By Christina Welty, MA
You have probably heard the phrase, “The only constant is change.” Whether you like it or not, one must take risks to stay relevant. When people think of risk takers, they think of people in the business world, like Elon Musk or Richard Branson. However, it’s just as important for associations to be thinking strategically and taking calculated risks that will help them be successful.
As leaders of an association, you may think you are innovative, but take a moment to sit down and ask the question, “What idea or change has been implemented lately?” There is a difference between talking about taking risks and actually implementing these ideas.
Over the last year, the Southeastern Conference of Dental Laboratories (SCDL) has done just that. And they didn’t just implement one new idea; they adapted to their environment and changed everything.
NEW MEMBERSHIP MODEL:
Prior to last year, the membership structure was like many association models – pay a fee to be a part of the organization and receive the typical benefits. The Board of Directors decided to revamp this idea, where everything was built into one fee. Laboratory membership included one registration to the annual meeting. Each laboratory member had the option to purchase one additional registration for the meeting. Because of the format of the meeting, only a limited number of people could attend (more on that later).
The meeting was traditionally held in Atlanta. However, Georgia has a well-respected state association delivering educational content. The Board of Directors looked at other areas in the Southeast and noticed that Tennessee was an underserved area of the country with respect to dental laboratory activity. After some brainstorming, it was decided to use Nashville as the setting for the inaugural Executive Leadership Summit, hosted by the Southeastern Conference of Dental Laboratories (SCDL).
In addition to all of the changes in logistics and administration of the association, the riskiest change the Southeastern Conference of Dental Laboratories implemented was transforming its mission. With the advent of online education, there has been a marked increase in access to technical education for dental laboratory technicians and owners. One thing missing was business management. They created an Executive Leadership Summit and focused on business management instead of a traditional technical education and industry expo that they had produced for years.
Bob Savage, Vice President/CFO, Drake Precision Dental Lab and Treasurer of SCDL, shared that the board of directors “looked at industry trends and member needs and saw opportunity to deliver high-quality business management education. The laboratory business continues to change at an unprecedented pace. Competition, technological advances and increased complexity create a dynamic environment that laboratory owners and managers must adapt to quickly. To be great requires focused effort and a sincere drive to improve. The SCDL created an event that will test your skills, teach you new techniques, and give your team the tools required to survive and thrive.”
During the newly restructured educational event, each participant gained a broad understanding of issues surrounding a case study scenario (either growth or talent management). They collaborated with peers on strategic decision-making and ultimately, presented an analysis with best practices for dental laboratories to consider. After the meeting, participants received a white paper that elaborated each case study, including actionable strategies that would yield ROI for dental labs if implemented within 30 days, 90 days and 1 year.
Another key change was that there was no trade show. There is still a place for trade shows, but this model offered the sponsors the opportunity to interact with the laboratory owners and managers during the case study process. Each sponsor was able to learn and get face-to-face time with their customers and potential customers. In addition, topics covered were universal situations relevant to all size laboratories and all business models.
The association took some bold steps this year. Even as you read this, the board is already looking ahead and evaluating ways to enhance the changes from this past year.
To keep your organization relevant in a rapidly changing marketplace, you’ve got to be willing to look at and take risks that meet the needs of your members. And those risks don’t have to be as transformative as those implemented by SCDL, but having a conversation and putting ideas on the table is the first step.
What changes have you implemented recently? Did they work? How can you improve these ideas? Taking a risk and adjusting based on how it works can lead to a great reward.