I don't know about your corner of the industry, but for Modern Healthcare 1996 was a great year. 1997 looks even better. Business is booming, and I don't see any letup for some time. I know the industry is changing rapidly, but that's something all of us should welcome. It's what being in business is all about-accepting a challenge and then going out and making something happen. That's the fun part. Some people don't like getting on the playing field. They're threatened by competition. But it's the competing that makes us all better. Competition forces us to be agile and creative. This industry isn't for the smug and self-satisfied. Change will be with us forever, and unless an organization is willing to adapt to keep up with its customers, that outfit is headed for trouble. If you like to be challenged and like to compete, you're in the right place. The future looks bright indeed. I'd like to share a story that shows what can happen when an organization embraces change.
The tale goes back some 20 years. The company I work for, Crain Communications, bought Modern Healthcare from another publishing enterprise that had become disenchanted with the hospital market. They were so disgusted with the lack of success they gave up on the magazine. They wanted out and offered the publication to Crain at a cut-rate price. Fortunately, we saw things differently. We saw an industry that was just starting to grow at an incredible rate. Sure, there were a lot of new things happening, and for-profit healthcare was really reshaping the landscape. People were scared and unsure of what to do next. Hospitals were coming to the realization that if they wanted to compete and stay alive, they had to do a better job of managing their facilities. That meant running the organizations like a business. The world was changing, but that only spelled opportunity. Modern Healthcare back in 1976 was a monthly. But guess what people kept telling us as we entered this field? They said there just wasn't enough news in healthcare to support a monthly business news publication.
A few years later, we boosted frequency to 16 issues per year. Guess what people told us then? Again they said there simply wasn't enough going on in healthcare to warrant such frequency. Then a few years later we went to 26 issues. The naysayers came out once again. In 1988, when we went weekly, the criticism was deafening. Well, the cynics were wrong. Modern Healthcare has prospered well beyond what we anticipated. As has the industry. But like anything worthwhile, it wasn't easy. There were a lot of tough times. There were a lot of sleepless nights. At times there was plenty of self-doubt. But we took the gamble, and we won. That's the payoff-accomplishing something that just about everyone says can't be done.
I hear a lot of the same criticism of Rick Scott and Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp., the huge company he heads. But to my way of thinking, Scott should be used as a shining example of how much opportunity there is in healthcare. In a relatively short time he and his colleagues have turned this industry on its ear, even though some of his tactics have made him controversial. He has shaken up the "establishment" and accomplished things that a few years ago nobody would have dared to attempt. But he had a vision, seeing opportunity where a lot of others saw nothing but hard times.
I use his example because it should teach us all some lessons. One, don't sit on your laurels. And two, get out and make "the market." It takes an aggressive approach and the-customer-comes-first thinking. Risk is the precursor to success. But leadership and vision make it happen.
What's my message for 1997? Simply this: Get out there and make your own success. We're lucky enough to be part of the nation's No. 1 industry, and we're lucky enough to be with great organizations. But most important, we live in a country where we can make our dreams come true.
Charles S. Lauer