Recently, Group Dentistry Now’s Kim Larson sat down with the Director of Membership for the Association of Dental Support Organizations (ADSO). Below is the exclusive interview with Luke LaLiberté.
GDN: Besides Summit access and legislation, what are some specific things that ADSO does for members that it doesn’t do for DSOs who are not members?
Luke LaLiberté: Summit access and legislation tracking are definitely important benefits, but the most important benefit for DSOs is serving on our board. ADSO is an association and our members’ CEOs make up our board of directors. That means meeting and collaborating regularly with an impressive group of industry professionals, but also having a say in exactly how ADSO can best support the DSO industry. What better benefit could there be than to be in charge of what benefits you need the most?
GDN: Can you make a list of the most appreciated member benefits by DSOs? By Industry Partners? Explain why they are the most appreciated.
Luke LaLiberté: Certainly! I alluded to this already, but the most valuable aspect of membership for DSOs is becoming part of our board of directors and joining a community of DSO leaders that are shaping the industry.
Another key piece of membership is how ADSO supports our community in terms of government affairs. A lot of our larger members have the budget and the staff capacity to devote their own resources to things like that. But, we have a number of emerging DSO members that are looking to grow their organizations and they’re simply not at the point yet where they have the breathing room to engage in things like legislation tracking in order to see what the future holds for their business model. This is a huge issue for DSOs of all sizes and levels but they aren’t all at the same point in their development where they can take note. Being able to bring them into our community and get them thinking about their future growth and strategy, ahead of the point where they need answers to questions they have been putting off for years is huge, and it is definitely something I would rank as one of the key member benefits to DSOs being a part of ADSO.
Finally, I’d rate access to our Summit as a strong benefit for DSOs, all of whom receive registrations to the Summit contingent on their membership tier. Board meetings provide a few opportunities throughout the year for members to get together in person, but nothing matches the scope and splendor of our annual Summit.
2019 marked my first ADSO Summit and it was a blast. There was so much going on. I always felt like there was something I was missing that I wanted to see, if only it wasn’t at the expense of whatever session or activity I was already engaged in. If there were three of me, I wouldn’t have been able to cover everything worth doing at the Summit and it was incredibly validating for me as Membership Director to be able to look around and see how active and impassioned our community is. Obviously, I’m biased, so I won’t say this with the expectation that my word alone will sway a skeptic, but I really think anyone involved in the DSO industry owes it to themselves to come to the Summit. We are still in the process now of collecting feedback, and it has been overwhelmingly positive from all sides.
On the Industry Partner side of things, access to the Summit is an even more significant aspect of membership. Nonmember companies cannot sponsor or exhibit at our events. Any representatives from organizations interested in providing products or services to DSOs or dental offices that are present at our Summit are all affiliated with an active ADSO Industry Partner. This is huge because as a nonmember DSO, one could potentially still attend our event (with some restrictions), but we are much more selective with Industry Partner attendance. ADSO has DSO members from all stages of growth and development, from organizations with just a handful of supported offices, all the way up to major national DSOs, and we understand the value of access to that audience. The Industry Partner program is really built around heightened contact opportunities with our member DSOs, a huge part of which is our annual Summit seeing as it is our biggest event of the year. We are very conscious of the fact that we want our relationship with Industry Partners to extend beyond just the one event, but it does constitute a major part of their membership.
I listed the Summit first to avoid breaking the flow of Summit benefits for DSOs vs IPs, but I think the overarching benefit for Industry Partners is enhanced access to ADSOs DSO members. It’s hard to pick just one benefit in this category to rank as higher than any other because it is all contingent on the business model of the IP that we are partnering with. For example, the IP membership includes ADSO support in getting the word out to our members about upcoming educational podcasts or webinars. Obviously, this isn’t going to affect an IP that doesn’t offer those but could be big for one that’s launching a new educational program and wants to get more eyes and ears on it. We also offer IPs the chance to include content on our website and in our newsletter and exclusively work with active IPs when it comes to sponsoring or exhibiting at any of our events (aside from Summit we have a smaller event titled Partnering for Growth). The IP program is really about getting your business in front of our members in a way that would be challenging to do without ADSO to help open the door and make the introductions.
GDN: What specific benefits do you offer emerging groups? Large groups?
