In December 2018, I wrote about my dissatisfaction regarding our national meetings and our scattered professional structure. I argued that we need one national show. We are splintered and small already, and having multiple national shows does no one any good. While I received supportive feedback, I also know that just complaining doesn’t really help, so I have some concrete suggestions.
Shorten the exhibit time at the national show. Instead of four days, why not have two full days with lots of unopposed exhibit time. Offer snacks, coffee, and adult beverages in the exhibit hall to bring people in, and get rid of the Saturday exhibit. We all work hard; we don’t need to burn our weekend on an empty hall.
Make the national show an event, something everyone wants to exhibit at and attend. Charge vendors more and attendees less. Make it affordable for companies to send lots of attendees. With one show, vendors like me should pay more if the attendees show up. The last time our company paid to present at a national show, there were 18 workshops running at the same time. It’s not fair to the vendors, and it’s hard for the attendees to see all that they want to.
Pay attention to the weather and timing of events. Don’t jump at a hotel’s discounted rate if it’s a terrible time to be there.
Reduce the number of state shows and consider combining regional shows. Since some states legislate continuing education as part of licensure, have education, have a meeting, but keep the exhibit at one, mostly unopposed, day, and like the national shows, stay away from Saturdays. No one wants to be there on a Saturday—the difference is that attendees get to choose not to be there, vendors don’t.
In the feedback I received from my original article, one item that came up more than once was that our national organizations won’t be willing to cede any power or revenue. I understand that stance: They want to protect what they have. But who are they, and what are they protecting? Are they protecting something for us, the O&P professionals? And if they are meant to be us, shouldn’t it be up to us what happens? Shouldn’t we do what it takes to combine the splintered organizations into one strong one? One that works solely on our behalf, rather than its self-interest? It’s time to band together and to get our organizations to stop being a they, and start being an us.
By combining into one national organization, there must be economies of scale that would save money. Put ABC, the Academy, AOPA, and NCOPE under one roof. Have one phone number and one set of acronyms when talking to lawmakers. Have you ever tried to explain our profession’s organizations to a lawmaker? With one organization we will be stronger, faster, and more efficient.
With Medicare taking a lot of the fun out of the profession, we lost a lot of good clinicians and business owners to early retirement. Perhaps we can leverage them to help make the change toward a single organization. There is a lot of value out there from former and current O&P professionals, but for too long our organizations have ignored us. Who is working for whom? Let’s combine into one and leverage our group’s strength. Otherwise we risk being run over.
Matt Perkins is the president and CEO of Coyote Prosthetics and Coyote Design, headquartered in Boise, Idaho. He can be reached at [email protected].