I find I have to explain myself when I use phrases like “reading the tea leaves”— I get blank stares, especially from our employees not yet 30. When asked what specifically this meant, I explained I was looking for someone to gather enough information to put forth their best guess. It did however get me thinking—where did the expression come from? 

Enter the Internet. It turns out there is an official term for tealeaf reading—tasseography. It is the ancient art of reading the bottom of your cup of tea, or coffee, and deciphering what the remnants mean.

The discussion that prompted me to use this phrase was about health care. We were discussing a wide variety of related topics, from the decreased spending of the hospitals for advertisements in local media—which obviously effects our bottom line—to the state of health care in general and how it effects us personally.

I have come to appreciate that advertising is like a Jeff Ruby steak. When people feel good about things, my guess is that more steak Collinsworths are being consumed. When things take a negative turn economically, my assumption is that people eat less of the most expensive items on the menu. I saw this same type of behavior with the banking industry locally about five years ago, along with the car dealerships—we saw their marketing budgets change as they became less concerned with community exposure as their budgets shrank. 

Business models change and, just like in the media, many are still trying to predict the effects of the digital age. Costs are becoming more important and companies are having to keep their expenses in check. An example of this is that more health expenses are being passed down to employees. These new plans and options will make working individuals and families lose benefits from the plans of yesteryear. 

Rounding back to hospitals, we in Cincinnati benefit from having such a competitive environment. I do get a sense that health care seems to be at some tipping point, locally and nationally, and that things are definitely changing. You wonder how long it will be before consolidation takes hold, especially since we have passed the first wave of individual physician offices being gobbled up. 

Health care and similar institutions have become major players (yet many are paradoxically nonprofits, paying less in taxes by percentage than our small businesses) and make up a big portion of our local economy in revenues and employment.

When in my 20s, my boss used to love his sayings, too. One I remember him often saying was “The only constant is change.” Undoubtedly, this proves to be true, and our focus on opportunities rather than the choppy seas of change keeps us and the proverbial ship afloat and moving in good stead.