Luke LaLiberté: There is a whole list of benefits, many of which involve partnering for more exposure to a wider audience by inclusion in our newsletter, having their logo on our website, etc. There is also the Summit aspect since all of our members receive registrations with their membership (large groups receiving more). The main benefits for each group though are educational and networking opportunities and a position on the board. No matter what size a DSO is when they join, there is a space for their leadership on our board. Emerging groups do not have an active vote but they are invited to all the meetings and this is a great opportunity for them to meet with industry leaders. Large groups that have a vote get a direct say in what kind of support they want from ADSO. The board determines our broad strategy so our members actually get to tell us what they need from us and we do our best to make it happen. We are in the process now of compiling educational content that is going to be really valuable to our emerging members especially but I do not want to get too deep into that right now because it hasn’t been made available yet. I will say that I believe support like that is the future of ADSO as we begin to grow beyond events and government affairs and begin offering more benefits to our DSO members that can help them at every level of growth and development.
GDN: What are DSOs not receiving if they are not a partner?
Luke LaLiberté: It’s really a matter of access. Our members are meeting and collaborating on working towards a better future for the DSO industry. We have the critical mass to enact change too, not just talk about the world as we wish it was, but of course, we are always happy to bring on more members because it’s better for everyone when we work together. If your DSO is not part of the ADSO you are removed from the conversation that is going to determine what the future of the DSO business model looks like.
GDN: Besides Summit participation, what are some specific things that the ADSO does for its Industry Partners that it does not do for companies who are not Industry Partners?
Luke LaLiberté: Summit, of course, is a big piece, just like in my previous answer for DSOs, I do not want to skip over it entirely. This is especially true for Industry Partners because we do allow nonmember guest DSOs (with some restrictions) but attending, exhibiting at, and sponsoring our Summit is completely restricted to active Industry Partners only. That said, Industry Partners also receive a host of other benefits primarily designed to grant them more visibility to our DSO members. They can submit content to our newsletter, conduct cobranded webinars, submit speakers for ADSO events, etc. The Industry Partner program was designed to give product/service vendors that cater to DSO or dental offices enhanced visibility with our DSO members and the benefits speak to that broad goal.
GDN: What are companies not receiving if they are not an IP?
Luke LaLiberté: Membership with ADSO for our IPs is about access. Any company that would consider membership with us is more than likely already engaged in some form of marketing on their own, but when they become an IP they become part of a community that meets and talks regularly. This grants companies an opportunity to really deepen their relationship with existing clients or form long-lasting relationships with new clients. Not being an IP means being basically cut off from that community and having to try and develop an independent strategy to break in and get our members’ eyes on them. I’m not saying a company with a great marketing team or a great product or business model couldn’t do it, but wouldn’t it be a bit easier to just join and be welcomed in through the front door?
GDN: I understand this was your first Summit, what were some of your reactions?
Luke LaLiberté: I have attended and been a part of planning and hosting events before so I am familiar with the kind of energy you can get at a professional conference, but this was something else. The number of people greeting each other as old friends definitely stood out to me. I mentioned earlier that I am fairly new to the DSO industry and have the feeling that a lot of the people in it are pretty familiar with each other already so perhaps this is the norm, but it was very cool for me to see it happening at a conference I had helped put together. I also felt like the level of energy and enthusiasm was sky high and didn’t really taper off towards the end of the event but stayed positive the whole time. I didn’t witness the kind of slump you sometimes see at the tail end of a multi-day event. That too was incredibly validating to the hard work ADSO put into bringing this group together.
GDN: Are you adding any new benefits for DSOs or IPs?
Luke LaLiberté: Actually yes. We recently held an Industry Partner Forum at our Summit this past March and discussed with the IPs in attendance how we can modify the Industry Partner program so that it has the most impact. A lot of good ideas came out of that discussion and a summary will be going out soon (if it hasn’t already). One of the big ideas that I’m excited to deliver on in recategorizing our IPs by product/service and implementing program improvements to make sure we are effectively matching our DSOs with IPs that can fulfill their needs. I also mentioned before that on the DSO side we are in the process now of upgrading our website to include a Member’s Only section. We have a lot of good ideas about what to include there but to start we are going to begin archiving educational content, with an initial emphasis on compliance-based content. Naturally, we will be sourcing a lot of this content from our members including Industry Partners and other Associations that we have partnered with. It is a big project but it will really add to the value of the membership and help position ADSO as a one-stop-shop for our members who want a better understanding of best practices as well as the resources they need to put change into action.
