history and our culture of compassion. We continue our beautiful mission of taking care of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, but we’re operationally and tactically enhancing our way of serving every day.  We also know that to compete in the future, nothing short of a total transformation of how we are doing things is needed – from finance to marketing to operations to project management. Nearly every rock has been turned over in the past two years, and I like rock carriers – people who challenge the status quo. I’m confident Bethesda will look a lot different in the future than it does today.”

From a business standpoint, who do you look up to?

“I look up to my colleagues at Bethesda; from our staff, who provide direct care, to the executives in the organization. They amaze me more and more every day. I can’t say strongly enough how proud and blessed I am to serve with such awesome people. I love this team.

“Outside of Bethesda, I look to my previous experiences in the military, where I served the nation for over two decades. The generals I worked for over the years showed me their exemplar methods of leadership and effectiveness. I couldn’t have asked for a better professional upbringing than serving the nation under the great leaders I worked for – whether it was at the Air Force Academy when I was a cadet or at the Pentagon, on the Air Staff. I had the opportunity to watch and to learn from people who exhibited traits of selflessness and courage; true patriots.”

What do you like to do in your free time?

“I own a 19th century Victorian home which I’m continuously restoring! I enjoy playing the role of handyman on the weekends when it comes to painting, plumbing, construction and flooring. I come from a family line of house painters and wallpaper hangers — it’s definitely in my DNA. I am comfortable working a paintbrush as much as I am with working a cost-benefit analysis. Over the years, I’ve found that framing a wall, running electrical and putting up drywall is very analogous to reframing and building an organization; one has to start with a blueprint (vision) to create the final product.”

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