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Lew Bennett

Published May 17, 2004

New position: President and chief executive, TVC, Clearwater

Previous position: Senior vice president, Medtronic Sofamor Danek Group, Memphis

Something about retirement doesn't seem to stick for Lew Bennett. He has retired five times, and five times he has come out of retirement to take on a new business challenge.

Most recently, he became president and chief executive of TVC, a Clearwater company that produces improvement, education and management videos and programs for the health care industry. The company's programs, which are in use in more than 500 hospitals, give patients information on joint replacement, spine care, cardiology and vascular treatment.

First on his agenda when he started the job in March, Bennett said, was to conduct one of his trademark SWOTs - an evaluation to determine the company's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

"That's the first thing I did" at TVC, he said. "It included every employee, one at a time. You spend about one to two hours with each employee." Currently, TVC has a staff of 28. "It took me a week," he said.

Simultaneously, Bennett said, he asked each employee a couple of key questions: What should we hit in sales this year? What do you think our goals should be? "Then I added a little stretch to it," he said.

As president of TVC, Bennett said his responsibilities include establishing goals and objectives for the company, each of its departments and each employee.

Bennett grew up in Nashville, one of 12 children. "Every time I came home from school, there was another one," he joked. Bennett graduated from Falls Business College and started working with Nashville Electric, the local utility. "I realized I didn't like that so I went to selling for a company, Ethicon, a division of Johnson & Johnson that manufactured sutures."

That began Bennett's 45-year career in the medical industry, often in the role of director of operations for a variety of companies. He first retired at 54. "I thought I wanted to play golf," he said.

Instead, he came out of retirement repeatedly to take management positions with different medical companies, particularly those in the orthopedic and neurological industries. He joined Danek, which became Medtronic Sofamor Danek Group, in 1991 and left the company in 2001 to go into retirement for a fifth time. But for the past 21/2 years, he has continued to lecture, consult and hold positions on the board of directors of several health care companies.

In addition, for the past 15 years, he has been a medical consultant, conducting SWOT analyses for 535 orthopedic and neurologic practices and has performed consulting work for 30 universities.

"I really, truly respect orthopedic and neurosurgeons. I just had a heck of a good time" each time he took on a new company, Bennett said. "I didn't know they paid (you) to do that kind of work. I loved it."

Bennett also wrote a book, How to Manage and Market a Successful Practice, in the late '90s, as well as numerous articles for industry publications.

Bennett continues to write articles and lecture at medical conferences. "I speak at medical schools," he said. "I teach residents how to make their decisions on where to go to practice and how to look for a practice and make the decisions of what is right for them."

The challenge for many new physicians, Bennett said, is that medical college trains them in the "art and science of medicine but not the business. They should teach it while they are residents."

Bennett, 77, and his wife, Betty Gene, live in Belleair Bluffs. They have three children and three grandchildren.

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