GDN: What things have membership and marketing done specifically in the past year to benefit members and Industry Partners?
Luke LaLiberté: Well the truth is, I haven’t actually been with ADSO for a year. I am part of the new wave of hires under our new CEO Chris Badgley who have come in to relieve some of the pressure on the wonderful staff here who have been putting in the hours to keep things moving, even while shorthanded. Now that ADSO is all staffed up, we are very excited to see how we can grow and change the support we offer to our members to be even better than we were before. I already talked about some new benefits we are planning to institute, but one of the initiatives I am particularly proud to work with Chris on is the emphasis we are trying to put now on binding the two halves of our community together. I get the sense that our DSO and IP members have felt like distinctly different halves of our membership in the past with separate business strategies and benefits packages. Chris and I are going to be putting more work into creating lasting and mutually valuable relationships between the two groups to help build a stronger industry. It’s a tactic that is due for some additional emphasis and I am looking forward to working with him on it.
GDN: When/Where is PFG and what new things do you have planned?
Luke LaLiberté: Partnering for Growth this year is going to be held in Orlando September 25-27 and one new thing we’re excited about is our partnership with the Dental Entrepreneur Organization. DEO is great at events and has been a fantastic partner for emerging DSOs. Being able to work with them on PFG 2019 is great and we expect this year’s meeting to be bigger and better than ever.
GDN: Since becoming Membership Director, what challenges have you faced and how do you plan to address them?
Luke LaLiberté: This may not be what you expected, but the honest answer is that my biggest challenge so far has been learning who everyone is. I am very new to the DSO and dental industry and I have the sense that a lot of our members already know each other. They go to the same events, travel in the same circles, and most of the major players in the industry are already well known by all. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been part of a conversation where someone says something along the lines of “Oh yeah I used to work with so-and-so” and everyone else chimes in “Yeah we know so-and-so!” The industry is expanding rapidly but for the time being at least there is a solid foundation of industry leaders that have been involved in the DSO sector since the model first started proving effective. It can be tough for someone new to break into that kind of culture when the relationships between so many people are already familiar so learning names and meeting people has definitely been a challenge and a priority for me. That said, it’s also a huge boon to me as someone who is working on growing membership because I am able to tap into that community through our existing members and the support they have offered in that regard is really fantastic.
GDN: What changes, if any, have you made?
Luke LaLiberté: A lot of small tweaks, but the big changes are yet to come. ADSO has been an organization known for its fantastic Summit and government affairs support, but we have been doing that on half the staff we now have. I am excited to be able to turn towards new initiatives now that ADSO as an organization hasn’t previously had the capacity for. I’ve already mentioned that we are compiling a compliance resource for DSOs on our website and I hope to grow that out quickly with input from DSOs and IPs into a robust education tool for our members. We are also going to be sinking some renewed effort into updating the way we present our IPs to our DSOs, making sure we are maximizing the efficiency of those connections by matching needs to the providers who can address those needs. We are still in the initial stages for a lot of this work but it is an exciting time to be a part of ADSO.
GDN: What is your background that led you to this position?
Luke LaLiberté: I have actually been in membership for just about the entire breadth of my professional career. I got my start in DC at a membership organization. I started as a temp before being hired on at the front desk where I addressed our members’ needs. I quickly moved up to take over the technical side of our membership programs, making sure that memberships were set up and launched correctly, that our members were able to easily access their resources, and that our data integrity regarding our member base was accurate and reportable. After that I served a stint on the sales/fundraising team writing proposals for consultation projects that would heavily incorporate membership and the included benefits. Finally I was made manager of the membership program under the marketing and communications VP where I got to put the sum total of what I had learned to use running the program and supporting the marketing team from a membership perspective. My time with that company gave me a pretty wide perspective on membership from various angles, and when I decided it was time to move on and try out a position somewhere else, I realized I was looking for new challenges but was interested in keeping them rooted in the membership industry. That led me to ADSO and I couldn’t be happier.
For more info on the 2019 Summit, read these articles:
The 2019 ADSO Summit Recap from an Attendee Perspective
Enjoy Two Spectacular Networking Opportunities in Iconic Locations at ADSO’s Summit
Get Ready to be Wowed – Closing Keynote Speaker and Artist is a Must See at the ADSO Summit
Official ADSO Summit 2019 Photo Gallery
Make the Most of the Summit by Becoming a Sponsor!