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The Group Dentistry Now Show: The Voice Of The DSO Industry – Episode 50

In this audio-only podcast, we meet ADSO’s newest executive director, Andrew Smith. New to the dental industry, Andrew talks about his background and what he brings to this leadership position. He discusses the future of ADSO and dentistry, as well as the association’s commitment to providers and patients. If you want to understand the direction the ADSO is headed and how they intend to help the DSO industry through legislation and partnerships, this audio podcast is for you! Find out about ADSO membership opportunities HERE.

Our podcast series brings you dental support and emerging dental group practice analysis, conversation, trends, news and events. Listen to leaders in the DSO and emerging dental group space talk about their challenges, successes, and the future of group dentistry.

The Group Dentistry Now Show: The Voice of the DSO Industry has listeners across North & South America, Africa, Australia, Europe, and Asia. If you like our show, click here to leave a ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5-star review.

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Full Transcript:

I’d like to welcome everyone to the Group Dentistry Now Show. I’m bill Neumann and thanks again everybody for joining us, listening to the podcast today. We have somebody new to the dental industry and then also to the DSO space, his name is Andrew Smith and he is the new executive director for the ADSO, the Association for Dental Support Organizations. First off, welcome to the Group Dentistry Show.

Andrew Smith:

Thank you, Bill. I’m thrilled to be here.

Bill Neumann:

Thanks for doing this. This is going to be a fun conversation. You’ve got a really interesting background and I’ll give you a little brief bio of what Andrew has been doing and we’ll talk a little bit about why he is now in the DSO space, why he is heading up the ADSO’s new initiatives. Andrew Smith currently serves as the executive director of the ADSO, just said that. He previously served as the executive vice president of government relations and external affairs for Parallel, formerly, and I might butcher this Surterra Wellness.

Andrew Smith:

Yes, correct.

Bill Neumann:

Excellent. Where he managed the state and federal government solutions teams, served as the company’s chief advocate and spokesperson to policymakers and regulators and led the company’s advocacy and communication goals in the public affairs space. This is pretty interesting, this next part, prior to joining the private sector, Andrew spent a decade working in the government campaigns and public policy. In particular, Andrew worked as a financial director and senior advisor for Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, where he oversaw the strategy development and implementation of a record breaking $44 million fundraising operation. Andrew is originally from Chicago and is a graduate of Georgetown University with a degree in government and history. He currently lives in Greenwich, Connecticut with his wife, Laura and their two children, Holden and Caroline. Again Andrew, welcome to the Group Dentistry Now Show.

Andrew Smith:

Bill, thank you. Thank you, that was a great intro, I appreciate it.

Bill Neumann:

First off I should ask, did I leave anything out with your background? It’s kind of fascinating that especially the working for the governor of Virginia for what? A decade, it looks like.

Andrew Smith:

I was lucky where I right out of college at Georgetown, I’d been intrigued with working in government and politics and kind of knew that I wanted to be at least for some time working on campaigns. And I actually started working for then Governor Mark Warner when he was governor of Virginia and wound up working on his Senate campaign in 2008. And then left Mark in 2011, I worked actually on Obama’s reelection doing Mid-Atlantic fundraising, but I always knew Terry McAuliffe when he was a big fundraiser politico for the Clintons. And when Terry decided to run for governor, he asked me to come in and be his finance director in 2013, which was if anybody knows Terry he’s one of the most prolific democratic fundraising individuals out there. It was quite the way to work.

Andrew Smith:

And in Virginia, it’s interesting, there are no limits on campaign contributions, both from individuals and from corporations so you can take any amount of money as long as it’s publicly reported. And so we had a very exciting time and we were luckily successful, but it was doing political fundraising is you learn a lot about life, people, campaigns, government, all that aspects. It was after that timeframe, I had done kind of in politics and went into private practice at a law firm for a little while. And then started, as you mentioned, worked for my client Parallel, which is a leading multi-state cannabis company, which was fascinating and then made my way over to the ADSO. It’s been a fun run so far.

Bill Neumann:

You’re based in Greenwich and are you going to work remotely and go to Washington or to the states as needed? Is that kind of the plan?

