The Importance of Long-Term Business Vision vs. Short-Term Gain
By Olivier Chateau
CEO and co-founder, Health Union
June 29, 2019
As the CEO of a young and rapidly growing company, I am frequently approached by interested investors and companies to discuss potential “synergistic” partnerships. Each of these discussions causes me to reflect on Health Union’s mission and reminds me that the value within our 22 (and growing) online health communities is derived from our ability to provide people living with chronic health conditions with the information, support and validation they want. Diverting from this purpose flies in the face of the trusted relationships, a part of our business vision we’ve carefully cultivated over the years.
Health Union has dedicated the past 10 years to building a proven business model that has value for patients, caregivers and business partners. As other “online community” companies that attempt to reach similar audiences have grown recently due to acquisitions, I’ve been thinking about this more and more. In some instances, acquisitions appear to be in line with the company’s overall approach. Others raise fairly simple questions, such as what the company’s intentions are, what this partnership truly offers its audience and, perhaps more importantly, exactly what audience these companies are trying to reach.
Regardless of the answers to those very important questions, news of recent acquisitions brings to the forefront two paradoxical approaches to business growth that can rarely live in harmony: short-term gain vs. long-term vision.
Many companies in the digital health space are driven financially, often due to how they are funded. And growth is typically achieved by acquiring as many parts as possible – whether that be a website, service or app with an existing audience. This approach, in itself, is not problematic. The problem lies in the ability to seamlessly integrate the acquired asset with the legacy brand (including the function and physical look of the asset), to blend the cultures and remain relevant to the intended audiences.
What it comes down to, time and time again, is relationships. Sometimes without even realizing it, many companies deprioritize relationships in favor of scale, volume and aggregation, chasing that golden egg that will hopefully achieve financial leverage.
In doing so, companies overlook the long game. Staying true to a long-term business vision and providing people with what they want and need in that moment – in our case, providing the same level of resources to each of our communities, regardless of “business opportunities” – builds relationships that will outlast the next shiny object. We’ve found that this unconventional approach to business isn’t always an easy sell, but it’s proven successful time and again. With Health Union launching three more communities in 2019 – and even more slated for next year – adding to the more than 11 million people impacted by chronic conditions we reach every month, we know it works.