How is Best Buy Still a Thing?
Go to a conference, any conference… or don’t, there are probably too many conferences operating at any given moment.
But if you find yourself at one, you’ll certainly run into a panel of healthcare influencers predicting the industry’s future. You will hear references to taxis vs. Uber, to Blockbuster vs. Netflix and Amazon vs. various booksellers.
These are quick and easy comparisons, but their simplicity is limiting. This is in part because our industry, for good and ill, is unique in American life, and also because there are other models for change besides the disruptors charging in and totally wiping out the old system.
Just look at Best Buy. As the public is listening for the death rattle of the big-box store, the company’s share price has increased over the past five years from around $26 per-share to $73. At its core, the company still sells consumer electronics to people. Also, like legacy healthcare companies, Best Buy is tied to a good amount of brick and mortar.
The prophecies of doom facing healthcare organizations echo the ones made about Best Buy. The 800-pound (or trillion-dollar) gorilla on healthcare’s horizon is the same one inside Best Buy’s house.
So how did it survive?
Clearly, leadership knew how to navigate change. But as Kevin Roose points out in this New York Times piece, Best Buy’s CEO, Hubert Joly, also knows what to leave well enough alone.
We can learn from Best Buy’s ability to excel by identifying and investing in the areas of its business where Amazon struggled —namely, the person-to-person interaction, whether that be between employees and customers, management and employees or employees and each other. Leaders recognized that a successful approach to customer service starts with a commitment to employee satisfaction.
Of course, healthcare organizations face different challenges than a company like Best Buy. There is no perfect equivalent for the space health systems occupy in our economic, social and political lives. That’s why so many Ted Talk Thinkfluencer types, with big ideas and dense slide decks, are trying to carve their next big thing out of your space.
The business model for care delivery is built on 100 years of mostly-well-intentioned initiatives –from the dawn of medical insurance through the drive for value –that have resulted in our current Rube Goldberg-inspired “healthcare system.” At the same time, the importance of interactions among people in healthcare is even more essential to success in our world than it is for companies selling televisions.
In healthcare, that person-focused communications strategy must go beyond the buzzwords of patient experience and employee engagement. Those concepts are valuable, but ultimately we need to expand our idea of the healthcare consumer to include more people than those who are receiving acute healthcare services. We must also ensure our team members are satisfied and confident in their roles so that they can be ambassadors to our customers.
This is where it becomes clear that a communication strategy is not just helpful but essential to your business strategy. So, for example, while you reduce the footprint of your flagship facilities and pursue an aggressive ambulatory strategy, if you want to stay competitive in the face of change you also have to be investing in people and ways to reach them. Your vision will stay on the page of your internal town hall speech unless you harness the energy and talents of the people who can carry it out.
Which isn’t to say that by just communicating better, the industry will stabilize and health systems will remain its titans. New entrants will continue to shake up the market in big and small ways as we drive toward better outcomes and greater access to care. But, like in every industry, the road to better healthcare will be littered with the bodies of would-be disruptors. For every Facebook, there is a Myspace —for every Snapchat, a Vine.
On the flip side, for every Blockbuster (or now, the one Blockbuster), there is a Best Buy.
Hold on, you say. I read that article and it’s not like Best Buy elected to change proactively, the company only made these moves when the burning platform was almost all ash. So my health system has some time to build out our strategy, and the cool t-shirts we just gave all our employees will make them feel important. Maybe you’re right. And maybe you’re Circuit City.