In 1988, George H.W. Bush was elected president. George Michael’s Faith was the number one song and moviegoers, meanwhile, were skeptical of Dustin Hoff man’s claim that he was a “very good driver” in his Oscar-winning turn in Rain Man.
A very good driver of fortunes took place for Th e Endocrine Society in 1988 when Scott Hunt got behind the wheel as the CEO. And the rest, as they say, is history. During the intervening quarter century, Hunt was intimately involved in shepherding the Society to where it is today. One clear example of his leadership is evidenced by how much the Society’s revenue stream has grown during Hunt’s time as CEO: When he began, annual revenue was less than $2 million; today the Society takes in over $30 million annually. Th at’s a track record any Fortune 500 CEO would envy.
A Transformative Impact
“Scott Hunt’s impact on Th e Endocrine Society over the past 25 years has been transformative,” said Society president William F. Young, Jr., MD. “Scott has a unique way to empower and inspire Society staff and volunteer members. In this way, Scott has transformed the Society from a ‘mom and pop’ shop with a handful of staff , a limited number of standing committees, and a membership of less than 5,800 to a vibrant Society with 90 staff , 22 standing committees, and a total Society membership of more than 16,000.”
Another increase was found in the Society’s heart and soul – the headquarters staff . When he began, there were only four full-time employees devoted to carrying out the Society’s mission; now the Society boasts over 90 souls hard at work in the Washington DC-area headquarters. Th is steady growth for an association during a time when the economy was unpredictable at best and downright ornery at worst is clearly a testament to Hunt’s abilities as well as his own vision for what the Society could become.
Kelly E. Mayo, professor of molecular biosciences, associate dean for research and graduate studies, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University, and a past president of the Society echoes these sentiments and feels that Hunt’s most important legacy is in the people he recruited and the culture he instilled within Society staff and the organization. “We are fortunate to have a remarkable staff that drives our many initiatives and supports the initiatives that come from our committees,” he says. “Scott has built and led that staff , and he has a tremendous ability to identify good people and provide them with what they need to be successful. It will be awfully hard to replace Scott himself, but I do think that he leaves us in terrific shape as a Society, largely because of the abilities and culture that he has developed within the Society staff .”
Realizing the Potential
Hunt came to Th e Endocrine Society after a stint as VP/ general manager of the American Association for Clinical Chemistry. Armed with a bachelor’s degree from Lafayette College in Easton, Penn., and a Harvard MBA, Hunt was not only aware of the Society’s potential but also its myriad challenges.
“When I got here the Society had four employees and the budget was $2 million and essentially the staff had contractors that did everything,” Hunt explains, adding that maintaining the finances and the annual meeting – now ENDO – as well as publishing the journals were all performed by outside firms. “[The Society office] was more like an executive secretariat, forwarding mail and asking members to make decisions. It was very quiet.”
Hunt says that he saw the potential of what the Society could be as soon as he was hired. His first order of business was getting the finances clear followed by taking on the management of the annual meeting. He recounted a story of his first Society Annual Meeting that was so low-key that there was no official signage. “The individual chairs of each session wrote in their own scrawl the names of the speakers and what they were speaking on,” he says. “There was no clinical program per se, just a day at the end of the meeting where clinical topics were discussed.”
As soon as the meeting operations were well run, Hunt addressed the publishing program. He brought all four journals under Society management, increasing pages and profits from advertising and subscriptions. Today, the journal program is the biggest financial engine for the Society.
As Hunt grew the Society, he always had an eye on the bottom line and finding ways to increase it to better serve the membership. “We had to turn the activities of the society into moneymaking activities so that we could begin to expand services for the members and add new services,” he says. “If we want to serve all the different member groups and not take from one group to give to another group, we had to increase the total available dollars to do that. We had to be growing.”
Without inherent growth for the Society, Hunt says that every year one group would get a bigger piece of the available “pie” while another group may be shortchanged. “By increasing the pie, the gross, we were able to add services for each of the constituencies of the Society,” he says. “So you had to have a business model that is diverse, that would allow us to get money from many different sources so that any time one source is weak, another may be particularly strong. And that’s been our history. There are times when we would have a very poor performance in one area and very strong in another.”
