A Timely Transition

“Being a Butterfield growing up, I always had the expectation I would join the family business.” The family business Jim Butterfield, 57, speaks of is Smith and Butterfield, a local Evansville office furniture and supplies store. After graduating from Evansville Day School, Butterfield, who had grown up in the same East Side Evansville home his entire life, moved to DeLand, Fla., to attend Stetson University in 1975.

In 1979, Butterfield graduated from Stetson and knew he soon would be returning to Evansville to learn the family trade. However, both he and his father decided it would be best if Butterfield gained some experience with a different company first. So, immediately after graduating, Butterfield remained in Florida to join Kmart as part of its Management Training Program, where he gained experience in retail, management, and work ethic.

Butterfield returned home in 1981 to continue his apprenticeship at Smith and Butterfield to begin preparing to take over the family business. He began in the warehouse, then moved to the Downtown store, then managed the retail store on Lynch Road. After six years of learning the ins-and-outs of Smith and Butterfield, he took over most of the responsibilities as President from Earl Seibert, who had been running the business for the Butterfield family in the interim between Jim and his father. Then, nearly a decade later, in 1996 Champion Industries, Inc., made Butterfield an offer he couldn’t turn down and he sold the family business to the Huntington, W. Va., based supplier of print solutions. Champion recognized the success of Smith and Butterfield and left the name and its management intact. The only major change was a shift to commercial stationery and printing, though office furniture and supplies still played a vital role.

Butterfield continued as president for another 16 years under Champion. “We had a great working relationship,” Butterfield says. It wasn’t until 2012, coming out of the difficulties of the 2008 financial crisis, that Butterfield started to feel “a little bit disenfranchised with what was going on.” It was at this exact time that an old friend of Butterfield’s, Bill Hammonds, was looking for his successor as CEO of Evansville Surgical Associates. “I wasn’t looking to leave Smith and Butterfield,” Butterfield says. “But because we were friends, I listened. He was very passionate about the doctors and the staff.”

After more than three decades at Smith and Butterfield, the chance to try his hand at something new was certainly tempting. “I’d been at Smith and Butterfield for 31 years. I didn’t have to think about what I was doing as much as I do here at Evansville Surgical Associates. It came naturally,” notes Butterfield. “As a man of faith, God was taking me down a path. If I was ever going to leave Smith and Butterfield, this was going to be that path.”

Butterfield and Hammonds met in the 1980s as neighbors when Butterfield had moved back to Evansville. Their friendship was forged over the years as they started going to lunch periodically, alternating who chose where to eat and who paid. “We talked about life, business, our relationships, everything,” Butterfield explains. Eventually, they began picking places to eat where they thought the other wouldn’t set foot in. Butterfield says they’ve eaten just about everywhere in the Evansville area, since it was a new place every time.

So, when Hammonds was diagnosed with terminal cancer and tasked himself with finding his replacement, Butterfield instantly came to mind. Their friendship, his familiarity with Evansville, and its hospitals — Deaconess and St. Mary’s had been two of Smith and Butterfield’s biggest clients — and his experience in management made Butterfield a very attractive candidate. After a series of interviews, Butterfield was tabbed as the new CEO of Evansville Surgical Associates. One of the biggest challenges Butterfield faced in acclimating himself to this new profession was the medical terminology. With no prior medical knowledge, Butterfield knew he faced a “learning curve that I had to take on.” Butterfield, as well as the rest of Evansville Surgical Associates, had to deal with the emotions of Bill Hammond’s passing, on Jan. 5, 2013, just a few days after Butterfield had taken over as CEO. “I lost my mentor. I lost a good friend and Evansville Surgical Associates lost a good executive. It’s still hard to believe he’s gone,” Butterfield notes.

Overseeing 20 physicians and 90 employees, Butterfield is responsible for the hiring of new doctors, handling most of the relationships contractually between Deaconess and St. Mary’s, expanding the presence of Evansville Surgical Associates in the Tri-State area, and the financial stability of Evansville Surgical Associates among other things. A major part of his job recently has been concerned with the change from ICD-9 to ICD-10. ICD-10 is the 10th revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, a medical classification list by The World Health Organization. Butterfield has overseen training of the new code system for doctors and staff. As Butterfield is quick to note, his transition to the medical field hasn’t always been the easiest: “I found myself asking a lot of questions in the first six months. I still ask a lot of questions.” However, he also is equally quick to credit the people around him for his success to date. “The staff has been an incredible support to me,” he says. “The doctors, also.”

Butterfield says he is quite happy with his career change and new position. Though it pained him to leave his family’s business, he pointed out this was softened by selling ownership years before and also that, “I didn’t really want my three children involved. Office supplies had become a difficult business.” Meanwhile, at the age of 57, Butterfield has found a renewed energy. “I’ve really enjoyed my time at Evansville Surgical Associates,” he adds. “It’s been an invigoration to my career.”

For more information on Evansville Surgical Associates, visit evansvillesurgical.com.

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