Andrew Smith:

Yes. Yes. That is the plan. Yes, I’ve got a home office up here in Greenwich, Connecticut. And we still have the office down in Washington, which I will plan to get to frequently, meeting with folks because as most folks know, there’s a lot of stuff that still goes on down in Washington. And because we have so much focus on the states, we’ll be traveling to the states, myself, some of our team members on what is happening in specific states. And then obviously with our various board members across the country, I’ll be making rounds visiting them.

Bill Neumann:

That’s excellent. Everybody I think is working remotely now so you’re not uncommon at this point, for sure. Why did you decide to make the move to the ADSO? Let’s talk a little bit about that.

Andrew Smith:

Yeah, well, I think, one of the things that was really intriguing about ADSO was the entrepreneurial spirit of not only the business, but its members. And I think when we were talking a little earlier, Bill, it was very impressive to me about how many of our member organizations have rapidly grown over the years. And also how the DSO model is really changing the face of dentistry and the nature of dentistry moving forward. It’s clear that ADSO has a role to play in being the leading dental advocacy group there. And then that’s something that I think is very intriguing to do. Secondly, my background is we touched a little on, I had the opportunity to work in campaign and government and then I also worked at a law firm advising clients in multi-client lobbying at the state federal level so I had that experience. I was able to work at a fast paced growing company, in house helping build out their government affairs portfolio. There’s mutations aspects as well as working with the trade association.

Andrew Smith:

When this opportunity to lead and run ADSO, a trade association, I wanted to jump at that because I had spent quite a bit of time advising companies and working with companies that are in a highly regulated space, obviously, no difference with DSOs. And like I mentioned, entrepreneurial, exciting, working in the trade association. I saw it as a confluence of taking my skillset background and being able to really bring a lot of energy and focus to ADSO with already great stuff they’ve been doing and really building out from there. That was the main impetus for jumping over.

Bill Neumann:

Let’s talk a little bit about this. And so our audience is made up of a lot of different stakeholders. We’ve got the emerging groups, I have three offices, maybe I want to get the 20. We have the heartlands, the aspens, the Pacifics of the world that are all ADSO members. You have the solo practitioners that may be looking to buy their first practice. They may be looking to sell to a DSO. They may just want to work for one and a lot of the industry partners as well. And you make maybe a mix of some investors too, private equity. The reason I mentioned all that is a lot of them know the ADSO. For folks that don’t or maybe aren’t aware, talk a little bit about the purpose and then I think what will be really important is to talk about where the ADSO is headed.

Andrew Smith:

No great point. I think, I’ll keep it brief on ADSO’s core missions. I think many folks are aware but ADSO is the advocacy organization for dental support organizations. I think from a government affairs point of view, we represent our members in diverse set of issues, across a multitude of states and the federal government where we can align and collaborate on a shared government relations strategy, whether it be working with dental boards, regulators, lawmakers, to make sure that the DSO model is obviously a continuing, thriving, ability to grow, other opportunities where we can expand. Also in really educating the public lawmakers and regulators and dental boards about what a DSO is and where it’s growing and why DSOs are such a vibrant part of the dental industry and a whole host of issues of providing more patient care, providing great quality care and a great place to work and kind of just talking about what that is.

Andrew Smith:

I think that’s one core component. And then another key component is our membership and the ability for all shapes and sizes of DSOs and the dental industry and industry partners to collaborate and work together and network and understand how did some of the larger DSOs get to where they are? Why did they do that? Allow for other industry partners to have interaction with our members, allow folks on the private equity side to meet individuals. It’s really a great forum for networking, great policy content. We had a wonderful virtual summit about two weeks ago where we talked about a wide ranging set of issues. I think ADSO serves as that forum.

Andrew Smith:

Now where we’re moving. Listen, this is a very exciting time for DSOs generally, as we all know, but especially the ADSO. I have been tasked and I’m very excited with helping build out a strategic vision for ADSO and it’s going to be in consultation with our board of directors and we’re currently in that phase and we’ll be likely rolling out a lot of what we will be doing coming this fall. And so I think again, it’s to build on what we’re doing in government relations. It’s to build on what we offer our members, as well as helping kind of define how ADSO will be and will continue to be from here, a group for dental advocacy. And I think we’re in the aspect of defining what that is and I’m kind of giving a few of the coming attractions if you will. I don’t want to ruin the movie for everybody else. We’ll be coming back to that in probably later this fall, but those are some top level ideas.

