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Portrait of Tim Bugg

Never a Doubt

A Conversation with Tim Bugg ’07 on Business and Faith

By Anastasia Howland

Tim Bugg has always believed in God. “We all are sinners at heart, and we know that. We all stray from the path more times than any of us will ever admit,” he says. “But I’ve never not believed.”

Growing up in Asheville, N.C., as a Native American who was adopted at birth by white parents, Tim never experienced his biological ancestors’ way of life. “My parents are extremely loving people…but I was never brought up in a native culture, so I don’t really know what it’s like to be Native American,” he explains. “I wouldn’t say it’s a hurdle, but just not having an understanding of your culture… is different.” What remained a strong constant was his Christian faith, which began in his early childhood years. “You can ask most of my friends if anyone had a doubt that I was ever a believer, and there would be no doubt there. I am.”

His knack for business has remained just as evident since Tim’s childhood. In high school, he was part of Junior Achievement, an organization which partners with local businesses and schools in order to provide work-readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial literary skills through experiential learning. Involvement with this organization both confirmed and further strengthened his business proficiency. “I worked my senior year with some fellow students on creating a company, a product, and then delivering that product to the market,” he says.

"I believe wholeheartedly that God has a plan for everyone, and He directs everyone into what successes they can have."

Tim’s career in business began just after he graduated from Clyde A. Erwin High School in Asheville. “I didn’t grow up in a very rich household, meaning that we didn’t have a ton of money,” he explains. “We didn’t have to worry about having food to eat or clothes to wear, but I was probably lower-middle class, and so the option for me to go to college once I graduated high school…that burden was going to fall to me. My parents just didn’t have the means to do that. That was one of the reasons I didn’t attend college right after high school—I really needed to go to work.” So that’s what Tim did, beginning his professional career in the store room at the Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville. His knack for business continued— before long he was managing about $700,000 worth of inventory for the inn while in his early twenties.

At this time, Tim and his wife—who were not yet married—were discussing their long term career visions. As Tim was researching jobs available in the Asheville area, he noticed an advertised position for an assistant director of materials management at Thoms Rehabilitation Hospital, now CarePartners Rehabilitation Hospital in Asheville. “[My wife’s] entire family is in healthcare, and so she thought, ‘Healthcare’s the way to go, I think you should try to get this,’” He recalls. “I was lucky enough to be selected for the position, and so off I went into healthcare.” That was in 1995—and he is still in the healthcare business today.

Tim is currently the president and CEO of Capstone Health Alliance, a regional group purchasing organization which works with both hospitals and non-acute facilities (any facility, besides a hospital, that delivers healthcare). “Our job is to reduce healthcare cost through the buying of products and services that hospitals do every day, along with collaboration and networking of our members together,” he explains. Capstone Health Alliance began in 2000 as a program which Tim and his colleagues founded under the WNC Health Network. In its early years, it serviced the 16 hospitals in western North Carolina. However, as its own company since 2013, its current members include nearly 300 hospitals and 15,000 non-acute sites which are spread across 24 states. It is the third largest alliance of its kind in the United States. Capstone’s 25-person team saved their members just over $50 million in total costs last year alone. “We’re lean and mean, but deliver a strong product,” Tim explains, with a laugh.

Tim Bugg at a computer

From the very beginning, Tim’s work ethic and knack for business were pushing him forward. “I always had the desire to succeed, and I felt like I had the motivation to as well,” he says. “I can’t tell you that I thought that I would ever be a CEO in healthcare. I thought for sure I would run some type of business; I just wasn’t sure what that was.” Now that Tim has reached success at the CEO level, he doesn’t claim the trophy of achievement for himself. “I believe wholeheartedly that God has a plan for everyone, and He directs everyone into what successes they can have,” he explains. Tim trusts that when people surrender their lives to God’s will, He will call them into their successes. “And [this] looks different for different people. For me, success was becoming a CEO and helping hospitals reduce cost… But some people’s success may be being a missionary or may be like my wife’s success in being a nurse. And I think that’s where a lot of people get confused about what success is,” says Tim. “Success doesn’t mean riches. [It] just means that you need to be happy in what you do and feel like you bring meaning and drive to everything that you do.”

Tim credits his guidance and career successes to God, giving Him the thanks for what success he has achieved. “I do believe [God] directs me into my decisions, and He definitely did into my career path,” he says. “Why else would I have gotten into healthcare in ’95, other than just picking up a paper and seeing an ad that had a healthcare job that I just happened to get selected for?”

This isn’t the only time an advertisement led to a positive change in Tim’s professional career. In 2003, he was working at both CarePartners Rehabilitation Hospital and WNC Health Network. “I had done really well in my career, but to continue the growth I needed to complete my degree,” he explains. “I always knew about Montreat College from growing up in Western North Carolina, [but] I just happened to see a magazine ad about Montreat’s Adult and Graduate Studies program.” Tim knew that he couldn’t go back to school full-time and had been looking for a strong adult program. “The enrollment representative at the time was a very nice woman by the name of Kathy Haney. Kathy did a great job explaining the program to me and getting me to an understanding of the program, and I think I signed up that day and said, ‘Okay, when does my cohort start? I’m ready to go!’”

Tim maintained his enthusiasm throughout his four years in the program, graduating in 2007 with his bachelor’s degree in business administration. “Once I was in a Christ-centered education, I felt much more comfortable in my learning,” he says. “I really enjoyed the professors, and I felt like they were my peers. At the time, I was in senior leadership so I wanted someone to talk to me and teach me from my perspective—someone I felt like I should respect in their field, and I think that all of the professors I had met that criteria.” A particular favorite of Tim’s was his marketing professor, Dr. Isaac Owolabi, who has been part of the Montreat faculty since 1994. “He’s very full of life. He was phenomenal.” Due to the incredibly positive impact of professors like Dr. Owolabi, Tim has even contemplated going back to school to get his master’s degree so that in his retirement he could look to be an adjunct at Montreat. He currently serves on the college’s President’s Advisory Council, a group of business, ministry, and civic leaders who have come alongside Montreat College in an advisory role.

"[Montreat] was a good experience for me, and I credit it with really continuing my growth."

In addition to the professional business skills Tim gleaned in the classroom from professors and peers at Montreat, he was also able to strengthen other skills which are vital to the Christian professional—and everyday life. “It’s all about being centered. I think we all get off-centered a lot,” he explains. “You will learn as you move into your career that there will be days when you feel like your center is on top of your head. You just have that kind of pressure on you day in and day out. And I think for professionals especially, I will tell you that being reasonable, understanding, calm, and centered are four of the characteristics that you will always need to run your staff.” The way in which Tim saw this demonstrated at Montreat was to be centered on Christ, through prayer especially.

“[Montreat] was a good experience for me, and I credit it with really continuing my growth,” he says. “I don’t believe I’ve ever had the privilege of God talking to me directly, but I will tell you that I do believe His hand is on me all the time. Just because I haven’t heard it means I don’t believe it? No, not necessarily, because I have faith in my heart that God’s grace shines on me every day, and because of that I don’t need to hear it. I have God in my heart and I know He’s there. I think that’s the difference. As people, we get way too caught up in thinking ‘If I don’t see it, it doesn’t exist.’ [But] that’s what faith is. I have faith in my Lord that He’s going to take care of me, and I have a good calm sense about me because of that.” ■

Anastasia Howland ’20 is a Bible and Ministry major and English major at Montreat College.