ADAs conference about business a welcome change from the routine

Sept. 1, 1997
The American Dental Association has taken a giant step in its commitment to the success of the dentist. It finally has formally recognized that dentistry is a business.

Joe Blaes, DDS, Editor

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The American Dental Association has taken a giant step in its commitment to the success of the dentist. It finally has formally recognized that dentistry is a business.

On July 18-19, the ADA held the first ever Business and Management Conference, sponsored by the Council on Dental Practice. While some members still may believe that the ADA should not be sponsoring or teaching courses on business, this weekend was all about business - management techniques and strategies that will help a dentist be more successful.

Many dentists were disappointed that registration was closed weeks before the conference was scheduled. The attendance was limited to 400 participants due to the space available at the ADA headquarters building. The amount of interest the conference generated clearly shows it was perceived as a very valuable conference.

Most of the dentists attending did not receive any continuing education credit because of a strange ruling that says business CE credits are not as important as clinical CE credits. However, those attending the meeting came because they felt some important information would be forthcoming.

They were not disappointed. The lineup of speakers was awesome. All of the presenters were recognized experts in their particular fields. The speakers agreed to participate at a fraction of their normal honorariums and most stayed for the entire conference.

All keynote addresses and luncheons were held in the ballroom of the Ritz Carlton Hotel. Dr. Fred Aurbach, the current chairman of the Council on Dental Practice, noted in his opening remarks that this conference was long overdue. Dr. David Whiston, president-elect of the ADA, and Dr. John Zapp, executive director of the ADA, welcomed the attendees on behalf of the ADA.

Terry Savage was a very entertaining and informative keynote speaker. She immediately set the tone for the meeting with an enthusiastic, positive "bullish on America" presentation. I certainly hope that even half of her predictions come true. It was great to hear positive news about our country for a change. Terry ended with a "to do" list on financial planning and two admonitions: 1) be optimistic and 2) keep an eye on what is going on in Washington to be sure that we leave our children with the same opportunities that we had! Sound advice.

The meeting then moved to breakout sessions in the ADA building. Each attendee had been asked to pick a track to follow during the meeting. Each track featured five presenters who each gave 11/2-hour presentations. One of the great frustrations was that, at any one time, three terrific speakers were presenting at the same time.

The tracks were organized as follows:

__ Track I: Money and Investing. Speakers included:

* Richard Collier, JD, MBA, "Tax-Saving Ideas."

* James Jackson, DDS, CFP, "Investing for the Long Run."

* Pat Regnier, "Selecting and Evaluating Mutual Funds."

* John Bajkowski, "Computer Software and Screening for Private Investors."

* Michael Leonetti, CFP, CFS, AIMC, "Using a Fee-Only Financial Planner."

__ Track II: Practice Administration. Speakers included:

* Peter Almonte, JD, "Practice Valuation in Today`s Economy."

* Bernard Fink, DDS, "Associateships and Partnerships."

* Barry Freydberg, DDS, "Nothing but Net: A Dentist`s Guide to Using the Internet."

* Charles Blair, DDS, "Interpreting Your Practice Numbers."

* Joseph Blaes, DDS, "Time is Money." (I was a last-minute replacement for Dr. Hugh Doherty, who was unable to attend due to an illness. I am happy to report that Hugh is on the mend and doing well.)

__ Track III: Practice Marketing. Speakers included:

* Roger Levin, DDS, MBA, "Building a Boutique Practice."

* Suzanne Boswell, "What Do You Say Before You Say Hello?"

* Doug Young, MBA, "Exceptional Leaders and Teams Create Exceptional Patient Experiences."

* Steve Seltzer, MBA, "High-Tech Marketing."

* Larry Wintersteen, MA, "Marketing With a Patient Focus."

*ne of the presenters from each track acted as coordinator for that group. The speakers in each track were familiar with one another`s material. The coordinator arranged a conference call so that the speakers could compare notes and assure that there was no duplication of material to be covered. It was a well-thought-out program. A survey was mailed to all who registered, asking them what they expected to learn at the conference. The responses were circulated to the speakers so that they could tailor their material to the attendees` needs. Well done!

This was an absolutely wonderful lineup of speakers and the comments of the attendees were very positive and upbeat. Every one of the speakers squeezed as much material as possible into the allotted time. The rooms still were filled on Saturday afternoon, even though it was a beautiful day outside in "Chicagoland."

There were many positive comments. One dentist told me that he finally felt that he had received something of value from the ADA and that his opinion of the ADA was now more positive. Another dentist could not believe that the ADA was teaching business techniques. A third said that he felt the ADA was treating him like a businessman instead of a dentist.

The ADA Council on Dental Practice and its staff deserve a standing ovation for organizing this meeting. They thought of everything! The facilities worked very well. It was amazing how quickly 400-plus people were able to move down 12 floors at the Ritz and then walk over to the ADA building. The food was great and the service was outstanding. All of the small, little problems that always arise during any meeting were quickly and easily handled. I know that next year will be even better!

The big social event of the conference was a reception hosted by Mellon Bank and the ADA Financial Services Company. It was held on the 96th floor of the John Hancock Center where the views are breathtaking. The food was delicious, the drinks plentiful and a good time was had by all. Even the weather cooperated!

In conclusion, I want to tip you off about a big surprise. Keep an eye out for the October issue. The magazine will have a new look, and I think you`ll be pleased.

Keep the letters, faxes, e-mails coming!