Andrew Smith:

And I think that one of the key issues that I mentioned earlier that I have for the ADSO is that communications narrative, educational narrative, not just to dental boards, regulators and the public, but just generally talking about the role that DSOs play in the industry, why there’s continued growth in the industry and making sure that key people in the states and at the federal government understand who we are and what we’re doing to continue to make the industry thrive.

Bill Neumann:

We appreciate that a little bit of a sneak peek anyways, which you’re going to unveil this fall and a couple questions again, like I said, a lot of the people that listen to this podcast come to our website are familiar with ADSO. I’d like to talk maybe a little bit about the value of being an industry partner and then we can also talk about the value. And you talked a little bit about it already about the value of being a DSO member, but let’s take the industry partner piece first.

Andrew Smith:

I think one of the most interesting things that the ADSO offers is the ability for industry partners, those who are involved in the dental industry or support DSOs through supplies and a whole host of other issues, is it gives them the ability to get to know not only their providers, as well as the potential customers and things like that. But it’s obviously an area to better understand where the industry is growing, the needs of what the DSOs are doing, the types of business that they’re doing. Obviously you heard at the virtual summit, a lot of exciting things on artificial intelligence and a whole host of other things that be industry is leading on. And I think it’s important for industry partners to recognize that, see that and have the ability to learn that the industry is continuing to grow so they can best meet their customers and clients’ needs and partners’ needs.

Andrew Smith:

But then it also gives a great opportunity for interaction between those and get to better know folks in the industry. And then as in terms of DSOs, as I mentioned earlier, what’s really fascinating is we have a membership that’s very diverse. We’ve got folks that have been in the space from the very beginning that are quite a large with multiple offices, to those that are starting out or even looking to get into this space. And I think again, there are a couple of value adds to being a member. One is being able to have that real networking capability and learning the do’s and don’ts and just that forum and community. And I think, Bill, to your point, one thing we’re going to really look at is continuing to build out great content for our membership and kind of are there more events? Are there more study club type sessions where you can learn and interact and things like that?

Andrew Smith:

And then obviously the government affairs is huge because it really helps continue to make sure that there aren’t any adverse actions being taken against the DSO industry, even if you’re a smaller DSO in one state, but there’s an issue in another state, some say, “Well why should I be involved?” Well, obviously you don’t want something adverse happen in one state that could become the norm and carry over. You saw that quite a bit with rideshare, where the Uber’s of the world would go and really focus on model legislation and other regulations that help them. It’s the same type of thing with DSOs where you want to make sure that there’s always a level playing field no matter where you are.

Andrew Smith:

And then as DSOs continue to grow, you know we have rapid growth, you’re going to get into other states. And I think ADSO has that ability to help its members grow by showcasing what is happening in various states from a legislative, regulatory point of view and allowing them to have that ability to get their toes in the water and move. And so they always feel like their government relations and communications needs are handled.

Bill Neumann:

Let’s touch on this a little bit. Maybe move away from the DSOs and just in general the short period of time that you’ve been in the industry, where do you see the industry as a whole moving? What are your thoughts? What do the board members of the ADSO think?

Andrew Smith:

Yeah, I think it’s one of those things where there is clear from my point of view as being a new person to the dental space is there’s clear synergy and alignment around the DSOs continuing to be the future face of dentistry. I think from a efficiency point of view, the ability to provide more care, the ability to provide more care in rural areas, that’s a huge component I think of DSOs, as well as the work life balance of the dentists and hygienists and the dentists understanding, those in dental school, understanding what DSO is and how that might be a model that they’d want to be moving forward in. And I think that’s a lot of where we see the industry growing is that continued growth and success of the DSO. But at the same time, I think you’re going to see even smaller group practices I think, get more involved in this aspect and recognizing that, what is best for the dentist and what is best for the patient? And I think the DSO fits that narrative very, very well in providing more care and all of that.

Andrew Smith:

I think that’s where you’re going to be seeing things moving. And I think we heard a little of that at the virtual summit from folks. And again, I think there’s going to be candidly more collaboration between a lot of industry groups and ADSO and figuring out how we’re all one industry working together to achieve our collective goals. It’s an exciting time.

