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Dr. Lou Shuman, Founder and CEO, Cellerant Consulting Group

Published on: Apr 14, 2021
 By: The New Dentist
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When Dr. Lou Shuman started Cellerant Consulting Group, he had one clear goal in mind: to provide young dental companies with everything they need to grow.

And Dr. Shuman has some experience in that area. He was part of the team that took Align Technology from $20 million to $500 million in revenue in the company’s early days, working as the vice president of clinical education and strategic relations for seven years.

He then moved on to serve as the president of Pride Institute. During his time there, two company leaders approached him, asking if he could do for them what he did for Align. He accepted the challenge and loved every minute of working with them, sharing his journey and expertise. While he helped them grow their businesses, he realized he couldn’t provide everything they needed—and that’s why he decided to start Cellerant Consulting Group.

Today, the incubator and accelerator serves over 40 clients, integrating into their companies and giving them access to experts who can enhance their technologies, introduce their solutions to the marketplace, and ultimately help them thrive.

“We play many different roles,” Dr. Shuman said. “We provide marketing strategy, operational strategy, regulatory support, significant content in the dental journals, top KOL opportunities, manufacturing, funding, branding, website development, and enhanced online presence. And we’re able to provide everything with expertise, be it through my management team, my clinical team or our partners.”

Business Lessons Learned On The Soccer Field

Long before he entered the dental industry, soccer became an important part of Dr. Shuman’s life. It started when a professional soccer player moved in next door. He trained Dr. Shuman, who was 5 at the time, for the next 15 years. The hard work he put in landed him a spot on a US National U-18 Team and a player sponsorship from Adidas.

Dr. Shuman eventually coached his own soccer club, also sponsored by Adidas. The experiences he had as a player and coach played a huge role in influencing the management style he still uses today. Through soccer, he learned how to handle himself in victory and in defeat both on and off the field, how to compete and the importance of team.

“The bond we had as 18 Americans playing in foreign countries was unlike anything I experienced before,” he said, “and is why loyalty and dedication to my team and to each other is so important to me.”

Growing Align

Dr. Shuman describes his role at Align as a dream job, and one he took on after practicing orthodontics for 18 years and working at a company that focused on online dental education.

One of his biggest accomplishments while there was creating the speaker team to educate the GP community. Back in 2002, there wasn’t a large pool of practitioners with Invisalign experience, so he spent a lot of time meeting orthodontists and general practitioners to see if they had the qualities necessary to be part of the team. He’s proud to say many of the clinicians who made the speakers team are still top Invisalign leaders today.

In the beginning, it was important for the dental community to see Invisalign as a technique and not a product, and the best way to do that was to introduce the aligners into dental curriculum. Dr. Shuman became the first to make that happen, with Invisalign becoming part of the curriculum for both ortho residents and undergraduate students at NYU, expanding to other programs from there.

Dr. Shuman was also part of the original team that created the Vivera retainer, truly making Invisalign a 360-degree solution. He left Align with many significant accomplishments under his belt, along with lessons learned in growing a business that he still pulls from today. One of the biggest? Don’t silo. This is especially critical for well-funded startups with large teams.

“It’s easy for each department to focus on their own goals and objectives,” he said. “One of the lessons I learned that brings great value is how important it is to integrate, and that can be politically difficult because the question is who really owns what when it comes to growing the company. So, talking to each other, setting joint goals and learning from each other will lead to a more integrated launch and a more successful company.”

During his time at Align, Dr. Shuman also appreciated working with management and executives from outside the industry. Some dentists are hesitant to do so because they don’t think these professionals understand the field. That might be true at first, but they learn quickly, and integrating their expertise provides a huge advantage. It’s important for dentists to realize what outside experts can provide and their incredible capabilities, rather than resisting their help.

Another key take-away? Stay focused, something Dr. Shuman said the team at Align exceled at.

“That sounds simple, but with young companies the leadership typically comes up with a lot of alternative ways to grow,” he said. “I have companies working on technology and they’re already thinking about how it can be used in the veterinary or optometry markets, and they haven’t even established their footprints or focus in dental yet. Maybe in the future, but let’s excel, let’s focus, let’s have proof of concept for the technology or the product. To be a visionary is only half the battle. Those who can execute their visions, which is the hard work, are the true leaders in our field.”

What It Takes To Be A Cellerant Client

Becoming a Cellerant client isn’t easy; the team says no to many more companies than they say yes to. There’s a substantial vetting process before accepting a client. Dr. Shuman looks at the company’s management team to determine if they understand the challenges they face and if it’s a team that Cellerant can integrate with. He also depends on his clinical team members, who evaluate products outside his areas of expertise and report back on if Cellerant should support the products or pass. Dr. Shuman and the Cellerant executive team also ask themselves if they can truly help each company grow. If they can’t, they don’t add the company to their client list.

“It is very important to us that the dental community knows being a Cellerant client means something. That we are supporting very special companies,” he said. “We become integral parts of these companies and, especially during COVID, provide support at multiple levels.”

Cellerant experts can provide valuable insights in many different areas. Dr. Shuman even serves on the Board of Directors for clients including Sleep ArchiTx, MMG Fusion, Ditron USA and LightForce Orthodontics (he’s also a co-founder of LightForce, the company behind the first fully customized ceramic 3D printed orthodontic bracket). It’s not something he expected, but it’s a role he’s proud of and happy to take on for his clients.

