Presented by Kent J. Thiry, DaVita’s Chairman and CEO

Kent Thiry speaks at CEO Briefing

Kent Thiry, Chairman and CEO of DaVita, spoke at the Business School’s inaugural CEO Briefing about DaVita’s remarkable turnaround from a nearly bankrupt provider of dialysis services to its position today as a $6 billion leader in kidney care.

When Thiry joined DaVita in 1999, the company was under investigation by the SEC. Employees were leaving in droves, and shareholders were suing.

“It was not the happiest of places,” he conceded.

One of Thiry’s first moves as CEO was to gather DaVita’s discouraged management team for a strategy session. Start with the end in mind, he told them, and envision a special place where people share dreams and a higher sense of purpose. Thiry wanted people to shift their thinking from pure profits to building a healthy community. His unconventional belief: A successful company is the means to the end of building a healthy community.

Genesis of the turnaround

Early converts rallied to the idea of “building the greatest kidney care company the world has ever seen by building a strong community.” This vision reflected the conviction that DaVita would provide warm, compassionate care for patients and a fulfilling, fun place to work. For these reasons, employees chose to name the company DaVita, which in Italian means “giving life.”

The skeptics weren’t sure the company would even survive.

“There was some disdain at first,” Thiry acknowledged. “In the harsh reality of business, I saw stunning disconnects between the vision and people’s ability to believe in it.”

If Thiry had doubts in those early days, he kept them to himself. “Leadership is not a position,” he remarked. “It’s visible behavior…how we conduct ourselves.” Thiry’s leadership style included asking a lot of questions. He and his managers asked 800 “teammates,” as DaVita employees are called, to articulate what they wanted in a place of work. Out of those collective conversations grew DaVita’s Mission and Values. “We knew our values had to be simple to remember and authentic,” explained Thiry. “These are what we live by today, 10 years later.”

“One for All, All for One”

To show the DaVita principles in action, Thiry played video clips of what he playfully referred to as “wine-induced” Town Hall meetings. Uninhibited teammates gathered, hugged, and gave each other high-fives. Then hundreds of teammates, packed in a convention hall, joined together in singing the company mantra, “One for All, All for One.” This theme, from Three Musketeer books and movies, is prominent at DaVita. It’s just one of the many boisterous rituals at DaVita, an organization where values are spoken, sung, posted on walls, rewarded, measured and acted out in skits.

Thiry doesn’t like to use the word “culture” to describe the rah-rah climate at DaVita. “It implies ‘cult,’” he said. After his presentation, Thiry fielded questions about the applicability of the DaVita approach to other organizations. His short answer: Look at the results. Measured by gains in profits, market share, and employee loyalty, DaVita is a case study in the ROI of putting people and patients first. Under Thiry’s charismatic leadership, the organization has seen nine straight years of improved clinical outcomes. Today, DaVita serves approximately one in three dialysis patients in the United States. As Thiry asserted at the close of his presentation, “We are successful because we are a community first, and a company second.”

DaVita’s Mission

To be the Provider, Partner and Employer of Choice

DaVita’s Core Values

Service Excellence



Continuous Improvement




Kent J. Thiry is a member of the Business School’s Board of Advisors. He earned his BA in Political Science with Distinction and Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford University. Later Thiry earned an MBA with Honors from Harvard Business School. Visit for further information.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

CU Denver

Business School

1475 Lawrence Street

Denver, CO 80202


CU in the City logo
%d bloggers like this: