By Kevin Henry, Editor
The following is an interview with Scott Anderson, president of Patterson Dental. The interview took place at the recent IDS gathering in Cologne, Germany.
Anderson has been president of Patterson Dental for three years. He began his career at the company as a territory rep in San Francisco in 1993 and has climbed the proverbial corporate ladder to the very top of the company.
Proofs: Your company is built around a decentralized model of local branches. Why do you believe this is still such a relevant business model?
Anderson: Our long-term success is grounded in the recognition that we are engaged in a relationship business with our customers. We believe that customers see value in their territory representatives, service technicians and other local branch personnel today more than ever – value that continues to grow with the solutions that add efficiency, productivity and ultimately profitability to their practice. Just as the industry has changed over the years, the profile of customers and the comfort level with technology continue to evolve. Dental professionals expect their representative to possess substantial knowledge about technology and how it will benefit their practice. We also feel that local responsiveness will be even more highly valued as the dental practice grows in complexity.
Proofs: You started as a territory representative for Patterson. How has this experience impacted you during your career?
Anderson: Many whom I relied on for guidance as a territory representative are the same people I confer with today about the industry’s opportunities, challenges and progress. I think having experience as a Patterson representative has helped immensely in later positions because it instilled the importance of personal service and interaction with the customer as driving forces of our business. The potential for the sales position to be more than a job, but a profession with tremendous influence on customers is another element that makes this industry so special.
Proofs: So many of our readers have never attended the IDS meeting. Explain why you enjoyed your time in Cologne and tell us what you’ve seen at this year’s IDS.
Anderson: IDS is now the world dental meeting. The IDS offers a forum for the dealer and manufacturer to glimpse the newest technologies. The breaking news at meetings held six, eight and 10 years ago is now commercialized, including the maturation of CAD/CAM and digital X-ray. And with additional solutions, such as cone beam and other digital technologies prominently displayed, I think everyone left the meeting with a very clear message about the future of these product lines in the practice. The meeting is also a visualization of the importance of supporting our branded manufacturer partners, whose innovation drives future growth for our customers and industry.
Proofs: What is your view of the recent economic struggles?
Anderson: As we witness economic conditions that are impacting business across most industries, driving value to the customer is now more important than ever. For this reason, Patterson continues to invest in resources that provide more benefits to dental professionals. The state of the economy is one of the reasons we feel so fortunate to have introduced our enhanced customer loyalty program this year, and its tremendous advantages for dental practices. The recession will end – and there is still significant business being conducted. The bigger question concerning our industry and customers is, “What are we doing now to position ourselves and to prepare for the recovery?” Even now, Patterson continues to make strategic investments in our business that will benefit our customers today and in the future.
Proofs: It seems like words such as “green” and “organic” are everywhere. What is your view of this trend?
Anderson: The growing awareness of these important issues is sparking action in virtually every segment of society. At Patterson, we have taken specific action in our branches, distribution centers and throughout the Company to champion initiatives focused on sustainability. I believe that endeavors to help conserve our natural resources and sustain our environment, as well as the commitment to improve access to dental care, are shared responsibilities – and opportunities for us to work together as an industry. It is our privilege to both embrace eco-friendly practices and help underserved populations receive badly needed dental care and preventive education. We are proud of our quiet philanthropy and social responsibility.
Proofs: What do you see in your crystal ball for the future of the industry?
Anderson: Current economy-related challenges aside, the future for the profession and our industry is very bright. At Patterson, we often talk about M.F. Patterson, who started the company out of a Milwaukee storefront in 1877. We wonder what M.F. would say if he could see where the industry and Patterson Dental are today. But certain things have not changed over the years – like our commitment to taking care of the customer and doing what is best for the customer. This unwavering customer-first and values-based approach to doing business remain as strong as ever, regardless what the future brings for our great industry.