Being relevant versus being profitable
by Dennis Ernst • January 11, 2018
Last month in this column I talked about our imminent relocation almost 600 miles north, and that when something feels right, you do it no matter how irrational it sounds. Such is the case with this uprooting. By the time you read this, though, I hope to be unpacking in our forever home, and will share my observations next month.
Something else that seems irrational but feels right is taking a profitable, widely read, highly regarded newsletter and making it free. That's what we're doing with Phlebotomy Today in March.
I know it sounds crazy, but let me explain. As you likely know, I've been writing two newsletters monthly for ten years now---Phlebotomy Today and Phlebotomy Today-STAT! The two publications combined take at least a week each month to research, edit, format and deliver. I know you appreciate the time I put into making each issue, but it's become clear to me the demands they place on my schedule are not sustainable. Once I decided to merge the two publications as Phlebotomy Today, I had to answer the next logical question: do I charge a subscription fee as I have been for Phlebotomy Today, or do I keep it free as I have been for Phlebotomy Today-SAT!?
An inner voice immediately provided the answer in the form of another question: Do you want to be profitable or relevant?
And so the dialog began
Me: I want to be both.
Inner Voice (IV): Of course, you do, but a person cannot pursue one to the exclusion of the other without eventually being neither.
Me: When I left the bench in 1998 to start the Center for Phlebotomy Education, it was in search of relevance.
IV: As it should have been.
Me: But I wasn't relevant or profitable at the time. I may have had a steady income, but as a single dad I lived paycheck to paycheck.
IV: But you gave up your steady income anyway, didn't you? That's how important relevance was to you. How did that decision work out?
Me: It worked out beautifully. I felt almost instantly relevant.
IV: And profitable?
Me: That took many years, but ultimately I was able to pay myself a salary, move the office out of our house, and hire a staff of six.
IV: So only when you achieved relevance did you achieve profitability, is that correct?
Me: Yes. That's the way it works. But "profit" doesn't have to be just financial in nature, at least for me. It can also come in the form of doing meaningful work, impacting patient care, solving problems for people, and helping other companies succeed.
IV: You mean, being relevant.
It's conversations like these that make my decisions easy, and why your newsletter will become a free publication after the merge. When the choice is between charging several hundred subscribers or writing a free publication for tens of thousands, all I had to do was think back to when I felt irrelevant. Those days ended the minute I started serving you, my readers, in 2000 when I released the first issue of Phlebotomy Today. It was free then and it'll be free again in March with the first merged issue. With today's tight budgets in healthcare, I'm sure you need it that way.
Funny how things work out. In order for me to get what I want, I have to give you what you want. There's something very logical about that.
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