Bill Neumann:

If you can manage to have some collaboration with some of these other dental industry groups, which may be in the past were adverse to the DSO model for whatever reason, a lot of it probably is just lack of understanding of exactly what the model is or maybe there were some bad actors decades ago that maybe in a soured a taste. And I think that’s certainly important. There are a lot of different organizations out there that I think the ADSO could find a way to partner with, everybody could grow together. Not just the ADSO, but these other organizations.

Andrew Smith:

A 100% agree. And I’m a big believer in collaboration is better than nothing and you may not agree a 100% of the time. And I saw this working in the cannabis industry, trying to get various cannabis groups to work together was a much taller task. As I like to say, it was like herding cats in a lot of respect, but they have come together and you’re always stronger as a group than one. And there’s so many issues we face and again, we’re aligned on so many issues that it just makes sense to figure out, where are things going? How do we all fit in?

Andrew Smith:

You’re right, a lot of it, we heard at the virtual summit on the dental board fund that a lot of dental boards just didn’t fully understand what a DSO was and now they’re realizing that there are DSO member dentists on these dental boards and understanding that, and it’s just understanding what the model is and how it works. And I think that’s the beauty of this is it’s relationship building, it’s showcasing kind of the types of quality care, the types of work life balance. And I think people recognize that and that’s the way the world is moving these days.

Bill Neumann:

Yeah. I think, again, if you can manage that and again, it sounds like that’s where you’re headed and maybe that was why when you joined, I believe the ADSO was just starting to plan out this boldly evolving dentistry virtual event. It’s not boldly evolving DSOs, it’s boldly evolving dentistry. Tell me a little bit about the virtual event. There’s certainly a lot of people who are listening to the podcast attended, but there are probably a lot that didn’t. Maybe talk a little bit about that. And then if there were some things that might have stood out to you as being really impactful in the industry.

Andrew Smith:

Sure. No. Great. Yeah. I think we had close to a 1,000 participants over the two day session, which was really, really exciting. And obviously because of COVID, we all couldn’t be there together in person. We’re hoping to have an industry partner type event in the fall still to be determined. I know there was a little discussion of that. I don’t want to jump the gun too much, we’re in the middle of talking about that. But really we thought that it was really successful from a policy content point of view. I think there are a lot of great policy discussions on a whole host of issues. And I think the ADSO playing a role in that. I think our guest speaker, keynote speaker Barbara Corcoran was fascinating. I thought she gave a phenomenal perspective about entrepreneurialism and how she was able to grow a business. I think that’s very resonates with a lot of our members because of their entrepreneurial spirit and creating such a robust thriving industry and a lot of working partnerships and things. I think that was fantastic.

Andrew Smith:

From my takeaway, again, as someone that’s new to the industry, I think I would love to see that type of content that we did in the virtual summit continue on an ongoing basis through the ADSO, because I think it is a forum for people that connect. We all have busy lives, it’s hard to travel, even when COVID does start to subside. I think having an online forum to connect with our industry partners, connect with fellow DSO community members and then also having policy content to learn and grow and ask questions, I think that’s something that we should continue to do. And I think there’s great momentum for us to move forward on that.

Andrew Smith:

I saw it as a huge success and one of the things that I found really fascinating, this goes back to the last point you were just talking about on collaboration between groups. At the end of the summit, we had folks from ADA, we had folks from the Georgia Dental Association and we have folks representing the Dental Board Association, all were in complete agreement about alignment, coordination and the future of how the DSOs and dentistry work together and how dentistry is becoming much more one oriented focus. And I think the DSO will play that. I thought it was great content, great networking, great communication and just great alignment. Sometimes in these forums, Bill, you see people kind of click on, click off but we had a very, to my understanding, a very consistent flow of people watching and interacting throughout both days. It wasn’t just a kind of sign on sign off aspect. Really pleased to see that.

Bill Neumann:

Yeah. After a year of Zoom meetings and virtual meetings, that’s a testament to the content, because I think there’s certainly some Zoom burnout to bit of a degree.

Andrew Smith:

A 100%. And actually, and I thought the platform that our team was able to put in place worked pretty well and I think it was pretty user friendly for a virtual aspect. And again, my concern was exactly what you said that in the era of virtual events then here’s another event, but I think people came for the content and the network.

