Goodbye to Adolescence

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I’m sure you remember the time very well. You grew at great clips and with a seeming lack of difficulty, you stayed nimble no matter how much you ate, you saw nothing but opportunity in front of you, and you laughed in the face of those who told you that these were your golden years. Soon the time would pass and it would be necessary to “settle down.” Then one day you awake to the reality that the days have been since passed when you could make no mistake that time couldn’t heal. Time now seemed to move more quickly, and you reached a point in which the rules of the world would require you to be more responsible and, yes, predictable. Discovering that you have finally achieved maturity is a mixed blessing, indeed. One wistfully recalls that long-ago ability to move quickly and grow without many impediments. Yet maturity also brings with it certain benefits that when managed correctly can bear different and longer-lasting rewards. Predictability isn’t all bad. Such is the case with the outpatient imaging profession and the world of diagnostic imaging in general. We are now fully mature as a market, as an industry, and as a profession. Whether you see this as good news or bad news depends on what your expectations include, and a lot on how you lived the adolescent period of wild growth and unlimited opportunity. Did you invest for your future or did you enjoy the ride so much that you didn’t worry about getting yourself ready for the future? Markets mature. It is an essential part of the capitalistic macro-economic infrastructure and the process is here to stay. Businesses of every stripe and dimension start life with certain characteristics that dictate a pathway to growth, maturity, and decline, with key indicators along the way that reveal to stakeholders the signals that guide them through the passages. It is the ability to make the passage successfully that separates those who succeed during the subsequent cycles and who discover that, through re-invention and innovation, the entire process is indeed cyclical. The key to succeeding in a mature market is to realize that the rules have changed, the skills that suited you before no longer apply, and that navigating the complex layers requires ingenuity, discipline, vision, mature capabilities, and no small measure of staying power. And, it requires leadership. Today’s imaging marketplace is not a playground for adolescent sensitivities and blind faith in make-it-up-as-you-go-along business models. It is a rough-and-tumble battle of wits and skills more similar to other mature businesses than it is to its previous self, and the natural selection process will separate the players into observers, participants, hangers-on, followers, and leaders. Which do you want to be? My assumption is that since you are reading this publication, you intend to be among the leaders. That being the case, the message to you is this: recognize what the indicators are telling us. Washington is not finished dealing its blows to our reimbursement levels. Far from it. They now have a taste for where they think “excess” dollars can be found and re-directed. The great growth years are maturing into predictable (lower) growth years. Competition is increasing as everyone sees stealing market share as the way to replace revenue shortfalls. Leadership will be a much more important commodity as organizations seek ways to communicate with their customers by building better and more long-lasting relationships. The truth is that the golden years are ahead of us. Overall expenditures on health care will continue to increase. More people will need diagnostic imaging services. Technology will continue to push our capabilities into new opportunities for growth. Your ability to succeed in this mature market will depend on when you stop thinking about the “good old days” and start finding ways to make your mark in a new paradigm. With maturity comes wisdom. With wisdom comes a “golden” opportunity to lead.