This week, caught up with NACDS 2016 Regional Chain Conference Chairman Eric Graf, R.Ph., M.S., chief executive officer of Ritzman Pharmacy, Inc. He shared insights on his experiences attending the NACDS Regional Chain Conference over the last 20 years, and what attendees can expect for the 2016 event.

The conference is a huge opportunity for networking with friends and colleagues with similar dilemmas and similar opportunities.

Q. What do you see as your role as the chairman of the NACDS 2016 Regional Chain Conference?

A. I’m very excited to be assuming role as chairman and appreciate the opportunity. This meeting is a well-established and respected conference and my role is much more of a facilitator. I look forward to working with the conference committee and developing the speakers and presentations for the 2016 conference.

Q. What makes the NACDS Regional Chain Conference so valuable for regional chain companies?

A. The content is always really appropriate for the audience. The meeting has a good rhythm and the important topics are always on the agenda. The conference is also a huge opportunity for networking with friends and colleagues with similar dilemmas and similar opportunities. Sharing is a huge part of this conference.

Q. How should companies prepare for the conference? Do you have any best practices that you and your team have utilized?

A. We try very hard to make advanced connections with suppliers we want to spend time with during the meeting. It’s more effective to schedule ahead of time to know who you are going to meet. And that can lead to opportunities outside of the daily conference program and activities as well, such as going to dinner and continuing conversations. It’s very much a working meeting.

Q.What three things can regional chain companies take away from the conference?

A. 1) The human resources-themed sessions is always excellent and there are always things to bring back in the way of practices and pitfalls. We take notes during the meeting and share those with team members to see what we’ve learned and experienced to incorporate within our company.

2) The opening general sessions with the state of industry and political action activities are of personal interest to me, especially with our company’s involvement with the NACDS RxIMPACT Day on Capitol Hill taking place a couple of months after the Regional Chain Conference.

3) Generally, one of the great things is that there are educational sessions for all attendees – whether you have a smaller or larger regional chain company.

Q. Anything else you wish to add?

A. I encourage regional chain companies to attend and participate in all the sessions and programming. It’s going to be another great meeting in 2016, with good opportunities for networking and taking care of our businesses in the best way we can.

To register and learn more about the NACDS 2016 Regional Chain Conference, visit the website.

Editor’s Note: During our discussion, Graf recalled a specific example of the Regional Chain Conference’s benefit to his company. In 1995, Ritzman Pharmacies, Inc. was getting ready to open a new store in Seville, Ohio while Graf was attending the NACDS Regional Chain Conference. The company had only five weeks to conduct all of the necessary steps to open its doors, including acquiring a license through the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). He recalls talking with the late Len DeMino — who at that time was vice president of pharmacy affairs for NACDS — at the conference. DeMino worked with Graf and his team to obtain the required DEA license so that the Ritzman Pharmacy store could open on time in March 1995. Graf noted that the Seville store continues to thrive.