Another irony is that a huge investment should deliver instant results through short cut methods. It is sometimes difficult for me to convince hospital promoters on this fallacy. Almost everyone I meet or work for, wants to double their patient intake in the next quarter. Hardly anyone takes strategic brand building, CRM, creation of a long-term vision seriously. Here is the truth – there is no magic wand yet. It takes patience, perseverance and consistency to create and win market segments.
I am not against tactical or operational excellence. But it is imperative to link the operational objectives to the long-term goals. Hospitals must think of the legacy that they will create in the next 30-40 years. Inside of that commitment, they should carry out their day-to-day functions. Yes, it is important to make profits at the end of the month.
Return on Investment (ROI) in marketing exercises is important. You must look for results for your marketing efforts. But be clear that they will not happen overnight. Also there will be no end to marketing. You will have to carry out marketing functions forever. It is like going to the gym. You will stay fit as long as you go to the gym. Thereafter, the fats start accumulating again and you go out of shape, even if you have been exercising for years.
Please remember, in the long term, only the hospitals who have invested in ensuring patient loyalty, brand building and strategic marketing will survive. Organisations with short-term perspectives will live for a short term and will be first ones to fall prey to serious competition. Aggressive strategic marketing is catching up; at least with the bigger players. Apollo is creating strategic segments in the overseas markets already. Big ophthalmic hospitals in South India have successfully mastered the ‘volumes’ business model. Strategic marketing is an inevitable trend for the industry. I have even heard of a hospital paying a handsome package to hire a brand manager. So, jump in before it is too late.
Let me share with you a little story my father once told me. When Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru went to inaugurate one of the plants of the Birla Group in 1950s, he asked Birla, “What assets do you have here?” Hearing this Birla went and brought with him one foreman working in that plant. “This is our biggest asset. And there are many more of these here,” he proudly said. Visionary businessmen always treat their people as their partners. It is not the ventilator, the CT scan machine or the central air conditioning that makes a hospital, but it is the people who work in it.
Irony is that we are yet to realise the difference that nurses, ward boys, sweepers and security guards make to the hospital. A hospital can be turned around simply by having an inspired workforce. The famous turnaround of SAS or Scandinavian Airlines happened solely on its employees’ commitment.
People are the most dynamic assets we have. Yet, it pains me to see how they are treated in some hospitals. They work for meagre salaries. In some places, they have to deposit their original certificates at the time of appointment. The employer is sending a psychological message, “I don’t trust you. You are going to cheat me and therefore I will have something with me to teach you a lesson.”
How can you build a mutually empowering relationship based on fear and distrust? If you are heading a hospital or a large department in a hospital, I can bet that you do not know the names and age of the children of more than five people working under you. And if you think it does not indicate anything, well, too bad. Please note that you spend your entire day working closely with them. Your success is linked directly to their efforts. It will serve you better to be linked with their lives like no one else’s business. Dhirubhai Ambani made it a point to attend the weddings, funerals and other ceremonies of as many factory workers as possible.
Let us empower our employees. Give them powers to make decisions. Let us nurture and develop them and place trust and faith in them. If you think they will cheat and run away even after this, you may need to rethink. Also, consider that people act the way you treat them. If you brand someone as a loser, he will show up as one. If you relate to him as a winner, he will come out a winner in the given situations. So, have faith and nurture people. Remember that they hold the key to your entrepreneurial success.
Lastly, let us create long lasting and solid organisations. Let us invest in promoting our enterprises for this long-term success to happen. Let us also respect and honour the people who make it all possible for us.
The writer is a Healthcare and Marketing Consultant based at Dharamshala.
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