By Rebecca Beyer
Scott Snider ’20 and his wife, Lindsey Snider, were busy expanding their business, a healthcare company dedicated to improving the lives of young people with autism spectrum disorder, when news of the global COVID-19 pandemic began to spread in early 2020.
Scott Snider, a U.S. Air Force Reserve lieutenant colonel and former F-15 fighter pilot accustomed to dealing, quite literally, with crises on the fly, didn’t hesitate. He and Lindsey Snider convened their team to discuss how best to continue providing care for their patients while keeping everyone involved safe. Then, Scott Snider reached out to another team: his Yale School of Management MBA for Executives classmates.
“The healthcare cohort I was part of was incredibly valuable in helping us troubleshoot,” remembers Snider, who was just four months shy of finishing the rigorous 22-month program when the pandemic began. “We were constantly passing messages back and forth, sharing the latest info we were learning.”
As a result, the Sniders have been able to keep their Massachusetts-based company running—and growing—through the long months of the pandemic. Proven Behavior Solutions offers an integrated treatment approach that includes applied behavior analysis therapy, speech and language services, special education advocacy, and social skills. Although the company lost half its clients and more than 30% of its staff last spring, most of those people—and more—have since come back.
“Our foot has been on the gas pedal the entire time,” Scott Snider says. “Our goal is to keep growing this thing quickly. We’re not growing for growth’s sake; we’re growing because we have families we just can’t help” because of limited capacity.
For the Sniders, the responsibility they feel is personal as well as professional. After their niece was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, Lindsey Snider went back to school to become a board-certified behavior analyst. When Scott Snider left active duty, the pair decided to start a company designed around the intervention-based treatment, convinced they could deliver a better product for families in need.
“For every client, we say: ‘What if that was my sister or my niece?’” Scott Snider explains. “That’s the measuring stick for us.”
Scott Snider’s background is not in clinical care—it’s in jets. As far back as he can remember, he wanted to be a fighter pilot. The Plymouth, Massachusetts, native can recall as a young boy watching F-15s flying toward Cape Cod, near where his mom, an immigrant from Korea, worked as a house cleaner.
“I said, ‘I want to do that,’” Snider remembers.
In high school, Snider received a nomination to the U.S. Air Force Academy from Senator John Kerry. When he graduated from the academy in 2002, Snider was part of the first class to be commissioned directly into wartime service since Vietnam. He trained as a pilot in Columbus, Mississippi, then stayed on as a T-37 instructor before proceeding to F-15C training in Panama City, Florida. His first fighter squadron assignment was in the United Kingdom, where he flew missions for NATO and deployed to Southwest Asia. Later, he joined the USAF Aggressors and played the role of professional adversary for trainees in Nevada before leaving active duty to earn a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
After Harvard, Scott Snider worked briefly in finance as a project manager for Boston-based State Street, while Lindsey Snider worked as a contractual behavior analyst. Through her work, the Sniders learned that patients and their families weren’t always getting the care they deserved; there was a “service desert,” Scott Snider says, for patients with autism spectrum disorder in Massachusetts beyond the Boston area.
Snider has an entrepreneurial streak that he traces to his paternal grandmother, who ran a seasonal Christmas tree-selling business in Duxbury, where he worked as a child. And, he says, the military instilled in him a sense of service.
“Seeing a problem in front of you and knowing you can fix it—that wasn’t something we could walk past,” he says. “When we started to look at it, we thought: We could actually do this.”
Proven Behavior Solutions began operating in 2016 and opened its first clinical center in 2017. Not long after that, Snider realized he needed more than his military experience to head up the management of a thriving company.
“Up until that point, we had been flying by the seat of our pants,” he explains. “Once we opened up the center in Norwell, I realized there were significant gaps in my knowledge. I didn’t feel comfortable leading our company through the next stage of growth without more formal education.”
Snider chose Yale SOM’s MBA for Executives program, drawn by the prospect of learning from classmates in the Healthcare area of focus.
“I wanted a program with experienced professionals,” he says.
During his weekend and in-residence courses, Snider met classmates he later was able to call upon during the pandemic, including Joseph Cavallo ’20, a radiologist at Yale New Haven Hospital and professor at Yale School of Medicine; Jeffrey Meter ’20, chair of surgery at Bristol Health; Cynthia Taub ’20, director of non-invasive cardiology at Montefiore Medical Center; Paul Fu ’20, chief medical officer at Auburn Community Hospital, and Dan Bellis ’20, senior director at Northwell Health. With their help, he and Lindsey developed a COVID-19 protocol for Proven Behavior Solutions’ outpatient model, including using telemedicine technology for analysts’ appointments with patients and assigning a single technician to work with patients in their home with proper hygiene and personal protective equipment. When they shared their thinking with the state, “regulators had nothing more to add,” Snider says. Then, “we were able to take that validation back to our team.”
Even before the pandemic, Snider was putting what he was learning in class into practice at Proven Behavior Solutions. He used breaks during a course on maximizing resources to create a new spreadsheet optimizing staffing ratios. On his drive home from New Haven after weekend courses, he would call his wife to discuss ideas for better marketing or management strategies.
“I could try stuff out right away,” he says. “There was nothing theoretical about it.”
At Proven Behavior Solutions, Snider says he and his wife try to emphasize staff development, starting with the behavior technicians who implement the treatment plans analysts design for patients.
“My background as a military officer taught me that the mission happens at the lowest level. You can’t be sure you’re going to be successful unless the newest person on the team can do their job well,” he says.
That focus helped land the business on the Boston Globe’s Top Places to work in 2020 list in the small company category. But Snider says he learned even more about employee retention in Employee, a core course taught by Professor James N. Baron, who taught that employees have different reasons for working and can’t all be motivated in the same way.
“Not everyone wants to be a superstar,” Snider says. Others “are committed and steady but don’t necessarily aspire” to advance in a career.
Proven Behavior Solutions is on track to open two new clinical centers in early 2021. Building a business hasn’t been easy. Until recently, the Sniders handled all the company’s human resources and scheduling needs on their own, and, Scott Snider says, “I still fix toilets.”
Snider’s sense of accomplishment comes from helping facilitate the work of the company’s clinicians, including his wife.
“For me, it’s the support aspect: I get the most satisfaction from having a highly trained team go out and do good work with their clients,” Snider says. “Let them do their work and do it well.”
Interviewed on December 30, 2020