James M. Powers Jr., DDS, is the president and chief executive officer of EDT Learning, Inc., a leading provider of e-learning and business solutions to the healthcare industry. Dr. Powers recently talked by telephone from his office in Phoenix about his company�s past, present, and future. EDT Learning�s Web site can be found at www.edtlearning.com and the company�s dental division is located at www.e-dentist.com.
DE: How did EDT Learning begin?
Dr. Powers: e-dentist (the previous name of EDT Learning) began with an IPO in March of 1998, but the company�s roots go back to Pentegra Dental Group, a company that began nearly 30 years ago. We wanted to capitalize on the skills that our company possessed in terms of training and IT capabilities. Earlier this year, the company underwent another change and, very recently, acquired another e-learning company, broadening our focus to not only the dental market, but also to e-learning for companies outside of the dental industry, such as Wells Fargo, Motorola, Microsoft, and American Express.
DE: How did your background as a dentist help the company succeed in the dental e-learning marketplace?
Dr. Powers: My dental background was critical to leading this company, but other critical aspects were business experience and formal training, including an MBA. A background in business is very important when a company is broadening its focus. We knew we had to make changes in our environment, and portraying a broad identity was very important to the successful evolution of our company.
DE: Do you find most dentists lack the necessary business background?
Dr. Powers: Most dentists simply haven�t focused on their business skills and they haven�t received any business training in dental school. They have focused on their clinical skills more than running a business. They have to realize that they run a sizable company. We want them to balance their focus on healthcare and business.
DE: How have you combated the dentist�s supposed fear of the Internet?
Dr. Powers: We have designed our products for a user who might not have a technical background. We want his or her experience with EDT Learning to be an experience that doesn�t require a lot of high-tech knowledge to be great. We don�t focus on the delivery. We build custom training solutions for businesses and individual clients. These people are typically not computer experts. We want the products, procedures, and software to be easy for the dentist or dental salesperson to use and understand. We don�t just build a Web site and hope people come. We build custom training solutions with the less-experienced computer user in mind.
DE: What are the top benefits of online training?
Dr. Powers: Companies are always looking for a way to deliver a concise, uniform message to their sales forces or the end-user of their products. With online training, you can be assured of that and know it will reach the consumer in rapid delivery time. In 2000, companies spent $2.2 billion on e-learning. That number is expected to go up to $11.5 billion by 2003. It is estimated that 40 percent of all training will be done online in 2003. Why? E-learning reduces costs and increases content retention for companies by having the training delivered to their employees, and delivered to them in a clear, concise manner.
DE: What types of e-learning are offered by EDT Learning?
Dr. Powers: We offer live e-learning, which gives clients a chance to participate in a synchronous delivery of a message from anywhere in the world. The message is coordinated through our studios in Phoenix. If a person misses the live presentation, he or she can go back and take a replay course. We also offer interactive, self-paced learning. That has become very popular because people can take the course any time from anywhere, for example, at midnight in their pajamas if they want. Companies and/or individuals have the option of tracking their student�s progress by using our learning management system. We offer testing and certifications if the client wants them.
DE: You oversee a publicly traded company (EDT on the American Stock Exchange). What are some of the positives and negatives of being a publicly traded company?
Dr. Powers: It is challenging to say the least, but there are benefits. We have access to public capital. Right now, our biggest challenge is changing the perception of our stock value. It is currently seen as a dental management company. Investors simply aren�t interested in that type of company right now, but they are interested in e-learning companies. As they understand the full scope of our company, our stock should gain in value.
DE: What does the future hold for EDT Learning, Inc.?
Dr. Powers: We will continue to grow, both internally through our expansion of clients and services, and externally with additional acquisitions.
DE: What is the one thing that you want people to understand about your company?
Dr. Powers: E-learning is a very powerful way to enable a sales force or explain products to customers, which will improve the performance of any company. We offer custom e-learning solutions for non-technical audiences and our focus on delivering excellent products makes our company a major player in the e-learning sector.
For more information, log on to www.edtlearning.com.