Subscribe for 17¢ / day

Neal Johnson’s business card identifies him as a DMD.

Craig Forman is a CLU and a ChFC.

But, Mark Sorlie is a CLU, a ChFC — and a CFP.

If this keeps up, business cards will be as big as banners.

Flaunting your credentials is nothing new in the business world. But, it’s gone from the occasional MD and CPA, which just about anyone could figure out, to a thick alphabet soup that practically requires its own dictionary.

Try to figure these out:

Crystal Kuntz, EI, is with Kadrmas, Lee & Jackson in Billings.

J. T. Essex, LSI, is with the same firm.

Paula Pitman, CDA, works for Treasure State Day Care.

Michael Brown, FCAP, is staff pathologist at the Yellowstone Pathology Institute.

And Jay Andrew Mercer, already an LMCS with WP Rentals in Billings, is now an LLC.

The piling on is getting to be too much for some professionals.

“I may shorten what I’m already using,” said Sorlie, a CFP — Certified Financial Planner — at the Northwestern Mutual Financial Network in Billings.

The tongue-twisting string of initials behind his name are meant to distinguish him from financial planners without his experience or training. He’s been in the business 29 years. His current business card also identifies him as a certified Chartered Life Underwriter and a Chartered Financial Consultant.

But it’s that CFP designation that seems to count most, he said. The ranking is awarded by an independent board of standards that doesn’t exactly hand them out. Just 57 percent of the candidates who took the test last year passed. Sorlie said he studied about a hundred hours for the two-day test, which is much longer for candidates who don’t have his years of experience.

You don’t have to work that hard to get some credentials, however. Several area professionals said they could pile up initials all day long if wanted to.

Some professional organizations dish out certificates to everyone who pays membership dues. And many training conferences end with everyone in attendance getting a certificate, whether they took a note or not.

“There’s a big difference between being certified and getting a certificate, said Brenda St. Claire, chief of the Montana Business and Occupational Licensing Bureau.

The state has dozens of licensing boards that certify everyone from barbers to boxing referees. Each of the boards has its own standards that include criteria like education, experience and testing, St. Claire said.

“If you want to be a cosmetologist, you’ve got to meet that board’s standards,” she said. It’s the same for plumbers, outfitters, landscape architects, and dozens of other professionals.

At The Learning Clinic in Billings, Rosanna Buehl is a genuine, bona fide Ed.S. Her partner, Mark Taylor is an NCSP and an LCPC. They earned their initials the hard way, through experience and testing.

Buehl said she occasionally has to spell things out for people stumped by the letters behind her name.

An Ed.S., by the way, is an Education Specialist, an academic degree sort of between a master’s and a Ph.D.

Taylor’s string of initials mark him as a Nationally Certified School Psychologist and a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor.

The Learning Clinic works with children and adults with language-based learning disabilities. Many of their clients are referred to the clinic from schools, pediatricians or other psychologists.

“So, it’s important to us that our peers and other professionals recognize that we’re doing good work, that we’ve gone beyond our degrees and are meeting certain quality standards.”

Doug Rehder got his CCC-A credentials — Certificate of Clinical Competence in Audiology — from the American Speech and Hearing Association. He runs the Rehder Hearing Clinic in Billings, which offers diagnostic testing and therapy for people with balance disorders, among other services.

Those three C’s and an A are important for Rehder’s clients to see, even though he has to interpret them most of the time. For one thing, it’s evidence that he’s kept up with technology.

“We’re working with equipment now that 20 years ago we in the field couldn’t even imagine,” said Rehder. “With those advances in technology, and with the rapid advance in knowledge, it’s important for people to know that you’ve kept up.”

It’s also important for insurance companies to see those letters on his bills. “It’s easier to deal with them when they see that and recognize you’re a qualified provider,” he said.

Rehder is working over the Internet on a Doctorate of Audiology from the Arizona School of Health Sciences.

“I don’t want to get left in the dust,” said Rehder, who has been in the business 27 years.

It took Jim Pearson years of hard work to earn his CMH designation and much less time than that to realize spelling it out on his business card would save a lot of explaining.

Pearson runs Americlean, a Billings company specializing in mold and odor remediation and restoration following fires, floods and other disasters.

He’s a Certified Mechanical Hygienist, one of fewer than 40 in the world. To qualify, Pearson had to have at least three years experience in the cleaning business. He has 20. He had to pass tests at the Air Duct Cleaning School in Pittsburgh and Advanced Training in Mechanical Hygiene in Minnesota. Then, it was off to Virginia for more training and tests.

“They send you the study materials about six weeks in advance, and then you study your butt off,” he said.

Pearson is now president of the Mechanical Systems Hygiene Institute, a division of the Association of Specialists in Cleaning and Restoration.

Imagine all that on his card: Jim Pearson, CMH, president MSHI at ASCR, graduate ADCS and ATMH.Chris Jorgensen can be reached at or 657-1311.