Bittersweet

Twenty-eight years ago George Adams came to my office at The Stroh Brewery Company for a meeting. George’s brother Bill Adams was the head of the MTV office in Detroit and had called on me at Campbell Ewald a major advertising agency handling Chevrolet and other GM products and services where I was Vice President of Media. When I moved to the Stroh Brewery Company as an officer of the company in charge of media Bill put together plans for some of our key brands targeted to demos that drank beer and malt liquor products.

Bill asked me to meet with George, a recent graduate of the University of Michigan with a degree in Health Care. I asked Bill what health care had to do with marketing beer and in addition to that in 1984 I didn’t know U of M even gave degrees in “health care?” Bill said George had a business plan that he wanted me to consider and because Bill asked me to do it I met with George.

When George came into my office I asked why he would be contacting me about health care. He said: that health care was going to be the growth industry in the United States and eventually the world. I said; what has that got to do with marketing beer? He said; well heath care is an issue for The Stroh Brewery right now. I said; how? He said that I was wrestling right now with a flat sales market and part of that sales problem stemmed from the aging population, particularly men.

I was shocked because I was looking at a demo report that reflected that issue, the aging population of the country and most specifically beer drinking. It didn’t take a brain surgeon to know that as drinkers get older their consumption is reduced and in many cases they stop drinking altogether. However at that time we noted that young drinkers were not filling the spot [the preferred beer drinker consumed eight glasses of beer each and every day] of aging drinkers and the industry was in a flat spell, expectation were that the drinking base would not grow over the next two decades.

George made the point to me that Health Care was the way of the future and would in time be second only to the U.S. government in volume of business.

George’s business proposal was that he start a newspaper directed at the health care professionals, doctors, nurses, hospital administrators, lab technicians, lawyers, accountants and of course state government officials and elected representatives. I asked why the paper wouldn’t be directed to the consumers and George explained to me that consumers would not recognize the importance of health care for many years while the professionals would see the signs and try to plan to accommodate the dramatic changes that the future held.

In 2013 there is no need to say George was right on target on all counts. In any case he convinced me to put in my own money along with his brothers, Bill and Dennis, a doctor of some renowned and we opened Health Care Weekly Review™. It was a sweet feeling about the future.

Over the next twenty-eight years we bought Bill and Dennis out of the company because they didn’t want to pay for efforts to expand our coverage outside of the state of Michigan. One thing many people didn’t understand was that the way the insurance companies, state insurance commissions, state government laws and hospital associations worked each state was unique onto its self and so what applied in Michigan had no applications in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, etc. We wanted to open new offices using the trademarked name Health Care Weekly Review™ and the format that we had found successful. It was a risk and I understand why the brothers didn’t want to take it. The paper’s future was further complicated by the fact that George as the driving force of the paper wanted to become an investment banker. Eventually I bought him out and was sole owner of the paper.

During my tenure with Stroh, The Martin Group Inc and finally as creator and CEO/President of PentaCom I was owner but my son Bret really ran the day-to-day including editing and being the IT expert. When I retired from PentaMark the holding company for PentaCom I spent most of my time on the paper. Eventually personal issues and my health caused me to sell the paper to Mark Spiess. Mark had been the sales manager for a few years and understood the business. The sale began three years ago and here is the bitter, the sale was completed about four weeks ago. I feel lonely, no longer editing the paper and no longer an integral part of the health care profession in the state of Michigan. It is a bittersweet set of memories.

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