Why after 20 years at a firm I co-owned, I left to reboot my entire career.

After 20 years of working with top health brands, I realized that to help the entire health care industry I had to reimagine my work.

Stephen Moegling
Nov 27, 2017 · 10 min read
Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

I want to share why I left my job.

A job I loved.

Working with people I adored.

And, this year alone, that gave me some of my biggest personal and professional successes.

I wanted to share why I left all this to go work for another firm, 1,300 miles from my home in Richmond, Virginia.

I might be crazy.

Or I might have found my calling.

Let me explain.

I’ve worked in health care marketing for 20 years. It was a complex industry when I started two decades ago. And it’s even more complex today. If you’ve ever been a patient, or had a sick family member who needed care, you know what I mean.

The billing. The waiting. The red tape.

And if you work in the health care industry, you can especially appreciate how much harder it is to do your job today. There’s a phrase that’s been kicked around for several years now, which seems to sum everything up:

“Health care is broken.”

It’s an understatement.

I help leading health care, non-profit and cause-driven organizations to reach and engage key audiences, such as patients, physicians and decision-makers. My clients are often Chief Executive Officers, Chief Marketing Officers, and Chief Strategy and Growth Officers.

I’ve worked hard to earn the right to bring value to my clients and colleagues. Along the way, I’ve been awarded Health Care Communicator of the Year and am faculty for the largest and most prestigious conferences in my industry. My writing has been read and shared in at least 35 countries.

Part of what I do is study trends impacting health care brands. In the last few years, I’ve observed an important subset of the “Health care is broken” sentiment.

Communications and marketing for health brands is also broken.

If you’re reading this and you’re not a health care communications and marketing professional, you might not appreciate the significance of this statement.

Let me elaborate.

Health brands — whether it’s hospitals, health systems, physician clinics or products or services that provide health and wellness benefits — require strategies for reaching their audiences. These strategies often look like branding, marketing and communications.

My clients and colleagues are experts in their fields. They are as dedicated and as passionate as any health care worker in serving an organization to achieve its mission.

And, increasingly, health care marketers are tired, stressed out and overwhelmed.

Their organizations need so much from them. But there’s only so many hours in the day. And resources are limited.

The demand is so great within most health care organizations for marketing and communications support that it’s not uncommon to walk the halls with my clients and have them be stopped again and again by concerned physicians, nurses and clinical leaders asking for help and support — help and support that my clients and colleagues aren’t able to offer.

The result is not just marketing and communications professionals who feel they can’t do their jobs with the precision and expertise they would like.

Patients suffer.

Because without access to the right resources to make informed health decisions, patients are left to wander the internet hoping for guidance to navigate the confusing, murky waters of health care — often feeling vulnerable and scared.

And that’s why I decided, after 20 years at my last firm, where I had been a part-owner, to start all over at a new company.

Because health care marketing is broken and Hailey Sault intends to fix it.

Before I tell you how Hailey Sault plans to solve this epic problem facing health brands, I need to tell you something important: how to pronounce the company’s name. The name “Hailey Sault” comes from Mike and Marsha’s two favorite places on earth: Hailey, Idaho and Sault, France. (More on Mike and Marsha in a moment.)

“Sault” is pronounced “Soo” in French. That’s how we say the name of our firm: “Hay-lee-soo.” (Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?)

After 20 years of serving my clients and colleagues in one of the most complex and stressful industries on the planet, I’m even more committed to doing work that matters. I want to make things better. So does Hailey Sault.

That’s why the back of the Hailey Sault business card reads: We Believe in Better.

Let’s camp out on the word “Better” for a moment.

There’s a lot of gurus and provocateurs in the entrepreneur and marketing space that preach doing epic sh*t, to “go big or go home.” The media loves to focus on the next unicorn startup with a billion dollar valuation and its visionary founder.

“Believing in Better” might not sound so epic to these maestros of bluster. To them, “Better” might just be slightly north of “Good.” But I think that’s the wrong way of looking at the word “better” — or the future, for that matter.

I’m an advocate of the “Slight Edge” philosophy, which comes from the book of the same name written by Jeff Olson. Olson shares the truth about true success in his book: that there is no quantum leap to success, no such thing as “overnight sensations.” The real work of doing the extraordinary is doing something consistently, over a long period of time, with a positive attitude.

To me, doing the extraordinary means doing better, every day, for a long period of time, with a positive attitude.

The writer and investor James Altucher says something similar: he encourages his readers to be 1% better every day. In other words, don’t expect to go to bed one way and wake up completely different the next morning.

That only happens in the movies. In real life — the life you and I are privileged to have — creating, being and having anything extraordinary comes down to committing to make steady progress, every day, for a long period of time, with a positive attitude.

That’s why I joined the Hailey Sault team. They believe in better.

For their clients. And for their patients, customers, communities, stakeholders. Sometimes at dinner parties someone will ask me what I do for a living. I’ll often say, “I help health brands and cause-driven organizations market and promote themselves.” Inevitably I’ll hear:

“Why do hospitals even need to market?”

