What Business Are You In?
Newspapers thought they were in the printing business. Music companies believed they were makers of vinyl disks and CDs. AOL thought it was a content provider. Yahoo wanted to be an entertainment company. Kodak presented itself as a camera maker. Hospitals think they’re in the hospital business.
By confusing how they do their business with what it really is, businesses lose perspective of why they got customers in the first place. They build their businesses around the artifact of the transaction, rather than on the value they deliver.
What is the business of the association? You might argue it’s publishing journals, holding conferences, or doing trade shows. But you would be wrong – very wrong.
Thinking about this is damn hard work. I’m not sure I’ve nailed it, but when I think about my association’s true business, I think about its origins. Four months before the Battle of Yorktown, a group of physicians decided they needed to get together to uphold the standards of their young profession. They would get together, share what they knew, write about it, and disseminate it. They got their blessing from the State Legislature in November 1787, just weeks after Yorktown.
If I’m right, that’s my association’s business – we’re a platform to build community. To help doctors get together to learn from each and make their profession better. Everything else – our nice building, our pretty website, our spectacular medical journal – is an artifact of that commitment, not the commitment itself.
When done right, social media will solve a big problem – the barriers of time and distance. That’s why I think social media technologies are perfect for my medical society. Eventually it may even solve the money problem for our doctors. Not today, but someday pretty soon, the majority of our members will be using social media every day. We have to be there – today, when it’s still the new thing, and tomorrow, when it may be the only thing.
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