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Sitting down with Patterson's Paul Guggenheim

Jan. 1, 2012
At the recent grand opening of the Patterson Technology Center in Effingham, Ill., I had the chance to sit down with Paul Guggenheim, the president of Patterson Dental.

By Kevin Henry, editor

At the recent grand opening of the Patterson Technology Center in Effingham, Ill., I had the chance to sit down with Paul Guggenheim, the president of Patterson Dental. During our chat, I asked him about his company's new technology center, the impact of technology in the dental practice, and the future role of reps with their customers.

Kevin Henry: Why did Patterson make such a huge investment in technology with this new building in Effingham?

Paul Guggenheim: We see technology as an exciting, and very important, frontier for the dental practice. We look at technology and know it can bring excitement and value to dentistry. A patient may not know anything about a cracked tooth, but using technology to explain that cracked tooth can dramatically change the patient's experience in the practice. We also feel that the lifestyle within the practice is a big part of whether the dentist and team members enjoy coming to work every day. With technology, we feel their jobs can be more rewarding and productive.

We know that technology will continue impacting the lives of patients and the practice significantly. We believe that technology represents the biggest growth opportunity in equipment over the next 15 to 20 years. We're on the threshold of the complete digitization of dentistry, and that's only the beginning. The technology center represents an exciting step toward helping dentistry realize that vision.

Henry: How do you see technology changing the way sales reps interact with their dental customers?

Guggenheim: This isn't just about selling a product. It's about helping dentists be successful and stay on the leading edge. Technology really changes how you sell everything. You not only need to have a great product to sell, you also have to be able to support it seamlessly. The practice cannot be distracted by technology problems. If a chair needs repair, there's another one in the next operatory that can be used temporarily. It's an inconvenience, but it can be worked around. If technology goes down, it can dramatically affect the entire practice. At Patterson, we believe that when we sell a customer our technology, we have a responsibility to make sure it works — and keeps working. We believe this important investment in success through technology positions Patterson as the clear leader in technology for growth and successful dentistry.

Henry: How does this new center impact the training of your sales team?

Guggenheim: The Patterson Technology Center opens the door for more training for not only our team, but also our customers. This building really represents an investment in the success of our people and our customers' practices — an investment that creates the right experience for our clients and everyone involved.

Henry: One thing I've noticed during today's open house is all of the executives from equipment companies who are here checking things out. How do those equipment companies fit into the plans you've built here in Effingham?

Guggenheim: Many are here today because their company's innovation is already a part of the Patterson technology story. Many are here wondering how they can become involved. They came to see what we've built and what we will be continuing to build in the future. A big part of our company's success is our partnerships. We support each other and we make sure our partnerships work for each other and our mutual clients.

Henry: I know one of the things stressed to me today on my tour was the call center, and the importance of hearing a live voice on the phone when a customer calls in. How important is that for you and for Patterson?

Guggenheim: This business is all about personal relationships. I don't think you can have those personal relationships if you turn your customers over to a machine after they have purchased your products. It's really all about the dental team being able to make contact with a real person and having that person able to resolve the situation, whatever that might be. Taking care of the customer is a big part of our core values and we are continually training the people in our call center to deliver that positive experience. We have the confidence in our people to sell and support great products. Our sales team has the confidence to look their customer in the eye and know we will be at their office or at the other end of the phone whenever the need arises.

Henry: You have this big, beautiful building in Effingham, Ill., which certainly isn't a major metropolitan area. Talk about Patterson's relationship with this small community.

Guggenheim: Today's business leaders have to make tough choices involving decisions around the importance of preserving American jobs whenever possible. This organization is committed to making the right decisions for our employees, customers and our country. From the earliest days of developing the Eaglesoft product to the new 100,000-square-foot facility we have now, the people in this community are a big part of our technology growth story. It's important for us to be a part of this small community, and it was important for us to build a place where, if you lived in Effingham, you would want to work. We had thousands of people from the community show up for our open house, and I think that in and of itself says a lot.