After years as an executive for large medical device companies, Rob Woolley made the shift to dental last fall. He now serves as the EVP Head of North America for Straumann Group, a global leader in tooth replacement and orthodontic solutions.
The move made sense, as both industries share the same objective: to serve patients. Of course, there are key differences, Woolley said, including the fact most of the medical devices he worked with before were meant to save lives, while now he’s working with products and services that change lives.
“They’re similar industries but what is very different about dental is it’s more innovative and moves more quickly,” Woolley said. “Dentistry is dynamic, especially in product development and what I would term as digitization. That makes dental pretty exciting from my perspective.”
Part of Straumann Group’s focus is onboarding new, innovative technologies to customers and patients, Woolley said. The fact Straumann is so diversified with strong implant brands, digital solutions and a large geographic footprint has helped the company remain “resistant to economic downturns,” allowing the team to “innovate and provide unique product and services to the dental industry.”
Straumann’s decentralized executive decision-making structure makes it possible to pursue innovations very quickly, Woolley said, while the commitment to creating opportunities and taking ownership allows the team to be responsive to customer needs. That’s part of the company’s culture and a key element in its success.
ClearCorrect is among the innovative brands that gives Straumann a competitive edge, Woolley said, representing a market with “huge potential” in dentistry.
“Clear aligners are the fastest growing space within the dental industry,” he said. “In four to five years it could be bigger than implant dentistry. So, with the ClearCorrect brand we have an excellent opportunity to bring a product to market that offers a comprehensive solution to customers with a unique value proposition that only Straumann can provide.”
Because clear aligners continue to grow in popularity, with broader indications and acceptance than implants, other players are entering the market as well—including do-it-yourself, low cost aligner providers. While there are opportunities for these smaller companies right now, Woolley said, Straumann is in a better position to pursue and find continued success in this market.
“Straumann Group has a global network and brand reputation that enables us to compete differently than others,” Woolley said. “So, whether it’s our digital solutions or overlap with indications with dental implants, we have a unique value proposition that competitors without our scale can’t offer.”
To drive dental implant adoption, Straumann Group offers various options that “hit all potential patient and customers who want implant technology,” Woolley said. The company offers a premium line as well as the Neodent line for price sensitive clinicians.
Straumann Group is also set to launch its new NUVO Implant System, which recently received FDA approval. These implants are designed to provide reliability, simplicity and versatility at an affordable price point.
Education is critical to implant dentistry, Woolley said, which is why the team at Straumann Group North America is constantly looking for new programs to offer, including blended learning opportunities. The company typically holds hundreds of national and local in-person courses every year, but the COVID-19 pandemic has changed that for now. This year, Straumann has held more than 100 virtual learning sessions in partnership with the International Team for Implantology (ITI), the largest international academic organization in implant dentistry and related tissue regeneration.
“It’s been a change for everyone. All of us are learning as we go, both educators and students,” Woolley said. “When you think how much time and money people spend traveling there’s definitely a place for virtual learning, but for dental implants there’s a hands-on aspect that can’t be replaced. That’s something we’re going to have to take on as an industry, what can be done virtually and what has to be done with hands-on training.”
Straumann isn’t just focused on the product side; the company also offers services. The digital Straumann Smile in a Box, for example, is a modular, integrated treatment planning and manufacturing service for surgical and prosthetic indications. Clinicians select from a menu of service options, Woolley said, and then everything they need for the treatment they choose is delivered in one box. The service helps improve practice efficiencies while leading to excellent esthetic outcomes.
“It makes treatment planning simple and predictable,” Woolley said. “We’re typically thought of as a product company, but this is how we’re evolving from just products to a total solution provider.”
Smile in a Box also shows Straumann’s commitment to providing digital solutions, Woolley said. The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed dentists to rely even more on digital, and the goal for Straumann is to be an innovator in this area to not only move the company forward, but to provide more cost-effective treatment to customers that yields better esthetics and enhanced clinical results.
The focus on building a strong, successful team is also critical to Straumann’s success. Team members are purpose driven and passionate about creating smiles, Woolley said, and strive to follow eight core behaviors: focus on customers, build trust, collaborate, engage, take ownership, communicate effectively, create opportunities and be agile.
Employees also go through a vigorous training program that includes three weeks of focusing on customer service and four weeks of learning about the clinical side of the business, Woolley said. Members of the sales team experience hands-on training and real-time learning in the field, and that includes interacting with customers.
“It’s one of the best training programs I’ve seen in my medical device career,” Woolley said. “It really enables us to effectively service and partner with customers to provide the best patient outcomes.”
Partnering with Dental Service Organizations (DSOs) represents another growth area for Straumann Group. A dedicated team works with DSOs to help grow their reach and serve more patients, Woolley said.
“DSOs play a critical part in expanding treatment to more patients,” Woolley said, “and the goal is to be a true partner to help them optimize their business for successful outcomes.”
Straumann has fostered several key DSO partnerships over the years, Woolley said, providing them with various innovative products and services. Woolley said the company plans to continue to form partnerships and expand the DSO business in the coming months.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a lot of changes to the dental industry. Just like with education and training, tradeshows are moving to virtual platforms as well. Virtual tradeshows will be the norm in the coming months, and Woolley doesn’t expect to see many in-person shows happening until the middle of next year at the earliest.
Throughout the pandemic, the team has stayed in close contact with customers to understand how they can help them get through these challenging times, including managing the financial impact of the shutdown earlier this year. They’ve also continued to provide education on the benefits of digital dentistry and have seen an “unprecedented shift from analog to digital” as clinicians turn to workflows that are more effective, less costly and safer.
“We tried to be agile and to be a true partner, Woolley said, “not only in providing products but also in helping dentists manage through this crisis.”