Changing course: When your health demands a shift in how your business operates

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

By Mark G. Auerbach

In May 2021, I was diagnosed with a potentially terminal disease. My kidneys are failing, partly due to having been a diabetic for decades, and partly from a serious accident two years prior. The reporter side of me investigated my possible journey, courses of action, and outcomes with emotionally detached fervor. The public relations side of me pondered how to let my public (clients and audience) know that I needed a transplant, and how I could mount a successful campaign for a donor without sacrificing my privacy or my dignity. I hinted at my concerns in a June 2021 column for Succeeding in Small Business, which was written a week after my diagnosis.

The last few months have presented many challenges. Getting into a kidney transplant program is more difficult than getting into Yale. There are hours spent going through the educational process, and the health screenings. I chose both Massachusetts General Hospital, since it’s the best in the country, and Baystate Medical Center in my hometown, because it’s good and convenient. My screenings included blood work, MRIs, CAT scans, PET scans, EKGs, and other tests, and meetings with surgeons, pharmacists, social workers, pharmacists, and more. And, while waiting, there are myriads of blood tests, infusions, and appointments that have to be scheduled during the workday. It’s a daunting journey. And, before beginning the process, I needed to decide whether I would keep my business going, reduce my workload, or close up shop.

I’ve been in this public relations business (and journalism), and been my own boss for 35 years, and quite frankly, I love to work. As I’d learned from getting back on my feet after my accident and then pivoting during the Pandemic, I thrive on work challenges, love working with a team, and jump at new experiences.

So, I know I have to reimagine my business model to maintain quality and move forward, always knowing I may not be in the greatest shape to steward my clients in the best way possible. My schedule can’t always be my own.  My team, and my clients, know that I’m dealing with some challenges. I’ve only taken on new clients and projects that don’t involve extensive travel or tight deadlines. I’ve farmed out some of my client work to colleagues that can help them grow. My team has been trained to work independently, or together as the case may be, to make sure that my absences don’t make a project suffer. And, when I take on new clients and projects, I do so because I want to.

My take-aways from my journey at the moment are:

***Maintain the integrity of your product and service and adapt to maintain those standards.

***Be willing to change and pivot and be willing to be flexible.

***Work with the projects that you like, the clients that you like, and the team that you like.

***Know the fine line between eliciting pity and support. Pity has no place in the workplace or your personal life.

Much of the experience I’ve had in the workplace has prepared me for health challenges. I know how to research outcomes, team build, recognize those who are supportive, and to work around those that aren’t. And some of the important elements of public relations and marketing are completely lacking in the healthcare web. If I’m not upbeat, those around me won’t be.

Oh, and hundreds of thousands of people need transplants, and the supply of available organs is limited. You can learn more about this here:

If you’re interested in helping one of the potential recipients in my area:


Mark G. Auerbach is principal at Mark G. Auerbach Public Relations, a Springfield, MA, based marketing, public relations, development and events consultancy. You can find more information about Mark at Facebook and LinkedIn. Mark also produces ArtsBeat in print in The Westfield News, on radio for Pioneer Valley Radio and on TV and radio on WCPC15 and 89.5fm/WSKB. He also produces the TV and radio series On The Mark and Athenaeum Spotlight with Guy McLain.


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