SIPA Member Profile: Norins Perfects Science of USEletters

Leslie C. Norins, MD, PhD, Publisher, Principal Investigator Advisor, Naples, Fla.

What was your first job out of college and how did you get into this business?
College was the prelude to med school, which led to post-doc immunology research in Australia, with Nobel Laureate Sir Macfarlane Burnet. First “job” after that was as researcher at CDC (federal Centers for Disease Control, in Atlanta). In a fluke, when the older director of the lab retired in ill health, I was suddenly picked to take his place. I surmise the “top brass” were gambling on my knowledge of current science, because I had zero admin experience (and it showed–but I learned a lot). When I lectured in India, a young med student there said it best: “Only in America could a 29-year-old become head of a million-dollar government lab.”

After seven years, there was a big reorganization (later I learned this is common in government) and I decided to leave. My father, who had come through the Big Depression, thought it was insane to leave a secure government job. Even one of the old-timers counseled me to “hang in there; you’ve only got 30 more years till a good retirement.” But I left to become an independent solo consultant to pharmaceutical industry research units. Some other consultants in the same office suite wherein I had one room reminded me, “You’re only as good as your next project,” and simultaneously I met probably the only Atlantan publishing a national newsletter at that time, 1974. (“Your School and the Law” for principals and boards of education). He urged me to start an independent newsletter “on my kitchen table.” So in November 1974–knowing virtually nothing– I launched Hospital Infection Control, for hospitals nationwide, and luckily we have had positive cash flow from then on (Starting more than 80 newsletters successfully during the ensuing 38 years). From time to time, larger publishers would buy groups of newsletters we had grown, and we then started and built new groups).

Has there been a defining moment in your career? Perhaps when you knew you were on the right road.
When the announcement mailing for our very first newsletter brought in lots of checks before we even had our first issue.

In brief, describe your business/company?
Principal Investigator Advisor, starting its second year, serves research scientists in all fields, helping them with the non-science responsibilities they have, such as staff management, grantwriting, mentoring, etc. Our free weekly ezine goes to 400,000 researchers.

What are two or three important concepts or rules that have helped you to succeed in business?
(a) Our style is “USEletters,” not actually “NEWSletters.” We provide expert info to help interpret and apply vague rules and regs, and how to solve the challenges of specialized jobs.
(b) Your staff members have many more talents and potential than you–or they–ever dream. Seek these and coax them out.
(c) “Business plans” are a waste of time for most entrepreneurs. Always start without one; use your intuition and adapt quickly to changing circumstances.

What is the single-most successful thing that your company is doing now?
Webinars. Who knew?

Do you see a trend or path that you have to lock onto for 2011?
Avoid digital hysteria wherever it does not provably fit the behavior and preferences of your audience.

What are the key benefits of SIPA membership for you and your team?
What a friendly and open Association! Their sharing of ideas and information has been vital to me and my teams annually for 38 years! Could not have succeeded without their members, meetings and other resources.

Where did you grow up?
Baltimore. Stayed there through college but finally left town for med school.

What college did you attend? Is there a moment from that time that stands out?
Johns Hopkins, A.B.; Duke Medical School, M.D.; Univ. of Melbourne, PhD. Moment that stands out: My famous chemistry prof asked how I liked the lab part of his organic chemistry course. I gulped hard and said I hated it as “too cookbook.” He then took me under his wing to work in his private lab, studying unsolved problems. One of many “big breaks” I was fortunate enough to receive.

Are you married? Do you have children?
Married for last 16 years to Ann “Rainey” Norins, who is also my full business partner and advisor. She has two grown sons, both in the arts. One is very successful already, one still “deciding.”

What is your favorite hobby and how did it develop in your life?
Lifelong love of reading. Plus constantly scanning for new publishing niches.

Is there a book you recently read or movie you saw that you would recommend?
“The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable” by the finance writer, Nassim Taleb, who reminds us that very unlikely events do occasionally actually happen—with often dire consequences because people thought “rare” meant “never.” Movie: “True Grit.”

Additional Comments:
I am very proud that several of our staff “alumni” over the years have gone on to become prominent figures in SIPA and its member firms in various ways.

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