Dr. Shuman is also proud of the huge amount of 510 (k) work Cellerant does. He has partnered with many journals, writing articles that educate the dental community on “unbelievable technologies” from companies that don’t have the money to advertise yet. He has monthly national columns in Dental Economics, Dental Products Report and Canada’s Oral Health that he uses to tell their stories.

“My passion is technology, both inside and outside of dentistry,” he said. “We’re known for trying to introduce and bring different levels of technology into the industry, and we have the ability, based on our relationships with the journals, to really accelerate awareness and education around that, and it’s something we’re passionate about.”

Once they bring a client on, the Cellerant team meets with management for hours to “dissect it down to its roots” and build it back, looking in a customized way at what Cellerant’s role will be in growing the company, Dr. Shuman said. They then create a detailed operational plan and objectives that they live by.

Being a consultant is strenuous. Dr. Shuman and the rest of the team work to prove themselves every day, and to meet the goals they set. They know if they don’t, clients won’t renew. But that hasn’t been an issue. Cellerant has a 97 percent retention rate.

“You think the goal is to take them to a certain level so they can go out on their own,” he said, “but as a result of how blessed I am with an amazing executive and clinical team, we’ve learned we are capable to grow our clients through multiple stages.”

The team meets with clients regularly, because with startups, priorities shift quickly. It’s important to stay nimble and support them based on whatever changes occur.

Cellerant works with DSOs, introducing technologies that bring great benefits to their practices, and is also the exclusive incubator and accelerator for Patterson and Envista, Dr. Shuman said.

“We can fast track our technology to their executive acquisition and distribution teams to see if they’re interested,” he said, “and they send us companies they want to grow to a certain level.”

Honoring The “Best of Class”

Dr. Shuman is known for creating the Cellerant “Best of Class” Technology Awards to recognize technologies impacting the dental industry.

Winners are featured at the ADA Cellerant Technology Pavilion during the ADA annual session each year, which includes hands-on exhibits from the Best of Class winners and three days of technology-focused presentations in a 250-seat classroom that offers a high-tech experience from leading dental experts.

It is annually the largest exhibit with space up to 16,000 square feet, Dr. Shuman said. He had to break through many challenges early on to make it happen, and he still remembers emotionally seeing the beautiful buildout ADA created that first year and every year since.

It’s important to note that the “Best of Class” awards are an unbiased, nonprofit initiative, Dr. Shuman said. Determining who to honor every year is a vigorous, transparent process, and something the panel of experts who make the selections take very seriously. It is the only award that is covered by every major journal in North America.

“The award has a big impact on the companies. For them, it’s become like winning the Oscars,” he said. “We have had CEOs fly in from Japan and Germany just to receive their award during our VIP Awards Ceremony. We know it pushes other companies to improve their technology, and at the same time I feel like we’re giving the dental community a list of must-haves in their practices to provide the best care for patients possible.”

While all the “Best of Class” winners offer impressive technology, Dr. Shuman does have a few favorites. One is the SmartMirror, which features 21 LEDs and records audio and video that can be streamed to any device.

“I love technology initiatives that take a staple and come up with a revolutionary redesign,” he said. “That’s the kind of stuff that gets me excited.”

Nobio’s Infinix Flowable and Bulk Fill Flow composites also stand out. The company has invented an antimicrobial nano particle to alleviate secondary decay—but that’s just the beginning, Dr. Shuman said. These particles, for example, could be integrated into implants and clear aligners, and that’s game changing. The possibilities are endless, and the technology will have “a huge impact on dentistry.”

Then there’s the LumiCare™ Caries Detection Rinse from GreenMark Biomedical. The solution can be used during routine dental exams to illuminate enamel caries with a normal curing light—caries that otherwise would be undetectable. Patients can then take home the CrystlCare solution that remineralizes the enamel caries  back to its original state. The company’s scientists are also experimenting with applying the technology to decalcification.

Connecting Dentists With New Technology

The work Dr. Shuman does through Cellerant and the “Best of Class” awards is certainly rewarding. He loves to receive emails from dentists telling him they invested in a technology they wouldn’t have known about if it wasn’t for the “Best of Class” awards, and how that technology has brought great benefits to their practice.

“How cool is it finding a young, literally unknown company with a game changing technology and as a result of winning Best of Class it becomes a major factor in the dental community?” he said. “I get emails from doctors saying I need to buy a cone beam unit but it’s so expensive, please promise me the panel will choose one because it’s such a huge investment. We take that responsibility so seriously because we know dentists are making major financial decisions.”

Honoring Dr. Shuman

All of Dr. Shuman’s efforts, including founding a sleep journal, serving as managing editor, penning three national columns in Dental Economics, Dental Products Report, and Canada’s Oral Health, his work with the underprivileged and children with multiple ailments (ultimately earning him Walt Disney’s most prestigious award) and his work supporting Freedom Day for war veterans, has not gone unnoticed.

Recently, he was awarded the American Mobile & Teledental Alliance’s highest honor, the Denobi Pinnacle Achievement Award, which recognizes an individual or company whose leadership and ongoing contributions have dramatically impacted the dental profession. Going forward, the award will be named in his honor and known as the Dr. Lou Shuman Denobi Pinnacle Achievement Award. He was also honored this year as a Global Summits Institute Doctor-to-Doctor World’s Top 100 Doctors.

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