Bill Neumann:

You touched on this briefly, but you talked about the potential for an in person meeting and so that would happen possibly in the fall. And that of course, I guess, is up to the state you may have it in and I guess the board of directors as well and everybody’s comfort level and vaccines. I know you said you had your first shot, so you’re halfway there.

Andrew Smith:

Yes, I’m halfway there which is great. And I think again, obviously, pending all health related issues and things, some of the thought process is trying to figure out, does it make sense to do an in person event? I think many of our members and industry partners would certainly like to do something. And I think we see this as an opportunity to do that should the health standards be amenable and be able to do that. We’re kind of starting to put the meat on the bones of how we can have an event that is really focused on members, as well as industry partners and kind of be that bridge between the virtual event and then what we really want to do as you know, we do an annual event next spring, which we really want to come out and make that kind of the go to events for dentistry.

Andrew Smith:

We see this as going to be something that can be that bridge to that, but also give a great opportunity coming out of COVID to kind of discuss all the issues, talk about the strategic planning and where the industry plus ADSO is going to be going. As you can imagine, all things we’re focused on the boldly evolving dentistry event and now we’re starting to look at, does it make sense to do something like that? But that is something that is on top of mind and we’ll be sharing details as they come together or if we’re able to.

Bill Neumann:

Excellent. Yeah, it sounds like regardless of whether you have the fall meeting in person or virtual or whether, hopefully it does come together, but you’re going to go back to having your meeting in the spring as you typically would.

Andrew Smith:

Correct. Correct. And I think you’re going to see too, I think a lot of our senior level board members want this, as I mentioned to be the event for dentistry, and I think it’d be a great way to kick off, I can’t believe I’m going to say it, 2022 spring. We’ll definitely be moving in that direction and I’m excited to work on all those things.

Bill Neumann:

There’s still opportunities for the DSOs of all sizes, and all business models to join the ADSO and then also industry partners as well. Let’s talk a little bit about maybe the different membership opportunities and then how, if you’re an industry partner you would join or how if you’re a emerging group or a large DSO, you can become part of the ADSO.

Andrew Smith:

Yeah, great, great question, Bill. And thank you. As an industry partner, we have a whole host of what potential dues would be as well as how the content and all the things that able to provide and other types of sponsorships, pretty straightforward. And again, as I mentioned before, we’re very much looking to build out our content that we can provide industry partners specifically. And then that’s something that I’m very focused on as well as our team to figure out how we can incorporate that and make that even stronger. On DSOs, we, like we said, we are blessed with a strong, strong membership in a diverse range of DSOs and so there are a few tiers, user based on the kind of tier that you are at in terms of revenue and other things. Not too dissimilar than a lot of other associations.

Andrew Smith:

And part of that process is you can communicate with one of our team members and or someone from our membership committee, that’s a fellow DSO member and kind of going through and understanding what you’re looking to get out of ADSO and hearing from us and what we offer. A little of what we talked about during this podcast and then the membership committee meets and makes sure that your mission and your thoughts are aligned with ADSO and goes from there. It’s a pretty routine and painless process. You’re going to see the ADSO continue to strengthen itself on government relations, on membership and also the message that we’re going to be carrying on to a whole host of policymakers, external stakeholders and the public and consumers and patients alike.

Andrew Smith:

I think you’re going to continue to see the ADSO grow and being a very significant player in the dentistry, working with our fellow trade associations and things like that. And again, I think at the end of the day, the ADSO is always going to be an organization that has an open door communicate and figure out how best to advocate for dentistry. I really want to convey to our members that everything is continuing to elevate dentistry, as an essential healthcare service and showcasing all the great things that we’re doing in dentistry and the oral body connection and it’s going to be an exciting time. I’m honored to be here. And Bill, I look forward to working with you and continuing to achieve those goals.

Bill Neumann:

Thanks, Andrew. I appreciate that and we were happy to catch you on the air and we all are looking forward to meeting you in person at some point, hopefully very soon.

Andrew Smith:

Me too. Me too. Hopefully we’ll all be able to convene together and meet in person.

Bill Neumann:

Excellent. Thanks again, Andrew Smith, the new executive director of the Association of Dental Support Organizations. Again, thank you everybody for listening today to the Group Dentistry Now Show. I’m Bill Neumann, until next time.

 

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