A Quarter Century of Achievements
After 25 years of unprecedented growth, there have been many milestones in the Society’s history where Hunt has played a role in its implementation. “One is hard pressed to think of any of the multiple activities and initiatives of the Society over the years without visualizing Scott’s hand in either the conception of the process or actually bringing it to fruition, either overtly or in his typically modest, behind the scenes self-eff acing manner,” said Leonard Wartofsky, MD, MACP, chairman, Department of Medicine, Washington Hospital Center, in Washington, DC, and a former Society president.
“The Society has changed so much during Scott’s long tenure that it is difficult to point to any single thing,” Mayo said when asked for one of Hunt’s top accomplishments. “We have obviously grown the membership and become more diverse, and have developed many new programs, products, and markets. Clearly, respect for the Society as an impactful organization has grown tremendously, including how we are viewed by the public, our standing as a non-for-profit association, our place in the medical and research communities, and the impact of our advocacy, to name a few significant positive changes.”
Hunt was also instrumental in broadening the Society’s educational outreach programs such as the Endocrine Self-Assessment Plan (ESAP) instituted in 2004 as well as the Maintenance of Certification (MOC), Performance Improvement Modules (PIM), in-service exams, board reviews, clinical practice guidelines, scientific statements, early investigators workshops, and the list goes on. The CME programs that began in 1996 vastly expanded the content of the annual meetings. “Adding all these morning and evening programs to the annual meeting was very purposeful for us,” Hunt says. “They added more to the coffers so we could increase services elsewhere, as well as increasing medical content.”
However, all these accomplishments were a part of Hunt’s strategic plan for the Society to prepare it for the next steps. “Through all of this we’ve had tremendous success and we’ve been managed appropriately on the business side,” he says. “We have placeholders ready to move into new services and programs. If there is any business opportunity out there, we have a way to take advantage of it.”
Headed for the Future
Despite the remarkable growth the Society has undergone in the last two and a half decades, there is no time for resting on laurels and the future is always within sight. “We are in the midst of a massive rebuilding of our infrastructure so we’re going to be ready for the next ten years by the end of this year,”
Hunt explains, citing a new association management system that is currently being readied for launch. Hunt also sees the Society’s continued growth handin-hand with that of the practice of endocrinology itself. “Primary care is seeing 90% of the endocrinology in this country and yet we have the content to support that,” he explains. “But our content is in Greek and primary care needs it in English so we need to change the way we present our content. It’s a many orders of magnitude bigger market that we can support. To me, it’s so clearly the future of the Society’s programming. It will increase our influence dramatically and is a sustainable model.”
Hunt explains that this growth doesn’t mean that the Society will stop the way it is currently doing things; it just means that Society content must be made accessible in a way that is useful to primary care physicians. “This should generate a huge surplus for the Society over time,” he says. “[This surplus will be] even bigger than we have had and that should enable us to increase programming for basic scientists and clinical scientists, as well as for clinical practitioners. The pieces are coming on line to be able to do that.”
Regardless of the many successes of the Society under Hunt’s leadership, it seems that everyone who has been involved with the Society over the years will really miss Scott Hunt, the man. “What I will always remember about Scott is how he truly cares about the people — members and staff — that make up the organization, and how he uses his acumen and professionalism to make everyone else look so good!” said Margaret A. Shupnik, PhD, senior associate dean for research, University of Virginia School of Medicine in Charlottesville. “Everyone who is a part of this organization could not help but feel that he is on their side. I wish other organizations had true creative business individuals working on their behalf the way that Scott works for all of us.”
“With the announcement of Scott Hunt’s retirement, innumerable colleagues have made comments like ‘a hard act to follow’ or ‘big shoes to fill’. Indeed, the sentiment is so true because for the past two decades Scott has been The Endocrine Society!” Wartofsky said. “We will miss his tact, his respect for confidentiality, his humor, his wisdom, his camaraderie, his boyish enthusiasm, his maturity, and his ever present professionalism. Yes, he will be dearly missed, but leaves behind the legacy of the most dynamic, most vital, most highly reputed and respected, and most productive endocrine society in the world. We say goodbye reluctantly, recognizing that we have been so fortunate to have had his leadership, and now wish him well in this next very personal new phase of his life.”
Hunt’s post-Society life will be spent traveling with his wife Pamela and, of course, racing his Porsche. But he still plans to do some consulting with not-for-profits who are in the process of setting up their own strategic plans. Future success stories are bound to happen.