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Hager Worldwide provides "A World of Specialty Products for Dentistry"

June 1, 2010
I recently had the chance to sit down with Mark Schneider (right), the president and COO of Hager Worldwide.

By Kevin Henry, Editor, Proofs

Editor's Note: I recently had the chance to sit down with Mark Schneider (right), the president and COO of Hager Worldwide. His company has an interesting history and a bright future, so I wanted to get his thoughts about where his company has been and where it is going.

Kevin Henry: What are some of the main points you want readers to know about Hager Worldwide?

Mark Schneider: The general feeling out there seems to be that we are a specialty dental product company. Our company gained recognition originally by being a company that said, "If you couldn't find a product, you could find it with us, just like the old Union Broach Company." Through the years, our company has grown substantially by introducing cutting-edge technology in everything from implant trays to beta quartz inserts. Our earned reputation has grown through the years and retail salespersons always ask, "What's new with Hager Worldwide today?" when they see our regional managers in the field. Through hard work, intuitive product development, and a bit of luck, we've done well.

I came on board with the company in 1993 and since then we've quadrupled in size and doubled our margins. We were a small, sleepy company back then, but now I'd say we are medium sized and very vibrant. The company has been around since 1975, and not too many foreign owned companies have survived in the U.S. this long.

With our sister companies, Hager Werken (Germany), Hager Polonia (Poland), Hager Asia (China), and Hager Worldwide (United States), we can offer global distribution to any domestic or foreign supplier with an innovative product looking for a strong distribution partner.

KH: What are some of Hager's top products?

MS: Our No. 1 product is Happy Morning, a disposable toothbrush with mint toothpaste impregnated into the bristles. It has crept up in popularity through the years because of its consistent high quality versus competitors. We've sourced it from the same contract manufacturer for more than 25 years, so our quality has never been an issue.

Our No. 2 product group is our Bull Frog evacuation (HVE and SE handpieces) product line; the general feeling is that we are the premier provider in this market. We purchased the Bull Frog Manufacturing Company in 1995 and brought these products into the worldwide dental fold, along with the motor repair service business (Bull Frog Motor Repair, BFMR – motors, pumps, compressors, vacuums, and turbines). Honestly, we tried not to purchase the service side of Bull Frog because we knew that wasn't our niche, but it has been great for us. We've expanded the BFMR business three fold in 15 years. We now actually sell more rebuilds than units that we repair; plus, we offer the same warranty as new OEM units. Dental dealers know that our Bull Frog Motor Repair Division provides performance they can count on. Augmenting, BFMR is the MVS line that Hager Worldwide purchased from Dentsply six years ago, so now we have OEM parts to sell as well.

Collectively, the Hager group and its associates are very good at generating new ideas internally as well as acquiring innovative products externally. Hager companies consistently perform as well as highly planned companies, but we don't have any annual budgets or marketing plans. Our owner, Michael Hager, just wants action. We try things to see if they work. If something works, we run hard with it and commit the resources. If it doesn't, we discontinue promoting the product and it's no big deal. At any given time, Hager Worldwide has 30 to 40 products in the works. Most companies have the problem of not having any new products to bring to market. Our challenge is we have too many and must carefully evaluate the potential products in the stable and bring to the market only the best of the best.

We've seen a 9% to 10% growth on an annual basis over the past 16 fiscal years, so we know we're doing a few things right. To be certain, not having budgets and endless marketing meetings eliminates the stress that is typical in the corporate world. We have control over our own destiny and can make decisions very quickly. We're interested in long-term success, and trust and loyalty are also high on the list. There is no ending up in the boardroom explaining why we haven't met budget for a specific month. Our work ethic is to keep our eye on the ball and push forward.

KH: What is something people might not know about your products?

MS: We're probably the No. 1 seller of protective eyewear in the U.S. We're constantly introducing new models and styles. It's important for us to stay on top of style, fashion, comfort, and safety, and I believe we do that.

KH: With all of your products, how do you balance promoting new and established products?

MS: Balancing and promoting so many different product lines can be tough. We recently launched 24 products at one time during October of last year with five majors in the mix. Bringing that many products to market at one time, with all of the negotiations required to acquire the exclusive marketing rights to the product, or to develop a product internally, is no small challenge. Having a thorough understanding of the market category demand and history, executing production ramp-up with flawless behind-the-scenes detail work, along with implementing multidimensional marketing campaigns, is the key to a successful product launch.

To succeed, we stick to the fundamentals and do them well consistently. It takes a great deal of experience, long-term vision, perseverance, raw energy, and a bit of luck to make it all work.

Additionally, we are very loyal to those that brought us to the party, such as our seasoned sales manager and some of our independent reps who have been with us for over 20 years, so that's also an accomplishment. This synergy generates achievable market penetration and ultimately market saturation/share with new product introductions. Also, an experienced internal staff keeps our course straight on a daily basis. We must always remember in business that success is borne from an intelligent collective effort rowing in the same direction consistently over time.

KH: What are some of Hager's short- and long-term plans?

MS: Some of our plans for the near future include introducing more cutting-edge products like the Miratray Implant Advanced. With this product there's no need for custom trays or site drilling of the implant abutment in the impression tray itself. We're also pushing into the preventive area with more Miradent Xylitol offerings, are looking to introduce cutting edge out-of-the box ECO products, and continuing advances with our Bambach ergonomic saddle stools. Plus, our associates in Germany, Hager Werken, moved years ago into selling in the pharmacy distribution channels and have established a nice foothold with their consumer-oriented preventive products. Hager Worldwide will be putting its toes in the water this year to see what is possible in North America in this regard.

We're always looking at opportunities and possible acquisitions. I think people would be surprised at some of the entities we've looked at purchasing over the years. In Europe, Hager Werken took over Dentsply's Cavitron line, adding to its preventive product prowess. Hager Asia purchased the rights to Dentsply/Degussa's Carat porcelain and is doing very well in mainline China with this product. Presently, Hager Worldwide is looking at bringing on a line of compressors to go along with our Bull Frog Motor Repair line; we will sell new as well as do repairs. Additionally, we have just acquired the exclusive marketing rights for DentaPure antimicrobial water-line filtration system in Canada and will begin promoting the product group this summer.

The headquarters of Hager Worldwide

We're able to acquire interesting products because we're straightforward in our discussions, have a strong understanding of the dental marketplace, are honest to the penny, and keep expectations down to earth by providing solid historical perspective. No pie in the sky with Hager Worldwide; it must be realistic or it does not work. With our customers, we strive to provide the highest service levels possible. If there is a problem and it's our fault, we'll take care of it. Plus, we bat a great average when asking dealers to look at the new products we are bringing to market.

In general, our focus is to be unfocused, taking a look at opportunities as they present themselves. We focus on specialty niche products and that's why so many dealers carry our catalog with them.

It has been a joy to work for the Hager family through the years and I have appreciated their support of Hager Worldwide.

The industry should take note because our company moved forward via long-range planning with significant new product introductions and promotions in 2009, while many dental firms contracted their efforts and reduced their new product and marketing resource commitment significantly. Hager Worldwide is not the sleepy company of 20 years ago, and we will remain a strong force in specialty dental products for decades to come.

Remember that the average retail sales representative carries as references a national dental dealer's catalog, their own company's catalog, and the Hager Worldwide catalog. If you can't find a product in those three sources, it doesn't exist. You will find in the future that you will look to Hager Worldwide first and there's a reason for that. We like to think we've earned the industry's respect and our spot in the sun.