That question may have been valid 20 years ago when I first joined the health care marketing industry. But these days, everything in health care is changing, including how people buy health care services. You wouldn’t buy a car without first doing research, asking questions, and making sure you were getting the right vehicle for you.

The same goes for medical care.

Your time is money. And health care, as we all know, can cost a lot of money. That’s why more and more of us every day are paying attention to health care brands. That’s also why more and more of us every day are doing the research, asking questions, before we commit our wallets — not to mention our bodies — to health care brands.

We’re at a crossroads in the health care industry.

Costs are uncontainable. Patients feel misled, unheard and alone. And those amazing people who serve in the medical industry are overworked and overwhelmed. I see only two paths for health brands.

Path one: irrelevance. Customers and patients use your products and services, but begrudgingly. The moment your audiences can leave your brand, they will. In a heartbeat.

Path two: sacred trust. Customers and patients use your products and services with love and loyalty. Cost and convenience are irrelevant. Whatever you create and do, there will be raving fans waiting to embrace you.

We’re at a time where the consumer — you, me — must demand better for our health care dollars.

And hospitals and health care brands — at least the enlightened ones — are paying attention. For health care communicators, marketers and strategists, it’s never been more critical to have their finger on the pulse of what consumers want, need and demand from health brands.

And yet.

Many of my health care marketing colleagues in the trenches tell me they don’t have the resources to do their jobs. They don’t have the funding. They don’t have the people. And worse: they feel their voices are getting drowned out.

Organizations will go one of two ways: either as generic commodities or as trusted brands that command loyalty for bringing value to their patients and customers, in and out of the exam room.

This is why I joined Hailey Sault. To help brands that believe in better to do better.

My new team in Duluth, Minnesota is delivering the tools, strategies and resources to help health care marketers, communicators and strategists.

In the trenches. In the boardroom. In the C-Suite.

I have been privileged to work with and for some of the brightest minds in my industry. Because I believe in better, I knew I needed to be with a team that believes in better and has the courage to push for innovation, for solutions.

At my new firm, we talk about your “Hailey Sault place” — your destination, either that place on earth you love the most, or a desired state of being.

That’s why my destination is Hailey Sault. I want to be where better is the norm, not the exception, where it’s not acceptable for good to be “good enough.”

Our clients, our patients, our communities, our loved ones deserve better. Hailey Sault has been in business for decades, but has a startup mindset. The team is passionate about writing the new rules of health and cause marketing.

The principals, Mike Seyfer and Marsha Hystead, have invested in a team and culture that is raising the bar on what’s possible in marketing, branding and digital. Mike and Marsha have invested in significant research to better understand and appreciate today’s health consumers: what they want, what they need, how they make health decisions, and what it would take for them to switch providers.

Their landmark Why Patients Switch study reads like a great mystery novel. What the research reveals at the end of their survey findings is shocking — and enlightening.

To believe in better for the future, you have to start right here, right now, in this moment.

And that’s what the team is doing at Hailey Sault.

I’m nearing the end of a week-long on-boarding where I’ve had the privilege of sitting with the team, being in ideation sessions, and looking behind the curtain at the technologies, insights and opportunities that they’re bringing their clients. I’m beyond impressed.

Health care is increasingly competitive. Hospitals must attract the right patients and create the right solutions to keep patients well. Health brands of all kinds are fighting to be relevant, meaningful and worth the time, money and loyalty of consumers.

Hailey Sault has the insights, strategies and tools to help all health brands be relevant, meaningful and worth the time, money and loyalty of consumers.

It’s winter now, in Duluth.

There’s a light dusting of snow on the ground. I awoke this morning to my weather app telling me it was 10 degrees outside. Come summer, Duluth will be full of tourists and outdoor adventurists. Duluth is a beacon for those who love the outdoors. It’s why Outside magazine ranked Duluth as one of the top destination cities in the country.

Hailey Sault was named one of the best places to work by Outside magazine
The “bowling” table at Hailey Sault’s home office in Duluth, MN
One of the conference rooms at the Hailey Sault home office in Duluth
The entrance for the Hailey Sault main office
During my on boarding week I joined members of the team for a noon workout with an awesome trainer

Hailey Sault was also just named one of the top workplaces by Outside magazine, which is a high honor. Only 100 companies across the country achieved this distinction. It’s the kind of place where you respect your teammates and you love being around them.

Hailey Sault is a destination of what’s new and what’s possible in health and cause marketing.

Say it with me again.

“Hay-lee soo.”

Like I said, the name has a nice ring to it.

And I think you’ll be hearing our name a lot more often.

Stephen Moegling works with health and cause-driven brands on growth strategies. He has been named Health Care Communicator of the Year and his work has been read and shared by people in over 35 countries.

Stephen works for Hailey Sault, which sounds like “hay-lee-soo,” and was recently named one of Outside magazine’s best places to work. You can reach Stephen at thestephenmoegling@gmail.com or visit https://www.haileysault.com/ to learn more about why we are leading the movement in better.

Stephen Moegling

Written by

I write about the pursuit of better in business and in self. I also help brands that believe in better to do better at Hailey Sault.

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